Battle of the primers [Part I]

March 22, 2013

I have been on the prowl for a good primer for a long time. In the past, I had embraced Paul & Joe, but then they withdrew from Singapore. Later on, I fell in love with Stila, only to have that taken away from me again. When the wave of stay-all-day foundations hit, I abandoned primers altogether. Now, there seems to be a resurgence of primers, packed full of skincare benefits and ever smoother for those HD photos.

My requirements for a good primer are fairly basic. It has to help my makeup stay on for 8-10hrs without sliding off or oxidizing (too much). Ideally, it should also be light-weight and easy to apply. I have normal / combination skin, and by no means OILY in the traditional sense. So I don’t think my requests are too far-fetched. So imagine my dismay when I found one after another primer to not only NOT work, but went so far as to cause breakouts and even spots of sensitized skin!

The main culprit, I have discovered, is the use of silicone and its various derivatives (dimethicone, silica, etc)! Silicon is often added to create a mask-like effect over the surface of the skin, trapping in moisture (AND dirt, oil, etc), and allowing smoother application of makeup. Sensitivity to silicon is fairly common, but it is still widely used in makeup and skincare products. So why did my skin react to silicon in primers and not in makeup or skincare? Unfortunately I’m no dermatologist, but my guess is the variant of silicon used, and the amount of silicon in the product. For example, dimethicone is fine for me, but not silica. So if you’ve been breaking out and don’t know why, take a look at the ingredient list!

Silly me, must have gone through half the beauty hall before I figured this out. Along the way, I got to experience some of the latest and bestest. In this and following articles, I will attempt to summarize my thoughts. If you have specific questions or any primer you’re interested in that you don’t see here, please drop me a note!

1. Smashbox Photo Finish Dark Spot Correcting Foundation Primer

Smashbox Pho Finish Dark Spot Correcting Primer

This was one of the first primers that was recommended to me by the SAs at Sephora, together with Makeup Forever. To me, Makeup Forever doesn’t seem to do much more than create a smooth canvas, whereas Smashbox Photo Finish Dark Spot Correcting primer has additional brightening and lightening effect. This is the latest addition to Smashbox’s family of Photo Finish primers (consisting of various color correcting, hydrating, radiance, and SPF formulas).

The primer is a milky fluid that is rather watery, making it easy to apply. A pearl-sized amount covered my entire face. It leaves a dewy finish, so would be good for girls with drier skin. For me, I actually need something to control shine, which this does not do.

I did not notice much of a dark spot correcting effect (I had some old pimple scars), although prolonged use is needed for noticeable results. It did nothing for me in terms of making my makeup last. The deal breaker for me was that this made me breakout the most out of all the primers I tried.

2. Clarins Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch

clarins primer

This was part of the Tangs mystery bag that I purchased last year, and has actually been discontinued… baaad Clarins for trying to smuggle an old (maybe even expired) product to unsuspecting customers!!!

Regardless, I kept an open mind since I used to think Clarins products are all decent (not anymore!). Sadly, this is probably the worst product of them all!

First of all, this primer is packaged in a JAR! I mean, come on, your fingers are bound to touch all sorts of messy stuff when you’re applying makeup, and you’re supposed to redip into this jar?? Clarins didn’t even have the foresight to include a spatula or some means of taking the product out. Worse, this is not any fluid or cream texture, but a balm, which needs to be dug out with your fingernails!

To be fair, once you manage to blend this over your face (which is no small feat), it creates a very smooth canvas that holds makeup in place well. Clarins claims there are vitamins and some micro-pearl technology to reduce wrinkles and lines… but all I see on the ingredient list is silicon, silicon, and more silicon!!! Each time I applied this, I was rewarded not just with pimples (as if that is not bad enough)… I ended up with angry red patches too!! This is the only time I can recall ever developing red patches from using any makeup product, much less one from a skincare brand! I suspect the product is expired, but it’s impossible to tell since there is no expiration date printed on the packaging. I spoke with several Clarins SAs about this, and they all made me feel like I was crazy. Seriously disappointing…….!

3. Murad Skin Perfecting Matte Finish Primer


I picked this up randomly at Sephora because it said “matte finish”, and bore one of those beauty awards stickers. This is a “hybrid” primer that is supposed to help control shine, and even out skin tone & texture. There is also a tint that is supposed to adapt to individual’s skin tone.

The so-called tint, is actually rather dark. While it did melt into my skin and provides some coverage, it left it looking rather dull. For those who are looking for something to even out skin tone without going so far as a foundation, I would recommend a BB cream that does so much more.

The most disappointing bit, was that this did nothing to help me control oil. It felt thick, and did not help my makeup stay on. And unsurprisingly, this caused pimples too.

4. Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base


This is actually not a primer, but a moisturizing base. It feels rich, but it’s not greasy. The formula contains Shea Butter, Carrot Extract, Vitamin A Complex, Vitamins C and E. There is also a crisp Grapefruit and Geranium fragrance that I adore.

This is true to Bobbi Brown’s philosophy of creating natural canvasses. It helped brighten up my skin, and created a smoother finish. I like to use this under my BB cream for casual days. However, if I need more coverage and longer lasting finish, this is not sufficient.

Stacked against the other three here, Bobbi Brown is a clear winner!

I have more primers!  Here is the current reigning champion!

Do you have a fave primer, or suffer the same silicon-aversion as me? I’d love to hear your experiences!! XOXO

4 responses to “Battle of the primers [Part I]”

  1. Sharon says:

    Hi Linda!

    Mr Hong showed me your blog and I really love it! I just bought the Guerlain Meteorites. I have been thinking of it for a while and after reading your blog I went out to buy! I am looking at good primers. I am currently the MAKE UP Forever primer. It is quite decent and I am happy with it. But as a beauty junkie I love to try other products since there are so many in the market. Whats your recommendation?

    • silverkis says:

      Hi Sharon, thanks for taking time to check out my blog! I hope you’re enjoying your Meteorites. What primers have you tried in the past? Any on this list here that perhaps intrigue you? I’m planning on reviewing my current HG primer this weekend, so stay tuned!

  2. Alex says:

    I’m addicted to primers! Great post 🙂
    I actually like the Murad primer and definitely want o try the bobbi brown now

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