Face Primer Showdown!

I like to spend money on products I use often and hoard samples of products I like to use occasionally…..which means I ended up with a bunch of primers that I don’t really use. Primers are not essential, but they do help your makeup last longer, and blurrs pores/lines for a smoother canvas. Some are mattifying and helps with oil-control, while others are hydrating or anti-aging. Since everyone’s skin is different, I will just focus on the lasting power and color intensity when judging which primer is better, in my opinion.


I actually have a few more primer not shown here, but I don’t have enough arm space and these are the top rated ones so here are the 8 top rated primers I have. The testing plan is to swatch powder/liquid foundation, blush and bronzer onto the arm using the same number of swipes/amount of products (or equalize as much as possible). I will observe the color intensity, oxidation if any, and later if it’s smudgeproof (so if I scratch my face or end up rubbing my scarf against my face, will my makeup be ruined?).


First of all, some relevant info, first impression and ingredients about the primers. They are numbered from left to right:

  1. Clarins Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch – a dry silicone-y cream with a slightly mattifying finish. It is lightweight with no scent
    • Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil, Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, Silica, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Alcohol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Butylene Glycol, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Acacia Senegal Gum, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Ci 77019/Mica, Ci 77491/Iron Oxide, Ci 77891/Titanium Dioxide, Ci 75470/Carmine.
  2. Benefit Porefessional – a dry silicone-y cream, lighter than Clarins with a matte finish. It is lightweight with no scent.
    • Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone, dimethiccone/vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer, isononyl isononanoate, silica, dimethicone crosspolymore, isodedecane, phenoxyethanol, polymethyl methacrylsate, titanium dioxide (CI 77891), cyclohexasiloxane, tocopheryl acetate, fragrance (parfum), mico, iron oxides, (CI 77492), limonene, iron oxides (CI 77491), iron oxides (CI 77499), triethoxycaprylylsilane, BHT.
  3. Smashbox Photo Finish oil-free (original?) – a Vaseline gel type that feels like Vaseline/rose salve but is lighter. It have a natural finish, medium weight with no scent.
    • Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethicone, Trisiloxane, Silica, Dimethicone/ Vinyldimethicone Crosspolymer, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Extract, Propylene Glycol, Water (Aqua, Eau), Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Cola Acuminata Seed Extract, Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract
  4. Hourglass Mineral Veil – lightweight cream with a natural finish. It is lightweight with no scent. It does goes on a bit white so make sure to rub/smooth it in.
    • Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, Isododecane, Polysilicone-11, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Hexyl Laurate, Peg-10 Dimethicone, Polyglyceryl-4 Isosterate, Stearic Acid, Alumina.
  5. Hourglass No.28 Primer Serum – thick silicone gel with a dewy finish. It is medium/heavy weight with herbal scent.
    • Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Ethylhexyl Cocoate, Dimethiconol, Phenyl Trimethicone, Ceramide 3, Sphingolipids, Jojoba (Simmondsia Chinensis) Oil, Rose Hips Seed Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Sweet Almond (Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis) Oil, Green Tea (Camellia Sinensis) Oil, Olive (Olea Europaea) Oil, Hazelnut (Corylus Americana) Oil, Borage (Borago Officinalis) Seed Oil, Kukui (Aleurites Moluccana) Nut Oil, Cherry (Prunus Avium) Pit Oil, Tocopherol, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Linoleate, Panthenyl Triacetate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Ascorbic Acid, Octyldodecanol, Dioctyl Succinate, Peg-8, Tridecyl Stearate, Neopentyl Glycol Dicaprylate/Dicaprate, Tridecyl Trimellitate, Lithospermum Officinale Root Extract, Octyldodecyl Myristate, Citric Acid, Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) Oil, Geranium (Geranium Maculatum) Oil, Rose Geranium (Pelargonium Roseum) Oil, Vanilla (Vanilla Planifolia) Oil, Clove (Eugenia Caryophyllus) Oil, Orange (Citrus Aurantium Dulcis) Peel Oil, Petitgrain (Citrus Reticulata) Oil, Amyris (Amyris Balsamifera) Oil, Benzoin Siam Absolute, Lemon (Citrus Medica Limonum) Peel Oil, Eucalyptus Globulus Oil, Rosemary (Rosmarinus Officinalis) Leaf Oil, Bois De Rose (Aniba Rosaeodora) Oil, Cedar (Thuja Occidentalis) Leaf Oil, Ylang Ylang (Cananga Odorata) Oil.
  6. BareMinerals Prime Time – feels like lighter Vaseline gel, a bit like smashbox, and have a natural finish. It is medium weight with no scent.
    • Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethicone, Silica, Magnesium Silicate, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Chamomilla Recutita Flower Extract, Glycyrrhiza Glabra (Licorice) Extract.
  7. Too Faced Prime & Poreless – feels like dry silicone-y cream, very similar to clarins, with a matte-ish finish. It is medium weight and have no scent.
    • Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethiconol, Caprylic/Capric, Triglyceride, HDI/Trimethylol Hexyllactone Crossploymer, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone, Crosspolymer, Camellia Oleifera Seed Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Silica, Tetrahexyldecyl, Ascorbate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Cyclodextrin, Cyclohexasiloxane, Retinol, Diacetyl Boldine, PPG-26-Buteth-26, Arctostaphylos Uva Ursi Leaf Extract, Morus Alba Bark Extract, Polysorbate 80, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ivy Extract, BHT, Cycloheptasiloxane, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Bioflavonoids, Ascorbyl, Palmitate, Allantoin, Mica CI 77019, Bismuth Oxychloride CI 77163, Chromium Oxide Greens CI 77288, Titanium Dioxide CI 77891, Iron Oxides CI 77491, Iron Oxides CI 77492, Iron Oxides CI 77499.
  8. Korres Quercetin & Oak Antiaging – feels like a lightweight moisturizer cream, with a natural finish. It is lightweight with a mild fruity scent.
    • Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dicaprylyl Ether, Cetearyl Alcohol, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Glyceryl Stearate, Propanediol, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Alcohol, Glycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Limonene, Ethylhexylglycerin, Xanthan Gum, Cellulose Gum, Glycosphingolipids / Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Flour Lipids, Hordeum Vulgare Extract, Tocopherol, Spilanthes Acmella Flower Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Sodium Phytate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Glyceryl Oleate, Quercetin Caprylate, Quercus Robur Bark Extract, Citral, Linalool.

In terms of texture and finish, Clarins and Too Faced feels very similar, and Smashbox and BM PrimeTime feels very similar. Now, onto the actual testing, I used Physician’s Formula powder blush (after I realized the Josie Maran one doesn’t work very well for swatching), JM cheek gelee, Giorgio Armani foundation, MUFE Mat Velvet foundation and Tarte bronzer.


Because the difference between them is very subtle most of the times, they are all pretty good primers, and the lighting is fickle, it’s difficult to capture on camera but here’s my attempt:


In terms of color intensity, Hourglass no.28 and Korres (5 and 8) grabs color very well, followed by Clarins (1). Others are comparable but BareMinerals and Too Faced (6 and 7) don’t do as well. In terms of preventing oxidation, the MUFE powder foundation oxidizes easily. The color remains virtually unchanged in Smashbox, Mineral Veil, BareMinerals and Too Faced (3, 4, 6 and 7). I then tried to smudge them, swiped equal number of times.


From the smudge test, Smashbox and Hourglass no.28 (3 and 5) did the best. The rest are comparable altho it is mostly gone on Korres. I then repeated the same experiment with different blush and foundation to confirm if the results are the same. 1, 5, and 8 hold onto colors well, followed by 4 and 3. The powder foundation did not oxidize in 3, 4, 6. And as for the smudge test, 1 and 5 best for blush followed by 4 and 3. In case the numbers are getting as confusing for you as it did for me, here’s a chart version of the result of primer comparison for easy reading:


So from repeating the experiment twice, out of the 8 primers I’ve tried, the ones that are best in holding onto products, being true to color and long lasting are: Hourglass no.28 primer serum, Hourglass mineral veil, Clarins Instant Smooth and Smashbox oil-free. Of the slightly mattifying primer, I find Hourglass mineral veil to dry out my cheeks while Clarins doesn’t so I like Clarins better for my combination skin in the summer. Of the heavier primers, Hourglass no.28 contains oil while Smashbox is oil-free, both are hydrating so which one I used will depend on if the face makeup I use is oil-free or not.

I was unable to narrow down the 8 primers into 1 best one, but 3 favorite is good enough. Hourglass no.28, Smashbox oil-free and Clarins Instant Smooth are my primers of choice.


6 thoughts on “Face Primer Showdown!

  1. I couldn’t get on with smash box photo ready, felt like it absorbed into my skin too quickly, however what a great post. Love the table you’ve used it made it so easy to understand the pros and cons. Love it x

    1. Haha, thanks for the input! I’ve got way too many primers so if I don’t do a table I’d get confused as well. I don’t wear enough makeup for long enough to be able to tell too much of a difference between the primers, altho I think the absorption rate also depends on what moisturizer (or lack of) you have underneath. Hope it helps. =)

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