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Keep eye makeup from budging and fading with these top picks.
An eyeshadow primer’s importance gets a bit lost in the shuffle when you’re busy eyeing colorful eyeshadow palettes, fail-proof eyeliner and top-rated mascaras. But, just picture going the whole day with eyeshadow that doesn’t budge. It’d certainly make those tedious minutes spent perfecting an eyeshadow look or fussing with winged eyeliner worthwhile. What’s more, like a great primer for face makeup, the best shadow primers can extend your look from day to night, putting quick-fading eyeshadow in the rearview.
In finding the best eyeshadow primers, we rounded up favorites from our product pros across Good Housekeeping, must-haves from makeup artists and ones with top-rated online reviews. Ahead are the best eyeshadow primers that’ll make all the difference in you wearing your makeup on your eyelids and having it smeared across your temples. (Pro tip: For an even more foolproof measure, combine eyeshadow primer with a setting spray to lock it in.)
Read on for Los Angeles-based makeup artist Kymberli Williams‘s expert tips on how to shop for an eyeshadow primer. Looking for more flawless bases? Check out our guides to the best primers out there for dry skin to oily skin.
Nix eye shadow creasing and budging with Urban Decay’s Primer Potion. A GH editor go-to, it lays a flawless base for smooth eye makeup application. Boasting 24-hour wear, one beauty pro attests to its formula: “This was the first ever eyeshadow primer I tried, and I’ve never looked back,” she said. “It’s a must for increasing the longevity of your look.” What’s more, several of our product experts who have dry to oily to sensitive skin stash it in their makeup bags. Available in four different shades, plus an anti-aging option, the translucent matte is for everyday wear while the shimmery base boosts colorful looks. “Other primers I’ve tried have been cakey, emphasized creases around my eyes or turned the shadow or liner I layered over it a strange color,” another added.
At the budget price of $10, the NYX eye primer comes in four versatile shades, which is more than most eyeshadow primers out there. Our pros appreciate that it’s formulated with vitamin E, which aims to nourish and can make it non-drying on eyelids. The stick applicator layers the product with an easy swipe, too. While some online reviewers said it made eyeshadow look smooth on skin, others complained of its tackiness.
Doubling as an all-over face primer, e.l.f.’s Putty Primer makes eyeshadow glow. Its balm formula — uniquely made with marshmallow extract — feels creamy and hydrating on skin. One GH product expert enjoys the drugstore primer‘s lightweight texture on her sensitive skin. “It lays a smooth base for makeup without making my eyelids feel oily,” she says. However, oily skin types may find the moisturizing formula on the greasy side.
Add a subtle gorgeous shimmer to eye makeup with this Too Faced eyeshadow primer. “Just a few small dabs will keep everything in place for the entire day, no matter what,” attests Senior Editor Kayla Keegan. Formulated with occlusives like silicones and oils, it’s made to feel smooth to the touch, which can make it easier to layer powders over. The lightweight primer boasts a 24-hour staying formula. Rest assured, when it comes time for winding down, it comes off with ease — no harsh scrubbing required, according to Keegan. While a little bit goes a long way, just note that there’s not as much product in this tube.
A makeup artist favorite, the Fenty Beauty eyeshadow primer makes eyeshadows brighter and smoother, plus a tacky texture that’ll prevent eyeshadow from budging or creasing. Williams raves about its long-lasting staying power and says, “It looks beautiful on any skin tone.” Though hyping a crease-proof formula, some online reviews found it took more effort to blend.
Want to skip the extra step of a separate primer? With an impressive full-coverage finish, Tarte’s concealer doubles as an eyeshadow base. One GH editor finds it primes and preps eyelids with a mere swipe, thanks to its jumbo applicator. Its shea butter formula feels creamy and hydrating, while it dries down to a smooth finish. As a concealer, it touts 16 hours of wear with 12 of those hours working against creasing into fine lines and wrinkles. “I often get redness on my eyelids and love how this covers that up with ease,” says one pro. It takes a tad longer to set than a traditional eyeshadow primer.
Williams attests to this eyeshadow base’s blendable formula for beginners. “It’s user-friendly for everyone, so you don’t have to be a makeup artist to use them,” she says. “They’re based in the UK but they deliver so fast.” With 12 shades available on the brand’s official UK site, you can be a bit of a chameleon with makeup looks.
We appreciate that Benefit Cosmetic’s eyeshadow primer is formulated with vitamins C and E, which are skincare ingredients known for anti-aging and evening out hyperpigmentation. Some online reviewers noted it helped reduced the appearance of redness and dark circles around their eyelids. It also comes with a wand applicator that makes it much easier to swipe on. A few Ulta users noted, however, that it didn’t make eyeshadow last quite as long as other primers they’d tried.
While we haven’t tried this pick, GH beauty editors rate the brand’s sister setting spray for turning makeup looks budge-proof. The eyeshadow primer uses hydrating hyaluronic acid and smoothing niacinamide, as some Sephora reviewers said it smoothed out the appearance of fine lines for their concealer and eyeshadow. Other customers said it took ample time to dry down to its invisible finish.
Beloved by the beauty community, this high-end eye makeup primer is constantly sold out. Flaunting a seamless canvas for eyeshadow, Nars claims that its formula will prevent smudging, creasing and caking. While we haven’t tried this pick, one GH editor loves the brand’s creamy concealer that offers a fuss-free formula. Nars says its eye base offers a blendable primer that mattifies once dry. Available in a light, neutral shade, it should boost natural makeup looks, while its white shade can make colored shadows pop.
✔️ Shades: Depending on your makeup look, you can pick from different base colors to boost your eyeshadow. Williams recommends skin-like primers for more subdued makeup looks that let your natural eyelid color peek through. For a more dramatic look, use a white base to make the colors look vibrant. A base with the same skin tone or a few shades lighter than the skin gives a glamorous look as it subtly brightens the eye area, she says.
✔️ Texture: Primers with a tacky base mean that eyeshadow pigment will stick on easier and blend smoothly. “It also prevents eyeshadows from creasing, creating a long-lasting look,” Williams adds. “Some primers also help eyeshadows stay waterproof.”
Jacqueline Saguin is an associate product and reviews editor who covers all things beauty, including skincare, makeup and hair. Consulting both a professional makeup artist and GH’s team of product experts, she scoured recommendations from industry experts to round up the best picks out there. She’s personally tried a few of our above picks — including Urban Decay and e.l.f. — and has a keen eye for identifying favorable skincare ingredients thanks to frequent collaborations with our Beauty Lab chemists and scientists and their rigorous research on product claims and ingredient lists.