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How to Choose the Right Primers & Finishing Sprays

If you've watched Huda's beauty tutorials or listened to any Sales Rep at Sephora preach away, you're aware that all makeup addicts are obsessed with primers and finishing sprays. But if you aren't as makeup-crazy, and perhaps a little more budget-wise, you might feel skeptical about whether these products actually live up their hype. Are they just high-tech goop-- or -- are they TRULY the blessing everyone claims?

As someone who's practical about makeup, I can firmly say that primers and finishing sprays are the bomb! While prepping for Vanity Fair's big Pre-Oscars party, my makeup artists taught me lots of Hollywood beauty secrets. So now I'm sharing! Let's learn how to choose the right primer and setting spray step-by-step.

What is primer and finishing spray?

Primer is a smoothing agent that lets makeup blend more flawlessly. Like an optical illusion, primer creates a lightweight layer to make your pores and fine lines less visible, while creating a sticky surface for foundation to stick for hours. It's the first layer of makeup you apply in your beauty routine, right after your moisturizer.

Finishing spray is the final coating you apply to seal your makeup all day or night. It basically glues all the layers together on your face and shields them under a varnish-like finish to prevent greasing, caking and melting (#BeautyProblems).

How do I find the right one?


Primers come in all different textures and finishes, which you choose based on your skin type and the foundation you apply.

Primer for skin type

Let's start with your skin type. Those with oily skin will choose a formula that absorbs shine, keeping you matte and fresh-looking. If you've got dry skin, you'd go for a hydrating primer. And if you're somewhere in-between, there are generic primers that offer a balanced consistency. There's also the age-defying primers, made with iridescent shimmer to help your skin look healthy and radiant.

Primer for foundation type

You need to match your primer to your foundation. It's a rule that's often ignored because we love mixing-and-matching our favorite products and don't usually concern ourselves with whether the ingredients can combine. Unfortunately, when it comes to primers, the sciency stuff matters. Here it goes...

Water-based foundations must be used with water-based primers. Silicone-based foundations must be used with silicone-based primers. You can sometimes cheat this rule when using a silicone-based foundation over a water-based primer, but the outcome will still depend on the individual formulas.

The absolute worst combination is using a water-based foundation over a silicone-based primer. The two solutions will separate, much like oil and water, and you'll be left looking smudgy and messy.

Finishing spray

Finishing spray has less rules-- thankfully! Although it's recommended to choose one according to your skin type and foundation type (like primer), it's less complicated overall. You can get away with cheating the rules. Since finishing spray is a light mist and the final layer, you won't deal with as much ingredient-clashing mayhem as you might with primers.

Finishing spray for skin type

Does your skin get shiny? Oil-absorbing finishing sprays help keep your skin grease-proof for hours. Just beware of combining an oil-absorbing finishing spray with an oil-absorbing primer-- the double absorption can suck your skin dry.

For those with dry skin, you can use a moisturizing finishing spray. Giving you a dewier look, this type of finishing spray locks in your makeup, while keeping your skin hydrated.

Water-based vs. silicone-based finishing spray

If you prefer a more hydrating, lightweight finish, then go with a water-based finishing spray. Even if you've got a silicone-based foundation underneath, the spray shouldn't repel. It'll usually just create a hydrated-looking layer to hold your makeup.

But for those who need a more intense protection layer over makeup, a silicone-based finishing spray tends to hold longer. Although this feature may seem tempting, keep in mind that silicone has a much heavier texture, leaving your skin with little breathing room. So if you have sensitive skin or you're acne-prone, save the silicone-based finishing spray for special occasions like weddings or birthdays.

It all seems like a lot of information at first, but once you understand your options and needs, you'll find the right primer and finishing spray. You can also check out non-biased reviews for products on Makeup Alley or Jeffree Star's You Tube channel. Happy makeup hunting!

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