The Product That Changed My Life: Amelia Lester

I’ve always loved makeup, but it hasn’t always loved me back. Things did not start well with us: The shade of Cover Girl cream foundation I bought to cover my teenage acne was aspirational—it was for the tan skin I wished I had—and didn’t do a lot of concealing, either. My early experimentation with foundation, however, made me realize one thing: Your skin is the most important thing. If your skin looks OK, you’ll look OK. Unfortunately from experience, I know the opposite is also true.

I grew up in Australia, where the sun shines more aggressively than just about anywhere else in the world. Did you know that, as of the mid-'80s, the ozone layer above Australia isn’t entirely intact? So, logically, I spent the majority of my adolescence baking in the sun at the beach. That means I need more from skincare products than people who grew up in colder climates—or who were more sensible from an earlier age. My preferred foundation option has long been Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturizer. It has sunscreen (because I am now an adult with a 401K and can no longer act with blatant irresponsibility), but it is also pearly and lightweight and nothing at all like that first ill-fated foray.

The product meets the International Beyoncé Standard for Natural-Looking Makeup (i.e., looks like I woke up like this). But there’s a complication, which is that I now live in New York. The sun may not be as intense here as it is in Sydney, but the pace of life here presents its own challenges. The tinted moisturizer is spectacular-looking at 7 o’clock in the morning, but by midnight, when I get home and am taking my makeup off (see note about responsibility, above), most of it has disappeared. Eaten by the smog and fumes of the C train, I guess. Mascara is always the hardest-working member of the team, as long as it’s waterproof, and Stila eyeliner never quits, but the tinted moisturizer has vanished. What to do?

I don’t want to keep you hanging—this is not the final episode in the latest season of Sherlock—so I’ll tell you the answer. Primer. I know, I too had assumed this was a product made up by an international association of cosmetics companies in order to get us to buy more products. But having now tested Laura Mercier’s primer, I can conclusively say there is now more tinted moisturizer left on my face at the end of the day than there was before. Enhanced staying power was what I wanted, and what I got.

Laura Mercier makes three types of primer, and they each do something a little different, in addition to ensuring your foundation stays on. My favorite is the mineral primer. I’ve never been clear on what ‘minerals’ are in makeup, and chemistry’s not my strong suit, but it feels like it is full of many good things that are hopefully counteracting my office’s oppressive central heating, and any after-work Negronis that might occur. There’s also an illuminating version, which is helpful if you are going to a wedding where your ex-boyfriend will be and would like to imagine you look a little like Jennifer Lawrence, but is perhaps more shimmer than you need for a 9 a.m. Monday meeting. (The third type is oil-free, but I worship at the altar of Luminosity and hence was not interested in this one.)

In conclusion, the future is here, and it is Laura Mercier’s mineral primer, which I feel sure would have impressed my 15-year-old self more, even, than the existence of the internet, or the iPhone—or the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio somehow looks exactly the same as he did in my favorite movie that year, which was Romeo and Juliet. That’s a man in possession of a very good primer.

Amelia Lester is a senior editor at the New Yorker. Find her on Instagram and Twitter at @thatamelia.

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