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We’re no stranger to primers, and you’ve surely heard us sing their praises. After all, what’s not to love about a product that singlehandedly evens out skin, enables flawless application and keeps foundation and concealer from slip-sliding away? But primers are upping their game in a big—big—way, with extra beauty benefits ranging from minimizing wrinkles to preventing breakouts. Nobody knows this better than Smashbox Cosmetics’ Global Pro lead makeup artist Lori Taylor Davis, who gave us the inside scoop on why it’s totally worth it to always take that extra step and apply a primer—especially when you find the right one for your skin type.
Born out of a photo studio, Smashbox was the first company to really champion the primer, which makeup artists use to prep skin before makeup application. “It changes the physical surface, diminishing the appearance of pores and fine lines, so that makeup goes on smoother,” says Taylor Davis. The brand’s classic formula, the Photo Finish Foundation Primer, is designed to create a smooth canvas for makeup while reducing the appearance of fine lines and pores. But beyond that, it includes ingredients that improve skin over time—namely vitamins A, E, grape seed extract and green tea.
Apply primer to clean, moisturized skin, before your BB cream, tinted moisturizer, or foundation. You can also wear it on its own for a more natural look. Taylor Davis always tells clients to use their fingertips “so you can feel where it’s going.” A pea-sized amount is more than enough because your skin can only absorb so much of it, she says. Start in the center of your face with your nose and cheeks, working your way up to your forehead and down to your chin.
Primers have evolved over the past few years, and Smashbox has lead the charge by developing a line of formulas targeted for various skin types and issues, from dry to acne-prone. Taylor Davis walked us through the range to match the different formulas to Birchbox staffers (and you!)
If you’re prone to breakouts like Cara Harvey, one of our Operations Associates, this oil-free primer is for you. It has 2% salicylic acid to help clear skin even as it smooths and hydrates. “The primer was super lightweight, so I felt really comfortable putting it on my skin,” says Harvey. “It seemed to reduce redness and minimized the size in my pores without being cakey.”
For someone like Jaz Nsubuga, our Manager of Brand Campaign Strategy for Birchbox Man, who has sun spots and acne scars, this primer contains an advanced C-Phyte Complex to help fade dark marks over time while brightening overall complexion. “It went on so smooth and didn’t feel like it was clogging my pores,” she said. “The finish was really consistent and provided a great base.”
This primer is really for anyone, including Alex Azzara, a Project Manager for Brand Campaign Strategy, who wants a healthy, lit-from-within look. She used it instead of her usual BB cream in the morning, before she applied her bronzer. “It feels silky and lightweight after application but provides a visibly soft, healthy glow that lasts all day,” she says.
This hyper-moisturizing formula works for women with dull, dry skin like our Associate Supply Chain Planner Isabel Mitchell. “It definitely moisturized my skin and made my makeup go on smoother,” she says. But Taylor says it’s also great for those with oily skin: “The more you hydrate the skin, the more it will help to control oil secretion,” she explains.
This primer was created specifically to help those oily skin, like Heidi Knight, one of our Discovery Specialists, as well as for those with sensitive skin. The formula has no silicone in it, so it gives a more matte finish and diffuses light to minimize the appearance of imperfections. “I’m a rather oily creature and this primer is a lifesaver!” she says. “It goes on very smoothly and doesn’t clash with my moisturizer.”
Smashbox created the green-tinged Adjust primer to help reduce redness, something Lifestyle Merchant Molly Meacham struggles with. “Don’t get nervous about the color of this primer!” she says. “If you’ve been battling an uneven complexion for years like me, you know that for neutralizing redness, green is your secret weapon.”
This one is perfect for outdoor adventurers like Discovery Specialist Cherise Miller, who loves to go paddleboarding and boating. It protects against both UVA and UVB rays while providing the same smooth coverage of the classic primer. “It gives you the protection from UV’s without that heavy, greasy feeling,” she says. “It filled in my pores and the fine lines around my eyes, and sits well under makeup.”
Whether you want to prevent shadow creases or make sure that cat-eye liner stays put, apply Smashbox’s 24 Hour Photo Finish Shadow Primer to your lids. And dot the Photo Finish Hydrating Under Eye Primer to instantly brighten and prep it for concealer so it doesn’t get cakey. “It hydrates that delicate area and contains caffeine for a wide-eyed effect,” says Taylor Davis.
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