Whats in your makeup primer?

Hi everyone!!

I do have to give the science geek within me an outlet too once in a while 🙂 so this post is a short compilation of  ingredients commonly found in primers and what they do. Before we get to that first thing first…

What is a primer?

No one’s skin is perfect now is it? Even the person with the clearest skin will have some small imperfections..like visible pores or some fine lines near the mouth or near the eyes. This is where your friend Mr.Primer walks in to save the day! By applying a primer you will be essentially filling in those fine lines and pores and thereby creating a nice even base for your makeup to adhere to.

Another important function of Mr. primer is to make your makeup last longer. This is achieved primarily by the primer acting as the guy in the middle between your skin and foundation or eyeshadow in the case of an eyelid primer.

How does a primer do all those things?

In order to understand that we need to take a look at the ingredients that go into making a primer. The primary ingredient in most primers are silicon based polymers. Lets take a look at some of the commonly found ones shall we..


Dimethicones are found in in so many personal care products; cosmetics, shampoos, styling gels, hair spray ..you name it! even diaper rash cream.. the reason they are so popular with companies is because of their ability to form a water resistant film which has a velvety and slippery feel. Another advantage of using dimethicones is that their chemical structure is such that when they form a film on the skin they allow the skin to breathe and hence feel light weight on the skin.


In some primers instead of dimethicone, dimethiconol is used. These 2 polymers have essential the same properties with respect to their function in a primer although their structural end groups are different.

Dimethicone/vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer

A dimethicone derivative that gives the mattifying effect would be dimethicone/vinyl dimethicone crosspolymer. They are highly effective in absorbing sebum ( oil produced by the skin naturally) when used in combination with silica. So if you have oily skin, this is an ingredient combination to look out for while shopping for a primer.


They are very spreadable and have emollient properties with the added bonus of not feeling sticky or tacky and hence are responsible for that dry velvety touch we want from our primer! This is an ingredient to check for if your in the market for a primer which can provide some moisturizing benefits as well.


They are solid particles which are perfectly spherical in shape. This allows them to aid in the smooth application of makeup and also help distribute pigments present in your cosmetic spread evenly. This is one of the magic ingredients in your primer working to prevent streaky application 🙂 They are commonly found in eye lid primers since they help spread eyeshadow pigments evenly.


In addition to silicones, there are some other ingredients in primers which can help with certain issues..

 Disteardimonium Hectorite

This is essentially modified clay. Disteardimonium Hectorite can be a helpful ingredient to have in your eye lid primer if you have oily lids. This clay compound helps to absorb excess oil and hence prevent makeup from sliding off.


This is a compound found in many silicone free primers. They provide a light weight feel to the skin and also have film forming and emollient properties.


Talc is usually added to primers for their ability to absorb oils and thereby keep skin looking matte longer.


The above list of chemicals are just some of the ingredients commonly found in primers. Each company uses a different formulation, but they all do have some ingredients in common.


Silicone free natural Primers

Silicones have such stellar properties that it is kind of hard to find a substitute that does everything silicone derivatives can achieve.  However, I did come across a silicon free natural primer , the Korres Face Primer which has quite a fan following. It is available on the Sephora website. They claim that the Edelweiss Extract in the product soothes and provides a perfect primer formulation in place of silicone and also claim to be 99% natural. Since I haven’t tried it myself I cant vouch for its effectiveness but I’ll definitely review it when I get my hands on it soon 🙂


Another natural primer everyone is talking about is aloe vera gel. Now, I have used  pure aloe vera gel straight off the plant on my skin although not as a primer, and it does leave that feeling of a film on the skin, is fast drying and soothing 🙂


File:Aloe Vera (4700054020).jpgThe Aloe Vera Plant. Source (wikimedia commons)

Aloe vera gel consists of a mixture of polysacchrides having film forming properties and hence can function as a primer. However, I believe it will function only as a base for makeup application and wont help with oil control and mattfying.

Now I have to point out that the aloe vera gel marketed by fruit of the earth (which is the one most talked about as being an awesome primer) isn’t 100% natural. It contains Carbomer 940 which basically is a thickener which has film forming and mattifying effects and hence it functions well as a primer. So applying 100% pure aloe vera gel might not really give the same effects !

I do hope you found some useful information in this post :). Like I mentioned earlier on, its not a comprehensive list so feel free to leave any questions about ingredients in primers or any comment below !  Until next time ..ciao!


  1. Principles of Polymer Science and Technology in Cosmetics and Personal Care.E. Desmond Goddard, James V. Gruber. CRC Press, Mar 10, 1999.
  2. Skin Care and Cosmetic Ingredients Dictionary.M. Varinia Michalun, Joseph DiNardo. Cengage Learning, Jan 13, 2014.
  3. Conditioning Agents for Hair and Skin.Randy Schueller, Perry Romanowski. CRC Press, Feb 2, 1999.
  4. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S.  CRC Press; 2011



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s