Eyes / Makeup / Tutorials

Eyeshadow Primer vs Base: A Guide

Happy Hump Day, everyone! I’ve been meaning to write this post since I reviewed NYX’s eyeshadow base all the way back in mid-September. Base, primer, it’s all so confusing! Add to that, some products, like Mac’s Paint Pots, work as both. How’s a girl to figure it all out? Well I have a handy guide for you if you keep reading.

NYX Pearl Base


Primers are usually flesh-toned products that apply rather sheer to the lids. They don’t change the color of your eyeshadow or make it appear more vibrant, but they do help keep your eyeshadow on all day crease-free.

  • To Use: Let any eye creams soak in a few minutes before you apply. Gently apply to the eyelid with a clean finger. It seems counter-intuitive, but the thinner the layer, the better it will work. Now let this set for a minute or so before applying your eyeshadow. I take this time to apply my concealer under my eyes. Then you’re ready to apply your eyeshadow and voila!
  • Recommended Products: Urban Decay’s Primer Potion, Too Faced Shadow Insurance, Wet n Wild Fergie Primer (honestly this is so good and the price is incredible)


Unlike primers, bases typically have no guarantee to help your eyeshadow last longer. Traditionally, bases help your eyeshadow colors look brighter and pop, so to speak. Whites are generally best for light or bright colors, and black usually works for darker eye looks. Of course, if you have the money, you can also buy a base to match whatever eyeshadow color you want to wear. You can use either a product marketed as a base or cream eyeshadows usually work as a base.

  • To Use: I like to apply with a clean finger over primer. I try to keep the base below my natural crease, otherwise my eyeshadow starts to crease up. If I’m doing a bright eyeshadow as eyeliner, I’ll also put some under my eye to hold the color
  • Recommended Products: NYX eyeshadow base in white.

Products That Are Both

I would imagine this is the holy grail of the primer-base phenomenon. Yes, some products work as both. I’m told that Mac’s Paint Pots work as both, but I haven’t had the chance to try them since I’m cruelty-free.

So what do you think? Do you use primers and bases? Do you have any products you’d recommend for my list? Let me know in the comments below!


47 thoughts on “Eyeshadow Primer vs Base: A Guide

  1. Nice explanation. Regardless of what I’m doing I always wear primer but when I’m working with more standout, bright or pale colors, I like to use a base too. I have the white NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil and when I’m careful with it I don’t have creasing problems (with a primer of course!) I’ve also had good luck with the Milani Eye Shadow Primer but I think their CF status is questionable?

    • They honestly have one of the best primers. Too Faced makes a great one and Wet n Wild really surprised me with theirs. It’s so cheap but it works!

  2. Wow thanks for explaining all of this. Normally I apply the eyeshadow primer and I use an eyeshadow color that matches my skin tone and use it as a base. Thanks for this post! xo

  3. I always use a cream eyeshadow as my base and it’s perfect … And with your recommendation I will definitely buy the Wet n Wild Fergie Primer ( Now I use the UD Primer Potion!!!)

    • It’s for if you want it to last longer. It might be more or less important for you depending on how oily your eyelids are. If you find that your eyeshadow is creasing and smearing off after only a few hours, primer will help A LOT.

  4. I really like UDPP and the white NYX base. But I’m running out of UDPP and not sure I want to keep buying from them since they’re owned by L’Oreal. Will probably try Wet n Wild or Milani next. –Angela

  5. I actually use my NYX HD concealer as an eye primer and if I want my shadows to be more vibrant, I’ll layer my NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk (matte white) on top of the concealer. Both work great for me.

  6. That’s so nice to read about the true difference! Most German bloggers/youtubers I know and I just say “base” when we actually mean primer or a product that combines both.

  7. great post! I love macs paint pots but one thing that kind off irks be about them is i feel they dry out easily so i try to mix a little bit of coconut oil to them. Thanks for the post!

  8. Be careful with that Urban Decay eye primer. It messed my kids up bad & made them burn, itch and flaky. Even when I stopped using it (only used it 3 times max), the problem persisted for a long time. It took using an ointment from my mom’s dermatologist to finally heal my lids.

  9. I use them when I remember to, or if I’m getting ready for a whole evening out or something. Not usually for day to day wear, for me. I use the Kat von D eye primer in grey (not sure the actual name) for darker looks (it looks amazing under green shadows). I am also a fan of Benefit’s eye primer/base that doubles are concealer!

  10. love how informative you are v! i love nyx product in general but never got around to trying this specific one. maybe i will now after reading your review!

  11. Pingback: High End vs Drugstore Primer | Say Hello to Gorgeous

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