The purpose of this test was to see if, all other factors being equal, there is a significant difference between different brands of eyeshadow primers. I intentionally chose brands that I trust (plus Elf because fuck it, it was $1) and brands that I frequently saw cited as a favorite. I tested them on my arm for four hours.
There are definitely limitations to this method. For one, there may be some intangible element of eyelid-ness that my arm is not appropriately catching. (I used my arm so I could see all of them at the same time.) My arm also is touched a fair bit more than my eyes are. It is also possible that there are some individual difference in oiliness that causes certain primers to be more or less effective.
Regardless of these limitations, I think this is an appropriate test that will give a helpful comparison between different brands.
The Primers Tested (In order from least expensive per ounce to most expensive per ounce)
Elf Eyelid Primer, $1 for 0.17oz ($5.88 per ounce)
TheBalm Put a Lid On It Eyelid Primer, $18 for 0.4oz ($45 per ounce)
Urban Decay Primer Potion, $20 for 0.37oz ($54.05 per ounce)
Too Faced Shadow Insurance, $20 for 0.35oz ($57.14 per ounce)
Benefit Stay Don't Stray, $26 for 0.33oz ($78.79 per ounce)
Nars Pro Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base, $24 for 0.26oz ($92.31 per ounce)
Tarte Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Eye Base, $8.95 for 0.08 ($111.88 per ounce)
Smashbox Photo Finish Lid Primer, $20 for 0.08oz ($250 per ounce)
|Five swipes for each swatch. |
From left to right: Control, Elf, TheBalm, Urban Decay, Too Faced, Benefit, Nars, Tarte and Smashbox.
Since I have light skin and the products varied significantly in terms of pigmentation, I also swatched each of the primers by itself on a white piece of paper so that you can see how pigmented they are. Hopefully this will be helpful for women with darker skin, since some of the more pigmented primers could potentially look ashy. Elf, theBalm, Urban Decay and Too Faced were all very slightly pigmented. Benefit, Tarte and Smashbox were all heavily pigmented. Nars was completely sheer.
|Unblended swatches on white.|
From left to right: Elf, TheBalm, Urban Decay, Too Faced, Benefit, Nars, Tarte and Smashbox.
Based on their ability to last, I divided the products into four general categories: low performers, medium performers, high performers and the highest performer.
As a warning, there a few differences that were a little more evident in real life than they are in photographs, so you will have to trust me a bit.
|After four hours. Note that my arm faces significantly more touching and the like than my eyes, hence the amount of fading.|
|Picture sources: http://www.eyeslipsface.com/elf/eyes/concealers_and_primers/eyelid_primer and http://www.amazon.com/Tarte-Smooth-Operator-Amazonian-Travel/dp/B007O1IN4I|
Since Elf is very inexpensive, I am willing to be forgiving of their relative inability to keep eyeshadow on my skin. I am, not, however, willing to be so generous for Tarte. Tarte Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Eye Base did not outcompete Elf, and they were the second most expensive product (per ounce) that I tried. This was a big disappointment because the product itself feels very luxe and creamy. Plus, many Tarte products are favorites of mine. However, over time, this primer got cakey and unattractive. It was clearly visible against the eyeshadow and looked almost like it was flaking off. By the end of the four hours, the pigmentation of the eyeshadow was seriously lacking, even though it started off as one of the most pigmented swatches.
Medium performers: Urban Decay, theBalm, Benefit
|Sources: http://www.urbandecay.com/eye-primers-from-urban-decay/1_503,default,sc.html, http://www.birchbox.com/shop/thebalm-put-a-lid-on-it, and http://www.sephora.com/stay-don-t-stray-P253113|
Urban Decay Primer Potion (UDPP) is one of the best-loved beauty products out there. However, in this test, it seems that the love it gets may not be fully warranted. It certainly did an adequate job, but many other products were more successful. I speculate that UDPP is popular not necessarily because of its kickass formula, but because of its accessibility. Urban Decay adds samples of this primer to online orders, and samples are included when you buy an eyeshadow palette. If you don't typically use an eyeshadow primer, you might be super impressed and become a convert-- even though better products exist! I was a little surprised that Urban Decay didn't fare better simply because it is the primer that I use on a daily basis, but the results don't lie. There's better stuff out there.
If the pricer products are a bit of a stretch for you, theBalm's "Put a Lid On It" swatch was absolutely indistinguishable from the UDPP swatch. They were exactly the same. It's both less expensive overall and less expensive per ounce, so it might be a good alternative for you. Plus, the packaging is way cuter.
Benefit also had a medium performing product. However, I think it fared slightly worse in terms of pigmentation than both UDPP and theBalm. Since it is pricier than both of those products, I would skip it if I were you.
High performers: Too Faced, Smashbox
|Sources: http://www.sephora.com/shadow-insurance-P202625 and http://www.sephora.com/photo-finish-lid-primer-P232323|
Too Faced is one of those products. Their great performance was actually a bit of a surprise for me, since I had my own biases about what was going to work well. However, it kept very pigmented and everything stayed put with no smudgeyness. This was definitely the second best product that I tried.
Highest performer: Nars