What is a Make-Up Primer or Base?

If you have often wondered what an eye shadow/foundation/lipstick primer or base is, then you’re not alone. Many don’t know what either is or if there is a difference between the two and rightly so, as primer and base are relatively new to the cosmetics world, especially primer.

It’s not too long ago when the use of either became mainstream knowledge and more and more cosmetics companies are now coming out with their own.

So, what is a primer or base?

Well, generally speaking, the two are quite similar in purpose and are often referred to as the same thing. However, there is a slight difference between the two.


Base is exactly that – a base. It’s a base for your make-up. So a base is what you put on your eyes before you apply eye shadow, base is what you put on your face before you apply your blush and foundation and base is what you put on your lips before apply your lipstick. The main purpose of base in all these uses? To make the colours more vibrant.

You’ll notice that some make-up, for example, eye shadows, can look really vibrant in the packaging but when you apply it to your eyelids, the colour is sheer and not having the intensity you wanted. This can be a due to the eyelids being oily or due to skin colour and tone. A base, especially a light base, will create a smooth, dry and neutral canvas which will make the colour more intense when applied on top of it.



A primer is meant to do exactly that – prime your face or whatever part you’re going to apply make-up to. A definition of the word “prime” is “to ready or to prepare” and that’s exactly the purpose of a primer. To prepare or ready your face or lips etc. for make-up.

So how a primer does this is by smoothing out the area it’s being applied to. For example, foundation primer. What it does is it smoothes out fine lines on your face, especially the silicone-based ones. It makes a smooth layer on your face sealing wrinkles, fine lines and any other uneven areas on the skin of your face so when you apply your foundation, the foundation sits on this layer creating a smooth look as it does not seep into lines or other uneven areas of the face.

Some face primers can be worn alone without need for foundation. They come in a variety of colors to match your complexion and some can be used as a daily moisturizer to even out your skin tone. They can also be specific for skin type, for example, some primers are oil free and are therefore good for those with oily skin as it makes the skin matte and reduces shininess.

Primers, like bases, help your make-up stay on longer all day and come in various forms, mineral, liquid etc.


So, while the two are essentially the same thing and can be used for the same purposes, the main difference is that bases don’t always prevent creases in make-up especially in the case of eye shadows as their main purpose is usually to enhance the intensity of make-up colours and help them last longer.

However, with the formulas being so similar and most brands referring to them as the same thing, it’s up to you which you prefer and what works for you.

What is definite is that both help your make-up go on smoother and last longer and thus, might be something you should consider including in your make-up routine.