The Difference Between Eyeshadow Primer and Base

My eyes are my favorite feature to play up, and I often spend the most time in my makeup routine on eyeshadow application. I always make sure I prep my lids with either eyeshadow primer or base so that my shadow performs to its full potential and lasts all day.

The Difference Between Eyeshadow Primer and Base | What is Eyeshadow Primer | Slashed Beauty

Eyeshadow primers and bases are often mistaken for one another, with the terms used interchangeably, however they actually serve very different purposes. While one product can act as a two-in-one, makeup lovers should be familiar with the difference between eyeshadow primer and base to enhance their eyeshadow application for their own needs.

What is an Eyeshadow Primer?

Eyeshadow primer is applied to the eyelids before shadow in order to create a smooth and even surface. It helps avoid creasing and keeps your skin’s natural oils from disturbing your eyeshadow. Primers commonly come in beige or white colors. I like using beige to help even out my skin tone.

What is an Eyeshadow Base?

Eyeshadow base helps enhance a shadow’s color to look more vibrant. It typically feels more tacky than a primer to help pack on a shade. Eyeshadow base does not typically stop creases or oils, and so isn’t designed to help with wear time of the shadow. Bases come in a range of shades that you can use to manipulate the color of your shadow, as well. I like using white base so my shadow translates as closely as possible to how it looks in the pan.

Can You Use Eyeshadow Primer and Base Together?

I don’t recommend using both products together, as different formulas may not work well when layered. If you decide to experiment, be sure to apply primer first, and use thin layers of each product.

Here are my picks for favorite primers, bases, and do-it-all eyeshadow shadow prep products:

e.l.f. Shadow Lock Eyelid Primer | The Difference Between Eyeshadow Primer and Base | Slashed Beauty
e.l.f. Shadow Lock Eyelid Primer ($3)
This super affordable and classic eyeshadow primer is still a drugstore staple in routines everywhere. To put it simply: it just works. It’s a thin formula that helps mattify the lids so that shadow blends easily and stays put for hours.

Covergirl Lid Lock Up Eyeshadow Primer | The Difference Between Eyeshadow Primer and Base | Slashed Beauty
Covergirl Lid Lock Up Eyeshadow Primer ($7.94)
The Lid Lock Up Primer is a bit of a two-in-one product, as it gives your shadows all-day wear but offers the slightest it of tackiness to help intensify your shadow. It’s thicker than the e.l.f. Primer and a bit more heavy duty if you’re dealing with moderately oily lids.

NYX Eyeshadow Base | The Difference Between Eyeshadow Primer and Base | Slashed Beauty
NYX Eyeshadow Base ($7)
I use the NYX eyeshadow base for most of my bright and colorful eyeshadow looks. The white shade makes every color you apply over it pop! It’s got a slick and tacky consistency but if you apply it in thin layers, it will dry down so that it doesn’t crease as easily.

MAC Pro Longwear Paint Pot | The Difference Between Eyeshadow Primer and Base | Slashed Beauty
M.A.C Pro Longwear Paint Pot ($22)
While on the pricier side, I will always stand by the argument that the MAC Paint Pot is a justified purchase every time. It can be used in several different ways depending on the shade you choose, but my favorite use is for eye prep. It acts as both a primer and base, giving you a fresh first layer for long lasting and vibrant shadow. It’s a cream product but never feels heavy or cakey, and can also be used as a standalone shadow or even as concealer. I use the shade Soft Ochre.

In a crunch, and need to prep your lids without a primer or base? Don’t be afraid to use your favorite concealer, followed up by a thin layer of setting powder. Oil-free, matte concealers work best for this purpose.

How do you prep your lids for perfect shadow application?


  1. Hi Miranda, I am sending you this information because I want to be helpful. Read the comedogenic list at The website belongs to an aesthetician. I found it helpful.

  2. The Jordana 12 Hour Made to last is my jam. I’m working on my review for that coming up. Great list of products… I get asked often why I have to use both primer and base and it’s because I crease without a primer and few bases offer me “non creasing” without my trust Shadow insurance. 😉

  3. I really enjoy the urban decay eyeshadow primer and whenever I’m doing a more dramatic looks the nyx pot serves well

  4. I had no idea there was any difference between the two, thanks for “edumacating” me 🙂

  5. You did awesome at explaining the difference.
    I use cream shadows in a lot of my work and for myself depends on the weather and what shadows I end up using, Color Tattoos are my drugstore favorites.

  6. Thanks for explaining the differences between a base & a primer. I think people misunderstand and use the wrong product for their needs. I need a primer b/c of my oily lids, but I also use a base with certain shadows to make them pop!

  7. This is a great post! I typically wear just primer, but sometimes I add a colored base on top of primer.

  8. Okay, noooow I get it. That said I generally have to wear both because I have insanely oily lids. Thanks for clearin’ it up!

  9. Great post. I remember being confused about this when I first started wearing makeup. The lady at the makeup counter had to explain it to me.

  10. Actually I use both at the same time and it works out fine. My base is an eye foundation since I have blepharitis, a skin condition, which makes my lid and skin almost bright red. I either use Dior BB Eye or essence I Love Stage to remove the redness, and then Urban Decay Anti-aging Eye Primer on top to extend the wear time and prevent creasing. I have such dry eyelids that everything stays put.

  11. I love this post! Thank you!! I prefer a white eyeshadow stick for the base because it really helps the color attach to something. For some reason, primer has never really worked on me!

  12. Loooove Urban Decay priming potion. I’ve used other primers before, but everything creases on me. The UD primer is the only one that doesn’t crease on me.

  13. Great post to explain the differences!!! I use a primer, Even when I use a base over a primer, I get creasing. My eyes are very hooded. Or maybe I haven’t met the right base! 🙂

    1. Using both at once might actually be what’s causing your creasing. Perhaps a white primer like e.l.f.’s Essentials Primer in Pearl would work for you!

  14. This is such a great post. Several of my most beloved shadow bases still need primers. Even though it says not to the primer keeps everything in place while the base really makes my shadows pop, even if it’s just a neutral base it makes such a difference! I wish they could all be a two-in-one!

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