The Difference Between Eyeshadow Primer and Base

The Difference Between Eyeshadow Primer and BaseImage: Steven Krause

My eyes are my favorite feature to play up, and I often spend the most time in my makeup routine on eyeshadow application. Since I value a smooth, pigmented and long-lasting application, I always make sure I have prepped my eye for the shadow with either primer or base.

Eyeshadow primers and bases are products that are often mistaken for one another, even on product packaging, but actually serve very different purposes. While one can tout the benefits of both, makeup lovers should be familiar with the function of each product to enhance their eyeshadow application for their own needs.

“A primer always goes onto your eyelids first to create a smooth surface for your eyeshadow. It helps to avoid creasing and natural oils from ruining your eye makeup. A base is different— it does not stop creases or oils, but comes in different colors as a way to enhance your eyeshadow color and make it more vibrant,” says BH Cosmetics makeup artist Cambria Serrano.

Both primers and bases can make your eyeshadow last longer than when applied over bare skin. Primers make your eyeshadow last longer by combatting oils that may break down the makeup, while bases create a sticky surface for product to cling to. It’s best not to use both at one time, as they can affect each other’s performance.

I like to blend both primers and bases onto my eyelids with my ring finger. Remember not to use too much, as that will quickly crease and ruin your eyeshadow application. I usually stick to beige primers to help even out my skin tone. For bases, my go-to is a white shade, but I’ll occasionally play around with layering shadows on top of colored bases.

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

The Difference Between Eyeshadow Primer and Base

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In a crunch, and need to prep your lids without a primer or base? Celebrity Makeup Artist Amanda Shackleton— whose client roster includes Martha Stewart, Cyndi Lauper, Sara Michelle Geller and Rosario Dawson– has a simplistic approach to prepping the lid for shadow. “For years, I’ve been priming and prepping eyes with just concealer and setting it with powder. An HD powder is great to set it with, because it has a silky silicone feel which helps the shadow glide on evenly. If I want to pop the color out, I just use a lighter concealer (as opposed to the white eyeshadow base) then powder it.” If this method works for you, it will save you from buying an extra product! Keep in mind that concealer often contains oil, so this trick may not fly for those of us with oily lids.

How do you prep your lids for perfect shadow application?



  1. 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. 😉

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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! 🙂

  10. 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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