Beautiful Saturday: Primer Review

So I got Smashbox’s Photo Finish Primer recently.  I have been using Avon’s Anew Primer before, because it was the best primer I’d ever found, and before that I was using Clarins’s primer, which I received as a gift for Christmas 2013 and mistakenly thought it was an eye cream until I read the packaging in more detail.  I thought I’d do a review of them all because I thought they were all so very different.

In order, then:

Clarins Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch:

What it looks like in the packet:  It comes in a screw top jar that’s really tiny.  It’s unusual for a primer, because it’s solid.  I found it a bit like putting butter on my face, but it did melt in nicely and provided a reasonable base for my foundation.

What it looks like on my face:  I used L’Oreal True Match and Benefit WOW Oxygen foundations with the Clarins primer.  I did find that they sat on top of it rather than settling in, which I thought was normal for primers at the time because I’d never used one before, but now I know better I don’t think I’m as happy about this.  A finishing powder is a must with this primer.  Also it didn’t fill in the potholes.  You know, the pores you get in summer.  It kinda made them worse because it sat on the higher bits so exaggerated the pores making me look old and haggard.  At 26 that wasn’t really what I wanted from a primer.

What it looks like when you wash it off:  It made no difference to how the make-up wore or came off, it didn’t prolong the wear of the foundation.

clarins primer

Overall rating:  It was my first, and my least favourite primer.  At the time, I didn’t really think it was useful as an addition to my make-up routine since I hadn’t tried any other at that point.

Avon Anew Skin Transforming Primer

What it looks like in the packet: It came in a pump action cylinder.  It’s a thick white creamy substance that has the consistency of frozen soft serve ice cream.  It’s not this one, it’s a different range, and it’s NOT an eyeshadow primer either!

What it looks like on your face: It fills in the surface and smooths out the summer pores nicely, I also found it covered up fine lines quite well and provided a good base for both foundation and eyeshadow.  The foundation sank in slightly but not enough to dry out or form a crust (if you have even slightly dry skin and have ever been fooled into using powder foundation on bare skin, you know what I’m talking about).

What it looks like when you wash it off: I find this primer makes it easier to wash off any make up I wear, leaving far less residue than any other primer, or foundation with no primer.  I also find it isn’t remotely moisturising, so it’s important to use a proper day cream underneath, especially if you’re trying to preserve your youthful vigour for as long as possible before any of the obvious signs set in.  I would certainly say that while it has no “anti-ageing” properties in the scientific mumbo-jumbo kind of way, it certainly creates a good visual and makes you look more flawless.

avon anew

Overall rating: I only bought this for my wedding, because I was an Avon rep at the time, but I’m still using it (long after I quit being a rep) and really love it.  At £9 I thought it was a bit expensive, but I got it at £4.50 and when I think about how much the other two primers cost, I think I got one heck of a bargain.  Avon’s usually VERY hit or miss but this primer is a big hit.

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer:

What it looks like in the packet: It’s a squeezy tube.  When I first opened it, there was this very greasy fluid (like, the exact opposite of viscous, it was about as fluid as acetone) that went straight down my hand and reached my elbow before I could wipe it off.  After that first time, it’s always been a see-through colourless gel like silicon, almost like the lubricant we used to use on the milkshake machine at McDonalds.

What it looks like on your face: It goes on like silicon as well, so I would guess that it’s probably made of mostly silicon.  It provides a phenomenal base for foundation and when I used it for a music video this week it made the foundation look totally flawless and that foundation stayed put all day on both days of filming.  It also gave a good finish with the pigmented finishing powder I used (foundation alone tends to make one look pasty when you’re filming with bright lights) and this was the result:

smashbox primer provides a flawless base

smashbox primer provides a flawless base

What it looks like when you wash it off:  It really lets itself down here.  Maybe I’ve been spoilt by the Avon primer, but this one did something to make the foundation into a highly pigmented emulsion and it took over 10 minutes to wash it off with warm water and a sponge.  Cold water just beaded off it.  I guess that this is the flipside of using silicon.  I didn’t use soap because soap is designed to get rid of oil-based things (such as most dirt) rather than silicon.

smashbox primer

Overall rating: I really loved the perfection this one created, it really did a good job at making skin look great on camera, and I would not hesistate to recommend the Smashbox Primer for anyone working in film and photography because underneath foundation and finishing powder it’s the best primer I’ve used for this purpose.  I wish I’d had it for my wedding.

Overall Comparisons:

I don’t think there is any situation where the Clarins one would win.  It just doesn’t do anything very well.  I guess if you want something that’s 100% plant-based, you might want to give it a look, but I’m really scraping the bottom of the barrel for a positive because I’m not convinced on the provenance of the ingredients.  See my article “what’s all natural and what are chemicals” for more explanation on this.  I would ALWAYS use the Smashbox primer for moving pictures, and any time I want to make a Youtube video from now on I will use the Smashbox Primer because it is really phenomenal at what it does.  However, for a day-to-day primer if I was to get a job where I needed to wear makeup every day, I would not choose this one.  Instead, I would pick the Avon Anew Primer.  Why?  Because it washes off easily, and when I’m working in a job where I have to wear make-up (professional ice skater, entertainment host, make-up sales rep, receptionist; all on my CV, and all GENERALLY jobs where you will get frowned upon if you don’t wear make-up) , my biggest pet hate is spending up to fifteen minutes trying to get the day’s foundation and mascara off, when I could be in bed getting more sleep.  I’d rather look a bit less HD ready for day to day life and save the Smashbox stuff for filming.

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Author: MsAdventure

I am a twentysomething travel, photography and beauty blogger who occasionally writes about other topics. Within travel, I tend to write mostly about Europe because all the other travel bloggers seem to write about South East Asia. As a writer, I have written articles that are published in Offbeat Bride and on Buzzfeed, and as a photographer, I have taken photographs that are published in local and national news outlets in the UK. I have a blog at www.delightandinspire.com