Saturday, November 24, 2012

Primers and Day Creams: a Comparison

A makeup artist friend of mine once said, "People with dry skin shouldn't use primers; sandpaper already clings to everything." It's generally true: makeup stays put on my mostly-dry face unless it's on my nose or my eyelids, which are completely oil slicks. But just because a person with dry, normal, or combination skin is content with how long their makeup wears doesn't mean that they don't have other concerns, namely, adding a bit of a youthful glow to their skin and providing it with some sun protection. I thought it might be helpful to focus on primers for non-oily-skinned people and dissect the findings like the anal-retentive mad scientist I am. Ratings are based primarily on how well they work for a dry-skinned person.

BRAND: Elizabeth Arden

PRODUCT: Let There Be Light Radiant Skin Lotion

PRICE & SIZE: $10-20 for 1.7 oz

AVAILABILITY: discontinued, but easy to find on eBay and in TJ Maxx, Marshall's, etc.

SPF: 15
ABOUT: One of my all-time favorite skincare products, I actually keep an extra tube of this--still in the box and plastic--in the downstairs fridge. This product has a faint watermelon scent and smooths beautifully in to my skin without feeling greasy or heavy. The moisture level is light, so it would probably work for normal and combination skin as well. It's shimmery, but rather sort of "opalescent," and gives my skin a faint, natural glow. I use about two pumps of this day cream on my face and neck for no-foundation days, and sometimes I mix a pump with matte or demi-matte foundations for a sheerer, glowier finish. While I absolutely love this product, I have to mention that people with darker skin (N30-ish and up) have mentioned that this product gives them a white cast.
OVERALL RATING: 5 out of 5
RECOMMENDED FOR/AS: under makeup; day cream; foundation mixer; dry, normal, and combination skin; fair to medium skin


BRAND: Urban Decay

PRODUCT: Complexion Primer Potion, Brightening

PRICE & SIZE: $31 for 1 oz

AVAILABILITY: repackaged formulation available at Urban Decay, Ulta, and Sephora

SPF: 0

ABOUT: This product is a thin, off-white primer with a good slip that feels somewhat powdery to the touch once it sets. I know that it doesn't sink in to my skin because I can still feel it when I touch my face, but it's not heavy or sticky. It does, however, add a noticeable layer of shine to my skin that will shine through sheer foundation and/or concealer, and it also keeps my face makeup looking freshly-applied for a few extra hours. Because this product doesn't moisturize, I wouldn't recommend it to people with dry skin; any flakiness you have will still shine through. If you've moisturized beforehand or have skin that isn't quite as dry as the sahara, though, you'll be fine.
OVERALL RATING: 4 out of 5
RECOMMENDED FOR/AS: under makeup; normal, combination, and oily skin


BRAND: Elizabeth Arden

PRODUCT: Eight Hour Cream Intensive Daily Moisturizer for Face

AVAILABILITY: appears to be discontinued, or only available in sets; can be found in TJ Maxx, Marshall's, etc.

SPF: 15
MOISTURIZATION: light to medium

ABOUT: This cream feels luxurious and rich, but not the slightest bit heavy or greasy, which is a hard combination to come by. I find that it sinks in to my skin after just a few minutes. While moisturizing and silky, this product doesn't provide an actual glow the way Let There Be Light does, which makes it a bit less of an under-makeup wonder product for those of us with dryer skin. It's also a pain in the arse to find--I've only ever seen tiny bottles of it from sets or kits. It mixes down very well, however, which has made it a staple in my collection; I like to mix a dollop of this cream with some Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer to make the perfect tinted moisturizer. It's a worthy day cream for those of us with dryer skin (provided you use something richer at night) or as a night cream for people with normal to oily skin.
OVERALL RATING: 4 out of 5
RECOMMENDED FOR/AS: day cream; foundation mixer; dry, normal, and combination skin


PRODUCT: Strobe Liquid

PRICE & SIZE: $31 for 1.7 oz

AVAILABILITY: available at
SPF: 0
ABOUT: Strobe Liquid was, unfortunately, a disappointment for me. For starters, I find the waxy Play-Doh scent rather off-putting. I also find that this product is more tease than result: it looks incredibly shiny on my fingers, but it's not even noticeable on my face, and it feels a bit dry and uncomfortable when I apply it. Because it's shiny on my palms, which are more "normal" than oily or dry, I would hazard to guess that this is a better primer for people with oily skin who maybe want a bit of a shine to show through their matte foundation. It's also an ok foundation mixer, especially if you want to make something like MAC Face & Body a bit thinner and ever-so-slightly less matte. I've heard of people using this as a highlighter on their cheekbones, down their nose, etc, but when I tried that, it wasn't even visible. If you're dry-skinned, consider the richer Strobe Cream instead; if your skin is oily, find a highlighter you love and use it at strategic points on your face.
RECOMMENDED FOR/AS: foundation mixer; normal, combination, and oily skin


BRAND: Shiseido
PRODUCT: Urban Environment UV Protection Cream for Face/Body

PRICE & SIZE: $30 for 1.8 oz

AVAILABILITY: available at Sephora and

SPF: 35
ABOUT: I used the "original" blue-bottle lotion for a full year in undergrad when I went make-up free, so I figured it'd be safe to try this new version in the richer, water-resistant cream formulation. Suffice to say that I've fallen back in love with Shiseido sunscreen! At first, this product is a bit off-putting; it feels "heavy" to the touch and when first applied, and it has a bit of a floral scent. It soaks in after a minute or two, though, leaving my skin feeling ever-so-slightly smoother and allowing my pores to breath. I don't know if this product REALLY moisturizes, but at the very least, it doesn't dry my skin out further, and that's saying something. It also provides a great canvas for makeup. People with normal or oily skin may want to skip this particular formulation for one of the thinner lotions instead, as those will probably soak in faster.
OVERALL RATING: 5 out of 5
RECOMMENDED FOR/AS: sun protection; under makeup; dry and combination skin


BRAND: Eucerin
PRODUCT: Q-10 Anti-Wrinkle Sensitive Skin Lotion

PRICE & SIZE: $10-15 for 4 oz

AVAILABILITY: available at drugstores or
SPF: 15
ABOUT: This product is obviously the cheapest on the list, providing more ounces per dollar and hangin' around on drugstore shelves, but it's also one of the most effective, especially if you have dry skin and are mainly concerned with moisture. This slightly-greasy moisturizer feels a lot like a standard body lotion, but it's incredibly delicate. It's never made my sensitive skin break out in hives, and I've used it on cut-up hands without feeling any pain. It will take a good amount of time to soak in unless your skin is the dryest of the dry, however, and it has a slightly sunscreen scent, which limits its use as a makeup primer. Now that I use sunscreens or glowy moisturizers on an almost daily basis, I use this product as a hand cream instead, especially when I'm heading outside and want some sun protection.
OVERALL RATING: 5 out of 5
RECOMMENDED FOR/AS: sun protection; day cream; dry and normal skin

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