Best & Worst ~ Testing Eyelid Primers ~ Tarte, Urban Decay, Too Faced

I put 9 Eyelid Primers to the test to find the best eyelid primer for mature skin.

I have sun-damaged eyelids from my years as a sun-worshiper. They’re freckled, veined, wrinkled, crepey and saggy (getting older is so much fun)!! So using any primer just doesn’t cut it anymore. I like a primer that covers over my freckles and veins but doesn’t accentuate the wrinkes or crepeyness (a tall order). I tended to opt for primers that were tinted but they didn’t always offer the best results. I tried inexpensive against costly and long-time favorites against new comers and as always, the results surprised me.

Here’s how the eyeshadow looked when first applied:

Tut Thumb

Here’s how the eyeshadow looked at the end of the day without any primer:

No Primer 2 Eyes

To level the playing field, I applied each primer in the same way (with fingers), I used the same eyeshadows with each applied with the same brushes to the same areas (I even used the same eyeliner and mascara). I took pictures of each right after applying the eyeshadow, at mid-day and at night to compare how the primer affects blendability, color saturation, and wear.

I used all matte eyeshadows which are notoriously difficult to blend from a palette that I know isn’t the longest lasting or best wearing on it’s own.

Sonia Kashuk Matte Palette

I used the top center tan on the lid, the 2nd row far right brown above the crease, and the bottom left corner mauve in the crease with each primer.

The Bottom Three:

NYX Eyeshadow Base

NYX Eyeshadow Base


NYX Eyeshadow Base in “Skin Tone”

$7.00 for .25 oz.



This hypo-allergenic and cruelty-free primer coats the eyelids with a neutral matte flesh tone that covers veins, freckles and redness. It’s tacky when first applied and needs a minute to dry down to set. Even so, it grabs and holds the eyeshadow where it’s first applied and makes it difficult to blend. The eyeshadow was settled into the crease by mid-day and worn off after only a few hours.

NYX Stack
NYX Detail


Tarte CC Primer


Tarte CC Colored Clay Eye Primer

$21.00 for .13 oz.


I love the idea of a stick eye primer and I thought this one would be my favorite. It’s great for travel and so easy to apply, just dot on eyelids and blend in! Colors were brighter and more defined, but unfortunately those were the only good things about it. It’s difficult to apply a thin layer and when applied too thickly it settles into the crease. It made the eyeshadows virtually unblendable leaving me with rainbow striped eyelids. It stuck to the “alligator skin” at the inner corners of my eyelids and looked crusty all day (detail photo). The eyeshadow settled into the crease by mid-day and was mostly worn off by end of day.

Tarte CC Stack

Tarte CC Detail

Urban Decay Eden


Urban Decay Primer Potion in “Eden”

$20 for .37 oz.


Urban Decay Original Primer Potion has a cult like following and is supposed to be one of the best eye primers. It comes in 4 colors with “Eden” being specifically for mature people who prefer a matte finish. It’s a pale yellow based flesh tone primer in a squeeze tube. The color of this primer is very pale so it was a little hard to get the edges blended out and if I wasn’t careful to cover all the primer with eyeshadow, the primer remained visible. Eyeshadow didn’t cling to the primer very well resulting in uneven application. The lightest lid color barely shows at all while the darkest crease color just sat on the surface in flakes that wouldn’t blend in (detail photo). The eyeshadow settled into the crease and was mainly worn off by days end.

Urban Decay Stack

UD Detail

Urban Decay Primer Potion in “Eden” Notice the spotty clumps of the darkest color above the crease.


The Middle Three:



Smashbox PhotoFinish Lid Primer

$21 for .08 oz.


I’ve been a fan of the Smashbox PhotoFinish Primer for years. . .  I always loved the doe foot applicator and the matte skin tone, (I even use it as a blemish concealer). It’s great for oilier eyelids because it’s a bit drying, but on my older normal skin it just made my eyelids look wrinklier. It’s unfortunate because this is one of the best for blendability and color payoff. I used it twice during the testing and had mixed wear results. One day the eyeshadow wore 12 hours with no creasing and the other day it creased and was mostly gone by 8 hours. This is one of those cases where a long-time favorite surprised me by not working as well now that I’m older.

Smashbox Stack




ELF Shadow Primer in “Sheer”

$1 for .17 oz.


This primer was surprisingly good for only a dollar! I like the doe foot applicator and the pale skin tone formula that glides on easily and covers freckles and veins. It seemed to smooth the crepey skin pretty well leaving a nice canvas to apply the eyeshadows to. The powders blend easily, but sadly it didn’t do much for color payoff causing the shadows to almost blend away. The wear is very nice with no creasing and just a bit of fading throughout the day.

Elf Stack


Mac Paintpot Paintely


MAC Paintpot in “Painterly”

$21 for .17 oz.


If you watch my tutorials you know this is my all time favorite eyelid primer… and you can see why in the first picture. It offers an opaque base that covers discolorations, enhances eyeshadow colors, and blends like a dream. But it’s thick formula can be drying and make eyelid wrinkles look worse throughout the day. It clings to the dry skin at the inner corners and looks crusty. It wears with little change for 8-10 hours but does settle into the crease after that. It can also be hard to remove and I sometimes see telltale residue after makeup remover and washing.

Mac Stack

Mac Crust Detail


The Top Three:



Milani Eyeshadow Primer

$5.99 for .30 oz.


I’m always impressed when a $6 drugstore product beats my long-time faves and this Milani Primer did just that. The squeeze tube isn’t my favorite delivery system but I see that my top 3 are all in squeeze tubes. It’s easy to squeeze out too much and waste product, or apply too heavily resulting in clumps of dried primer that remain visible (detail photo), so applying sparingly and blending well is a must! That aside, this primer smoothed my crepey skin, enhanced color payout, and blended easily without losing definition.  The shadow wore all day with little fading and no creasing. Like the MAC Paintpot this one was quite difficult to remove.

Milani Stack


Milani Crusty


Too Faced SI


Too Faced Shadow Insurance

$20 for .35 oz.


This flesh toned gel-cream primer disappears into skin upon application. No worries about blending the edges or caking on dry skin here. It really grabs and holds the eyeshadow allowing for smooth blending. The color saturation could be a little better, but the wear is great. Makes eyelids look slightly smoother. There’s no creasing or crusting and little fading throughout the day. My main problem with this formula is that it separates inside the tube and watery/oily product comes out before I can get to solid primer causing a lot of waste.

Too Faced Stack

Too Faced Detail

The Winner:

Tarte 360


Tarte Clean Slate 360 Creaseless Smoothing Primer

$19 for .39 oz.


The reason Tarte Clean Slate Creaseless Smoothing Primer is the winner is in it’s name. . . It proved to be creaseless and smoothing and that helps older eyelids look younger! This sheer formula glides on eyelids blending invisibly into skin. Eyeshadow colors are true and the shadows blend easily while maintaining separation and definition. My crepey skin looked smoother all day and the shadow wore from morning to night without creasing or fading.

Tarte 360 Stack

Tarte 360 Detail

What I learned from this round of testing is that how a primer performs really depends on the condition of the eyelids. People with oily lids with few wrinkles will find success with Smashbox and MAC Paintpot. While those with normal to dry wrinkly, or crepey lids do better with a sheerer smoothing formula like Tarte Clean Slate or Too Faced Shadow Insurance.

One thing’s for sure. . . even the worst primer was better than no primer at all!

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