Beauty Basics: 3 Essential Things To Do When You’re Applying Powder Eyeshadow…

Published in: Eyes, Makeup Tips/How To

nars pro prime smudge proof top pic

1. Start with an eye primer

nars pro prime smudge proof 1


Aye, primer! And ahoy, matey! As any self-respectin’, makeup-lovin’ pirate be knowin’, ye should always start yer eye looks with a bit o’ eye primer fer the best eye looks, yargh!

OK, that was wackadoo. Sorry! But it’s about 93 degrees in my house right now, and I feel loopy.

No joke, though, eye primer is such a crucial step, and one I never skip, barring extenuating circumstances (like 10-minute makeup looks because I’m feeling lazy or I’m running way behind), when I wear powder eyeshadow.

Just like the kind of primer painters use, eye primer fills the little gaps on the surface of the skin, making lids nice and smooth, which in turn makes products layered on top of them last longer without settling into fine lines or applying unevenly on dry patches. Eye primers also keep your eye makeup from shifting around while intensifying powder shadow colors, which are all great things!

Most (but not all) eye primers have a creamy consistency similar to eye creams, and they come in lots of different kinds of packaging. Some come in a tube that looks like mascara and have a doe-foot applicator. Others come in squeeze tubes, and others come in pots.

They usually come in different shades, too, although some are un-tinted — with the idea for those being that they won’t interfere with any other colors you layer on top. Some lightly tinted varieties can also color correct discoloration on the lids, and those tinted ones aren’t supposed to interfere with whatever shadows you pop on top of them, but I find that they usually do tweak them a little.

I think un-tinted colorless primers are good choices for beginners because they can be used with a wide variety of looks, and my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE one of all time is NARS Pro-Prime Smudge-Proof (not just for beginners, but for anyone), which I know I mention every 10 or 15 minutes. 🙂 But I totally stand behind it. I try new primers all the time, and I have yet to find anything I like better.

A tube will last me about half a year. Your mileage may vary, but for what it’s worth, I wear a LOT of eye makeup.

2. Invest in some quality brushes

From the left: MAC 239, MAC 224 and MAC 217 brushes

From the left: MAC 239, MAC 224 and MAC 217 brushes

You know that whole “right tool for the job” thing? It’s totally true. Fingers and foam applicators will work sometimes, but sometimes you can’t get the precision you need without the right shaped brush, especially when blending.

Here are three kinds of brushes that I find myself using a lot…

  1. A flat eyeshadow brush — These are good at pressing eyeshadow on the lids and in the crease, and getting a lot of color on the skin quickly. You can also use them to apply shadow along your lower lash lines.
  2. A tapered blending brush — Great for blending. They come in really handy when you’re working in the crease. They diffuse colors well over large spaces which makes for beautifully blown-out gradients, and you can also use these for quick washes of color all over your lids.
  3. A fluffy domed brush — These can also be used for blending, but they have a denser, more compact head than tapered blending brushes, so they don’t diffuse color to the same degree. Good for when you want to smooth out edges without completely blowing them out, and some people also like to use these to apply color into the crease.

There are countless brush options out there at every price point, but for natural hair brushes, I really like the MAC 239, MAC 224 and MAC 217. I think Laura Mercier’s brushes are also great, as are Sonia Kashuk’s.

And for synthetics, I like any of the brushes by RealTechniques and Too Faced.

3. If you plan to do a lot of blending, lay down a light layer of another powder product first, on top of your primer

Chanel Loose Powder in 40 Dore

Chanel Loose Powder in 40 Dore

This is totes key, girlfriend, especially if you plan to do a lot of blending, like for a smoky eye!


Start by dusting a light layer of powder — I just use a translucent face powder and a tapered blending brush — on top of your primer, BEFORE you start applying your eyeshadow. The powder will help smooth everything out even more and will soak up any areas that are still wet with primer, so your eyeshadow won’t look patchy.

It’ll also give your lids a bit of slip like a lubricant…made of powder, so that products layered on top will glide on without any resistance.

Just three little things to hopefully help when you plan to apply powder eyeshadow. 🙂

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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So far, 20 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Shreya says:

    I needed those tips …. my eyeshadow always look messed up after few hours
    Shreya recently posted … Maybelline Fashion Brow Duo Shaper in Brown Review

  2. Agata says:

    An eye primer is definitely a must! I don’t know why but I still prefer UD Primer Potion to the Nars’ one.

    I have never tried dusting my eyelids with a powder after putting on the primer, gotta try that! I learn so much from you, Karen!
    Agata recently posted … Bite Beauty Minis In a Mini Review

  3. I do Step one and two religiously, but never powdered my lids before. I learn something new whenever I visit here, you are amazing.
    LindaLibraLoca recently posted … Precious stones – line n grow Tinted lash Enhancers

  4. Jessica says:

    Must prime. Always and forever.

    I lay neutral powder down too, usually from my UD Naked basics palette.
    Jessica recently posted … Carpet Poisoning

  5. Jane says:

    Are primers better for dry eyes or are cream shadows better. I have used Bobbi Brown’s Shore but I have never used a primer. I just ran out of the cream shadow and am thinking of a primer instead. I just ordered Bobbi’s Telluride palette and wanted something to enhance the shades on my dry lids. BTW, how are your mornings so far?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jane,

      I’d say it depends on the eye primer. My lids go between oily and dry (right not they’re dry) and I think the NARS one is great for dry skin. It doesn’t kick up the flakes or make the skin look dry. It’s awesome! All I do is pat a little bit on each eye (it’s colorless) and wait for it to dry (doesn’t take long). If you have any other questions about it let me know. It’s my favorite eye primer and I use it all the time so I can tell you all about it if there’s anything else you’re curious about.

      So, my mornings these days are good (I think you’re referring to morning sickness). I’m in week 14 going on 15, so I’ve passed the hard stuff in the first trimester. Back in July and August it was rough though! The funny thing is I never got nauseous in the morning — it happened to me at night, usually right after the sun went down. Right before or right after dinner, blergh! I’d start feeling miserable.

      I know your son (your baby) is 14. Is he in high school?

  6. Laarni says:

    Never tried the powder on top of the primer! I must try!!! Thanks, Mommy Karen! hihihi.
    Laarni recently posted … New Hair Color: Matrix Mocah Dimension

    • Karen says:

      Awww, hi Laarni! Baby Girl says hello!

      When you try the powder on top of your primer remember to use a light dusting — that’s key. If you go in too heavy it can look cake (a mistake I learned the hard way).

      Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  7. Genesis says:

    Great tips! Looks like I’ll be heading to the MAC counter this weekend to invest in some much needed brushes!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Genesis,

      I thought of your email when I wrote this! I hope you find it helpful. 🙂

      And remember, you can always find these types of brushes in a lot of different lines — just look for items with a similar shape. The MAC brushes are great (I love mine) but they can be prices if you spring for them all at once. When I started getting into makeup I bought mine one at a time.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

  8. Kim says:

    This is particularly funny to me because, literally one moment before I clicked over here, I told a co-worker that I’d give him $1 if he dressed like Jack Sparrow tomorrow. Which was the follow up to calling him Captain of the Boat Shoes Club and saying “avast ye matey”. You should probably be concerned that we’re having the same train of thought. HAHA!

    I’m 100% in agreement about Pro Prime, but that doesn’t really count since everyone should agree it’s the bestest. 😉 I wear it every day just to keep my liner from being wiped away by my oily lids (or migrating into my “fine lines”).

  9. Chelsea says:

    I like the pirate talk!

    I need a new tube of NARS, I was just waiting for better offers on for freebies, LOL!

  10. Tatiana says:

    I think I need to try the light dusting of powder after the primer trick. Sometimes I feel like my shadows stick too much to the primer making it hard for me to diffuse the edges. Definitely going to try the powder.

  11. Gloria says:

    Hey Karen! This is very useful. I didn’t know MAC’s brushes are natural hair though. btw, do natural hair brushes require different cleaning/maintenance than synthetic ones?
    Congratulations on the big news! So, do you have a list for the name?? 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hi Gloria,

      I clean natural hair brushes the same as synthetics. I just use Dr. Bronner’s bar soap. Totally affordable and it works. 🙂

      And thank you for the congrats! No name yet. I figure she’ll let me know when I meet her in person.

  12. Isabelle says:

    I have been doing #1 and #2 for so long now, but never #3! Will be trying that out tomorrow morning, thanks 🙂

  13. Fancie says:

    Excellent tips, Karen! I actually just learned the last one recently when I went to school for Bobbi training. She always advises using your translucent powder as a primer and it really does help shadows adhere and blend better. I don’t know how I’ve been living my life without doing that lol
    Fancie recently posted … Lancôme Bi-Facil Double Action Eye Makeup Remover Review

  14. Rachel R. says:

    Great tips! As someone with really oily eyelids, I can vouch for the efficacy of primers and powder on the eyelids. Before eyeshadow primer existed, I’d use a little foundation or concealer with powder over it to help prevent creasing and make my shadows blend better. (Especially useful for drug store eye shadows or mattes that may not always want to blend nicely.)

  15. Erin says:

    I’ve added powder to my eyes before just for the staying power but never thought about it for blending.
    Erin recently posted … September Favorites

  16. Nice quality blending brush is something that I can´t imagine using any powder shadows without and I really want to try out that 224 from Mac

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