We Tested Over 20 Eyeshadow Primers and These Are The Only Ones Worth Buying

Rebecca Carhart

There’s nothing worse than spending the time and effort to perfect your eye makeup, only to notice that your eyeshadow and concealer has worn off after only a few hours. This is a problem that I’ve had to deal with pretty much every day since I started wearing makeup as a teenager. I’m sure this has something to do with the fact that I have watery eyes and tend to rub them often, but after years of having to reapply my eye makeup every afternoon, I was determined to find a solution.

Enter: eyeshadow primers. These handy cosmetics are specially-formulated to prevent eye makeup from creasing and fading — much like your favorite face primer does for foundation, powder, and blush. While these primers may sound like just another unnecessary product that makeup brands are trying to sell you, I can honestly say that once you start using them, they’ll quickly become an essential step in your daily makeup routine — at least they did for me.

With so many eyeshadow primers available from both drugstores and high-end beauty retailers, finding the right one for your needs can feel overwhelming. So to help you find the best options out there, I’ve personally tested over 20 eyeshadow primers to see which ones live up to the hype (and which ones don’t).

Whether you’re looking for a primer that helps your eye color appear more pigmented or an option that helps makeup stay put on oily lids, there’s something on this list for everyone. Keep reading to see which eyeshadow primers made my smokey eye last the entire night without a single touch-up.

These are the best eyeshadow primers you can buy:

Best Overall: Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion

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Out of all the eyeshadow primers I tested, this option from Urban Decay was my favorite. The product claims to keep your eye makeup “vibrant and crease-free for 24-hours.” While I didn’t keep my eyeshadow on that long, I did make it through an entire workday, after-work drinks, and a dinner without having to touch-up my eye makeup.

The lightweight primer has a light nude color to it, but I was pleased to notice that it dried invisibly. The wand made it super easy to apply, and the rich formula blended smoothly and quickly onto my lids, leaving them prepped and ready for the eyeshadow. Though it’s one of the pricier options on this list, a little of the product went a long way and I found it to be well worth the cost.

To buy: $24; nordstrom.com

Best Drugstore Option: CoverGirl Lid Lock Up Eyeshadow Primer

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If you’re looking for a high-quality eyeshadow primer that’s still affordable, this CoverGirl option is your best bet. The neutral-tone primer dried clear, evened out the skin tone on my eyelids, and left a nice, smooth base to apply eyeshadow on top of. It does feel a little tacky on your skin when you first apply, but it provided an excellent amount of grip for the eye makeup to attach to.

While I saw no smudging or creasing in my eye makeup when I used this primer, after several hours I did notice that my eyeshadow color wasn’t as bright as it was in the morning (though it wasn’t so bad that I felt the need to reapply more color). All-in-all, I thought this drugstore option was great and definitely worked just as well as more expensive, high-end primers on this list.

To buy: $8; amazon.com

Best Clear Option: NARS Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base

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With over 70,000 likes and 2,000 customer reviews at Sephora, this NARS option is one of the most popular eyeshadow primers around — and after testing the product, I can definitely see why. The primer comes in five different shades, ranging from light to dark, but I opted to try the original clear version. The lightweight formula dried instantly on my lids and allowed my eye makeup to blend seamlessly on top of it.

Even after I found myself accidentally rubbing my eyes, I noticed my eye makeup did not smudge at all with this primer. The makeup only budged when I used a makeup remover at the end of the day. It’s also ophthalmologist and dermatologist-tested, so it’s a great option for people with sensitive skin and eyes.

To buy: $26; sephora.com

Best For Vibrant Eye Makeup: Too Faced Shadow Insurance

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Unlike most of the other options on this list, this Too Faced eyeshadow primer doesn’t come with a wand or applicator, so it has to be applied with your finger or a makeup brush — but don’t let that stop you from using this fade-proof formula. Not only was the lightweight primer incredibly easy to apply, but it also dried super fast.

Instead of being tacky, the product dried with a matte finish that immediately smoothed out my skin tone and covered up the veins on my eyelids. Once I started applying my eyeshadow, I noticed that the color was bolder and more pigmented than ever before — and it stayed that way all day long. If you want to make your eyeshadow really pop, you should definitely consider this primer.

To buy: $20; ulta.com

Best Lightweight Formula: Sephora Collection Beauty Amplifier Eyeshadow Primer

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The tinted formula may look heavy when you first open this Sephora Collection primer — but once you apply it, you’ll notice that it’s not only incredibly lightweight, but also becomes translucent once it hits your skin. It instantly evened out my eyelids and made them appear smoother and firmer.

Besides being made without any parabens, sulfates, or phthalates, the formula is even infused with chamomile extract to soothe skin and reduce any redness in your eye area. The primer kept all my makeup in place and I didn’t notice any creasing throughout the day. Plus, it retails for just $10, which I found to be a great buy.

To buy: $10; sephora.com

Best for All Skin Tones: Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Amplifying Eye Primer

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“If it’s good enough for Rihanna, it’s good enough for me” has always been a life motto of mine, and it rang particularly true when it came to this Fenty Beauty eyeshadow primer. The weightless, creamy formula blended seamlessly into my skin immediately upon application and offered an excellent amount of grip for my eyeshadow.

I tested the primer on a particularly warm day, and was happy to notice that my eye makeup did not melt or smudge at all. In fact, it left my eyeshadow looking even and vibrant all day—and throughout the night. Even though the product is a light-toned neutral, it’s specially formulated to blend perfectly into all skin tones, so you don’t have to worry about color matching it.

To buy: $22; sephora.com

Best For Eyeliner: e.l.f. Cosmetics Eye Primer and Liner Sealer

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If you’ve ever spent the time painstakingly applying eyeliner, you know that nothing can ruin your day faster than accidentally smudging it. Thankfully, you’ll never have to worry about messing up your perfect cat-eye again with this two-step, multi-use primer by e.l.f.

On one side is a primer stick that I easily swiped over my lids to prep them for eye makeup.

Then, once I applied my eyeshadow and eyeliner, I flipped the stick over and ran the clear liquid seal over my eyeliner to lock in the application. Not only was I impressed with how well the product kept my eye makeup in place, but I was also blown away by how affordable it was — retailing for only $3, it definitely offers the most bang for your buck.

To buy: $3; walmart.com

Best For Concealer: Benefit Cosmetics Stay Don’t Stray Primer

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If you notice that it’s not just your eyeshadow fading by the end of the day, but your eye concealer starts to lose its effect, too, consider trying this long-lasting primer from Benefit. The dual-action formula melted into my skin quickly and dried with a matte finish. I immediately noticed that my face concealer worked better when applied over top of this product, and hid my under-eye circles much more effectively.

What’s more, the primer also helped my eyeshadow pop. I only needed to use one swipe of the brush onto my eyelids to achieve my usual color, instead of the two to three swipes I normally do. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that this primer is infused with sodium hyaluronate to hydrate the skin, along with vitamins C and E to help diminish signs of aging — meaning it’s effective as both a makeup and skincare product.

To buy: $26; ulta.com

Best for Oily Lids: Bare Minerals Prime Time Eyelid Primer

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Excess oil is one of the main reasons eye makeup can fade or melt off throughout the day. So if you have oily eyelids, check out this primer from Bare Minerals — it’s specially formulated to prevent oil from ruining your eye makeup. When I blended this onto my lids, the creamy formula turned translucent and offered a nice, smooth base.

Besides preventing any creasing from occurring, the primer also helped my eyeshadow color look intense all day long. I especially loved that the product is oil-free, fragrance-free, allergy-tested, and dermatologist-tested, so I didn’t have to worry about irritation or breakouts.

To buy: $15; amazon.com