8 Tricks on How to Make Your Eyeshadow Last All Day Long

Whether you need your eyeshadow to last all day because you’re working hard or playing hard, these tips and tricks should help extend the wear of your eye makeup.  The key takeaways from this how-to are:  your skin type (on your eyes) is the most impactful and eyeshadow primers aren’t a waste of money.  Frankly, I’m impressed when people forego eyeshadow primer, just because it’s one of the few beauty “extras” that I really feel is well-worth the end results (even for a good eyeshadow, it just makes application more reliable).

Eyeshadow Base vs. Eyeshadow Primer

An eyeshadow base is really just whatever is applied prior to the eyeshadow–a primer really could be a base, but in the beauty community, an eyeshadow base is often something that is not technically marketed as an eyeshadow primer.  It could be a cream eyeshadow or concealer.  If you’re looking for how to make your eyeshadow more vibrant or more pigmented, an eyeshadow base is often the top helper–a white eyeshadow base will make your eyeshadow pop!
How to Make Your Eyeshadow Last All Day Long
Why would you use an eyeshadow base instead of an eyeshadow primer?  A colored cream eyeshadow can often intensify colors wore on the lid, or it can bring out the shifts in more duochrome-finish eyeshadows (particularly over darker bases, like a black cream eyeshadow).  Concealer is also used frequently for cut-crease looks where concealer is applied on top of an area, applied with precision, and then additional eyeshadow is placed on top of the concealer.

An eyeshadow primer typically extends wear, improves blendability and pigmentation, but it doesn’t alter the depth, finish, or actual color of the shades applied on top as they are usually translucent/clear.  Modern offerings, though, have resulted in colored eyeshadow primers, too, often flesh-toned for those who need help minimizing discoloration, unevenness, and pigmentation on the lid.

Eyeshadow primers are good for making your eyeshadow more pigmented and your eyeshadow more vibrant, but more translucent eyeshadow primers may not be enough depending on how sheer or powdery the eyeshadow that you’re working with is.

Use an Eyeshadow Primer to Make Eye Makeup Last Longer

Apply eyeshadow primer to lid and crease area.  I’d also recommend applying it as far up as the brow bone.  You’ll want to apply a thin, even layer–use less rather than more–and fingertips work well for quick, all-over application.

Eye primer can be applied beyond the lid!  You can apply eyeshadow primer underneath the lower lash line (especially useful when using eyeshadow or pencil eyeliner on the lower lash line), on the brow bone, and even just beyond the eye area to minimize the chance of smudging, migration, and the like.

Set creamier/tackier eyeshadow primers with a flesh-toned eyeshadow or translucent powder.  In my experience, this sometimes work well and sometimes doesn’t work well, so I’d recommend experimenting and seeing how this trick performs for the products you own and how you normally apply your eye makeup.

The idea is that setting creamier bases helps to lock in the base while giving a smooth canvas for your eyeshadow to apply to.  Sometimes creamier/tackier primers can make blending more troublesome, especially with thinner formulations in deeper hues, so by dusting a base eyeshadow all-over, it helps ensure blending will be easy.

Layer your eyeshadow primers.  Over the years, I’ve seen readers who have oilier lids recommend layering up–a popular combination is a MAC Paint Pot with Urban Decay Primer Potion–and that will give them extended wear that’s bulletproof.

What Eyeshadow Primer to Pick and When

Silicone-based primers work well for most powder eyeshadows.  These are thin, more velvety eyeshadow primers that tend to feel dry and “set” on the lid as soon as they’re applied.  I find that most formulas work well with these types of primers, but some individuals can experience silicone-based eyeshadow primers drying their lids out.  (If that happens to you, then you’ll want to look for something less silicone-heavy or without silicones and see if that is better for your skin.)

I do not find that these types of primers require setting powder or a base eyeshadow patted all over (in my experience, that tends to result in more muted, washed out color and less grip).

Tacky primers work well for drier, more powdery eyeshadow formulas.  Creamier, wetter formulas–like a MAC Paint Pot–can hold more powdery formulas particularly well as they absorb some of the excess without it getting all over your face.  The creamier bases and primers can work well on drier lids, too, because they won’t emphasize texture as much.

Use a glitter adhesive or extremely tacky eyeshadow primer for glitter/sparkle eyeshadows.  Unless it’s a cream-based glittery eyeshadow, you’re likely going to need a really strong adhesive base/primer to minimize fallout over time and improve adhesion/evenness of your sparkly favorite.

Looking for the perfect formula? Check out our favorite eyeshadows and must-have eyeshadow palettes.


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Nancy T Avatar

Info that I may know now, but really wish I’d known about decades ago! 20 years ago, the only primer I knew of was the one by L’Oreal. It made my 40 y.o. lids look ancient with how drying it was. In hindsight, I believe MAC Paint Pots may have existed, but John would never have allowed me to shop there (although I did go into it behind his back on one single occasion!).

Deborah S. Avatar

When I was younger I really didn’t need or have an e/s primer. Maybe they didn’t exist back then? Likely!! Over the years I have found that since I don’t have trouble with creasing or wear the need for primer just wasn’t there. Now, however the reason I wear primer isn’t for any of those reasons. It is to assist in smoothing the crepe and sagging skin of my upper lid. I am always trying new ones since better and better formula’s are being released to assist with this problem. This is a time when a primer that actually feels like it is tightening the skin, think a drying product, actually would be beneficial. My HG use to be the Tarte 24/7 concealer and then they discontinued it, although I think I saw someone mention that it was re-released with a different name. Have I found one that really smooths and tightens my upper lid, no I haven’t. Currently, I mostly use NYX Waterproof primer. There is likely another word in that name somewhere but I always think of it as just NYX Waterproof but it is the one in the white squeezy tube with the black lettering. Anyway, at this point, that seems to be the closest to giving me the performance that I want. I do still use MAC paintpots, also.

Christine Avatar

We must be some of the lucky ones, Deborah! I don’t find I NEED primer to get decent wear, hence why I can test without (I feel like if everything creased within a few hours, I’d have to pick a primer to test with!) either, though I’ll definitely use one for smoother overall application (more reliable/consistent) or if I know I need 10++ hour fantastic wear.

Ana Maria Avatar

I’m the kind of person who never skips eyeshadow primer (oily lids, hooded eyes). I actually sometimes have to apply eye primer even if I don’t use eyeshadows; both when I just apply eye liner (pencil or liquid), or I don’t wear eye make-up at all but I wear foundation (the base products end up creasing and looking odd on my eye lids even if set with powder).

I’m all in with silicon based eye shadow primers, like Urban Decay Primer Potion and the Smashbox 24H Photofinish. Recently I’m also liking a lot the new ABH eye shadow primer… well… like it even more since the tube stopped oozing like crazy product.
Using something like Paint Pot doesn’t work for me, the base moves a lot for my liking, even if I apply little product. I also have low blending skills, and I find that silicon based primers make it easier for me.

Ana Maria Avatar

It’s either overfilled, either there’s a pocket of air in the tube and suddenly one day I won’t get any product out even if the tube seems `stuffed`. 😆
The formula, although quite liquid, it’s amazing, but I’m still surprised how the packaging flopped. I don’t think the tube was the best option for this formula.

Mariella Avatar

I’ve read this same comment many times regarding the ABH primer which is what’s kept me from trying it. I really like the new(er) e/s primer from MAC but wish the top were more of a “tip” – a pointy, narrow tip like UDPP used to have rather than the wider one that makes for a lot of waste.

Mariella Avatar

As one of the “senior” posters here, I well remember the days BEFORE eye shadow primers and they were not happy times at all. Estee Lauder did have an eye shadow line in tubes with doe foot applicators (I think they were called Automatic Eye Shadows) and those things lasted and lasted but powder shadows always creased on me. And then, like some sort of magical wonderment, along came UDPP (other similar ones from other brands followed) and my eye shadow loving life took a real turn for the better and happier. I always use primer now (or at the very least a MAC Paint Pot or similar type product) because I always also use an eye cream and the eye cream alone would cause so much creasing.

Lauren Avatar

Great article on the differences and why they aren’t necessarily interchangeable terms. Concealers (bases) do not achieve the same effect as primers for me. I have really oily slightly hooded lids and it is crease city if I don’t use a true primer. I don’t tend to go for cut crease type looks, but in those cases I will definitely go for a primer, do my shadow, and then concealer in the areas I am going to cut the crease and that works fine. I just have to have a primer on first. I would love to not have to go that extra mile… but thankfully primers are almost always on sale or included as samples!

Lauren Avatar

I powder my lids daily even when not wearing makeup because they get so oily, it is crazy. As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed it is becoming even more of a thing (while the rest of my face gets drier of course). I’ve been using UD primer potion since the day it was released. A few years ago I branched into Too Faced Glitter Glue which is absolutely amazing for my glittery shadows and then tried their Shadow Insurance which I also really like, but it is much tackier than UD. I want to branch out more and try other primers, but I’m also happy with what I have. I’ve seen a few recommendations for Smashbox Primer, which I use on my face, so I bet I’d like the eye one too. I do want to try one that has more of a white base to see how it changes the colors I wear. I usually go for translucent.

Cream eyeshadows are an absolute no go… at least the ones I tried way back in the day. I’m sure formulas are much better now so might be fun to try some out.

Sandra Avatar

As someone with very oily eyelids i am currently using Mac paint pot. Unfortunately it is not working as by the end of the day my eyeshadow has disappeared. Do you guys recommend any primers that you have used and loved that can work?

Storm Avatar

I have pretty oily lids and I like the Nars primer. There’s also a Nyx dupe of it, for the more budget conscious. But they leave my lids feeling silky. I’ve tried the UD and Too Faced and didn’t like either of them as they both made my lids feel oilier.

Seraphine Avatar

Great post! I wish there were primers when I was younger. Creasing was a big problem for me due to my oily, hooded lids. These days, NYX Proof It Waterproof Eyeshadow Primer is my favorite. But I also like MAC Paint Pot in Soft Ochre, set with UD Foxy eyeshadow. Another product I like is MAC Mixing Medium, which I use to set shimmery shades on my lids.

Genevieve Avatar

Thank you Christine for this timely information as the holiday palette season is gearing up and we are eyeing what palettes to buy (if any).
I use the Nude by Nature Airbrush primer, slightly tacky creamy substance, that works well on both your face and eyes. When I use this, I don’t have any problems with either my foundation or eyeshadows lasting the day.
I started using this one a few years ago, when recommended to me by a MUA, who happened to be shopping in the budget beauty shop Priceline and heard my request. I have not looked back since.

dzymzlzy Avatar

MAC used to make cream shadows in a little metal squeeze tube but they’ve discontinued them. I used a color called Still-Life as a primer even though I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. I’d always go into MAC to pick up a tube and they’d always try to sell me on the Paint Pots. I’ve never really tried the Paint Pot as a primer but I’ve purchased non-fleshtone colors and didn’t love them. I’m currently using the UDPP in Eden and while I like it I don’t love it like I used to. My plan is to get the new Anastasia primer when I run out, but maybe I should try a Paint Pot for something creamier. As I’m aging I’m noticing more and more texture and dryness all over my face but especially around my eyes. And I’ve had that Primer Potion for probably going on 2 years and while it still has a ton of product in it I’m wondering if IT is getting dried out due to age and it’s not just my 42 years spent on Earth not wearing proper sunscreen. Plus it’s very likely expired.

Mariella Avatar

I remember those MAC Paints in the little metal tubes – Bamboom was one of the colours (the name sort of stuck in my head) and when I first started using MAC, I was torn between buying one of them and getting a Paint Pot but opted for the latter. But I don’t understand why MAC discontinued the Paints, unless it was that they took a real back seat in terms of sales compared with the Paint Pots (though they’ve also discontinued one of my favourite colours of those too – Constructivist!!!)

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