Flawless on a Budget: The Best Drugstore Eye Primer

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Key Points

  • A drugstore eye primer can turn your eyelids into the perfect canvas for makeup and help you get the most out of your looks.

  • Eye primers use different formulas than regular face makeup primers, which should not be used as a substitute.

  • You can easily find a drugstore eye primer that addresses your skin and makeup needs without breaking the bank.

Eye primer is an essential part of any eye makeup routine. It acts as an easy base for an effortless, natural look and keeps your glam shadows fresh throughout the day. The smooth surface that primers provide prevents creasing, minimizes product fallout, and allows your work of eyeshadow art to stay on longer. The best part is that you won't have to break the bank! You can easily find a drugstore eye primer perfect for you at an affordable price point.

The right drugstore eye primer will give you peace of mind that your eye makeup will stay exactly where you want it. Your local drugstore is full of fabulous, cost-effective options for all skin types and makeup needs.

How To Use Eye Primer

Applying eye primer is one of the easiest and most important parts of your makeup routine. You don't need much — a small dollop per lid will do for most formulas. Apply the primer directly to your eyelids before you put any shadow, eyeliner, or mascara on. Make sure to wash your face before applying primer of any kind to give the product its best shot at working its magic.

Use either a flat, fluffy eye makeup brush or your fingertips to apply the primer. Some primers may even come with a doe foot applicator to use directly on your lids. Whatever you use, be gentle! The skin on your eyelids is some of the most delicate on your body so be sure to treat it with care.

If applied correctly, your primer should look and feel like it melts into your skin. Once it feels smooth and even, you're ready to get working with your shadows and liners. Remember, the smoothing effects of primer can also be used as a look on its own for fresh, minimalistic eyes.

Close up of woman's eyes and eyebrows complete with eye primer

Can You Use Regular Primer on Your Eyes?

The short answer is yes — but there's a but. While you technically can use regular primer on your eyes, you probably shouldn't. Why? The skin on your eyelids is different from the skin on the rest of your face. It's thinner, softer, and more sensitive than your cheeks, chin, and forehead; thus, it should be treated with special care.

Even though it might be tempting to save money by applying a face primer to your eyes, it is not recommended. In the same way face and eye creams are different, you need a different primer for your eyes.

Don't worry too much about your wallet, though! That's why you're headed to the drugstore.

Choosing the Right Eye Primer for Your Skin

Just like with any makeup product, take into account your specific needs when choosing an eye primer. The primer that works for your friend might fall flat for you. Think about your skin: do you struggle with oily skin? Do you find yourself sensitive to many makeup and skincare products?

Make sure you have a good understanding of what skin concerns you want to tackle before selecting your product, especially if you have allergies or sensitive skin. This will make your trip to the drugstore (virtually or in person) a bit less daunting.

It may take some trial and error to find the products that work best for you. Research the cosmetics return policy of the stores you buy from so you don't get stuck with a full bottle that doesn't work for you.

Closeup of woman's eyes and eyebrows

Top Drugstore Eye Primers for Every Skin Type

Now that you have a checklist in mind, you can start shopping for an eye primer that will ensure your makeup's staying power. Don't be afraid to experiment, and don't settle for less! There is a product out there that will make you fall in love with what it does for you. All you have to do is find it.

Best All-Around Eye Primer

If you want a tried-and-true drugstore favorite, look no further than this crowd pleaser: NYX Ultimate Shadow & Liner Primer. NYX has long been a champion of drugstore beauty, so it should be no surprise that they're holding this top spot.

It comes in four shades, giving you a bit more variety if you're worried about how your primer will dry down. These skin-adapting shades make this primer a great option for a minimalistic eye look on its own or a wonderful base for any eye look from everyday to ultra-glam.

Best Eye Primer for Oily Skin

If you have oily skin or live in a humid climate, chances are creasing is your biggest barrier to flawless, long-lasting eyeshadow. You'll need a real workhorse of an eye primer to keep your eyeshadow looking its best!

Hunt for a primer that touts all-day wear and long-lasting smoothing effects to keep your shadows crease-free. Since makeup longevity is usually the more important concern for eye primers, you won't be short on options.

The NYX HD Eyeshadow Base turns your lids into the perfect canvas for your eyeshadow masterpiece. As a drugstore cosmetics favorite, NYX gives you the biggest bang for your buck. This ultra-long-lasting primer keeps your shadows exactly where you put them.

The formula is quite thick in consistency, so apply modestly with the included doe foot applicator. A little goes a long way!

Woman with full makeup touches face

Best Eye Primer for Sensitive Skin

If you're worried about irritation or allergies while shopping for eye primer, remember: "Simple is best." If you don't know what the exact ingredient is that irritated your skin in the past, it's best to go for a primer with gentler, more natural ingredients to avoid further complications.

For extra precaution, try patch-testing any new product on the skin of your inner arm. Allow the product to sit for at least an hour before applying it to your eyelids to ensure that you won't be irritated.

Check out the gentle Physicians Formula #Instaready Eye Primer Duo. Physicians Formula has long been a drugstore favorite for those with sensitive skin. Their hypoallergenic products keep sensitive skin looking and feeling fabulous on a budget. This set comes with two primers — one matte finish and one shimmer finish — both of which can be used under shadows or as a minimalistic eyelid base.

Best Natural Eye Primer

"Natural" is a big and often controversial word in the beauty industry. First, determine what natural means to you. Are there certain ingredients you're trying to avoid or environmental concerns you're trying to stay conscious of? Get comfortable with reading an ingredient list and learning what you do and don't want. Words you don't recognize could be innocuous, so be sure to harness the power of the web and do your research.

If you're trying to avoid ingredients that aren't natural, look for a primer with high water content (water should be high up on the ingredient list) and with plainly stated ingredients you can understand. Some more "natural" products might have a different consistency than you're used to due to their different ingredient list, but they can work just as well!

Woman applies eye primer to face with applicator wand

For a great natural primer, try Burt's Bees Eyeshadow Primer. Burt's Bees has long been a trusted brand delivering simple, natural, and quality products. This formula also boasts plenty of hydrating ingredients like vitamin E to keep your lids nourished and your eyeshadow smooth.

Unlike most primers that come in a squeeze tube or doe foot application bottle, this one comes in a pot and can be applied by picking up the product with your fingers or a brush. This primer is also free of parabens, phthalates, and petrolatum.

Best Eye Primer for Your Glittery Shadows

If you're a little glitter-glam obsessed, then NYX has the primer made just for you: NYX Glitter Primer. Glitter shadows and pigments are notorious for having huge fallout (just think of all those little bits and specs), so it makes sense that this primer needs a little something extra to keep your sparkles where you apply them.

This product can even be used for larger sparkles like rhinestones, holding your most fun and off-the-wall looks in place. You don't have to use this primer just for glitter. It also makes a great long-wear primer for any other shadow too.

Best Eye Primer for Mature Eyes and Skin

For mature skin, focus on primers that are thinner in consistency so they won't fight with fine lines and wrinkles. The thinner and smoother in consistency, the better to blend with!

Even though aging eyes do better with a lighter primer, make sure that whatever you choose isn't watery or runny as that will increase the appearance of wrinkles. It's a fine line (no pun intended) between perfect and troublesome. Make sure your primer is hydrating and won't dry out your eyes.

Try something like the Milani Eyeshadow Primer. This lightweight formula applies effortlessly to your lids, and despite its nude appearance, it dries translucent. Users praise the formula for its ability to stay crease-free all day long, making it a great choice for those worried about their shadows setting into fine lines and wrinkles. At an incredible price point, this shadow is a showstopper and a must-have for mature makeup artists.

Woman applies eye primer to face in mirror

Another option is Covergirl Lid Lock Up Eyeshadow Primer. Covergirl is a drugstore staple, so it's no surprise that they have a great option for aging eyes. This smooth and creamy formula conforms to any fine lines and wrinkles, leaving your eye makeup crease-free all day without drying you out. Who doesn't love a good waterproof product for whatever the day throws at you?

Extra Credit: What To Know About Your Aging Eyes and Skin

As your skin ages, it changes. That may seem obvious, but it's still a shock to see features like wrinkles, age spots, and skin tags in the mirror. Don't worry, it's natural! If you haven't been too keen on the way your eyelids are showing their years, however, you can take steps to minimize and reduce the signs of age.

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Lauren Fine explains, "The area around your eyes is one of the thinnest, most sensitive areas of your body. It's also among the first to reveal the very first signs of aging, like fine lines." This means that you'll need to give a bit of extra care to your lids and under-eye area.

Your first line of defense should always be shielding your eyes from direct sunlight since 90% of visible skin changes comes from sun exposure. While you can use most face sunscreens on your eyelids, they might run into your eyes and irritate them. A safer defense is a good pair of UV-blocking sunglasses or regular glasses for those who need them.

Although prevention is the ultimate tool in combatting age, you can still protect your eyelids with products like eye creams and serums that help moisturize and nourish your lids' sensitive skin. Use most creams and serums at least once a day, usually with your facial routine before bed, gently applying to your lids. Avoid pulling on your skin even when applying your product, and always treat your lids with the care they deserve.

Although eye primers with SPF are hard to come by, you can find plenty of facial primers, foundations, and BB creams that offer sun protection. Even if you aren't getting tons of outside time, you still get sun exposure through the windows of buildings and cars. Look for a way to add SPF to your daily routine if you haven't already.

Woman applies makeup to undereye with applicator brush

Take Away

You won't be short on choice while perusing for an eye primer in the drugstore aisles, but sometimes that makes your selection process a nightmare! Take into account what makes a product great for YOU. A fan favorite that your friends swear by might not make the cut, and you may love a primer that others would overlook.

You'll discover plenty of amazing products at any price point, but don't think you need to splurge to find the product that's right for you. Plenty of professional makeup artists stock their bags with designer and drugstore brands alike.

Beautiful lids are just a browsing session away whether it's online or up and down the aisle of your local pharmacy. And remember, use the product that makes YOU feel fabulous!

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