There are few things more frustrating than spending time meticulously buffing in your tinted moisturizer or foundation, only to see the end result as a patchy, weird mess. Why did it blend unevenly around your nose? Why are there patchy streaks on your cheeks? Why the hell does it look different than last week? Yes, it happens to the best of us, and no, it never gets less frustrating.
So the good people of Reddit put some action behind their anger and figured out the cause and solution. And, as it turns out, we’ve all been using the wrong combination of products: Apparently, your favorite primer and foundation (or tinted moisturizers, BB creams, CC creams, etc.) can turn into mortal enemies when you slather them on your face, and it’s all because of their ingredients.
Basically, most products are either water-based or silicone-based, and if you layer the two together, you’ll get a result similar to that of oil and water—a.k.a patchiness. Weird, right? But also surprisingly logical. Unfortunately, products don’t just broadcast their silicone or water categories on the front of the package, so you’ll have to scan the ingredients on the back to make sure they pair well together.
“[Ingredients ending in] -cone/-methicone/-siloxane that are near the top of the list tend to signal a silicone-based product,” says the original Reddit poster, kahlex. So if you look at Smashbox Photo Finish Primer, one of the most iconic, top-rated primers, you’ll see that the first few ingredients are cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone, trisiloxane—all silicones. Thus, you’ve got yourself a silicone-based primer. The poster also notes that water will be at the top of the list for any liquid product, because “water makes makeup liquidy,” but it doesn’t automatically mean that a product is water-based. “Without water, the product would not be spreadable/blendable,” the user notes. Instead, your telltale sign should be whether or not it’s loaded with silicones in the first few ingredients. If it is, it’s silicone-based. If it’s not, it’s water-based.
So what does all this mean for you? Basically, you want to pair water-based primers with water-based foundations (or tinted moisturizers, BB creams, CC creams, concealer, or any other base products), and silicone-based primers with silicone-based products. “The two different bases (water and silicone) can cause your products to pill when layered on top of each other,” says the poster, noting that the worst offender is layering a water product over a silicone product, because the silicones repel the water.
And if this all sounds totally difficult and confusing, don’t worry: That the wonderful people of Reddit put together a totally comprehensive list of primers, foundations, concealers, tinted moisturizers and concealers broken down into water- or silicone-based categories to help you figure stuff out. Yup, your life was just made better. Since we could talk about this for hours (we’ve tried—nobody wants to listen), feel free to ask any and all questions in the comments section below, and we’ll get back to you!