Battle of the Bases

By Amalah

Oh please oh please, help! I am FED UP with my eyeshadow. It creases and streaks and clumps — all by lunchtime! My eyelids look greasy and my lovely shading job goes all to hell.
I admit I use fairly cheap stuff most of the time, but I am ready to change! (It’s either that or wear no shadow at all, because of the aforementioned FED UPNESS.) So please, what eyeshadows REALLY stay put, oh great product guru?

Okay, so here’s the secret: ALL eyeshadows crease up, eventually. I’ve never used a shadow that didn’t. But! Lunchtime is too early. We CAN do better for you than lunchtime, I am sure. We can also solve that oily-eyelid problem. But not with a simple eyeshadow brand recommendation. Because we enjoy making things as complicated as possible.
I use shadows by Stila, Lorac, NARS and Hourglass, all of which are darn fine shadows. Darn fine! But I STILL always use an eyeshadow base first.
“MOTHER OF GOD,” a dozen readers just wailed. “SHE’S TALKING ABOUT PRIMER AGAIN.”
Yep. If you’ve got problems with your eye makeup not staying put or greasy lids or wonky extra creases that eat up your shadow, you’ve gotta use a primer first. Something to absorb the natural oils and give your shadow something to really stick to.
Now, I’ve always used (for years and year) an herbal eye base cream thing from Tony & Tina. But talk about discontinued: that entire line of cosmetics doesn’t even EXIST anymore. Luckily, I managed to snap up a couple compacts of it when Sephora put the brand on firesale a couple years ago.
But now? Well, those compacts are bordering on empty and definitely super old. So I recently went out in search of a new eyeshadow base.
I picked up two contenders for a Smackdown battle: F.Y.Eye by Benefit and the Lip & Lid Primer by Smashbox.
This isn’t really technically a true Price Tag Cage Match, since neither product is a a drugstore brand and are actually priced pretty much the same. ($20 for the Benefit, $24 for the double-duty Smashbox.) And you can call me a snob but honestly, I just didn’t feel like wasting my time (and yours! it is all about you!) with something cheap. (Or even FINDING something cheap, since I’m not really sure any of the major drugstore brands offer something comparable.)
sbliplid.jpgAnd actually? These two products work about the same. Both feel light and silky on my lids, do an excellent job fighting shine and greasiness, and extended the life of my shadow by several hours. (Nothing more, though. Shadow applied in the morning still needed to be retouched before going out at night, and I noticed a TINY amount of build-up in my eyelid crease by lunchtime, but it was totally only noticeable to me, since I was obsessively checking my lids up close in the mirror every hour or so.) My eyeliner looked good too, which is saying something, since it is HUMID AS ALL HELL around here these days and I’ve just stopped wearing eyeliner all together. With either of these bases I’d feel confident enough to line my upper lid. (My racoonish-looking bottom lid is dead to me right now, and will be until probably October.)
fyeye.jpgBut! If I had to pick a favorite, I think I like the Benefit a little better. Mostly because I disliked applying the crayon-style Smashbox. Coloring on my eyelid was uncomfortable and it was hard to tell if I’d applied it evenly. The Benefit stuff goes on with a single swoop of your fingertip and felt like it provided more substantial coverage.
Of course, the Smashbox also features a lipstick base. But I don’t really wear lipstick. It doesn’t work with most sheer lipglosses (it completely neutralizes the color of your lips), and the one time I used it with an actual bona-fide lipstick I didn’t really notice it lasting any longer than usual. (I ate, I drank, I had no lipstick left.)
If the lipstick thing interests you — and you’ve got a local place that carries the Smashbox line — I’d go test it out and see if it works for you. Otherwise, ignore the cheesy pun of a name and get yo’self some Benefit F.Y.Eye.
Other tips for eyeshadow wearing: metallic and shimmery shades crease and glomp up worse than matte shades. Try using only matte colors for awhile (or only use shimmery shadows sparingly as highlights) and see if that makes a difference. Wash your shadow brushes regularly — dirty brushes put old shadow and oil back on your lid. To smooth out mid-day clumps, use one end of a dry Q-tip to wipe the crease, and then reapply your shadow as needed with the other end.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • LGraves65

    May 30, 2007 at 9:37 am

    I don’t use primer, but I do use Revlon’s ColorStay eye shadows and they DO. NOT. BUDGE.
    Even after a hot and muggy day at the ballpark, my eyes looked the same as they did when I left the house that morning. No creasing, no fading, nada.
    They are the shit.

  • Tone

    May 30, 2007 at 9:53 am

    I just started using Urban Decay’s Primer Potion and that works well. Before that I used Clinique’s Eye Base and that also worked well (I just really wanted to test the Primer Potion this time, what with the cool little bottle and all).

  • NewfieldBella

    May 30, 2007 at 9:56 am

    NARS eyeshadow is amazing! I live in SE Louisiana, i.e. Humid Swamp Hell, and this eyeshadow does not budge at all — well worth the hefty price in my opinion. I’ve haven’t had problems with creasing since switching to this shadow.
    I don’t use eyelid primer before using eyeshadow; however, I do cover my lids with the regular old Smashbox primer from time to time. Now if I could only find a non-waterproof mascara that doesn’t smudge, I’d be happy.

  • BaltimoreGal

    May 30, 2007 at 10:26 am

    I am all about the Urban Decay primer as well.
    Here’s my ritual- I do put regular face primer on my lids just like the rest of my face, and do not put foundation on my lids. Then eyeshadow primer, then a neutral or light base shadow (if using light eye colors- if not, skip the base shadow). Works! I have a pretty good eyelid crease so I find if I don’t do both, shadow only stays half as long.
    I do use many Urban Decay, Stila and Prescriptives shadows, but sometimes I just get the Cover Girl or L’Oreal, too! The primer really makes a difference with the less fine powders.
    Also, I had a bad experience with the Benefit primer- it dries out VERY EASILY even if you have the lid on well.

  • anony_miss

    May 30, 2007 at 11:14 am

    I bought the Benefit one a few weeks ago and really like it. It makes my eye shadow really pop and I only get creases every once in a while (as opposed to before lunchtime daily). I’ve also used the Urban Decay potion, Trish McEvoy’s base, and Clinque’s eye base compact and (respectfully) think Benefit is the best. I like the texture a lot too – it’s a light mousse-y product and feels great going on.

  • Isabel

    May 30, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Just wanted to chime in and say that I love the Urban Decay primer. And for about $12, it’s the perfect price.
    (Can I just add how much I love primer. It changes everything!)

  • Mindy

    May 30, 2007 at 12:10 pm

    I too use the Urban Decay – recommended by the girl at Sephora. I’d never used primer for anything before and always had a line of shadow in the crease and oily eyelids. I was skeptical, but it totally eliminated both problems – and for me even by evening I still do not have a crease. Now that eyeshadow primer has proven itself to me, I’m going to move on to foundation primer (once I’ve found a decent foundation to try – currently using Cover Girl, any suggestions?)

  • The Muse

    May 30, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    I will admit that I love the Benefit FYEye stuff – and it was recommended by Sephora.
    HOWEVER. (!)
    When I was shopping with my little sister, attempting to find drugstore makeup for her prom, we came across the Neutrogena Skin Smoothing Eye Tints, which happen to be phenomenal. They go on similar to the FYEye, but with a soft shimmer and a cooling sensation. The color/shimmer means that you can wear them alone, or layer your favorite shadow (even matte, and the shimmer won’t bleed through) on top. The creasing is very minimal, and this is coming from someone who lives in humid Atlanta and is generally sweating just from getting ready in the morning (my bathroom allows for NO air circulation).
    So yeah. There you go, Amalah – now you have a drugstore version that could go up in a Price Cage Match!

  • seresy

    May 30, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    I registered JUST to comment on this… and all I have to say is MAC MAC MAC!!!!
    MAC. I’m not kidding. Not only do they have seventy gajillion colors, but the stuff stays on forever. Better than anything else I’ve ever used (and I’ve used everything I could get my hands on.)I have eyeshadow base, and like it, but most of the time I’m lazy and just sweep foundation over my lids while I’m doing the rest of my face. Even just on bare lids (which are almost always oily, and I was living in swampy humid coastal Virginia)it stayed.
    Did I mention the color range? They’re about $14.50 apiece, and they last forever, too.

  • TheHolls

    May 30, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    I heartily endorse the Laura Mercier product called Eye Basics. It comes in a little lip gloss-like tube with a spongy applicator in a few flesh-toned colors. Thy paint it on thy lid, and they will be crease-free.
    And apart from its crease-fighting abilities, it also has magical properties at keeping the shadow ON, period. I used to have the case of the disappearing shadow before noon (which, I estimate, means thousands of dollars have technically gone missing from my face), but now, it’s still on even when I come home from work. Miracles, indeed!

  • Tone

    May 30, 2007 at 4:55 pm

    Amalah – based on this, could you do a How to 101 for eye makeup application, starting with the primer and ending with mascara? Maybe even a day versus night look.

  • Erin

    May 30, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    I have to do a shout-out for Lancome eyeshadow. Love it. And it doesn’t crease.

  • Beth Ramsey

    May 30, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    I vote for Mary Kay Eye Primer. It is the only Mary Kay product I use and it WORKS!!!

  • Talix

    May 31, 2007 at 11:42 am

    It occurred to me this morning in a blinding flash – the title of this post should have been “All your base…”.


    May 31, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Okay, I used to sell Lancome part-time while working a crummy, low-paying, bank job. Anyway, they had this product, Colour Dose, which was a cream eye shadow that would not budge until you removed it at the end of the day. No creases, no oil, nuthin. So I started using it as my eye shadow base and didn’t worry about my eye makeup for about 4 years because, like I said, it didn’t budge. And now it appears they have discontinued it (no longer on or sephora). So they suck and I am sad. They have good powder shadows, too, but be careful if you have any sensitivity to red dye because they use it like mad in their products. Snot-like goo oozing out of your eyeballs, anyone? Sexy.