Don’t bring up the topic of primers in a room full of beauty enthusiasts unless you want a debate. Primer may be the single most divisive beauty product there is. Most people will either love them or declare them a pointless waste of money. I like to take an irritating middle position — the right primer under the right circumstances can be transformative for your make-up’s finish and lasting power, but most primers, under most circumstances, are simply not the right one. They ball up, or are chalky. They suck the foundation into your pores or leave you looking slick, as though you’ve just had one of those absolutely horrifying, sweat-drenched Leaving Cert dreams that somehow still happen when you’re stressed, even after all these years.
Sadly, my previous holy grail primer — Becca First Light Priming Filter — is no longer with us since the much-beloved beauty brand folded in autumn of last year. It can still be found knocking about on resale sites online, but since there is no reliable way to know whether it is the real deal, I naturally embarked on a (not particularly epic) quest to find the best primer in the known universe. Almost a year later, enter The Liquid Silk Canvas (€56 at Space NK) from Japanese brand Tatcha.
While the bottle may look like that of the famed Becca primer, don’t be fooled. This is a different entity, and better, which is really saying something. It lends the skin a buttery, soft-focus look which is incredibly flattering, elevating your foundation to a professional-looking level without you needing to do much. I apply this primer with clean hands after moisturiser and SPF, prioritising areas where my make-up tends to wear away first — around the nose, jaw, chin and forehead. It doesn’t feel like an extra layer on the skin and it doesn’t strictly have a matte finish, but somehow it weightlessly grips your make-up in place for hours and keeps unwanted shine under control, all without robbing your chosen foundation of its own luminosity.
To merit the name “primer”, a product must do precisely that — optimally ready the skin for complexion products and make a visual and noticeable difference to make-up. This difference needs to last, too. I have no tolerance for a primer that gives me filter-worthy foundation and then looks tired after a couple of hours of hard living. I wore this Tatcha primer under make-up and over the requisite hefty quantities of SPF to a wedding in Italy last month. It was more than 30 degrees on the day, and while I certainly wilted in my ever-tightening linen dress as the courses kept coming until the seven-hour feast wrapped up at 1am, my make-up never failed me. Thrillingly, it remained where I left it despite my poor other choices. By the end of the day, I was astonished by the slightly glowier but intact face I saw in the mirror. We can ask no more of any primer.