Thursday, May 19, 2011

Paula Dorf Eye Primer & Brush

I've reduced my eye primer arsenal to exactly two products: the smooth and creamy Kanebo Sensai Eye Base and the little miracle that is Paula Dorf's Eye Primer.

Paula Dorf's primer comes in two shades, #1, which is the one you see here and the much darker Deep. I was worried at first about the texture, as it reminded me at first glance of the one from Lancome I tested a while ago and didn't like one bit. But as usual, Paula Dorf delivers and this primer is a lot more creamy than it appears. You only need a minuscule amount of product, and a pat of the brush on the pan and then on your lid is enough. The primer is easy to spread on the skin and is as cooperative as they come. It takes seconds to get both eyes primed and ready.

The Eye Primer Brush is basically a flat paddle-shaped synthetic brush. It's about twice as wide as standard cream shadow or concealer brush and the hairs are packed more densely, which I guess is the reason the brush picks exactly the right amount of primer. It's quite firm but gentle on delicate lids and I'm glad I have it as a dedicated brush for my primers, though I'd say you can probably use a good concealer brush just as well.

The smooth surface created by the primer is eye shadow-friendly. I never have any issues with blending over it. But the real magic is the way it keeps makeup in place and even more than that- the primer helps every eye shadow I've used over it maintain its finish for at least 14 or 15 hours. As long as the application is decent, my eye makeup lasts and looks just-applied fresh until I come after it with cleansers.

Bottom Line: a must-have.

Paula Dorf Eye Primer ($25) and brush ($28) are available from Henri Bendel in NYC (Pam, the resident Paula Dorf  SA/MUA is not only delightful but also among the very best I've had the pleasure to meet, so I highly recommend calling the counter). Also on

Photo by me.


  1. Thanks for the review Gaia, I've been looking for a new primer since my favorite Bare Essentials changed packaging/formulas. I'll have to try this one.

  2. Hi Gaia,

    I am looking for a primer and am glad that you are doing this review, very timely. So, how do you decide which one you use, between Paula Dorf eye primer and Kanebo?



  3. Good one! I've been using Paula Dorf Primer #1 for at least 10 years. I love how it glides on, completely conceals eyelid discoloration, and shows the true eyeshadow color without being adulterated by the blue, red, and/or lovely teabag stains from my eyelids. Best eye primer I have ever used, hands down.

  4. Elizabeth, do give this one a try, and while you're at it have a look at the eye shadows. I'm going to review a few of them soon and have to say the colors, textures and quality are spectacular.

  5. Daisy, I would have loved to say that I'm always 100% mindful of textures and plan ahead what I'm going to use. But in reality sometimes it can be a random choice depending on my mood or whim.

    When I'm testing a new eye shadow I always try both and have found that heavier (dense) shadow textures tend go better with Kanebo, while light, very shimmery or too powdery ones need Paula. Also, the Kanebo is ideal when I want to give my lids a little extra TLC, because it's so creamy.

  6. ZP, I'm so happy to find other Paula fans. I bought my first PD lipstick about 10 years ago, and then discovered the brushes and eye shadows. Right now I'm testing her blush for the first time. Not sure what took me so long.

  7. Gaia, I hope you post about the blush. I recently tried PD eyeshadow at the recommendation of a friend (Halo is divine), and I have been using the PD Angle Liner Brush for at least 10 years, sometimes with her Transformer (makes powder eyeshadows last longer as eyeliner).

    I should tell you that it was reading your post about Paula Dorf and Vincent Longo making a comeback that finally spurred me into starting my blog because I was so excited!

  8. Ooo. not outrageously priced either. I'll definitely consider this one!

    Have you tried the PD eye transformer brush? It's my HG for tight-lining. It has shorter hairs than the LM flat brush for the same purpose, giving it more control ... plus it is slightly curved, so that it fits the lash line *perfectly* - really a remarkable brush.

  9. It never occurred to me to tightline with my PD transformer brush, thanks! *races off to get the gel liner*

  10. ZP, I definitely intend to post about the blush and three shadows. I love this line so much.

    So glad to see you started a blog. Will add to my blog roll later tonight!

  11. Proximity, oddly enough the Transformer brush is one Paula Dorf brush I don't own. I think I have all her other eye brushes, including the coveted Smokie Eye, but will rectify this omission soon.

  12. The transformer brush worked beautifully! I'd been using the MAC 212, which works very well, but it's a tiny bit too long to hit the curved areas without going outside the lines just a bit. Brilliant! I owe Proximity a drink.

    And you, as well, Gaia, for adding me to your list. Thanks very much!

  13. I love Paula Dorf's eye primer (and shadows, too; they rival Edward Bess, Kevyn Aucoin, and Burberry for soft satiny texture), but I tend to swipe Shiseido Glistening Sand over my eyes with my ring finger, cover with LMdB Refresh, and go from there, so I keep forgetting to use it.

    I've been searching your archives, and perhaps I'm clueless for missing it, but I can't seem to find a strong recommendation for a *face* primer (as opposed to eye primers).

    I've tried a lot in the mid-range (Smashbox, Laura Mercier, Laura Geller) and a few from the higher end (Guerlain Gold Radiance and Dior SkinFlash). Now I'm wondering if the super-high-end cosmetics makers are better at primer, the way they appear to be at eyeshadow and blush.

    What do you think, if you don't mind taking a few minutes to coalesce your experiences into a few pieces of advice?

    Thanks, and I love your blog,

  14. ZP, it's my pleasure. Your blog is a worthy addition.

  15. Emily, you're probably right. I don't test as many face primers as eyes, but I have reviewed some from Smashbox, Guerlain (another one is in the works), Face Time, Dr. Somethingorother, Dior, Shu Uemura, Shiseido, Sephora brand, Chanel and probably more.

    I think I like Guerlain best of all (Dior broke me out like you wouldn't believe it). The Edward Bess and Armani foundations have enough silicone in them that one can skip a primer. Sometimes I treat my LMdB Peau Vierege as a sort-of primer, because of its skincare benefit. I apply a thin layer then supplement with a compact foundation (Chanel or Edward Bess) where I need more coverage.


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