Saturday, January 16, 2016

Do I Need This? Lip Primer (Comparison of Too Faced Lip Insurance Lip Primer, e.l.f. Lip Lock Pencil, and Bite Beauty Line & Define Lip Primer)

Disclosure: Affiliate links.
Welcome to the latest installment of my Do I Need This? series. In these posts, I offer my experience and opinion about whether or not I think a product or technique is worth it. Obviously, you don't really need ANY beauty products, so the answer to the question is always going to be no, to some extent. But is it going to change your life (or face)? Is it going to make things easier? Are you going to notice any difference at all? That's what I'm getting at. You may disagree with my verdict, because we all have different bodies/faces/brains/desires, but I'll try to offer a starting point, at least. 

Too Faced Lip Insurance Lip Primer vs. e.l.f. Lip Lock Pencil primer vs. Bite Beauty Line & Define Lip Primer

One of the ways beauty companies keep us buying things is by continually creating new categories of suddenly indispensable products. Primer is one category that has certainly been growing over the last five years or so. Suddenly we need to prime everything: our faces, our eyelids, and even, apparently, our hair. I'm not going to be buying any hair primer, and foundation primer rarely seems to actually do anything to improve my makeup, but eyeshadow primer has actually become essential for me. I used to rarely bother with eyeshadow because it creased and melted off in a couple of hours, so primer makes a huge difference. But lipsticks and lip glosses can be finicky and fleeting too. Will lip primer do anything to make our lives easier? Or is it just another gimmick?

Do you need lip primer?

Short answer: Maybe, if you have problems with lip color feathering or pigmented glosses fading.

I'm going to compare three different lip primers here--one very cheap and two pretty expensive, one a thick liquid and two waxy sticks. Too Faced Lip Insurance Lip Primer ($20) is a whitish, translucent liquid product that comes in a tube with a doe foot applicator. It's similar to an eyeshadow primer (though I tried using eyeshadow primer on my lips and it was not a success). Bite Beauty Line & Define Lip Primer ($22) and e.l.f. Lip Lock Pencil ($3) are very similar, hard, matte, waxy crayons. The main difference is that the Bite product smells minty. (Note: I have a mini version of the Bite primer, which was part of the holiday Bite Discovery Kit.) No swatches of the primers here, because they are all nearly transparent. All three products make essentially the same claims: to prevent feathering and make lip color last longer. I tested each product with the same tricky lip gloss and lipstick.

Too Faced Lip Insurance Lip Primer vs. e.l.f. Lip Lock Pencil primer vs. Bite Beauty Line & Define Lip Primer
Not my greatest photography.
First up, lip gloss. One of my favorite lip glosses is Avon Glazewear in Intense Plum (now sadly discontinued but still available on Amazon). As the name suggests, it's a quite pigmented purplish gloss. The problem is that that once I blot it, most of the color disappears. Wearing a thick layer of it, however, isn't really an option, because it gets messy and smeary. Too high maintenance. So a primer that can keep it in place at full strength would be ideal.

(Many, many photos below, so I will give you a cut.)
For each of the photos below, I did exactly the same thing. I applied one coat of gloss and then blotted once with a Kleenex. Here is Intense Plum, blotted, with no primer:

Avon Glazewear in Intense Plum

Pretty, I guess, but very subtle. Here it is over one layer of the e.l.f. lip primer covering my entire lips:

gloss over e.l.f. Lip Lock Pencil

Looks a bit worse, actually. The gloss has settled more into lip lines over this primer. Let's try the seemingly similar Bite primer:

gloss over Bite Beauty Line & Define Lip Primer

A slight improvement, but not a very dramatic one. You can see a little of the pearly shimmer now that was almost invisible before. Too Faced's turn:

gloss over Too Faced Lip Insurance Lip Primer

BOOM! That's what I was looking for. Now it actually looks purplish, not just pink, and you can see the glossy texture and subtle shimmer. Too Faced Lip Insurance actually makes a huge fucking difference.

Reminder: I applied the gloss the same way every time--one coat, blotted once. The difference with the Too Faced primer is that, though it feels smooth and dry when it's applied, it somehow catches the gloss in a way that more of it sticks to my lips. That means that I have to stick the wand back in the tube a second time to get enough gloss to cover everything. I can feel the difference (less slippery, more drag) while I apply it. And then when I blot it, it removes the gooey mess, but retains the color. Magic!

This primer dries extremely quickly, however, and if you create ridges, they can become visible when you apply gloss on top. I recommend applying a thin, even coat from the wand and them immediately using your finger to smooth it out in order to prevent that happening.

The Too Faced primer also makes lip gloss--any lip gloss-- last longer. I would estimate at least twice as long. I normally get very little wear time with gloss. 1-2 hours max. With this I will get 3-6 hours, even if I am drinking (eating, not so much). That's pretty impressive as far as I'm concerned.

The Too Faced primer lives up to its claims when it comes to lip gloss, but the other two don't. But hey, maybe the Bite and e.l.f. primers are mainly designed to work with lipstick, not gloss. I tested all three primers with a lipstick that causes me some trouble: BareMinerals Marvelous Moxie Lipstick in Light It Up. It's a pretty color (reviewed here), but it tends to be patchy and to highlight dryness and flakes in an unattractive way. If these primers can create a smoother surface for my lips or make the lipstick adhere more evenly, that would be great.

I've found that I have the best results with Light It Up when I apply one coat, blot, apply a second coat, and blot again. So that's what I did for each of the photos below. Here is the lipstick on its own:

Bareminerals Marvelous Moxie Lipstick in Light It Up

Contrary to my usual experience, this lipstick tends to look better in photos than it does in person, so take note of any unevenness you can see in the photo and exaggerate it in your imagination, please! Let's try this shit over the e.l.f. Lip Lock primer:

lipstick over e.l.f. Lip Lock Pencil

Nooooope. The e.l.f. primer seems to create an overly slick surface that the lipstick has trouble sticking to, so that as soon as my lips touch together, it comes off in patches. I took this photo within one minute of applying the lipstick. It continued to slide around and setlle in lip lines afterwards.

Let's give Bite Line & Define a shot:

lipstick over Bite Beauty Line & Define Lip Primer

Again, it looks better in the photo than it did in real life. I would say that the lipstick performed almost the same over the Bite primer as without any primer. The application might be slightly smoother, but it's not significant enough to warrant spending $22. (I also tested a somewhat patchy Bite lipstick, Scarlett, to see if this primer was somehow formulated to work particularly well with their own products. I didn't notice any real improvement there either).

Last up, Too Faced Lip Insurance. At this point I have high expectations for the stuff.

lipstick over Too Faced Lip Insurance Lip Primer

And it has disappointed me. The application is worse, and you can see some of the same patchiness that occurred with the e.l.f. primer toward in the inside of my lips.

I didn't notice increased wear time with any of these three primers under lipstick. It's worth noting that I have also tested all of these primers with multiple other lip products. My results with the two photographed here are typical of everything I tried.

So Too Faced is an excellent primer for lip gloss but not useful for lipstick. The other two don't seem to do anything at all to improve lip gloss or lipstick--are they utter garbage?

Not exactly. Remember that the marketing claims said that these will increase wear time and also decrease feathering. Waxy, clear pencils work quite well for the second of those two purposes. You can line just inside the edge of your lips like a regular lip liner or, something I have found more effective, line just outside the border of your lips to prevent feathering. This will create a sort of barrier that keeps the lip color on your lips where it belongs. Unfortunately, since feathering isn't a problem I have with most products, I don't have any new photos available to show you how that works. Once upon a time, I did test e.l.f. Lip Lock with Benefit Benetint, which bleeds like crazy--but my photo quality back then was complete shit and I threw out Benetint a long time ago. You can take my word for it (or look at my old post), though, and know that using a clear liner will help prevent feathering.

I really love and recommend Too Face Lip Insurance to improve the performance of any lip gloss, and I'll buy it again when I run out. Gloss now seems kind of pointless without it. But I think the other two are skippable unless you have trouble with feathering, in which case you should just get the cheap e.l.f. stuff or any clear pencil you can find. If you're looking for something to make your lipstick better, none of these are it.

My impression is that there are lots of waxy primers out there, but Lip Insurance seems to be kind of in a category of its own. Anyone know a cheaper dupe for it? Or some other lip primer that actually does make a difference with lipstick? Are you willing to prime your lips, or is that one step too many?


  1. Not much cheaper, but I've had good luck with the Cargo HD Lip Primer, which is also a liquid primer!

    1. Oh thank you! I will keep a look out for that one--maybe get whichever one I can find on sale when I need to replace the Too Faced.

  2. I'm just starting to have issues with feathering. It's not horrible, but some lipstains/glosses, which wouldn't have given me trouble a few years ago, are starting to feather out. Which means I've been debating whether or not to get a wax pencil, it's good to know there's a cheap option with ELF.

    1. Yeah, there may be other drugstore options, but I haven't tried them since I already had this. (I wouldn't have bought the Bite one either, if it didn't come in the kit, but I'm glad I was able to review it.)

  3. The only lip primer I've tried is ColourPop's. It makes a slight difference under problematic lipsticks, but it's so waxy and drying that I never actually use it. Now I'm curious how it would work under gloss, though!

    1. If you do try it with gloss, let me know! I meant to mention this in the post, but the Too Faced isn't any more drying than whatever you put on top (doesn't help or hinder!), and the other two are maybe slightly drying, but not enough that they made an impression on me.

  4. ...I can't get past the hair primer thing at the beginning. I read the link, and, wtf, wasn't that supposed to be part of what ALL THE OTHER STYLING PRODUCTS are for? So you're telling me that the products you've been saying I need for years are actually inadequate for their purpose? (Hypothetically - I don't generally use styling products as I'm blessed with stick-straight thick hair and cursed with a hatred of effort in the morning.)

    1. I know--I am 100% certain that these are products that already existed, but now have "primer" in the name, because people are obsessed with priming everything.

    2. Sounds about right.

      [I have this feeling that your last bit should be followed with *winkwinknudge* IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN, because on the inside I'm basically a 12-year-old.]

  5. I use the Mac lip primer and that shit was a waste of money. Never saw any difference. Gonna check out Too Faced lip insurance! Maybe that will help as lip products do not last on me!!


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