Urban Decay Primers – The Old vs the 4 New! Reviews, Ingredient Analyses and a Chemist’s Verdict.

I hope you find this article useful, it took a while to put together and it is long, but I think you will find the information helpful. Grab a coffee and have a read!

I’m going to put this out there, Urban Decay is one of my top 3, favourite brands. They make high quality products at relatively cheap prices, cheaper than the top high end brands but of course more expensive than drug store brands, and their products rarely disappoint.  Since Lóreal bought Urban Decay it has been growing, bringing out more products faster and launching new type of lines and it is amazingly nice to see.

As a result, when they recently released their four new make up primers:

  1. “De-Slick”
  2. “Optical Illusion”
  3. “Self-adjusting”
  4. “Urban defence”

I was super excited to try them out. Urban Decay did have a primer before these, called “Tighten and Brighten”, and I have been using this for ages as it is compatible with my oily face and makes a really nice make up base. On top of that, unlike many other primers out there, this old primer not only worked well as a make up base, but it was also packed with some good for your skin ingredients. This primer however, is nowhere to be found anymore as, I believe, it is discontinued.

Urban Decay Primers

In an attempt to cover my sadness, I thought it was a good opportunity to try out the four new primers. Since the old Urban Decay primer was so good, these were almost set to be great.

On first glance, the new packaging is much nicer than the old one, it looks a lot more clean, sleek and professional. A major first plus. And then, I looked at the ingredients. And everything fell apart for me.

Urban Decay battle of primers 2.jpg

As you probably know by now, I am a chemist and I use my knowledge to “analyse” beauty products. Unless I have one of those “I am a female that loves make up and I just have to have this” days, I usually don’t buy cosmetics before I have a look at their ingredients. For me as a chemist it’s not so much whether there is something bad in there, that is very rare. It’s more about knowing how many good things are in there and if the formulation contains molecules that will help me achieve my goal. For example, to be specific here, I’d like my make up primer to control my face oils and hide my pores. So I looked into the ingredients of the four primers to figure out which one would be the best.

I narrowed it down to the “De-Slick” and “Optical Illusion” and went to the shop to try them out.

But before I get into the individual reviews, detailed ingredient analyses and comparisons, I want to mention something important. After having “analysed” a lot of the make up primers out there, I classify primers in two major categories:

(a) The primers I would put all over my face

(b) The primers I would use only on specific areas, for a specific purpose

Cosmetics have been growing and fast, and now days with so many brands and products out there, we have so many options. So why not get the best. When I look for a make up primer, I want my primer to also contain some cosmeceutical function (if you don’t know what this means I previously wrote an article “What are cosmeceuticals?”). I want my primer to help my make up go on well, stick for a long time and give my skin some love. So, for my full face primer, which I use after my moisturiser and before my foundation, I am looking for an additional value, some good for my skin molecules. The old Urban Decay primer, the “Tighten and Brighten” fell well into this category. More info on its good molecules below.

On the other hand, the four new Urban Decay primers, fall into category (b). They work (well…not all of them) but only for a specific area on the face. They have a very low “good for my skin” value. They contain molecules that just do their labelled job. To clarify, this does not mean that they are bad for your skin. It means that most of what they will do is their “De-slick” or “Optical Illusion” function etc. You cannot count on them to nourish the skin.

Such primers I would only use after I put the primer category (a) all over my face and then place these ones on the wanted areas. For example, I would have used the “Tighten and Brighten” all over the face and then the “de-slick” on my T-zone to keep my oils controlled or the “Optical Illusion” on my cheeks to hide my pores.

And that is my problem. How did they go from an all rounder (sure it didn’t hide my pores but it did so much more for the skin) primer to four very specific and mediocre ones? These are not an improvement to the old one and they literally have nothing to do with it. As a chemist, it was shocking for me to look at the striking formulation difference of these.

However, as someone said to me, “Urban Decay is not a skin care brand”. That is true. But you don’t need to be a skin care brand to have all rounded products and Urban Decay did have a nourishing primer before. In my opinion, with so much competition out there, brands do need to go that extra mile. Why would you not pick the best primer for you and your skin, that does it all, since you have the option from other brands?

I often wonder why Urban Decay discontinued their old primer. Maybe they felt that they wanted to address the hiding pores or mattifying functions etc that they were missing from their products. That is great, but then there was no need to scrap the old one.

Personally, if I could pick for the brand, I would have kept three of them. The “Tighten and Brighten” as the old rounder, the all over and good for your skin primer (with some tweaking, info below), the “Optical Illusion” and the “Self-adjusting” for specific face areas and potentially fixing the “De-Slick”. The “Urban Defence” is not needed in my opinion (explanation below) and actually the “Optical Illusion” and “De-slick” can be combined into one, as they target a very similar audience. If you have oily skin, you most likely also have large pores that you want to hide, so you kind of want both etc. Also, the “Optical Illusion” has the same ingredient for oil control as the “De-Slick” (=silica), so the latter is not really needed. Although to be fair, the amount of that ingredient might be different in the two products, since the ingredient lists don’t mention quantities, we don’t know.

 

Let’s get into specifics.

 

Urban Decay Brighten and Tighten Primer (old – discontinued)

This is one of my favourite primers. Top 2 actually (I will reveal my number 1 at the end). It is a thin white cream, but not watery, that applies smoothly all over the face and it keeps make up on for longer. It helps smooth out my skin before I put my foundation on and it gets absorbed by the skin quickly, without changing the feeling of my skin or leaving any residues behind. While it is not designed to keep me matt all day, it doesn’t add to my oils. The tube it came in is cute and very easy to use. I guess it could do with a sexier redesign but personally, I still like it the way it is.

Urban Decay Brightening and Tightening Primer.jpg

Ingredient positives:

  1. Water based formulation.
  2. Litchi Chinensis Pericarp Extract – Skin conditioner, anti-oxidant, anti-ageing as it inhibits collagen and hyaluronic acid degradation, enhances skin’s complexion.
  3. Algae extract = anti-oxidant, contains vitamins and minerals.
  4. Thermus Thermophillus Ferment – Skin conditioning, anti-oxidant, anti-ageing.
  5. Tocopheryl Acetate – Form of vitamin E, skin conditioner, anti-oxidant, can help with inflammation and moisturisation. Hero compound. See my article “Vitamins C & E – do they work in skin care?”
  6. Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate – Form of vitamin C, anti-oxidant, can increase collagen production, anti-ageing, reduces melanin production = brightens, repairs effects of UV damage. Hero compound. See my article “Vitamins C & E – do they work in skin care?”
  7. Sodium Hyaluronate – Form of hyaluronic acid. Fountain of youth molecule, helps moisturisation = holds 1000 times its weight in water, helps wounds and burns heal, anti-ageing. Hero compound. See my article “Hyaluronic acid – the fountain of youth?”.
  8. Palmitoyl Oligopeptide – Skin conditioner, stimulates collagen production, anti-ageing, activity similar to retinol without the side effects. Hero compound.
  9. Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7 – Supresses inflammation response so it helps skin heal faster, increases collagen production, anti-ageing, reduces the appearance of uneven tone, roughness, fine lines, thin skin, wrinkles. Hero compound.
  10. Potassium sorbate – Effective against fungi, mold, yeast.
  11. Sodium benzoate – Effective against bacteria and fungi. Can help protect against UVB when combined with UV protector compounds but this primer doesn’t have any.
  12. Caprylyl Glycol – Skin conditioner, moisturiser and anti-microbial.
  13. It also contains a lot of other skin conditioning, moisturising and anti-caking ingredients but they are common and not “extra special” so to keep this short I will not mention them individually here.

 

Ingredient negatives:

  1. Algae extract = these break down when exposed to air so they should not be contained in products that are in largely open vessels like jars. This primer was in a tube with a tiny opening so it is fine. However, this primer has a slight off smell which could be because of these. Perhaps removing these or adding a fragrance would have solved this issue.

 

So what options do we have now that this is discontinued? After having “analysed” and tried out quite a few primers out there, the one closer to the old Urban Decay primer formulation (32% match), but actually packed with even more goodies, is the “This Works In Transit Camera Close Up Primer Moisturise Mask”. It’s a bit strange that they market this as a three in one product. It’s not really a mask, but it is an amazing primer. It keeps make up all day long, doesn’t add to oil production and amazingly it nourishes the skin so much that I actually noticed a difference when I was using it and when I wasn’t (because I ran out). This is my all rounder primer of category (a), for now at least, that I have been replacing the Urban Decay Brighten and Tighten one with. I highly recommend it.

It is more expensive than the old Urban Decay primer but it also contains more product. It retails somewhere between £21.90-25.50, depending on where you buy it from and you get 40mL of it with a pump applicator. The packaging is not special or pretty, it is very simple but, as the brand says, It Works. To keep this long article shorter, I won’t go into the details of this one’s ingredients, I might do a detailed article another time. Let me know if you want an ingredient analysis of this one.

 

Urban Decay De-Slick Primer

This one is supposed to control your oils and it looks like a beige cream but is thicker than a foundation. After having tried this on my arm first, I immediately rejected it. It leaves a white residue behind that sits in pores and lines. See picture.

Urban Decay De Slick Primer Swatch 2.jpg

I guess you could cover this with the foundation on top, but it really shouldn’t do that to begin with. In my opinion it is a bit of a formulation flop and from having looked at the ingredients, this white residue is expected. This primer contains Argilla/Magnesium Aluminium Silicate which is not often absorbed by the skin because of how big the molecules are.

I have considered that perhaps this is intended, that the left over residue sits on your skin to absorb oils? If the residue truly is Argilla/Magnesium Aluminium Silicate then this is not the case as it is not usually used to absorb oils. If it is another compound that might absorb oils perhaps they should have explained the residue and function on the product as it really looks wrong when you use it.

It is only 12% similar, in terms of what it contains, as the old “Brighten and Tighten” primer.

 

Ingredient positives:

  1. Water based formulation.
  2. Silica – Absorbs oils and sweat, anti-caking. This is only dangerous if inhaled as a fine powder, so it is safe here.
  3. Phenoxyethanol – Disinfectant.
  4. Ethylhexylglycerin – Skin conditioner and preservative, used in eczema treatments.
  5. Aloe Barbadensis Extract/Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract – This is one of the only 2 actually “special/good” ingredients in here. Skin conditioner, anti-flammatory, can protect from UV but it does not give a SPF or sunscreen effect. Can stimulate collagen production, anti-ageing.
  6. Benzyl Saliccylate – Fragrance, UV light absorber. Again, not a proper SPF or sunscreen.
  7. Tocopherol – similar to vitamin E.
  8. It also contains a lot of other skin conditioning, moisturising and anti-caking ingredients but they are common and not “extra special” so to keep this short I will not mention them individually here.

 

Ingredient negatives:

  1. Argilla/Magnesium Aluminium Silicate – Anti caking agent that is not often absorbed by the skin, can leave a residue behind.
  2. Parfum/Fragrance – This general term represents more than 3000 molecules that are used in cosmetics to give scent. It is a negative because the actual molecules are not listed and personally, I don’t like it when they hide what’s inside.
  3. Hexyl cinnamal, limonene, linalool and citral – Fragrance molecules that they had to list individually, instead of keep them behind the parfum/fragrance label, because they are known to cause sensitisation to some.

 

Summary: I do not recommend this one. There are only two skin nutritional value compounds in here, Aloe Barbadensis Extract/Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract and tocoperol so it is definitely not a type (a), for the entire face primer. The fact that it leaves a residue behind that will sit in all your pores and lines, and only really has one compound that will control oil, silica, also rejects it from a type (b) for specific application primer.

 

Urban Decay Optical Illusion Primer

Urban Decay Optical Illusion Primer.jpgThis one is meant to blur lines and pores and it looks like a white thick cream with a pink hint to it. It is fairly “difficult” to spread around, as it is quite thick and it takes a long time for the skin to absorb it. If you are in a hurry, doing your make up in the morning, this one is not your friend.

Urban Decay Optical Illusion Primer Swatch
The amount of Urban Decay Optical Illusion primer you need to cover an area like the back of my arm – you need a fair bit to cover all the pores well.
Urban Decay Optical Illusion Primer Swatch 2
What the Urban Decay Optical Illusion Primer looks like when you try to work it in, it is thick and it takes a while to spread and dry.

On the plus side, it does blur out pores nicely. In the picture you can see the left hand covered in this primer and the right hand completely natural. There is definitely a huge difference. Pores blur out and disappear but bear in mind that it does make your skin much lighter so you will need to cover this with foundation. If for whatever reason you add it on top of foundation, it changes your foundation’s colour and it becomes obvious on the places you added it so that’s a no no.

Urban Decay Optical Illusion vs natural swatch.jpg

This primer made me a little more oily than normal, not so bad that I wouldn’t use it for this reason though. It could be seen as a natural glow than a proper oil break through. For me, the biggest problem with this one is that it doesn’t stay in the pores long. It’s one of those products that work better on the hand than on the face. I can see my pores slightly revealed again after applying my foundation on top (even after letting it dry for 15 mins or after using a small brush to fill in the pores completely or even setting it with powder first, you name it I tried it) and I have used other pore minimiser primers that don’t do that, so I know it’s not me or my technique.

I am a little bumped out about this one and I am still stubbornly trying to find a way to make it work. It looks so good on the hand or when you first put it on the face but then doesn’t work with foundations well and fails when wearing it throughout the day. Perhaps the oil production is what makes this move out of pores, but it contains silica which should have helped. On paper, it is suitable for oily skin but in practice it just didn’t work as well as it looks initially.

It also changes the colour of concealers and makes then appear streaky so I wouldn’t recommend this for the under eye areas. Overall, it just didn’t seem to work well with other products, as the best coverage I ever got was before any other product was placed on the face or when I had it on my hand.

This is the closest to the old “Brighten and Tighten” primer, out of the four new ones, at just 20% though.

 

Ingredient positives:

  1. Cyclopentasiloxane – Fills in lines, wrinkles and pores to give a more plump look.
  2. Silica – Absorbs oils and sweat, anti-caking. This is only dangerous if inhaled as a fine powder, so it is safe here.
  3. Argania Spinosa Kernel oil – Also known as Argan oil, skin conditioner, can contain vitamin E and fatty acids.
  4. Rosa Canina Fruit oil – Skin conditioner, anti-oxidant.
  5. Limnanthes Alba Seed Oil/Meadowfoam Seed Oil – Anti-oxidant, skin softening.
  6. Dimethiconol – Fills in lines, wrinkles, pores giving a more plump look, creates subtle gloss on the skin and protects the skin from losing water.
  7. Tocopheryl Acetate – Form of vitamin E, skin conditioner, anti-oxidant, can help with inflammation and moisturisation. Hero compound. See my article “Vitamins C & E – do they work in skin care?”
  8. Hydroxyapatite – Creates a soft focus effect, anti-ageing.
  9. Phenoxyethanol – Disinfectant.
  10. Caprylyl Glycol – Skin conditioner, moisturiser and anti-microbial.
  11. Ethylhexylglycerin – Skin conditioner and preservative, used in eczema treatments.
  12. It also contains a lot of other skin conditioning, moisturising and anti-caking ingredients but they are common and not “extra special” so to keep this short I will not mention them individually here.

 

Ingredient negatives:

None.

 

Summary: If you really want to try one of these four new primers, I would say this is worth a try, but for me, I have other alternatives that work much better. I might use this up (probably while trying to get it to work) but I won’t repurchase. I find that the cheaper, No7 Air Brush Away Pore Minimising Primer spreads easier, gets absorbed faster, doesn’t move when I put on foundation, doesn’t make me oily and hides my pores for longer. It costs £16.50 for 30mL as opposed to £23.00 for 28mL for the Urban Decay ones. Very good job from No7 there. Let me know if you want an ingredient analysis of this one.

 

Urban Decay Self Adjusting

Urban Decay Self Adjusting Primer.jpg

This primer is a little strange but I guess, in a good way. It is an off white cream that changes colour to adjust your skin so it becomes beige etc, like a foundation colour. Like the Optical Illusion one, you also need a fair amount to cover pores and it is also a thick cream.

Urban Decay Self Adjusting Primer Swatch.jpg
The amount of Urban Decay Self-Adjusting primer you need to cover an area like the back of my arm – you need a fair bit to cover all the pores well.
Urban Decay Self Adjusting Primer Swatch 2.jpg
What the Urban Decay Self-Adjusting Primer looks like when you try to work it in, it is thick and it takes a while to spread and dry but it is easier and quicker than the Optical Illusion one.

It dries faster and spreads easier than the Optical Illusion, which is great. After having tried it out, it hides pores and lines almost as well as the Optical Illusion one when on the face. It doesn’t look as great on the hand. Overall, I though it offered be slightly better pore coverage (on the face) than the Optical Illusion one possibly because it didn’t move out of the pores as much when applying other products on top, like foundation. It also made me a little more oily than normal but it was the same amount as the Optical Illusion one. It just looked like a natural glow rather than an oily mess. As a result, I’d say this is suitable for oily skin.

Urban Decay battle of primers.jpg

Not sure if you can see it in the picture but the Self-Adjusting also set into lines on my wrist (it looks a little more wrinkly if you look at the wrist closely) and coloured them differently, a bit like what happens with self-tanning products. Make sure to apply evenly!

The interesting part of this one is the colour changing. You start with an off-white cream that turns into a skin colour while rubbing. Without proper laboratory analysis it is difficult to say for sure how this works but the first thing that came to my mind is that it is some kind of micelle destruction. Micelles are small, sphere-like, molecular objects that can hold other molecules inside. Rubbing them on your skin might cause them to break and release a compound that gives colour. I tested this theory by rubbing this on my hand for ages and the more I rubbed, the darker the colour became. This would make sense as the more you rub the more micelles you break and therefore the more colour you release. How is this useful to you? Well it means that as soon as you reach a colour of your choice you HAVE TO stop rubbing otherwise the colour will keep changing! I rubbed it for a while to see how far I can take the colour, you can see in the picture below it became much darker than my skin.

Urban Decay Self Adjusting Primer Swatch 4.jpg

To add more fuel to this theory and make sure that there isn’t anything on our skin that interacts with the formulation and makes it change colour, I also tested the rubbing theory using a brush and rubbing it on a paper. This changed colour too so the micelle theory still holds. If it is truly micelles, I wonder why they didn’t advertise the product as such, as it is quite a sexy term to put on cosmetics these days.

Urban Decay Self Adjusting Primer Swatch 3.jpg

I actually rubbed this only enough times to spread it on my face so it didn’t change colour and stayed fairly white. I preferred it this way as I felt it covered my pores better than when it changed colour and it made me look brighter and therefore more awake. It did make my foundation lighter though, so I had to add an extra foundation layer to bring my face back from the ghost land.

It is only 8% similar, in terms of what it contains, as the old “Brighten and Tighten” primer.

 

Ingredient positives:

  1. Dimethicone – Can fill in wrinkles, lines, pores, minimises water loss, can reduce redness.
  2. Aluminium Starch Octenylsuccinate – Anti-caking agent, can absorb sweat and maybe also oils, can enhance the SPF but this primer doesn’t have any to enhance.
  3. Methicone – Skin conditioner, creates barrier on the skin that stops sweat and oils from coming through and prevents skin water loss.
  4. Tocopherol – Similar to vitamin E.
  5. It also contains a lot of other skin conditioning, moisturising and anti-caking ingredients but they are common and not “extra special” so to keep this short I will not mention them individually here.

 

Ingredient negatives:

  1. Methicone – It has a large molecular weight and is unlikely to be absorbed by the skin so it might leave a residue behind.

 

Summary: This is also one that might be worth a try and see if it works for you. For me I felt that it worked better for pore hiding on the face, but worse on the hand, than the Optical Illusion one. It made me as oily as the Optical Illusion one, so there were no problems there. In my opinion it is the best out of the four new primers but again it’s nutritional, for the skin, value is very low so I would only use this to cover pores.

 

Urban Decay Urban Defence Primer

This is a clear, colourless gel that initially feels very moisturising on the skin but takes ages to be fully absorbed, so much so that even people with dry skin told me that they find this a little too much. After it does dry, it leaves a strange feeling on the skin, something between silicone, water and oil, but neither quite. It was too much for my oily skin, it really didn’t work for me and as I mentioned previously, I personally don’t think this product is needed anyways.

From looking at the ingredients and guessing from the name, I am assuming that this product is meant to protect your skin from environmental pollution. In my opinion, you don’t need your primer to do this, your moisturiser should do that. If your moisturiser does not contain anti-oxidants in it, which protect against environmental pollution, ageing and sun damage, then you need to re-evaluate your moisturiser, not your primer.  And if you are not using a moisturiser (which you should even if you are oily) then you need to re-evaluate your skin care.

It is only 4% similar, in terms of what it contains, as the old “Brighten and Tighten” primer.

 

Ingredient positives:

  1. C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate – Skin conditioner, anti-microbial, light and silky feel to skin.
  2. Capryl Methicone – Skin conditioner, fills in wrinkles, lines, pores for a more plump look, silky smooth feeling.
  3. Bisabolol – Floral scent, skin conditioner, reduces flaking and restores skin, skin soothing, anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial. Very good compound.
  4. Tocopheryl Acetate – Form of vitamin E, skin conditioner, anti-oxidant, can help with inflammation and moisturisation. Hero compound. See my article “Vitamins C & E – do they work in skin care?”
  5. Squalene – Moisturiser, replenishes skin’s fatty acids and ant-oxidants, keeps moisture from escaping the skin.
  6. Dimethyl Isosorbide – Can enhance skin lightening, anti-oxidants and other skin properties.
  7. Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract – Skin conditioner, anti-oxidant.
  8. Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Extract – Skin smoothing and soothing, moisturiser.
  9. Tocopherol – similar to vitamin E.

 

Ingredient negatives:

None.
Summary: This feels a bit too hydrating for oily skin and some say even for dry skin. It takes a long time to dry and leaves a strange feeling behind. It contains a lot of anti-oxidant molecules which makes it look almost better on the skin nutritional value than the other 3, but it is actually not needed as your moisturiser should supply these anyways.

 

Overall summary: In my opinion, out of the four new primers only the “Optical Illusion” and “Self-Adjusting” are worth a try. I suggest you try both and see which one works better for you. None of the products were horrendous but at the same time I can’t say that they were so good that I would recommend them either. Beauty is very personal though and maybe these work better for you. Let me know your experiences!

I am still mourning the death of the Brighten and Tighten one. Urban Decay, please bring it back!

 

I am not affiliated with any company or brand. These are my views and experiences.

 

This article is from www.bonds-of-beauty.com but you can also find me on:

Instagram @bondsofbeauty

Twitter @bondsofbeauty1

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/bondsofbeauty/

Bloglovin https://www.bloglovin.com/blogs/bonds-beautycom-18959593

Blogorama https://www.blogarama.com/blogging-blogs/1287212-bonds-beauty-blog/ 

WordPress https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/64442128

I am also part of Influenster as Bonds B.

3 responses to Urban Decay Primers – The Old vs the 4 New! Reviews, Ingredient Analyses and a Chemist’s Verdict.

  1. LUCIESEVIOUR says:

    This was such an interesting post!! Such a good insight to what is good for our skin or not, I never think about what I’m putting on my face when it comes to makeup, but skincare I try so hard. Doesn’t seem much point if I’m not looking after it all the time!! I have been wanting to buy the older type of primer from them for ages now, thank you for this helpful post!! Xxx

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s