I don’t know a huge amount about makeup application. I know what makes a really great product, of course, but when it comes to tips and tricks for application, I’m just as wise as the next person. You would have thought that after many years in my job as a beauty editor, I would have absorbed an abundance of mastery from experts. But alas, there is truly only one makeup lesson that I have actually listened to, understood, and mastered—and it concerns skin prep.

Whenever I quiz makeup artists on the secret to a natural looking, seamless, glowing base, they always tell me that the secret lies in thorough ‘skin prep’. And for years, this advice annoyed me. What is skin prep, after all? I already spend great lengths of time in the morning tending to my skin before I apply my makeup, so why doesn’t my skin hit Zoe Kravitz or Hailey Bieber levels of glazed-doughnut glow? The truth, I have learned, is that the term ‘skin prep’ is basically code for primer.

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