Splurge vs Save: We compare the Tatcha Silk Canvas with the elf Poreless Putty Primer

If you watch YouTube makeup tutorials, you may have seen that many American beauty gurus use the Tatcha The Silk Canvas Filter Finish Protective Primer (from Lannel Boutique). I’ve definitely been curious about whether the claims are true, but it isn’t really something that’s easy to buy on a whim. Costing over P1000 for just 7g, this product is not your ordinary primer - it features pressed silk, which was designed to be as lightweight, skin-like, and smooth of a barrier as possible. As a professional makeup artist, I definitely understand the value of investing in quality products, especially face bases, but the big claims are matched by a hefty price tag. So, is Tatcha truly worth it or can you get the same effect with a cheaper product? Let’s find out!

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If Tatcha’s price tag is out of your budget, rumor has it that the elf Poreless Putty Primer performs just as well. And it’s just P680 for 21g - that’s a cheaper price for 3x Tatcha’s size! It is a similar priming product and also meant for all skin types, designed to smooth over skin imperfections and make foundation application easier. Still not sure how to use primers? Check out our primer on primers here.

At a glance, these two primers look exactly alike. They are both light pink, shiny waxes set in a jar. Even the texture feels completely the same: they are both firm masses that scrape out more solid than creamy, but melt on the skin upon application. Spoiler alert: this is where the similarities end! I alternated usage of both primers over four days to establish a better, tighter comparison between the two.

For all trials, I used the Kat Von D Lock-It Foundation in Light 45 Warm (P2,450 for 30ml at SephoraPH) which I know a lot of people love but has been impossible for me to use! The foundation has an extremely thick texture that just cracks on my dry skin, no matter what skincare prep I do. This is the wrong-est foundation texture for me, and so you will still notice texture in my photos. I wanted to see if the primers can finally make this foundation work for me. If we’re putting things to the test, why not go all out, right?

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I used the Tatcha The Silk Canvas Filter Finish Protective Primer (P1,371 at Lannel Boutique) for Days 1 and 3. I wanted to try it at least twice to ensure that the performance was consistent. Well, it was, and I documented it to be sure I wasn’t getting carried away in trying to justify the price tag.

Here is where I’m glad I did alternate trials. At first, I thought the two finishes were exactly the same level of velvet-blur, but on the second Tatcha trial I noticed that it was slightly more luminous than elf’s formula. This is a win for dry-skinned people like me, who need that additional glow to look healthy.

The Tatcha website suggests using a grain of rice-sized amount, but there was a picture showing what looked more like ¼ of a teaspoon. I first took a real rice-sized amount, and massaged that onto my skin but found it was not enough to cover my whole face. I ended up using an amount about the size of 5 grains of cooked rice.

Tatcha - fresh application

Tatcha - fresh application

Tatcha - after 4 hours of wear

Tatcha - after 4 hours of wear

I was immediately wowed once I started applying the foundation. There was a huge and completely unimagined improvement in the ease of application. I used to need a little oil to make the KVD foundation somewhat usable, but I was now able to brush it thinly and evenly across my face. There were no holes forming or product clumping as I previously experienced. It was actually applying like ordinary liquid foundation, instead of half-dried paint!

To clarify, Tatcha does not claim to make your foundation last longer but I was able to wear it for a total of 4 hours before it started breaking on my nose pores and cheek cracks. That’s still so much better than my previous record of less than one hour. The primer did not address the bumpy, dry texture on my cheeks, but it helped to blur my pores. Tatcha also claims to have anti-aging properties through Hadasei-3™, a trinity of Japanese superfoods green tea, rice and algae.

For Days 2 and 4, I tried the elf Poreless Putty Primer (P680 at Lannel Boutique). Honestly, I was expecting that these two primers to act exactly the same because they looked so much alike and even had the same texture when I touch it. When I finally tried elf on my face though, I noticed that it felt a lot oilier but also looked more mattifying. It also takes longer to set than Tatcha does - I usually wait for 30 seconds for Tatcha to stop feeling tacky while elf takes a whole minute. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and the effect is much more matte and diffused. If you have bigger pores or lots of skin texture, you’ll love the effect elf has on the skin! 

I used the same foundation and prepped with the exact same skincare for the elf test. Having had a great experience with Tatcha, I was disappointed that elf didn’t allow the KVD foundation to glide on as easily. It was an improvement over not using either of the two primers, but I still had to make a lot of effort to fill in holes and smooth over clumps and streaks.

elf - freshly applied

elf - freshly applied

elf - after an hour of wear

elf - after an hour of wear

I also got to wear the foundation for only an hour before it broke apart on the same places. Wearing the elf primer made me crazy oily, too! I’ve had this happen before with certain silicone formulations – it is a case-to-case basis. In fact, I got so oily that I absent-mindedly blotted before taking a photo but you can see that there are pronounced holes on the cheek and nose area.

The elf primer did not help wear time at all, and barely improved foundation application. It made my skin super oily, which is an effect that may be unique to me. What I did like is that it blurred my texture pretty well, even better than Tatcha did.

After the second elf trial gave similarly disappointing results, I began to think the oily formulation of the primer was responsible for reducing the appearance of my skin texture. Just as I was previously doing with a bit of face oil, the KVD foundation applies better when my skin is a little slick. However, too much oil makes the foundation slip away and result in gaps, which is what kept happening to me despite using half the amount of primer the next day.

So, which is the better primer? There’s no clear answer because you can’t compare apples and oranges. Tatcha was really amazing at helping a hopeless foundation apply smoothly, while elf made all my rough skin texture look smoother. The deal breaker is that elf completely fell apart under my foundation, which is a huge no-no for primers. Tatcha wins this battle for me!

Product photography by Nicole Quindara


Tatcha The Silk Canvas Filter Finish Protective Primer ingredients:

Cyclopentasiloxane, Aqua/Water/Eau, Glycerin, Saccharomyces/Camellia Sinensis Leaf/Cladosiphon Okamuranus/Rice Ferment Filtrate*, Hdi/Trimethylol Hexyllactone Crosspolymer, Propanediol, Dimethicone, Ceresin, Titanium Dioxide, Squalane, Dimethicone/Peg-10/15 Crosspolymer, Sericin, Hydrolyzed Silk, Silk Powder, Caesalpinia Spinosa Fruit Extract, Kappaphycus Alvarezii Extract, Yeast Extract, Distearyldimonium Chloride, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Zinc Stearate, Aluminum Hydroxide, Stearic Acid, Ethylhexylglycerin, Peg/Ppg-18/18 Dimethicone, Peg-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, Polyglyceryl-2 Diisostearate, Biosaccharide Gum-4, Disodium Edta, Silica, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Parfum/Fragrance, Isopropyl Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Mica (Ci 77019), Tin Oxide (Ci 77861), Iron Oxide (Ci 77491)


elf Poreless Putty Primer ingredients:

Water (Aqua), Cyclopentasiloxane, Ceresin, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, HDI/Trimethylol Hexyllactone Crosspolymer, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Propylene Glycol, Lauryl PEG-10 Tris(trimethylsiloxy)silylethyl Dimethicone, Sodium Chloride, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract , Squalane, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Wax, Dimethicone/PEG-10/15 Crosspolymer, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Silica, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Talc, Butylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol MAY CONTAIN: Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499)