LET’S REVIEW: Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer

OMG where to start.  A makeup artist turned me on to Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation primer in Clear.  At first I was kind of wary about this, because I just thought this was a gimmick.  And primer to me up to this point was the stuff you put on the walls of your apartment just before you slapped on the paint.  The concept is about the same, prepping your facial skin (“the wall”) to take on the paint (“makeup/color”) evenly and flawlessly.  The trend towards primers has only grown not diminished, and I find this in my bag for when I go to special events.


Now I don’t use primer every day.  Primers are on the expensive side, and Smashbox is no exception.  ($36.00 U.S. for 1 fluid ounce) However, a little goes a long way and it does seem to temporarily blur the skin’s pores and even diminish the shine to the face a little bit.  The skin feels ultra flat smooth, almost like a canvas without the roughness of it, and makeup application glides on.

I apply this to my T-zone, cheeks, around the mouth area and chin.  I keep it away from the eyes and eye area.  What I find interesting about primers is the initial redness and a bit of tightening/tingling I get when I first apply it.  I’ve seen the same redness reaction, however temporary, show up on other people’s YT vlogs when they do primer how-to’s or trying different primers out.  This is not just Smashbox but others as well.

So what is in makeup primer?

When I type the question “What is the key ingredient in makeup primer?” first reference links to come up is good ol’ Wikipedia:

“There are different kinds of cosmetic primers such as foundation primer, eyelid primer, lip primer, and mascara primer.

A foundation primer may work like a moisturizer only different, or it may absorb oil with salicylic acid or aid in creating a less oily, more matte appearance.[1] It aids in applying the foundation more evenly and smoothly, and increases the longevity of the foundation. Some contain antioxidants such as A, C, and E, or other ingredients such as grape seed extract and green tea extract. There are water-based and silicon-based foundation primers. Ingredients may include cyclomethicone and dimethicone. Some primers do not contain preservative, oil or fragrance. Some may also have sun protection factor (SPF). Some foundation primers are tinted to even out or improve skin tone or color. Others give a pearlized finish to make the complexion more light reflective. There are also foundation primers which are mineral-based primers, which contain mica and silica.

Eyelid or eye shadow primers are similar, but made specifically for use near the eyes. An eyelid primer may help even the color of the lid and upper eye area, may reduce oiliness, may add shimmer, or inversely may mattify. Eye primers aid in the smooth application of eye shadow, prevent it from accumulating in eyelid creases, and improve its longevity. Eye shadow primers are applied to the eyelid and lower eye area prior to the application of eye shadow. They even out the skin tone of the eyelids hide eyelid veins, and smooth out the skin of the eyelids. Eye shadow primers help with the application of eye shadows. They intensify the color of the eye shadows and keep them from smearing or creasing by reducing the oiliness of the lids. The effect of eye shadow primers is not limited to eye shadows. They also work for eye liners and eye shadow bases.

Mascara primer is sometimes colorless. It usually thickens and/or lengthens the lashes before the application of mascara for a fuller finished look. It may also help keep mascara from smudging or flaking, and some claim to improve the health of the lashes.

Lip primers are intended to smooth the lips and help improve the application of lipstick or lip gloss, although exfoliating the lips is often recommended before applying. They also are intended to increase the longevity of lip color, and to prevent lipstick from “feathering”, that is, smearing past the lip vermilion, and especially from migrating into any fine lines around the lips.”

Some may scoff or turn their nose up to Wiki but this is fairly decent and straightforward in description and relaying information.

So what does this particular Smashbox primer version contain?  Let’s check it out from their website:

Formulated without Parabens, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Phthalates, Oil, Fragrance & Talc.


This is a silicone based product.  It’s claim on the bottle is that it’s oil-free and water based.   Dimethicone is considered safe and has a use for skin/makeup as a lotion or skin protectant.  Contains grape seed extract and several others with anti-oxidant or skin soothing properties.  The RETINYL PALMITATE is a derivative of retinol (Vitamin A).  This may be the cause of the initial redness for those “sensitive” to retinol may also get a reaction with retinyl palmitate.  Interesting!

ETHYLHEXYL SALICYLATE is an “organic compound” also noted as Salicylic Acid.  According to our friends at Wiki:

 * An ester formed by the condensation of a salicylic acid with 2-ethylhexanol and used in sunscreen


Ethylhexyl salicylate (also known as Octyl Slicylate) is an organic compound used as an ingredient in sunscreens and cosmetics to absorb UVB rays from the sun, according to Wikipedia. It is a colorless liquid with an oily consistency that often emits a mildly floral fragrance.

This would explain why although the bottle says “oil-free”, when I put the product on I would swear it had a petroleum based slickness to it.

TRISILOXANE (another silicon based ingredient) also handles a UVB protective capacity.  Not found in nature.  Okkkk….

Am I OK with these ingredients?   Having a hard time pronouncing some of these and then understanding the science of why it’s an organic versus….scientifically made? compound.

Is ignorance truly bliss in this matter?

I can choose whether or not to support the product and company, or choose how frequently I will expose myself to the product.



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