Facials oils have been firmly ensconced among cosmetics brands, and there's no shortage of makeup primer options on the market. With that in mind, it makes sense that a cosmetic company would combine the two into one product—which is exactly what Smashbox has done with its Photo Finish Primer Oil. There are aspects to love (especially if you have dry skin), but the inclusion of one iffy ingredient means this isn't the best option when it comes to primers.
Much like other face oils, Photo Finish Primer Oil comes in a clear plastic bottle with a dropper dispenser. Though the brand makes a point that this is the "first ever primer specially formulated in a lightweight, lustrous oil," there is nothing particular about this product that makes it a primer. It's just a face oil, which isn't a bad thing, it's just not as groundbreaking as Smashbox would have you believe.
The oil is lightweight and easy to apply, and helps add moisture that's best for normal to dry skin (those with combination to oily skin will find this too moisturizing). It absorbs quickly and leaves skin feeling smoother, with a slightly dewy finish. This does help provide a good canvas for makeup, and we found that it did make application easier; though it didn't make our makeup last any longer than it would have otherwise (nor did it decrease our makeup's wear time).
As for the ingredients, Smashbox includes a lot of beneficial non-irritating plant oils such as sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, argan oil, and rosehip oil, just to name a few. There's also a good amount of antioxidant vitamin E, though in order to get its full benefit you should store the container out of direct UV light (the clear packaging means the antioxidants will start to lose their potency with ongoing exposure).
The main reason this doesn't get a higher rating is because of the inclusion of lavender oil. Though it's not very high on the ingredient list, there is enough that it lends this product a distinct lavender smell that's apparent as soon as you open the container (though it dissipates quickly). Lavender oil, even in very small amounts, has the potential to cause skin irritation among other problems. See More Info for details on why lavender is an ingredient to avoid in skincare products.
Were it not for the lavender oil, Smashbox's Photo Finish Primer Oil would have earned a much higher rating. If you're interested in facial oils that skip the potential irritants (and can also be used as primers), see our list of Best Face Oils.
Lavender Oil: In-vitro research indicates that components of lavender, specifically linalool and linalyl acetate, can be cytotoxic, which means that topical application of as little a concentration as 0.25% causes cell death (Cell Proliferation, June 2004). This study was conducted on endothelial cells, which are cells that line blood pathways in the body and play a critical role in the inflammatory process of skin.
As linalool and linalyl acetate are both rapidly absorbed by skin and can be detected within blood cells in less than 20 minutes, endothelial cells are an ideal choice for such a test (Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, 1992). The results of this research also demonstrated that lavender has a damaging effect on fibroblasts, which are cells that produce collagen.
The fragrance constituents in lavender oil, linalool and linalyl acetate, oxidize when exposed to air, and in this process their potential for causing an allergic reaction is increased (Contact Dermatitis, 2008).
If you're wondering why lavender oil doesn't appear to be problematic for you, it's because research has demonstrated that you don't always need to see it or feel it happening for your skin to suffer damage (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2008).
Two interesting things about Smashbox are that its name refers to the early, accordion-style cameras and that Smashbox is first and foremost a Hollywood-based photography studio. The company's creators, Dean and Davis Factor, have their heritage in makeup—their great-grandfather was the legendary makeup artist Max Factor. The makeup, which debuted in 1996, began as a collection of trendy and fashion-forward colors coupled with a pleasingly neutral palette of foundations, concealers, and powders. Nowadays, there are exceptional options to choose from, but also some color products that fall short due to too sheer formulas or other issues noted in their respective reviews.
Where Smashbox has lived up to their Hollywood makeup pedigree is with a few standout formulas, including impressive lip products as well as excellent foundations, BB and CC cream options. Of course, the brand is also well-known for their range of makeup primers—whether that’s a necessary step is up for debate—but nevertheless they do offer a few products in this category that are worth considering.
For more information about Smashbox, now owned by Estee Lauder visit www.smashbox.com.
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