By Amalah

I have a question about the Smashbox Primer (because I know you haven’t talked about the stuff enough.)
Anyway, I don’t have the one with the special anti-aging (ageing?? whatever.) chemical…you know, the one that is kind of rosy colored. Mine is just the plain old clear-ish photo finish one. I really wanted to like it, but even if I let my moisturizer dry (like for 30 minutes even) it STILL beads up and gets all gunky. What am I doing wrong
here? I admit to using a foundation sponge and tonight just for shits and giggles I tried it with the foundation brush. It was much better, but I suspect that this is because it is 10 pm and I haven’t moisturized since this morning. Also maybe because I’m drinking wine and that always makes my skin suck up whatever is moist and anywhere within reach.

primer.jpgQuite honestly? It sounds like you have a bum bottle. In fact, I’m pretty sure of that, because what you’re decribing — beading up, gunky, not vanishing into your face — has happened to me. But ONLY when I’m using a really, really old bottle of the stuff.
The Smashbox Primer ain’t cheap, so I like to make sure I’ve exhausted EVERY. LAST. DROP. from my existing bottle before plunking down money for a replacement. After the pump stops working I unscrew the whole thing and scrape primer off of that for awhile. Sometimes I turn the bottle upside down and whack my palm a few dozen times to see if I can’t coax some out that way.
However, after doing this for awhile, the consistency of the primer changes. Too much air getting to it, maybe. Or it’s just too damn old. I don’t know, but like a lot of cosmetics, you have to know when to chuck it.
New primer has absolutely no bumps or texture. It’s like velvet. A distinctly silicone-y smoothness. I apply it with my hands (no brush or sponge) and it slides over my skin really easily, and basically my face feels the same as the primer: smooth and protected. (I also don’t wait until my moisturizer dries — I apply it almost instantly after using moisturizer — but I don’t think that should make the kind of difference you’re describing.) (Oh, and I don’t use very much — about half the amount of my moisturizer and foundation.)
Old primer gets these little bead-type things in it and goes on your face kind of slick and goopy. So my guess would be that the store you bought it from left a few bottles on the shelf too long, or perhaps the pump is faulty and is letting too much air into the bottle. (I recently bought a new bottle at Ulta and when I got home I discovered the bottle had been smashed to smithereens inside the box. So stuff happens, which is why God created exchange policies.)
If you bought it recently and saved your receipt, I would really encourage you to try and exchange it. Of course, there’s ALWAYS the chance (like there is with ANY cosmetic or product I recommend here), that the Smashbox just isn’t going to work for you. Maybe your skin doesn’t like a particular ingredient or something. I get a lot of good feedback about the Smashbox Primer from readers, so it DOES seem like it works for a lot of people, but hey, that certainly doesn’t mean we’re all going to love the same thing.
clarinsprimer.jpgYou could consider trying Sheryl‘s suggestion of the Clarins Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch primer instead. She’s used both and says the Clarins gives a smoother finish and covers lines better. I haven’t had the chance to try it out myself yet, but I know Sheryl wouldn’t lead us astray about such an important issue.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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    May 21, 2007 at 11:17 am

    I haven’t tried the Smashbox yet (because I’m cheap like that sometimes) but did pick up a bottle of MAC Prep+ Primer last week and so far so good. It goes on smooth, doesn’t bead up or get gunky – I like it, but if that changes I’ll definitely report in to Amalah. For the record, I have really, super-duper, extremely oily skin. I mean oily. Did I mention my skin is oily? And the MAC seems to work for me really well, to the point of actually drying me out a bit at the corners of my lips. And truthfully, I decided to use it after I found a blog entry from a professional makeup artist who works on real models and everything! who indicated the MAC is better for those of us with the oily skin.

  • jodifur

    May 21, 2007 at 1:12 pm

    Has anyone else noticed that the pump stops working but the bottle is still half full? It’s so annoying!

  • NewfieldBella

    May 21, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    You are not alone! This happens to me too. I have this system now — tap the bottle against my hand a couple of times per bottle side. The pump magically works after that. I’m almost down to the last few drops now.

  • NewfieldBella

    May 21, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    You are not alone! This happens to me too. I have this system now — tap the bottle against my hand a couple of times per bottle side. The pump magically works after that.

  • NewfieldBella

    May 21, 2007 at 2:27 pm

    You are not alone! This happens to me too. I have this system now — tap the bottle against my hand a couple of times per bottle side. The pump magically works after that.

  • linds

    May 21, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    I would guess the reason why it’s rolling off is because of the dimethicone. Moisturizer, foundation, or any makeup with dimethicone in conjunction with the Photofinish will bead right off. So check your labels.

  • Alison

    May 21, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    I just started using the Smashbox primer and I love it! I use the green-colored one, which is designed to even out redness in the skin. I haven’t had any problems with beading; the application is very smooth and it makes my skin look great, almost like I have no pores or something. And it really does subtly even out some of the red. I love this product!

  • *Otter *

    May 21, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    I’ve been through two bottles of the Smashbox Primer and I have had the exact problem. About two-thirds through the bottle, it’s all clumped in the bottom and won’t come out. I use it every day, so it’s not like it’s horribly aged or anything either. Here’s my theory: it’s like a slurpee, the first several slurps are sweet delicious yum-yum, but by the end, you are just left with the heinous ice dregs. (Heinous Ice Dregs would be a good name for a band.) Profound slurpee analogy aside, I don’t have a solution for this, other than fishing the remnants out with a bobby pin, which usually results in excessive profanity and the occasional early onset of cocktail hour, so I am going to call it a design flaw on the part of Smashbox (or marketing genius, depending on how you look at it, as it causes people to rebuy the product earlier than they should have to) and I’m going to try the Clarins thingy, since at least you can scoop that out and I’ll just have to find a new scapegoat for all the cursing and drinking around here. And also possibly for the run-on sentences too.

  • mskilgore

    May 21, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    Honestly, I bought the Smashbox on your recommendation (along with a small sample, to try it out) and I detested it. Obviously not your fault, but it made me break out LIKE WOAH and I did not change ANYTHING other than using the Smashbox. So I had to return it.
    OTOH, your recommendation about Philosophy and the Neutrogena sunblock were both awesome so — rock on!
    This weekend, I am back in my native land of New Jersey and will be visiting the Sephora in the Mall AT Short Hills and checking out the Ulta line. Yay! for Sephora!

  • Erin

    May 22, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    Here’s a tip for all you PhotoFinish users.
    The glass bottles contain .93 ounces and cost $36. The travel size plastic squeezy tubes, out of which it is much easier to get the stuff than that dumb pump, contain .5 ounces and cost $15.50 each.
    So! 2 squeeze bottles, which are easier to use contain 1 ounce total and cost $31 total, making it a much better deal, and also easier to use, than the glass bottles.

  • Suzy Q

    May 22, 2007 at 9:06 pm

    I am Internet Sheep. Specifically, I am Amalah-Brand Internet Sheep. Oh, I have no shame, so don’t feel sorry for me.
    I bought the Smashbox Primer with the super-duper Dermaxxxxyl crap because you, Amy, recommended it, and also I got the Dermaxyl type because I am old and I need all the damn help I can get.
    So. I tried it and at first, I was all Meh, maybe she was wrong. She is, after all, almost 20 damn years younger than me and her “wrinkles” and “fine lines” are probably nonexistent. But then, I realized after I used it for about a week that I really liked it! And then…my cats found the bottle and helpfully “hid” it for me in a really safe place (still undiscovered) so that my precious stash could not be stolen by robbers. Or something.
    And then I was faced with a decision. Do I buy more or do I forget it? Oh, you all know what I did. OF COURSE I bought more! And, I have a secret hidden stash that I got for 20% off at Ulta, as a backup in case the cats decide to get “helpful” again. Not that I would let that happen.
    Anyway, what was my point? Did have even HAVE a point? Buy some damn primer!

  • Cha

    May 24, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    I’ve used the Smashbox Primer and while enjoying the “slip”, I was kind of eh. Went to go buy the super-duper new pink one and got talked into the Trish McEvoy SP into buying that one. Something about how the silicone just makes the makeup slide off, so you look good for a short time and then it all slides off because Smashbox is for photo shoots, blah, blah blah. I am easily convinced.
    The Trish McEvoy is okay. More moisturizing.
    But now….I have found the Nars Primer with SPF and I am in love. More moisture, makes the makeup stick and gives me this velvety, smooth look, which I kind of inappropriately kept checking out in the mirror above the hospital sink whenever I washed my hands when a family member had surgery.
    My skin is hideously dry, and my pores are beginning to enlarge, but aren’t an issue. Yet. Same with lines.