Smashbox primer review – does it live up to the hype?

WE can't be the only one that has dreamt of our make-up looking as flawlessly airbrushed in real life as it does with Instagram filters – if you don't relate, you're probably lying.

Well, the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer is apparently the genie in a bottle here to make our dream a reality. It helps smooth your complexion and blurs your flaws, according to Smashbox. Let's put those promises to the test…

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  • Smashbox Photo Finish Super Light Smooth & Blur Primer, £16 from CultBeauty – buy here


  • Lightweight so can be used well with both natural and heavy make-up looks
  • Evens out complexion
  • Only need to use a small amount for results
  • Helps make-up stay on all day
  • Affordable


  • Slightly too matte for dry skin types
  • No dramatic glow

Which Smashbox primer is best?

Smashbox have a primer range to be proud of, boasting a grand total of around 12 primers, each made to meet different needs.

You'll have likely heard of their award-winning Original Soon & Blur Photo Finish Primer which is a best-seller for being a no-nonsense primer which leaves you with a blemish-free base for your make-up, evening out your skin tone.

However Smashbox's Photo Finish Vitamin Glow Primer is up there with their best-of-the-best-sellers, combining vitamins B, C and E to give you a refreshed glow that'll shine through your make-up.

Out of their 12 primers, we tested out the Photo Finish Super Light Smooth & Blur Primer as a more lightweight version of the OG. The texture isn't thick but it still manages to give you a really good level of hydration, giving you an evened out skin tone that make-up wonderfully enhances.

We have decided that the Photo Finish super Light Smooth & Blur Primer will work wonders if you have oily or acne-prone skin, as it is a really light, matte-effect primer that steers clear of giving you a high-shine glow.

What does Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Do?

The Photo Finish Primer was originally created by Smashbox to reduce the amount of time spent having to touch up beauty shots, by giving models a 'Photo Finish' before the camera had even got going.

In a soft-gel formula, Smashbox's transparent primer promises that soft-focus finish, as though your skin has been airbrushed IRL –  it acts as a base for you to apply your make-up, ensuring that it stays in place on your face for longer without going patchy.

Although, you can also wear primer by itself on no-makeup days, just to give yourself a more even complexion.

As it's water-based, the Photo Finish Primer is perfect for acne-prone or oily skin types, giving you a really clean finish that isn't high-shine or over-hydrating like some other primers on the market.

Does primer fill in wrinkles?

There are loads of primers which have different purposes, with many plumping and firming collagen primers made specifically to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

The best primers stop foundation or concealer from setting inside the lines on your face, making them less visible throughout the day – if that's filling in wrinkles, then yes, they do something like that.

If you're trying to find a primer that will fill your wrinkles, you're going to need a lightweight yet tightening formula.

How do I choose a primer?

Every primer is designed for a specific skin type. For example, if your skin is dry, you'll want to avoid primers with a matte finish or ones that are too lightweight to give you a deep hydration.

Dry skin works best with thicker, more moisturising products, particularly those which give you an illuminating finish.

Oily skin? Matte will be your match. You'll want a smoothing, water-based or silicone-based primer for the best results.

Aside from your skin-type, choosing a primer all really depends on what you want out of them, because some act as a smoothing canvas whereas others give you that golden, high-shine glow. Ask yourself, do you want an evened-out base complexion or a sparkling fresh-faced shine?

Does Smashbox primer clog pores?

Too much of anything becomes a bad thing. Of course, if you pile on the Smashbox's Photo Finish primer, it can clog your pores because it is effective enough used in small doses.

We tested it out using just three small pea-sized amounts on our forehead and both cheeks which was more than enough to give us a smooth base for our make-up.

The Super Light Photo Finish primer doesn't clog your pores at all because it is so airy and oil-free, giving you a fresh face all day without feeling as though you have make-up caked on your face turning crusty.

Is primer applied before or after moisturiser?

Once you have cleansed your face and applied your moisturiser, the next step is putting on primer. Always before your make-up – you should see it as a base coat that's there to keep your foundation in place and looking fabulous.

Some primers are so hydrating that they can double as a moisturiser which is the only scenario when you would apply it straight after cleansing, if you're not planning on using any other face creams.

Where can I buy Smashbox primer?

The beauty of shopping for cult favourites is that they're available absolutely everywhere. From FeelUnique to CultBeauty and Boots, you're spoilt for choice when it comes to shopping Smashbox's Photo Finish primer.

Here's where to find it:

  1. Photo Finish Super Light Smooth & Blur Primer 12ml, £16 from Cult Beauty – buy here
  2. Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer Light 30ml, £25.20 from Boots – buy here
  3. Smashbox Photo Finish Primer – Super Light, £21.98 from Amazon – buy here
  4. Smashbox Photo Finish Super Light Smooth and Blur Primer 12ml, £16 from LookFantastic – buy here
  5. Smashbox Cosmetics Photo Finish Super Light Foundation Primer, £28 from FeelUnique – buy here

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