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Smashbox Looks to Propel Ahead, Reformulating Its Hero Products for Today’s Makeup Lover

“Part of what we want to do is, first of all, debunk the myth that primers aren't good for your skin,” said Smashbox president Glenn Evans. 

Smashbox has reimagined its hero product: the primer.

Leaning into skinification — incorporating skin care ingredients into cosmetics — the brand has introduced the “Photo Finish Silkscreen Primers,” four new products in the category: “illuminate,” “hydrate,” “mattify” and “correct,” each of which targets a skin care need.

All, at $39 each, are formulated with a “silkscreen complex.”

“It provides what we like to call a lightweight breathable veil for the skin,” said Smashbox president Glenn Evans.

“It’s a blend of ingredients,” he explained. “It has antioxidants in it. It has hyaluronic acid included in it. It has probiotic extract included in it and vitamins and algae. All together that helps nourish and defend the skin.”

It’s a proprietary complex that also protects against environmental aggressors like pollution and blue light, he added.

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“Illuminate,” for a glow, is made with vitamin C, passionfruit and has finely milled pearls for brightening; “hydrate” has triple hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, “mattify,” which targets oil, includes witch hazel, salicylic acid and zinc, and “correct,” to counteract redness, incorporates rose and mushroom.

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Available now, rollout continues through April, when the brand will introduce its “Photo Finish Silkscreen Revitalize 8-in-1 Primer Essence” — a spray with the “silkscreen complex” — on April 4.

“Part of what we want to do is, first of all, debunk the myth that primers aren’t good for your skin,” said Evans. “We start from that, and then we talk about protection. And then we talk about tailoring the formulas for a particular skin concern.”

In line with the brand’s original primer — the “Photo Finish Smooth & Blur,” developed in the ’90s — the products are created as a base for makeup to easily glide on and have long wear.

“We have an assortment in our current offering that these primers are replacing,” continued Evans. “What’s really different here is that we brought a completely new level of skin care technology to these primers.”

The brand, a leader in the primer category, is bringing newness to the product with the technology while honoring the brand DNA.

“We really put primers on the map as a brand,” said Evans. “We like to say we invented primers.”

Smashbox Looks to Propel Ahead, Reformulating
The “Photo Finish Silkscreen Revitalize 8-in-1 Primer Essence,” out on April 4. Courtesy of Smashbox

Adjusting to a new, digital-first industry, while catering to the increasingly educated consumer, Smashbox has been looking to advance its product offerings. (They’ve also introduced the $39 “Halo Healthy Glow Tinted Moisturizer,” available in 12 shades with SPF 25, made with niacinamide and hyaluronic acid for dewy coverage.)

It was a no-brainer to start with its hero category.

“It’s one of the largest launches in the history of the brand,” revealed Evans. “It’s quite a statement to say that. Expectations are high.”

The Photo Finish primer is the number-one cruelty-free face primer in the U.S., he added: “Our Halo tinted moisturizer is the top 10 in North America, and it has a ranking position in a number of key markets. And then we also have the number-one position in the highlighters category with Smashbox Hearts Becca.”

It was in 2016 that Estée Lauder Companies, Inc. — which owns MAC Cosmetics, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, Two Faced, Clinique and Tom Ford, among other brands — added Becca Cosmetics to the portfolio, positioning the brand as part of Smashbox. Smashbox Hearts Becca, launched exclusively in North America in October 2021, will be available globally in August.

Founded in 1996 in Los Angeles by photographer Davis Factor and brother Dean, great-grandsons of Hollywood makeup artist Max Factor, the makeup brand was born in the studio, put to the test by industry experts, makeup artist and photographers.

“We talk about the studio as being the source of expertise,” said Evans.

When it comes to marketing, the brand (which has been cruelty-free from Day One and is working to become entirely vegan) is putting its resources in digital platforms through both organic and paid social media. And to serve the consumer online, they’ve introduced new services like “virtual try-ons,” as well as filters, and revamped the Smashbox site with new content and imagery. The same was applied IRL, with the brand investing in new visual merchandising in stores.

“In key retail partners, we’ve really revamped the look and feel everywhere, across all consumer touchpoints, from social to in-store,” said Evans. “As stores have reopened and consumers have been coming back into stores, we see our brick-and-mortar business performing quite strongly. With certain of our retail partners, we’re really seeing the brand perform well.”

Declining to share financials, the executive noted Sephora at Kohl’s and Ulta Beauty at Target as important channels.

“Those are two that I would specifically mention, because they’re new, they’re exciting,” said Evans. “They’re something new to the marketplace. Both retailers, I believe, should attract new consumers.”

According to Maria Salcedo, senior vice president of merchandising at Ulta Beauty, the retailer has “a really strong partnership with Smashbox, and Smashbox plays a very distinctive role within our assortment…During the pandemic, we’ve seen a shift from what was traditionally more of a full-coverage look to more of a sheer coverage with a lot of skin care benefits.”