Photo Finish More Than Primer Blemish Control Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment

by Smashbox  
$42 - 1 fl. oz.
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Makeup > Sensitive Skin Products > Foundation Primer
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True to its 100% accurate name, this foundation primer is "more than primer". A large part of the "more than" is the inclusion of anti-acne ingredient salicylic acid. Present in a 2% concentration formulated at pH to ensure exfoliation occurs, this is a great way to get the benefits of BHA (salicylic acid) while prepping skin for makeup.

The lightweight, silky lotion doesn't have the familiar serum-like texture many other primers, including Smashbox's, do. It sets to a soft matte finish and, thanks to its mix of silicones, forms a nice base on which to apply foundation. In short, this fragrance-free primer is ideal for oily or combination skin prone to breakouts.

Beyond the 2% salicylic acid, this also contains antioxidant vitamin E and a couple of soothing agents. The cinnamon extract (listed by its Latin name of Cinnamomum zelanicum) is slight cause for concern due to cinnamon's irritant potential when applied to skin, but the amount is likely too low to be problematic. All told, despite the higher price, this is a nice twist on primers—and the exfoliation plus blemish-busting from the salicylic acid is a nice bonus!

  • Preps skin for makeup as it fights breakouts and blackheads.
  • Smooth matte finish won't make oily skin feel greasy or slick.
  • Boosts skin with antioxidant vitamin E and soothing agents.
  • Fragrance-free.
  • If you're already using a good serum and BHA exfoliant each morning, you don't need this product, too.
A perfecting primer that treats breakouts, provides oil-free hydration, and keeps skin clearer over time. Photo Finish Primer contains two percent salicylic acid to combat even the toughest blemishes and keep skin looking camera-ready. The breathable formula can be layered under foundation without the worry of breakouts.
Active: Salicylic Acid 2% Other Ingredients: Water, Squalane, Dimethicone, Glycerin, Silica, Cetearyl Alcohol, Polyacrylamide, Tocopheryl, Acetate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Cinnamomum Zelanicum Bark Extract, Honey Extract/Mel/Extrait De Miel, Panthenol, Sarcosine, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Coco-Glucoside, Capryloyl Glycine, Sodium Hydroxide, Xanthan Gum, Laureth-7, Allyl Methacrylates Crosspolymer, Butylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Smashbox is 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. However, this seems to be a case where the proverbial apple didn't fall all that close to the tree. It is apparent that Dean and Davis are better at their respective careers as CEO and photographer, respectively, than at creating a cosmetics line. 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, many of the colors are too sheer to register on medium to dark skin tones, shiny products abound, and several of the complexion-enhancing products just don't look as natural on skin as they should. In fact, the foundations and concealers could use some updating; they haven't kept pace with what other makeup artistry lines are launching, and don't demonstrate much longevity under normal conditions, as in day-to-day casual makeup.

Realizing that celebrities sell products better than the product claims themselves, Smashbox steadily capitalizes on its ties to Hollywood and often mentions several famous faces who wear their products. Their counter brochures follow suit, tempting women to sit down with a Smashbox artist to get the star treatment. It's easy to get caught up in the hype, but as a comprehensive line Smashbox doesn't have what it takes to create A-list glamour, at least not if you're looking for cutting-edge textures and finishes.

For more information about Smashbox, now owned by Estee Lauder, call (888) 763-1361 or visit

Member Comments

Summary of Member Comments

  1. How would you rate the results? (4 = Best)

    2 / 4 Average
  2. Was this product a good value? (4 = Best)

    2 / 4 Average
  3. Would you recommend this product? (4 = Best)

    1 / 4 Poor
Page of 1
  1. Anonymous
    Reviewed on Friday, August 22, 2014
    • Results
      1 / 4
    • Value
      1 / 4
    • Recommend
      1 / 4
    • This product may look good in the lab, but I found it did nothing for my 44 year old acne prone skin. A total waste of money.

  2. Hannah A
    Reviewed on Tuesday, July 29, 2014
    • Value
      3 / 4
    • Recommend
      4 / 4
    • Results
      4 / 4
    Just what I was looking for
    • I was looking for an effective salicylic acid product that I could leave on my skin all day (rather than wash off like a cleanser) because benzoyl peroxide doesn't seem to suit. It wasn't my first choice but couldn't find other recommended products locally. I skipped moisturiser as I have somewhat oily skin. This stuff cleared up a nasty series of chin spots that had been hanging around for about a month in a DAY. I just wish it wasn't so expensive. I think I'll just use when I have a breakout.

  3. Cassie L
    Reviewed on Friday, May 02, 2014
    • Results
      2 / 4
    • Value
      2 / 4
    • Recommend
      1 / 4
    Thumbs down
    • Didn't do anything for my skin apart from make it worse. You really have to warm up the product before applying it to skin. If your like me and can't tolerate silicones, it isn't worth considering. After applying it felt heavy, and I had to put another primer ontop so my foundation didn't "stick" to certain areas. Not worth the money at all. Better off with a good anti acne product and a primer that you know you like. Big thumbs down from me

  4. Wahoonito Z.
    Reviewed on Saturday, April 12, 2014
    • Results
      1 / 4
    • Value
      2 / 4
    • Recommend
      1 / 4
    Balls up
    • Hum, as much as I love how it smooth the skin, it balls up with my moisturizer seriously (I tested it with PC shine free spf 30 and with Olay Complete SPF30. Horrible results.) It balls up even more with cream-to-powder foundations (I tested it with Tarte Full Coverage SPF15 and with RCMA cream foundation) To be fair, Tarte Full Coverage tends to have minor balls up if I do not apply it carefully, but when it means this primer, they ball up and fall out like nobody's business.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

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The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to helping you find the absolute best products for your skin, using research-based criteria to review beauty products from an honest, balanced perspective. Each member of the team was personally trained by Paula herself.

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