Strengths: A unique Anti-Shine product that is a must-try if you have very oily skin; mostly good foundations with a neutral range of shades; improved powder eyeshadows; the great Photo Finish Lipstick; a lash primer that really makes a difference; well-constructed makeup brushes that cost less than the department-store competition.
Weaknesses: A small, mostly boring assortment of products priced higher than they should be; a couple of products contain irritants that have no benefit for skin; several lackluster makeup categories, including concealer, blush, eye pencils, and brow shaders; the Cream Eyeliner is a mistake if you expect any amount of longevity; several specialty products that should offer more for the money (and the one with sunscreen leaves skin vulnerable to UVA damage).
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 www.smashbox.com.