Smashbox Photo Finish 24 Hour Shadow Primer Review + Test

16 Jun

What This Is About
This is a review and test of Smashbox’s Photo Finish 24 Hour Shadow Primer. Because you are reading this I think it’s safe to assume that you know that a lot of cosmetics companies make claims about “extended wear” or “long wear” and promise performance along the lines of, “this will make your makeup stick like gum-in-hair until you want to take it off.” I will be testing the Smashbox primer for 24 hours and reviewing how it performs with various eyeshadows. I finally got off my lazy butt to write about this product now because I’m getting ready to re-purchase it. I don’t sing from the rooftops about this product but it is the best I’ve tried so far. I only write about stuff within a month if i love it and think that the world must know about it as soon as possible.That being said,  if something is good enough for a repurchase, it deserves a thorough review.

This post  also contains bits of frustrated venting and a mini lesson about product preservation.

At the very end, I will however be comparing this primer’s performance against the performance of two others – Urban Decay’s Primer Potion in Sin – and bareMineral’s Prime Time Eyelid Primer. Since taking organic chemistry, I have been reading ingredients lists more closely and realizing, “oh hey! I can draw the chemical structures for more than half of the shit on here!” or “!!! I know what chemical properties this has and what it might be doing in this product” …. I have no life. Will i be going through all of the ingredients? Oh hells no. I”m not THAT bored. Anyhow for those of you who don’t give a crap about ingredient lists (though you really should) the actual review starts now.

First Look
My box is a little beat up because it was rolling around and getting squished in my bag all day before i finally got to photographing it.

Ingredients, Front, Claims

Ingredients, Front, Claims

The whole tube is a little over 4 inches long and relatively simplistic silvery grey with printed black text. The plastic cap is nice and solid. It makes a satisfying clicks and clacks when i knock it against hard surfaces. I thought the cap was ceramic at first because it felt cool on my fingertips whenever i picked it up and sounded like a ceramic bead when bounced on my table top. However, when i bit it to check, my incisors left dents in the cap. First lesson learned: don’t bite the packaging.

Le Tube.

Size Comparison

I can stand the tube up with out it tipping over at the slightest disturbance which is nice. The tube holding the product is like a toothpaste tube: it keeps its shape when squeezed, a property that i really, really like. It might be annoying for some because the tube gets deformed and ugly if you squeeze it from the middle, but I’m one of those people that always squeezes toothpaste from the crimped side to ensure that I get ALL the product out in the end. By the way, that pictures was take moooonths ago when it was still new, hue.
Another reason why this shape memory is good news: It prevents air from flowing back into the tube and making the product inside thicken/change/spoil quicker! Having air get in is horrible for the shelf life of your product. Have you ever noticed how your jam/marmalade/peanut butter/whatever goes bad faster if you scoop out deep chunks instead of  scraping off the top layer to eat? That’s because in the process of carving out chasms of stuff to eat, you create lots of surface area. Air and microbes then have lots of real-estate on which they can settle on and react, which makes your product go bad faster. In the case of the Urban Decay Primer Potion plastic squeeze tube packaging, lots of people were finding that their product dried up super fast or spoiled before they could use it all up. Why? Because the packaging returned to its previous shape, sucking air in. That air altered the product’s properties. Here’s a crude diagram:

Non-shape-memory tube. (btw, I don't know the actual term for this)

Non-shape-memory tube. (btw, I don’t know the actual term for this)

The great thing about toothpaste-like tubes that memorize shape is that there is very little surface area exposed to react with the air. What DOES get exposed is used up the next time you consume the product like so:

Shape-Memorizing Tube

Shape-Memorizing Tube

And ugh…. don’t even get me started on how bad doe foot applicators and mascaras are. That’s for another dedicated post.

The product inside is a thick, light flesh-colored paste that is not unlike soft wax or very thick hand cream. You have to squeeze a little bit out and roll it between your fingertips to warm it up before you can apply it in a thin layer. It has that classic dimethicone smell of any face or eye primer. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go sniff a few primers. Just try not to look too shady while doing so.

This primer is – for the most part –  completely clear once blended out. It does leaves a demi-satin shine on the skin even after it has set/dry for 60 seconds. If you apply only a thin layer as directed, this primer shouldn’t be too much of an issue since it isn’t actually pigmented. I demonstrate this on the tannest part of me: the back of my hand and my lighter inner forearm below:

Back of my hand... is still fairly light

Back of my hand… is still fairly light



What You Get 
You get a 0.41 oz for $20. That’s $48.78/oz which is not bad at all. Such a large amount should last quite a while considering how very little you need.

This is all i need to cover both eyelids.

In comparison:
BareMinerals’s Prime Time Eyeline Primer is $18 for 0.1 oz or $180/oz.
Nar’s Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base is 0.26 for $25 or $96.15/oz.
Benefit’s Stay Don’t Stray is $26 for 0.33 oz or $78.79/oz
Too Faced Shadow Insurance costs $20 for 0.35 oz of product, or $57.14/oz
UD Primer Potion in Original/Various Colors costs $20 for 0.37 oz or $54.05/oz.
Inglot Eye Makeup Base is a 0.19 oz for $10 or $52.63/oz
Tarte Clean Slate 360 Creaseless 12 Hour Soothing Eye Primer is $19 for 0.39 oz or $48.72/oz.
^(fucking hell that’s a mouthful. Stop it Tarte)

Claims As Taken From the Smashbox Website
A studio-tested, life-proven shadow primer that locks on more vibrant color for a full 24 hours!

We tested it and proved that it truly lasts in real life for a full 24 hours-whether you’re at an A.M. yoga class or after-hours drinks.JUST THE FACTS:
·    Sweat & humidity-resistant
·    Locks on color for 24 hours
·    No fading, creasing or smudging
·    More vibrant color-instantly!HOW TO USE IT:
Apply a thin layer to bare lids. Wait 30 seconds, then apply shadow.
Side note: On the box packaging, it recommends that you wait 60 seconds for it to set before applying shadow over it so that’s what i did for my test.
For normal everyday eyeshadow i like it a lot because it does the job well enough. It’s not super exciting because I only get excited about shiny or colorful stuff. With this primer under most eyeshadows, i never get creasing or transfer. Ever. Even with my oily lids after 18 hours (the longest i’ve had this + eyeshadow on my eyes). of course, the quality of your eyeshadow is also important to factor in.
Eyeshadow applied over this primer does take on a dry looking texture after, i want to say, 9 hours or so. It no longer looks as smooth as it did when it was first applied. Wrinkles appear, as well as crocodile textured patches but it’s nothing tragic as long as someone doesn’t go nose-to-nose with me to get a good look. Even with the texture, wear never feels heavy, tight or in anyway uncomfortable.

It is important to note that this primer does not play nicely with cream shadows at all. I tried using Inglot’s AMC Gel Liner, Maybelline’s Color Tattoo and MUFE Aqua cream over it. Nopenopenope. The creams refused to blend over this primer. They would create an uncomfortable dragging sensation. Worse, they went on as raggedly patches with uneven color. However, this primer is good for reviving dried/set cream eye shadow. It can also be applied over cream eyeshadows (applied to bare eyelids) as sort of a mixing medium to facilitate blending as long as both the cream shadows are both silicone based.


The primer does zip for holding onto glitter or micro glitter so expect shiny particles to be gone by normal time. Shimmer or frost is retained quite well. My satin/frost/metallic/smooth shine eyeshadows stay shiny until i take them off but they start looking more like crumpled aluminum foil rather than a fresh shiny sheet after some time. Fading or loss of color intensity occurs within 8 hours with most mediocre eyeshadows. My good shadows start noticably fading after 10 hours. My shadows from the Electric Palette were still quite vibrant at the 10 hour mark but started losing their  POW brightness slowly but steadily after that mark and turned into more muted versions of their former neon selves. MUFE artist shadows are the exception. Those shadows + this primer = bulletproof until you take them off with a oil remover.
There are a few crappy eyeshadows i have that just fade away before the 6 hour mark but those are my unsalvageable shadows that i tried for the shits and giggles. However, NARS’s dual intensity eyeshadow (i tried one in Subra) is not compatible with this primer. It is the only thing i’ve tried that transfers above my crease when i have this primer on underneath.
I don’t notice any significant improvement in blending ability of eyeshadows when they are applied over this primer (any improvement that i think there is might just be my mind playing tricks on me) but i am able to build the color to opacity more easily. The layer of primer does “grab” and hold color better. I can usually get away with using less of my base/all over color. With very powdery soft products, i still get speckles of fall out. It’s not a tacky base by any stretch of the imagination.
Even with my strongest colors, I don’t not experience any skin staining when i go to remove my makeup. There are several pink and purple shadows notorious staining but with this primer as a barrier between the skin and the product, I’ve never had that happen.

24 Hour Test
I’m not crazy dedicated enough to wear anything on my eyelids for 24 hours (I NEED to wash my face) so I did the next best thing: I wore armshadow for 24 hours. For 24+ hours I had crazy colored warpaint striped along the inside of my right forearm. And yes, I did get a few raised eyebrows and weird looks from strangers.

Though my inner forearms are no where near as oily as my lids (they are’t oily at all thank goodness), they do rub against things all day long. I purposely chose to swatch on the inside of my right arm as opposed to my left arm as i normally do. The reason for that? My right arm is generally more active throughout the day. When I’m moving my computer mouse around or taking notes, the underside of my forearm is sliding around, sometimes grazing the table top. I surmised that all the friction should be an adequate simulation for blinking all day long.

During the 24 hours testing period I was mostly inside air-conditioned classrooms.I didn’t go clubbing or do anything crazy that involved sweating so i went for a gentle 1-hour swim instead (okay it was more like lounging in a pool). It was followed by a steaming shower in which I scrubbed my self  with soap everywhere BUT my inner forearm (because that would have washed everything off for sure). The primer doesn’t claim to be water-poof but screw it. If this stuff is going to make such a bold claim it had better be damn near bullet-proof and lifeproof. Though to be honest, deep down somewhere in my heart, I wanted it to fail because the claim is so outrageously bold. How many times have you or I picked up a “long wear” product only to have it pull a vanishing act 4 hours later? Too many to count. Negative note aside, one of the 6 principles of scientific thinking states that, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof,” and 24 hour wear is a pretty extraordinary claim. Let’s see if this primer lives up to it.

I used several different brands of eyeshadow in various colors (listed below) in this test to see whether or not Smashbox’s primer is compatible with eyeshadows other than Smashbox’s own line of Photo Op Eyesahdows. After all, It would be a total waste of money if the primer only worked its magic with Smashbox eyeshadows. Urban Decays claims that its eyeshadows are specifically formulated to work best with UD Primer Potion but i have yet to meet anyone who uses it exclusively. I wanted to see if Smashbox too had somehow formulated their shadows to work best with their own primer.

Eyeshadows Used:
Blacktop – from Smashbox On the Rocks Photo Op Shadow Palette
Diamond Shadow #308 (Night Blue) – from Makeup Forever
Bourbon – also from Smashbox On the Rocks Photo Op Shadow Palette 
Woodstock – from Urban Decay
AMC Pure Pigment Eyeshadow #85 – from Inglot
Imagine – from bareMinerals Ready 4.0 Eyeshadow Quad “The Happy Place”
Standing O – from bareMinerals 2.0 Eyeshadow Duo “The Grand Finale”
Nylon – from MAC
Aspen Summit – from Sephora Colorful Mono Eyeshadow (discontinued – deluxe sample from the dawn of the dinosaurs)

Setting Up The Test
First, I drew a line down my arm with Nar’s Larger than Life Eyeliner in Via Veneto (black) and waited 2 minutes for it to set completely. I then smeared/blended a glob of Smashbox’s 24 Hour Primer down the right side and as precisely as i could. After waiting 60 seconds for the primer to set (as recommended on the packaging) I swiped each color a total of 4 times: twice on the left side and twice on the right side. I took whatever was left on my finger and blended the two patches together across the black line resulting in my arm looking like this: 

At the beginning.

At the beginning.

Smashbox’s primer did intensify color by a smidgen. This effect is more evident with lighter colors. To be honest, on the eye, this difference would not be noticeable. It does help shimmer and glitter hold on better though.   I picked Blacktop for this test because it has silver glitter that falls out almost immediately after application. The primer side retained about twice as much glitter as the non primer side is. It’s not really evident in the picture because my camera is horrible, but trust me, it’s there. Bourbon also has some very fine microshimmer that stuck better to the primed side. The difference wasn’t as drastic as blacktop. If you look closely, you will see that the left side looks almost matte while the right side (with primer) has a shiny finish.

*Feb. Edit: My test had a flaw. I didn’t include nude shadows because I was afraid that they wouldn’t photograph well and that I wouldn’t be able to tell if they faded or not. I’m too lazy to run another huge swatch test so I’l just tell you the results. In addition to increasing wear time, this primer does help the color payoff of light color nudes in general. It also boosts the intensity of Lancome 5-Pan Eyeshadow Palette (and helps the glitter to stick much better), Estee Lauder Pure Color Eyeshadows Gift Palettes benefit a fuck ton (as they do over any primer) as well as any pastels or “buildable” eyeshadows.

Close Up: Woodstock, Bourbon, #308, Blacktop

Close Up: Woodstock, Bourbon, #308, Blacktop (primer bottom)

Close Up: Aspen Summit, #85

Close Up: Aspen Summit, Nylon, Standing O, Imagine, #85 (primer bottom)

The primer blends out clear so it does not alter the color of your shadows. As you can see in the pictures above, the primer forms a pretty good base for the eye shadow to adhere to. The black liner can still be seen through the shadow, so this primer does not perform miracles in the opacity department.

24.14 hours, one swim, one shower and one night of tossing and turning later I’m left with this:

24 Hours on my arm later.....

24 Hours on my arm later…..

Close Up: Woodstock, Bourbon, #308, Blacktop

Close Up: Woodstock, Bourbon, #308, Blacktop


Close Up (After): Aspen Summit, Nylon, Standing O, Imagine, #85

The results are quite clear. This skeptic has to give it to them. Smashbox claims that this primer “locks on more vibrant color for a full 24 hours,” and the primer delivers on that claim for most of the shadows tested with the exception of Aspen Summit. Aspen performed shittily on both sides (no wonder it was discontinued) so I’m just going to chalk the poor performance on an inferior formula.

The strong colors – pink, orange, and blue – still have a respectable visibility. You can tell what color the product is supposed to be. Enough of the product remains visible, even over the black line.  Smashbox doesn’t specifically claim that this primer will keep your eye makeup immaculate so i don’t get to gleefully announce mythbusted on the 24 hour claim because the color is still more vibrant than over bare skin. It also doesn’t claim to do anything for micro glitter. All the colors with micro glitter pretty much turned matte, though the color base is still relatively strong. Overall, this primer doesn’t seem to perform better for one brand or another, but Smashbox doesn’t make such a claim anyways

Summary of Thoughts
This is a great primer value wise and pretty good performance wise. My bias may or may not have also been positively skewed because I really approve of the packaging. 8 months later i still have a quarter of the tube left so like i said, it lasts quite a long time.

There is no way i would trust this to hold my eyeshadow for 24 hours but it is trustworthy enough to babysit my shadows for a long day. They emerge mostly unscathed.

It’s great enough that i will re-purchase (during a sale or discount would be even better). I may stray to other primer to test them out, but for the most part I will use this one as my go-to.

If you wish to buy the Photo Finish 24 Hour Shadow Primer, it is widely available in the United States for $20 at the following locations:

  • Smashbox Website (free shipping all the time)
  • Sephora Stores or Sephora Website
  • Ulta Stores or Ulta Website
  • Nordstrom Counters or Nordy Website (free shipping all the time)

I know Ulta likes to feature this as a deluxe GWP sample so keep an eye out for that.
If you are new to Smashbox, this primer is included (0.14z) in a Try It Kit ($18) that contains a few nice things.

Bonus Torture Test
Okay, so we know this PF24 pretty great compared to bare skin. But then again, putting a shadow over just about any base improves eyeshadow performance. How does it stack up against other primers? Here’s a test of PF24 against Sin UDPP and BareMinerals’ Prime Time Eyelid Primer. Why these two? Sin is, according to Robyn‘s UD primer test, the best of the Urban Decay Primers. Prime Time? … I just have it on hand. It’s really meh, but i digress.

Left to Right: Prime Time, Sin, PF24

Left to Right: Prime Time, Sin, PF24


bM’s Prime Time (B), Control Bare Skin(C), Smashbox PF 24 (S), Urban Decay Sin (U) with two swipes of eyeshadow over it.

I choose the following eye-shadows for this test. All shadow swatches are swiped twice.

  • Standing O from BareMinerals to complement Prime Time (test  product affinity within brands)
  • #308  from MUFE because it was used in the original test up top (testing for consistency)
  • Mildew from Urban Decay to complement UDPP Sin

Beginning – Top to Bottom: bM Standing O, MUFE #308, UD Mildew

During this particular 24 hour period though, I had a yoga class focusing on inversions, dolphins and forearm balances….. Yeah i didn’t really think this test through. There was a good amount of friction that negatively impacted the longevity. Most of the eye shadow had rubbed off by the end of class which was about the 14th hour of wear.


Derp. After Yoga around Hour #14.

So it seems like anything is better than bare skin. For somereason, Primte Time really grabbed onto the dark matrix of #308. PF 24 does preserve of of the blue’s vibrancy but now we know that it’s not rub-resistant. Sin is tinted which makes the results hard to tell in this picture, but in real life, the yellow color of the top swatch was more evident over PF 24 than over Sin. There’s also still a trace of Mildew’s green over the Smashbox primer patch so PF 24 wins the color locking contest. UD claim that its primer is specially formulated for it’s shadow falls flat as Mildew isn’t even visible anymore.


Hour 24

Pretty much everything is gone by Hour 24 after my shower. So Smashbox’s 24 claim applies only if you live in a air-conditioned bubble. There’s still more color retained than over bare skin but just barely. Sin would make a great shadow all on it’s own though. It’s not so hot as a long wear shadow base though. In case you’re curious, that white stuff that still trucking on is Inglot’s AMC Gel Liner in 76. It’s a very tough cookie.

Formula Comparison + Things to Consider
Ingredients are listed in order of highest mass percentage to lowest. Isodecane being listed second could explain why Smashbox’s Primer has such a thick and wax like texture. The first and foremost ingredient in Smashbox’s is dimethicone (silicone polymer oil) followed by Isodecane. Both are emollient/lubricants that makes stuff – anything from mascara to lotions – creamy. Isodecane though, is very volatile. With UDPP and Prime Time, Isodecane is the first ingredient. There is no waiting time needed between laying down the primer and applying the eyeshadow. Isodecane evaporates fast, leaving a dry layer behind soon after lay it down You can sweep and blend eyeshadow over it almost immediately. With the PF24, the lesser amount of isodecane mixed into the dimethicone means that evaporation, and thus drying/setting, takes place slower. You have to wait longer for the silicone oil to stop being tacky otherwise color application is going to be a clumpy, streaky headache.That down time involved may have to be taken into consideration. Some people don’t have even a minute to spare in the morning. (ie: Me when i hit the snooze button one too many times.)

The overload of dimethicone may also make the texture of PF24 less pleasant to some people. As i mentioned before, you need finger heat to melt it into a spreadable state and it is best applied with fingers. With the other two primers, you can use a brush to get a super thin even layer. UDPP is thin and silky. Prime Time is like a light cream.

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Posted by on June 16, 2015 in Eyeshadow, On the Fence


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