Smashbox Photo Set Finishing Powder with SPF 15 Promises to Blur the Lines

Published in: Makeup, Product Reviews

smashbox photo set finishing powder spf 15

Doesn’t it seem like more and more makeup brands are getting onto the airbrushed bandwagon? — the one filled with colorless loose powders designed to deliver an “airbrushed” look?


There’s MAC Prep+Prime, Make Up Forever HD Powder and Tarte Amazonian Clay Smooth Operator, to name but a few, and despite their different names and packaging, they promise a lot of the same things.

“[PRODUCT NAME] absorbs oil to create a matte finish, sets foundation and concealer, blurs fine lines and reduces the appearance of pores for a soft focus (read: airbrushed) look.”

The latest airbrushing beauty bit to cross my path calls itself Smashbox Photo Set Finishing Powder with SPF 15 ($28), and it airbrushes with the power of — wait for it — zinc oxide!

Zinc oxide?

Rather than being absorbed into the skin, zinc oxide, an inorganic white powder, acts as a physical sunblock, sitting atop the skin where it reflects rays of UVA and UVB light. Generally considered noncomedogenic (meaning it doesn’t block pores), zinc oxide is also a mild antimicrobial believed to accelerate wound healing. Unfortunately, products containing enough of it can look chalky on darker skin tones.

After wearing Photo Set a few times over the past week, there are some things about the product I think Smashbox really did well. First, the packaging — LOVE the wide jar, which accommodates my big powder brush without making a mess.

Second, it handles oil pretty well. With it on, even after a full day, my forehead, chin and nose (the oiliest parts of my face) are only just beginning to shine.

As for the whole soft focus effect thing, well, I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I haven’t noticed anything when I’ve been out and about, but I think I do detect slightly smoother skin in pictures. The effect isn’t as dramatic as it is with MAC Prep+Prime (which, by the way, is frickin’ fantastic), but I think it’s still there.

Smashbox Photo Set FInishing Powder SPF 15 box

Smashbox Photo Set FInishing Powder SPF 15 box

Smashbox Photo Set FInishing Powder SPF 15 box side

smashbox photo set finishing powder spf 15

Smashbox Photo Set Finishing Powder SPF 15 on face

Unfortunately, Photo Set suffers from the zinc oxide curse — yep, it leaves a slight white cast on my NC35 skin. It’s subtle, though (I wouldn’t call it chalky), and lovelies with lighter skin may not even notice it at all.

But then there’s the price… At first I thought, “Cool! A big jar!” But it’s really not that big. At $28 for 0.17 ounces, Smashbox is actually charging more for less. MAC Prep+ Prime delivers 0.32 ounces for $23, Tarte Smooth Operator costs $28 for 0.32 ounces and Make Up For Ever’s HD Microfinish will set you back $30 for 0.35 oz. All of them work out to more product for less.

All told, Photo Set probably won’t be kicking my beloved MAC Prep+Prime off its pedestal any time soon (Prep+Prime also happens to be SPF 50). It’s pricey, and I’m not too keen on the white cast, but Tabs gives it two paws up for being cruelty-free.

PRICE: $28 for a 0.17-oz. jar
AVAILABILITY: At Sephora stores and

Wherefore art thou, sleep?

Desperately seeking sleep!

Hello, young lady. πŸ™‚ I got home late last night from a work dinner in SF and didn’t get to bed until 2, so I’m not feeling entirely coherent today.


Speaking of books (kidding), remember that big book of food essays I started a few days ago? I finally finished it, and now I’m really, really hungry.

I’m so hungry, in fact, that I could eat an entire carrot cake right now, no joke!

But enough about my food cravings. Howzit going today? Tell me something good.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



Like this post? Tell your friends!

So far, 32 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. AnieJ says:

    I finished my taxes today, so while I’m skipping this powder, I’ll be skippin’ on home for a nice hot bath!! Woot woot!
    AnieJ recently posted … elf Tools I Might Never Live Without Again

  2. Tracy says:

    I’m with you-nothing beats MAC Prep+Prime for me too.
    I stopped for some groceries today, and bought a bag of chocolate covered almonds. Sigh. But they’re good for your heart, right? πŸ˜€
    Tracy recently posted … Maybelline Volum Express One By One Mascara

  3. Molly says:

    So excited-I just found out that the Safeway by my house has Panda raspberry licorice bars, which are like THE “candy” of my childhood. Inducing nostalgia in 3…2…yum.

  4. stacie says:

    Tell me something good wah wah (that supposed to be singing – I can’t read that sentence normally has to be sung!) I got an ipod touch today which is def good! Think I will become an apple fangirl πŸ˜€ I like the sound of the zinx oxide might help my blemish prone skin… will have a look into that next time I need powder xoxox
    stacie recently posted … Fimo cane nail art

  5. Tiffany says:

    I’ll stick with the prep and prime that I recently bought because you told me too! πŸ™‚

    Something good – I spent way too much cash on a Vera Bradley diaper bag and weekender bag and wristlet and I am way excited for them to arrive on my doorstep!

    • Karen says:

      Oh, those bags are cute! They’re made from lightweight material, too, right?

      I’ve noticed that parents of babies are always lugging lots of stuff with them… might as well have cute accessories, LOL!

      • Tiffany says:

        Yah they are cotton so they weigh nothing and you can throw them in the washing machine. Seriously, I am gonna have tons of stuff to lug around!

        • Karen says:

          That’s smart to get one you can wash easily. I’ve admired the Kate Spade ones but know that the baby barf and poo are probably inevitable…

          We have friends who visited a few months ago with a kid and man-oh-man, they were carting a LOT of stuff! I hope you’re doing your upper body workouts. πŸ™‚

  6. Nina says:

    hello there Tabs! πŸ™‚

    ill probly pass on that powder πŸ™‚

    • Karen says:

      Tabs sends his regards, Nina! πŸ™‚ He’s in his cat tower right now doing an impromptu grooming sesh.

      • Nina says:

        last night, we took in stray gray (our name for the outdoor cat that graces us w/ his presence during mealtimes) because it was so cold. the three indoor kitties were not very happy. πŸ˜€

        we set him out again this morning – hopefully he goes home (we think he has an owner/home) … πŸ™‚

  7. Lucie says:

    Is MAC Prep and Prime really that great? I haven’t had any luck with translucent setting powders like Laura Mercier’s and MUFE’s-even with the lightest hand they end up looking chalky. I’m looking for something that controls oil but doesn’t give a completely matte finish…matte finishes make me look dead. πŸ˜€ Heading in to the ‘big city’ Saturday (and the only MAC store in vermont) to pick up some wonder woman collection goodies and am open to suggestions!

  8. Meghan says:

    Tabs is adorable! haha
    Meghan recently posted … Clinique Milly Pretty in Prints

  9. Jen W says:

    I’m surprised they call it ‘Photo Set’ when theres really no way of getting around that Zinc Oxide white cast thing…

    I always go for non-sunscreen products when there’s bound to be flash photography.
    Jen W recently posted … Ameli eye shadows- you rock my world! – Review and Swatches

  10. Fieran says:

    Ahh Karen, you are so selling the Prep+Prime Transparent Finishing powder to me πŸ™‚ I’m definitely going to pick it up one of these days.
    Fieran recently posted … Spring Lemmings

  11. I like the Prep+Prime and I LOVE the Smashbox Halo powders, so if this is just good but not great…I will pass.
    Kajal Couture recently posted … Costa Rica Cooldown- Korres Yoghurt Cooling Gel

  12. Emma says:

    Karen, I’m always worried about using these powders with my dry skin. Are the any that you’d recommend for dry skin or do you think it’s just better to stay away from them entirely?

    So funny to see Tabs doing that pose. We thought it was a Maine Coon only pose. We call it Rooster’s slut pose and now Shadow copies Rooster – I think he caught on that it get’s him a tummy rub. Tabs looks so content!

  13. Alka says:

    I am so glad that I am not the only one who has a problem with seeing a whitish cast from these types of products! The staff at sephora swore up and down the MUFE HD powder was totally transparent. But on my nc40 it definitely is not. Still on the search for my HG setting powder…thanks for the great review!

  14. Chris25 says:

    I have been meaning to place a Smashbox order soon. I may buy this. I am also thinking of repurchasing Bionic Mascara in Indigo Ink. Should I try for a cheaper brand? I used to buy Maybelline Great Lash in Royal Blue, but I stopped because they test on animals.
    Chris25 recently posted … The Goldmine- Urban Decay Baked

  15. Alice says:

    Oh, Tabs is lovely in this pic!!! I’m in love <3

  16. PS says:

    i have this product & I love it! I like it better than the halo powder.

  17. Molly says:

    I use Make Up For EverÒ€ℒs HD Microfinish, and like it pretty well, but I’ve never heard of zinc oxide being antimicrobial. That is cool! I learned something new today, which is good.

    And, I just recharged my iPod Touch, so now I’ve got tunes again! Whew!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge