Tarte Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Eye Base Plays It Cool

Published in: Makeup, Product Reviews

To quote (and then paraphrase) the great Sade, “No need to ask, he’s [she’s] a smooth operator.” Except her charms aren’t working on me. πŸ™


The new Tarte Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Eye Base ($22) may be a touch too light for this brown girl, but lighter lasses, listen up. This pretty pink primer just might shine for you.

The warm yellow undertones in my skin don’t agree with Smooth Operator (it turns gray on me), but that shouldn’t happen if you like the way you look in shades of cool-toned pink.

Released as a QVC (yep, that QVC) exclusive last December, Smooth Operator Eye Base looks to me like a hybrid of two other products, Benefit Eye Bright Pencils and Urban Decay Primer Potion. It combines the light pink color of Eye Bright with UDPP’s fluffy, smooth texture.

Tarte refers to it as a brightening eyeshadow base designed to prevent shadows from smudging and creasing, and increase how long they last on the skin.

As you can from the name, its claim to fame is the Amazonian clay it contains, which Tarte claims has “intuitive” properties. They say it’s able to adjust to the wearer’s skin. If need be, it’ll hydrate dry spots into nonexistence, or absorb oily patches to eliminate shine.

Now that’s some smart clay. πŸ™‚

A lot of beauty products contain clays, one of the most common of which nowadays is a type called kaolin. It’s known for being highly absorbent, which makes it perfect for products like this one that are designed to both retain (and deposit) moisture, and absorb oil.

Kaolin Fun Facts — The clay is also used to manufacture paper products, and also in organic farming, where it’s used as an earth-friendly pest deterrent.

So does it work?

Well, it’s tough to say. I’m disappointed that the color of the product doesn’t work for me (seriously, the gray makes me look like a zombie ), and that could be clouding my judgment, but I wore it around the house anyway to get to the bottom of this so-called Amazonian Clay.

Swatch on NC35 skin

On NW20 skin

Smooth Operator did a pretty good job of keeping my powder shadows in place and also prevented creasing and color loss, but I didn’t really see or feel a significant difference on my oily spots or dry areas.

Tarte claims the product’s waterproof, but I dunno about that… I tested some on the back of my hand, expecting it to last through a few hand washes (Urban Decay Greed does), but it came off after just one rinse.

I was also hoping it would ramp up the color intensity of my eyeshadows in much the same way as my current eye primer love, NARS Pro-Prime Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base, but I didn’t notice much of a difference. Admittedly, it’s hard to look past the annoying gray cast…


All told, I like Smooth Operator Eye Base and give it a few points for its cruelty-free list of ingredients, smooth texture, cute packaging (love the included doe foot applicator) and ease of use, but I’m not really sold on the color or the clay.

And the shade restricts its usefulness to lighter lovelies and/or gals who wear cool-toned pinks well.

PRICE: $22
AVAILABILITY: Exclusively at qvc.com

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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So far, 46 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. Nina says:

    my fave color is gray — but i dont think i want it as a cast on my face! i mean … yellow and gray dont really go well together — skintone wise, that is! πŸ˜€

    ill pass on this … the NARS eyeshadow base – <33333

    • Karen says:

      If you like gray you’ll be into the next post (working on it now, hint — it’s Dior!).

      How long have you been using the NARS eyeshadow base? Isn’t it the best thing?

      • Nina says:

        2 weeks now — and i love it a lot! its like a close 2nd to UDPP Eden. i held off buying the UDPP coffret that had Greed in it – thats another thing im waiting on.

        gray has always been a fave color — i actually prefer gray eyeliner to black most of the time…

        and i cannot wait for your next post – Dior <3333

  2. Tiffany says:

    hmmm, I’ll probably pass on this as I hate ordering from QVC because I hate paying for shipping. Also I just bought FOUR eye primers from Sephora online. Seriously, what is wrong with me? Four?! I need help.

    • Karen says:

      LOL! No you don’t. You need a high five!!!

      Which four did you order? I hope NARS Pro Prime is up in the mix!

      • Tiffany says:

        thanks, enabler! *high five* lol

        You know, I have a sample of that NARS one I haven’t tried yet. I should try it soon! I got UD Greed, Bare Escentuals Prime Time in both gold and pearl, and the new Too Faced Candlelight one. I was going for a glowy theme, apparently.

        • Karen says:


          Once you try the NARS everything else will pale in comparison. Although I gotta say UD Greed is really great for a super fast golden shimmer. It should look fab with all your new Cham Pale stuff, which, ahem, I hope you’ve played with!

  3. Phyrra says:

    Wow, kind of sounds like a bad primer πŸ™ Then again, TFSI is my holy grail for e/s primers since it works so well on my oily lids.

    • Karen says:

      One of the reasons why I like TF is how flexible it is — it works on so many different skin tones!

      Have you found that your tube dries out after a while?

  4. oh, that will NOT agree with me, that’s for sure!
    dani@callitbeauty recently posted … Happy New Year!

  5. Amanda says:

    well, you can just send that baby my way, if you need to get it out of your hands. πŸ™‚ I’m fair and pink and i LURVE tarte! Just sayin’. πŸ™‚ πŸ˜‰

    • Karen says:

      You’re so funny. I love Tarte and I love pink too — just wish this one was a bit warmer, ’cause I’m not kidding about the zombie part!

      How was your new years? Are you back at work?

  6. Lindsay says:

    Wow that is a light pink!
    Lindsay recently posted … MAC Future Face- Spring 2011

  7. Tracy says:

    So you could totally use this to disguise yourself as a zombie when the zombie apocalypse comes then! πŸ™‚ Love the little zombie animation-that made my day!
    Tracy recently posted … Smashbox Halo Yellow Color Correcting Hydrating Powder

    • Karen says:

      Haha, so true!

      I’ve been meaning to tell you that I got a pair of slippers for Christmas that El Hub calls “the zombie slippers.” Apparently when I walk around the house with them on they make a shuffling sound, which, according to him, “sounds exactly like zombies when they walk around.” LOLOL!

  8. Nicole says:

    Mmmm. I love tarte but I will stick w/ my original UDPP.

    Any news on tartes’s spring collection?

    • Karen says:

      I’ve got another QVC exclusive liner to swatch (EmphasEYES Liner in a new shade called Shimmering Indigo), but as for official PR for spring I’m still waiting. Will let you know once I get word! πŸ˜€

  9. Meredith says:


    Firstly thank you so much for posting about this product!
    I have a SERIOUS problem with eyeshadow creasing and fading/smudging. I feel like I have tried almost EVERY eye primer/base available.

    My only hangup about the tarte product is that it’s a QVC exclusive. Since I live in Canada, I am going to skip it (shipping is mega $), and go with the NARS product instead.

  10. Gina says:

    Tarte is adorable, and I love that their products are cruelty-free, but I’ve never been impressed with their products. I know their cheek stains are their claim-to-fame, maybe I should give those a shot?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Gina,

      I like those a lot, the only thing is I’ve noticed that when my cheeks get oily in the summer the product tends to slip right off, so I have to set it with an additional blush or powder to keep it in place.

      What’s your skin like? If it’s dry then the Cheek Stains will probably work for you.

  11. Rae says:

    Hrmmm. I’m not loving the sound of grey lids, but maybe it’ll work on a pale gal like myself? I’ll be eagerly waiting on that lighter-skinned swatch! πŸ˜‰
    Rae recently posted … A year with theNotice- our favourites

  12. hmm sounds like I’ll be sticking with my UDPP/TFSI. I like the kaolin fun fact! πŸ˜€
    Makeup Morsels recently posted … Miscellaneous Monday Morsels 1-3-10

  13. Considering I rarely wear pink eyeshadow, I will pass… Even though I’m fairly pale, I’m fearing the gray-ish cast will wreak havoc on my funky eye discoloration.

    I need to check out that Nars Primer since you are constantly raving about it! I’ve currently been using the Benefit Creaseless Cream in R.S.V.P. as an eyeshadow base and sometimes the NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil in Milk blended out. Depends on which one I grab first. I’ve used UDPP before but trying to go through some of my stash before I buy new. Unless I’m restocking on something like mascara or powder foundation.

  14. Kim says:

    I have NARS Pro Prime on my list (you really should be a missionary because your conversion rate is through the roof!). I’ve been using the LORAC primer that came with the Private Affair palette and I think it’s OK but it’s not setting the world on fire. πŸ™‚

    • Karen says:

      A couple of the gals here really love it too (Nina and Steph), so hopefully it’ll work for you too! πŸ˜€

      BTW, I used a lovely light pink shadow with silver glitter from a NYX palette the other day, and by the end of the day I had some shimmery fallout on my cheeks that I thought you’d approve of!

      • Kim says:

        Oh, I *so* approve!

        I don’t know if I told you this but one of my bffs was the Sun for Halloween and she had gold, glitter makeup all over her face. You can imagine my delight! I was parading her around making everyone agree that she looked sparkly and beautiful (and she really did!). πŸ™‚

  15. Tiffany H. says:

    I am disappointed to hear that it doesn’t work for us brown girls. πŸ™
    Tiffany H. recently posted … Best Of 2010-Beauty Edition

  16. Johanna says:

    Omg! Thank u for reviewing this we r the same shade so no tarte 4 me! I was tempted to order but Tarte has dissapointed me many times with it’s claims such as lip stain /so called plumper & it’s concelear. I wanted to give them another try! I’ll be picking up Nara instead.. Thank u
    Ps my mom loves ur site she’s addicted now too!

  17. Chris25 says:

    Hi Karen!

    Have you tried applying less of the primer and blending as much as you can without wiping it away? I’m NC42, and I find that lighter primers work if I apply just a teensy amount and then smooth it around to dull the bright color.
    Chris25 recently posted … Christmas Manicure with China Glaze

  18. Miri says:

    I just bought this and I love it. I’m very fair skinned, though I am a bit on the warm side, it works for me. (Fair skinned redhead with light brown eyes.)

    Tarte is so wonderful, I have yet to find anything from them I do not like. My eyes are also very sensitive, and this primer does not bother them.

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