Reviewed: Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water Will Fast-Track a Juicy Glow

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Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water

Emily Algar

What We Like
  • Hydrates skin with hyaluronic acid and glycerin

  • Contains niacinamide to soften pores

  • Multipurpose (can prime skin and set makeup)

  • Fine mist doesn't disturb makeup

  • Cooling and refreshing

What We Don't Like
  • Not a necessary step

  • High price point for a face mist

The Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water isn’t exactly a must-have, but if you love a mist (and I sure do), it's a great option that makes skin look plump and glowing.


Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water

Emily Algar

We put the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water to the test after receiving a complimentary sample from the brand. Keep reading for our full product review.

There are few things in this world that I love more than a multipurpose beauty product. A cream blush that also works on lips? Give it to me. A moisturizer with broad spectrum SPF? Sign me up—I'm a huge fan of any great product that simplifies my routine and/or has added benefits I never knew I needed.

Such is the case with the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water. Not only does it prep and hydrate the skin prior to makeup application, but it works as a setting spray and refreshing mist as well. Think of it as a lightweight, hydrating, one-and-done skin treatment that you can call on multiple times a day for a range of reasons, knowing it will deliver every time. 

Interested? Keep scrolling for my detailed review.

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water

Best for: Normal, dry, and oily skin types, especially those who love a comprehensive makeup routine. 

Uses: As a makeup primer, setting spray, or to refresh skin throughout the day.  

Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, caffeine, glycerin, niacinamide, electrolytes. 

Price: $32

About the brand: Smashbox is a Los Angeles-based beauty brand founded by Davis Factor. Originally tested and vetted by photographers and makeup artists, it's best known for promising a standout finish every single time (and in every light).

About My Skin: Dehydrated

My skin is normal to combination but prone to dehydration. When it comes to makeup and the way I like my skin to look, my preference is definitely dewy (so much that it errs on the shiny side), so any makeup products that are hydrating and luminous are right up my alley. This is probably why I like setting mists so much—they add a final layer of moisture.

The Ingredients: Skincare-adjacent nourishment

While not exactly a skincare product, Smashbox's Photo Finish Primer Water does have some nourishing ingredients. There’s hyaluronic acid and glycerin to help with dehydration, niacinamide to refine the look of pores, and caffeine to wake up the skin. The long-term benefits of these when applied via priming/setting spray are unclear, but they definitely contribute to the final appearance when using this mist, and a little extra nourishment doesn't hurt.

How to Apply: Spritz as needed

The Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water is a multipurpose product, so you can use it to prime before makeup application, set a finished look, or refresh your skin throughout the day. The mist itself is really fine, so application is a breeze. I found three to four pumps was more than enough to get an even layer on my face and neck. It settles quickly and doesn’t feel “wet” like so many other mists do, which helps it to play well with makeup and other products you may have on.

The Results: Delivers all day long

Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water Results on Emily Algar

Emily Algar/Design by Cristina Cianci

Smashbox's Photo Finish Primer Water is a versatile product with a formula that enhances its multiple uses. To help you see how it performs in each situation, I've broken my review down by purpose.

To prime: Let it be known that I don’t go for primers usually. I like to glow underneath my makeup, but anything too grippy or silicone-y sends me running. However, this water mist almost feels weightless and leaves the skin smooth and plump. Applying makeup afterwards was a breeze, and not once did it feel like I had a heavy, pore-clogging base. I would definitely use this again. 

To set: On the flip side, I am very into setting mists because when you get a good one, it gives the skin a fresh, juicy, slightly diffused appearance. This delivered on all fronts. It’s not the best I’ve ever used, but in terms of glow and that really hydrated look, it totally worked.

To refresh: I actually don’t wear a lot of makeup these days, but when I do, it’s generally for upwards of 12 hours, so a sneaky midday refresh is necessary. I’m pleased to report the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water is great for this because it gives just enough moisture to fix up spots prone to creasing (like under the eyes and around the nose), but doesn’t really disturb makeup. It also gives back a little of the glow that endless Zoom calls, meetings, and emails may have drained from you and your skin.

The Value: A solid investment

I’ll be honest and say that you could absolutely use a $6 thermal spring water mist to accomplish similar goals, but Smashbox's Photo Finish Primer Water does have the benefit of skincare ingredients and is engineered to hold and set makeup, so I guess the extra cost is warranted. At $32, think of it as a special skincare treat. Personally, I think it’s geared towards those that like to spend time crafted a detailed makeup look, but you get to decide for yourself whether you'd rather invest in this multipurpose product or opt for another effective option that's a little more affordable.

Similar Products: You've got options

Tatcha Luminous Dewy Skin Mist: If you want skin that looks as if you just stepped out of a 30-minute sauna session, it’s got to be this mist from Tatcha ($48). For lack of a better word, the product is really dewy, so won’t really fly as a primer, but in terms of setting makeup, it’s best in class.

MAC Prep + Prime Fix+ Primer and Setting Spray: Like Smashbox's mist, this iconic product from MAC ($29) is also multipurpose, so you can use it to prime the skin pre-makeup or set it later on. Because it’s super hydrating, it leaves the skin looking fresh and bouncy, too.

NYX Professional Makeup Setting Spray: If you prefer a matte finish, this top-rated mist from NYX ($8) is a drugstore dream. It locks makeup in and controls shine, so you’ll have a fresh-faced look all day.

Final Verdict

If you love a multipurpose mist, the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water is a really solid option. It provides such a fresh finish, and effectively plumps up the appearance of the skin. While it's more of a want than a need, I still think it’s great and wouldn’t hesitate when recommending it to friends, colleagues, and all beauty enthusiasts.


  • Product Name Photo Finish Primer Water
  • Product Brand Smashbox
  • Price $32.00
  • Weight 3.9 oz.
  • Full Ingredient List Water\Aqua\Eau, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Isopropyl Isostearate, PPG-15 Stearyl Ether, Niacinamide, Hydroxyethyl Urea, Sodium Polyaspartate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Algae Extract, Caffeine, Trehalose, Sorbitol, Decyl Glucoside, Xanthan Gum, 1,2-Hexanediol, Propanediol, Sodium Hydroxide, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Caprylyl Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol.

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