Up your selfie game with Smashbox Cosmetics

Up your selfie game with Smashbox Cosmetics

Smize for the camera

Text: Angelyn Kwek

Been trying to attain that perfect selfie shot? Then you’ll need to get your face on with the makeup brand that creates and curates the most amazing photos

They've been around taking killer snaps long before the advent of the smartphone, and are certified gurus on how to look your best in front of the lenses. With such a claim to fame —including a sprawling studio space in L.A. where creatives and celebs have all converged at one point to image that cover photo of Glamour you've admired in your hands — Smashbox is the makeup authority you'd want in your beauty arsenal.

Launched to much fanfare, Smashbox flew in its director of international education and artistry (read: the pro who makes 'em pretty), Will Malherbe, for a flashy affair as the brand rejoins the scene with a big entrance after a quiet exit a few years prior. In what is deemed a lofty privilege, I'm sat in that coveted chair as my face gets the pro treatment from Malherbe, and of course, you don't want to pass up on probing the makeup master on what studio secrets can be had when it comes to nailing the perfect headshot.

And what have I gleaned? Noting the condition of your complexion for one — such as using the correct primer to address different issues as your skin's situation changes day to day — and two, cleverly using the Photo Finish Primer on a cotton swab as a spot makeup remover. Also, it's about lighting, lighting, lighting. So if you're aiming to perfect your selfie game (or you're a beauty junkie on the hunt for a new drawer full of Holy Grail goodies), find out why Smashbox is your 'ready, set, pose' must-have:

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As a longtime Pro Artist who knows all the ins and outs of makeup, can you share with us the difference between studio and regular makeup?
In studio makeup, everything has to be perfect. It needs to be more refined, more perfect because when you think of studio makeup - and this is where people have a lot of misconceptions — is that with a picture of a model or celebrity, you don't look at what it looks like on them, you look at what their face looks like on a big Apple screen TV. It's more zoomed in, where you can see more details on what the natural light captures so it's more critical, and skin has to look like skin.

Our products will actually make the skin look better instead of enhancing lines and wrinkles, or making it look more aged and textured. Foundation doesn't just sit on the surface of the skin, but it actually kind of becomes one with the skin. Paying attention to skin texture is very important in the studio. You have to get the perfect texture [before makeup], otherwise the makeup will be lost — this is one very important aspect of studio makeup. Also, paying attention to your lighting is another. For example, I've seen so many times with someone who might have done their makeup in the bathroom at home with very subtle lighting - especially with shimmer and strobing — and then they step outside and they look crazy because they have so much shimmer on! They didn't take into consideration the different lighting exposure.

Do you think there are misconceptions about high-def makeup that a lot of people cling onto which may prevent them from trying out Smashbox?
We were the first brand to launch HD foundation long before anyone else. And a lot of makeup brands has since launched HD foundations but we don't even use the term 'HD' anymore because originally when cameras moved on to high definition, it was all about HD and how to adjust textures for high definition, but now it's digital. Digital cameras have even more enhancements than HD cameras; so it's a different ballgame. It's more refined, and every time we launch a new foundation, it's to make sure we keep up with the new technology and nevermind if it's an HD camera or a digital camera, your cellphone is a smartphone and it's only this far from you. And smartphones have very high pixels.

So compared to previously when it was someone taking a picture, now the camera is right here. This is critical, and we even test our makeup using the flash of a smartphone, because that's the most used — and most deadly — lighting you can get.

One of the most iconic products is the Photo Finish primer and its extensive range of correcting bases. Incidentally, colour correcting is now trending everywhere, so how has the brand risen to meet this demand? Are there any tweaks to improve the formula, for instance?
Yes, it's our first primer and it is still our number one seller; it's also our most versatile primer. Currently we still have two colour correcting primers: We have the green for someone who has excessive redness, and we have the peach, which helps to brighten the skin. But we now have new colour corrector sticks in different colours because when you're colour correcting, you want to put the product only where you need it instead of putting it over your entire face.

We have four colours: The orange, the lavender, the green and the peach. The first one is called 'Look Less Tired'; it's good for the undereye and it's also good for any gray on the skin or if someone has gray tones around the mouth, such as pigmentation marks that when covered with foundation starts to look gray. The green and lavender are great for sunburns or if you've got some spots on the skin, or redness around the nose you want to neutralise. And the 'Don't Be Dull' [the peach] is for someone who wants to look brighter, who they find their skin looks a little bit too yellow or sallow and they want to neutralise those tones.

We also have different techniques on how to apply the product, and because it's such a precision crayon, it's so specific for priming [the problem areas]; it just makes it so much easier. It's such a soft, creamy texture and it's perfect for blending into your skin.

Smashbox Cosmetics


With so many techniques floating around nowadays — from contouring to highlighting, and now there's non-touring — would you say there's a tried-and-tested makeup methodology to looking good?
What I find that works very well on the skin is to have a slight combination of a bit of contouring and a bit of strobing. We've always been enhancing the shape of the face in the studios, and we've had a contour palette now for, like, 10 years at Smashbox. Which, of course, the palette is now very popular with the contouring trend, but it shouldn't ever be a case of, 'Oh! Today I'm wearing contouring'. It should never be part of the look. Your contouring and highlighting is just there to show off the shape of the face, so you should always look at your contouring and highlighting as the last step of doing your foundation. You should do that before you start on the eye makeup or the lips.

As soon as the contouring or highlighting becomes the centre point of the makeup, I would say it's too much. Because you want to see the effect, you want to see the radiance and the sculpted face, not the product sitting on the face. 

You've worked with countless celebrities and Smashbox has also collaborated with many franchises including America's Next Top Model. Can you impart some of the makeup tips and tricks you've learnt from being on-set that help to nail that killer selfie photo?
The thing with selfies is to pay attention to your lighting. Make sure you have good lighting on the face. You also have to pay attention to where you put shimmer on the face; for example, I've seen a lot of trends on Instagram or Youtube where people put highlighter on the tip of the nose, but when you take a photo, this area is the one that reflects the most light, so even without shimmer, your nose will always be the shiniest part of the face. So with highlighter on top of that, you're just going to look crazy. And that's one thing to note: Where you put the shimmer.

You also wouldn't put any shimmer underneath the eyebrow, because again, the skin is flat over there and if you've got the light from the front, like flash photography, that's going to reflect the most light. So instead of the focus being on your eye, the focus is on the part below your eyebrows. It's really placing your highlighter on the most strategic places when you're doing the face. Also, keep playing with your angles! 

Smashbox was the first mover when it comes to high definition makeup, but there are more and more labels putting out HD products. As the pioneering brand, how do you feel about the rapidly changing nature of the beauty industry where consumers are increasingly savvy, and they have several options to choose from
It's amazing. I love that people are now savvier and that they can pay attention to a Youtube video and an influencer's point of view because I think for a really long time with the previous generation, it was always about what brands were telling you. "Hey, this foundation is best in the market because of this, and this, and this," but now you have influencers who can compare stuff and say, "in my opinion, I prefer this one", and for me this makes products more legit and more real.

Smashbox Cosmetics

As the makeup brand that was born straight out of a photo studio, what are your views on today's selfie culture where everyone is pressured to always be camera-ready?
The camera has come closer; we used to hold it to take a photo of other people and now the camera is an arm's length away. So that was a big wakeup. For a lot of people, they suddenly realise 'I can see the texture of my skin', or 'wow, I should definitely use a primer to minimise my pores'. And that's why we've up the game with makeup standards, which is really nice, and also it made things more real. Because up close you can see the pores, and it brought people closer to what you look like in reality and what you look like in the mirror versus what you're going to see if you look at a photoshoot from a magazine.

So I love the fact that makeup has become more realistic. And now with selfies — well, I'm tired of seeing posed selfies; so boring — you want to see the pictures where they pull faces in the photos because it's more real. People want to see what you look like with normal expressions, so I really love that from the selfie culture. I myself have been into selfies since way back before the name selfie started trending. I've always enjoyed being in the picture somewhere!

Smashbox is available at Sephora and online.