The latest beauty weather report shows a chance of light (very light) showers in your bathroom. For the sake of skin, hold the umbrellas. Beauty brands want you to wet your way to wonderful by spritzing, spraying, misting and watering your face. At the eye of this product storm is Smashbox’s Primer Water, a liquid update to Smashbox’s iconic Photo Finish Foundation Primer. Lori Taylor Davis, global pro lead makeup artist at Smashbox, uses Primer Water as a sheer base upon which to apply makeup, a setting spray to keep makeup in place and a refreshing pick-me-up throughout the day. “I don’t know how I lived without this primer. It’s a triple threat,” she exclaims.

Reviewers, especially those with extremely oily or dry skin, are raving about the electrolyte-packed alcohol-, silicone- and oil-free product on Sephora.com and Birchbox.com, describing it as hydrating, light, moisturizing and surprisingly awesome at “locking everything in place.” Professional makeup artist Samantha Vega, who posts YouTube videos on the channel Samantha Vega Makeup, has been squirting Primer Water on her face before and after putting on her makeup, and has been pleased with the results. “I love how flawless my skin looks, and it really does help to settle any of the powdery-ness you may get from putting too much powder on the skin,” she proclaims in a recent video.

Some skepticism is muddying Primer Water’s waters. Vega uncovers that the only difference between Smashbox’s Primer Water and MAC’s Mineralize Charged Water is the price. Primer Water is $32, and Mineralize Charged Water is $23. “The ingredients are the same down to the very last ingredient,” says Vega. Nathan Rivas, a senior researcher at Beautypedia, points out that spray primers aren’t really primers in the classic sense. Primers typically are powered by silicone to turn skin into an even canvas for makeup, while spray primers like Smashbox’s Primer Water are closer to toners with their mix of water, lightweight moisturizing ingredients and antioxidants.

Primer Water

In an email, Rivas writes, “If you love your primer because it extends the life of your makeup or it gives skin a smoother texture to make application easier, a spray primer isn’t going to do that for you. However, if you just want a luxury extra to soften the look of your makeup (particularly if you are prone to over powdering), the formulas and fine-mist spray tops of products like MAC Fix+ or Smashbox Primer Water will do the job.  A bottle of spray water—Avene Thermal Spring Water is an example—will also work just as well.”

SPF adds a dash of substance to sprays. Sun care brands are increasingly crossing into cosmetics with setting spritzes containing UV protection. Two new products in this vein are Coola’s SPF 30 Organic Makeup Setting Spray and Supergoop’s Defense Refresh Setting Mist SPF 50. Supergoop’s mist has rosemary to soothe skin, and silica silylate to diminish shine and deliver a matte finish. Coola’s spray couples SPF with cucumber, aloe vera extracts and hyaluronic acid. It’s the start of a cascade of crossover products from Coola. “In the future we do see ourselves having more products potentially in that makeup related space,” Chris Birchby, the brand’s founder, told Women’s Wear Daily. “It’s a natural fit with sunscreen since we believe sunscreen should be worn everyday.”

If SPF is an indication, there will be no drought in the priming and setting segment. Rivas forecasts further launches of “multi-functional primers, such as more options with sunscreen actives, tinted and more beneficial ingredients showing up in formulas.” More doesn’t always mean better in beauty. Rivas warns shoppers that primer sprays purporting to do everything most likely don’t. He concludes, “There is only so much you can do with this category of products before they stop living up to their promises!” That’s a cold shower, indeed.






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  • Reply andrea j April 14, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    I want to try one. anyone know where to get one that’s good but cheap? anyone have a coupon code?

  • Reply Patricia June 26, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Smash box primer water before and maybe after makeup use if needed very lite and yes it makes your makeup look flawless or use just for moisture Sephora has small bottle for $ 15

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