Smashbox Cosmetics was founded in 1996 by Davis Factor, the great-grandson of make-up mogul Max Factor.
Factor and his brother Dean were photographers and owners of Smashbox Studios. They developed the brand’s cosmetic products to withstand the tough environment of a professional photography setting.
The brand is best known for its primers, such as the original Photo Finish Foundation Primer, which was created to minimise touch-ups and help make-up last longer under the glaring studio lights.
In 2010, Estée Lauder Companies acquired Smashbox to tap into a younger demographic and gain entry into the digital media space, where the brand was among the first to post instructional make-up videos.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the colour cosmetics category was hit hardest by the movement restrictions and lockdown as consumers opted to spend on skin care for self-care instead.
Make-up continued to dip as protective masks became de rigueur. In 2020, Estée Lauder recorded that its make-up net sales decreased by 18%, seeing declines among all its colour-focused brands.
On the other hand, the pandemic accelerated its e-commerce business, said Factor.
“What did happen during the pandemic was that most people turned to our online business to find their Smashbox products… Our launches went on as usual and we launched a hugely successful product during this time, our Halo Tinted Moisturiser.”
With people hunkered down during the pandemic, Factor acknowledged that the people’s make-up styles have changed and become more minimalistic – a far cry from the bold editorial looks the brand is associated with.
However, with more countries coming out of COVID-19 lockdowns, Factor expects the enthusiasm for make-up to return to pre-COVID levels.
“We are seeing people come out more and more with excitement for make-up and dynamic looks right now after [more than a year] of wearing less [make-up],” said Factor
In Asia Pacific, where skin care has traditionally been stronger than colour cosmetics, he sees an opportunity for hybrid products that have both skin care and make-up attributes.
“I think there is a cross-path between make-up and skin care. People still want that element of fun and creativity but also want to know there are good-for-skin ingredients in their formulas,” said Factor.
The shifting habits are pushing the company to develop “hardworking make-up that keeps up with you.”
Most recently, the company launched Halo Plumping Dew, a product that hydrate and plump the skin with hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, while its shimmery peach tone gives boosts the skins’ radiance with a pearl finish.
“We have been working like crazy to ensure we have this great balance of innovative products, vivid colours and good-for-skin ingredients that can stand up to the studio environment and everyday life,” said Factor.
At the same time, the company has been working to find ways for consumers to experience products during the pandemic by bringing the in-store experience online using Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.
In July, the company partnered with Taiwanese beauty tech firm Perfect Corp to launch a virtual try-on service on Perfect’s YouCam make-up app that supports its own Shape Matters methodology.
This tool, featuring Perfect’s AI deep-learning technology, allows consumers to experiment with looks easily and hygienically.