Splurge vs Steal | Battle of the Primers


As a beauty blogger, it’s my duty to report straight back to you if I find a beauty bargain, possible dupe or something that’s just bloody brilliant. As part of my new ‘Splurge vs Steal’ series, I’m kick starting it with a possible dupe I found not so long ago.

You all know I love to use the Nivea Men Replenishing Post Shave Balm (watch the video here) as a primer. But, I know a lot of people still like to use ones from other brands. I have always enjoyed using the Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer (£25.50). It’s won multiple awards and feels so luxurious on the skin, but the price tag is a little steep. Not so long ago, I was innocently browsing through the isles of Boots, looking for inspiration for my blog and checking out brand new products, when I stumbled across the L’Oreal Infallible Mattifying Primer (£7.99).

My first impressions were how similar the packaging looks to the Smashbox – I had to look twice. It was only when I picked it up and read what it has to offer that I discovered that not only do they look similar, they make very similar promises too. They both claim to instantly transform skins texture for an even surface with velvet-soft touch, and to smooth skin by minimising imperfections and pores. The texture, consistency and colour on the swatch is almost identical too. The Smashbox primer has an oil free formula, creating a matte finish and the L’oreal promises to mattify the skin also. Are these basically the same product?

I swatched both of the primers (below) and there was barely a difference between the two in terms of consistency, texture and colour. The L’oreal was a little more runny and clear than the Smashbox, but I was quite surprised that when I tilted my hand vertically they both stayed put. When I blended the primers into the skin, the L’oreal left a noticeable shimmer. You can see both swatches with and without flash. I always like to test primers with a flash because a lot claim to help reduce shine in flash photography.


So, now for the real test. Do both of the primers actually work in the same way? I applied the Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer on one half of my face and the L’oreal Infallible Mattifying Primer on the other. I popped my usual full face of makeup on and progressed with my day, (note the ‘i’m clearly at work’ selfie). I hoped at the end that both sides would still look identical.

On application, the L’oreal definitely felt like more of a tacky gel than the Smashbox. Both primers smoothed over my skin and took very minimal effort to apply. They are both light-weight, have a silicone feel and instantly smooth over the skin and blur pores nicely. I noticed that the Smashbox improved my skin’s appearance almost instantly, whereas my redness still peeped through the L’oreal. However, I applied my Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation + Concealer foundation as normal and both sides covered as well as each other.


My foundation barely shifted throughout the day (unlike my hair). I used the phone often so I had a small patch by my ear where the foundation had broken up slightly but it remained even everywhere else on both sides. I usually break out in oil when I don’t apply a primer under my foundation, but my skin remained matte all day long which of course us oily skinned beauties love. I cannot compare the two sides because they gave very similar results – I am uber impressed!

Have you tried either of these primers? What do you think? 



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Clarina helps enthusiastic bloggers develop & stand out online, as well as reviewing popular products, discussing the latest beauty trends and quite honestly anything that takes her fancy. Oh! And she's on YouTube.

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37 comments on “Splurge vs Steal | Battle of the Primers”

  1. It is! I would love to visit Britain someday!

    1. Clarina says:

      Where abouts in America are you from? I’ve only ever been to Florida and New York.

      1. I live in California. I absolutely love it here. I’ve been to Florida but never New York. I’ve always wanted to go!

        1. Clarina says:

          If love to go to that side of America! We went to the east because it was closer to home but me and my boyfriend want to go down the whole west coast next! Florida and New York were totally different places.

          1. I’ve heard New York is extremely busy and crowded! I would love to go see a play and go shopping though! I’m completely in love with California. It’s never too hot or too cold!! I don’t know if I could ever live anywhere else.

          2. Clarina says:

            Yep! New York was full of people walking really quickly and Florida was very relaxed and spacious. When I go to California, I am definitely going for a few weeks to make the most of it. I don’t like hot places (which is good considering I like in England haha).

          3. Ha ha! What is England like?

          4. Clarina says:

            It’s cold! Haha. But it’s home for me and I love it 🙂 Londons great because there’s so much to see and do. If you get the chance to visit you should.

          5. My husband and I have been talking about it. We may plan a trip out there sometime next year! Just from pictures I can tell it is GORGEOUS!

          6. Clarina says:

            You should! Europe’s so easy to hop around in so perhaps you could visit Amsterdam, Paris, everywhere 🙂

          7. I want to see everything!! I would love to stay there for a month and just explore. We were thinking of going for our wedding anniversary. We’ll see what happens!!

  2. I had no idea L’oreal even had that primer! I must hunt for it now to give it a shot. Thanks for this review! <3

    1. Clarina says:

      Me neither until I saw it and thought how similar it looked to the Smashbox so I just had to grab it. No problem 🙂

  3. I was thinking of buying thr smashbox one. Maybe I should try the L’oreal one xD since it’s budget friendly. Thank you so much for posting. Your posts are always helpful for me wheather it’s a review or blogging tips 🙂 keep it up. Always supporting you 😀

    1. Clarina says:

      Thanks for your support – always appreciated 🙂 Go for the L’oreal! Honestly there was barely a difference between the two. It’s just sometimes nicer to have a high end product but they work in exactly the same way.

      1. You are welcome 🙂 Yep 😀

  4. Great find! I haven’t seen the primer in my drugstores but I’m hoping it shows up! I’m in love with the loreal pro matte foundation.

    1. Clarina says:

      Thanks! Yes I’ve heard amazing reviews about the L’oreal Pro Matte Foundation, apparently that and the primer go hand in hand. I wanted to buy it but I couldn’t justify it because i’ve just topped up on foundation. Maybe next time 😉

      1. Ha ha. Yes, I currently have too many foundations to finish before I buy anymore too. There are just so many great ones available now!!

        1. Clarina says:

          I know! I discovered highstreet or drugstore foundations and concealers recently and I love them! They’re teaching high end quality.

          1. Absolutely!! I remember 5 years ago it was almost impossible to find a good inexpensive foundation and concealer. It is so much fun finding so many successful products that are affordable and work extremely well! By the way-I’ve never heard of highstreet before! What does that mean exactly?

          2. Clarina says:

            Yes! I’m so happy they’ve improved. Highstreet is basically what the British call drugstore! So all of the cheaper brands are highstreet brands to us in places like Boots and Superdrug 🙂

          3. Wow! Thanks for teaching me something today! I love that! 🙂

          4. Clarina says:

            It’s good to learn something new everyday!

  5. What a great dupe and as you said, both are like just mirror image of each other. Loved this post.

    1. Clarina says:

      Thank you! I was pleased I found this dupe 🙂

  6. StaceyT says:

    The Smashbox primer works well for me so I will have to try this one! x

    1. Clarina says:

      You should do! I was very impressed and I’ll definitely be using both of them. Xx

  7. Aww you picked up my favourite go-to primer. I always loved it but noticed that due to its mattifying effect – it dries my skin over the winter months when my skin already gets very dry. But I love, love, love it 🙂 glad you liked it too xx

    1. Clarina says:

      The Smashbox or the Loreal? I love them both and I’ll definitely continue to use them! Xxx

      1. Haha oh dear, sorry…it’s been a long day! 🙂 I always went for L’Oreal, previously I used MAC’s skin primer which is AMAZING but I tend to use that pricier one for special occasions and L’Oreal on daily basis 🙂 xx

        1. Clarina says:

          Haha don’t worry! It’s nearly Friday 😉 I have the MACs too but I prefer the Smashbox and the Loreal now! The MAC just ended up being forgotten about but I did used to love it. Xx

          1. Really? You see that is making me want to try Smashbox…what would you say the main difference between Smashbox and Mac? I am such a MAC addict lol p.s I actually wanted to thank you for all your birchbox reviews, as guess what? I finally placed an order today 😀 so excited now xxx

          2. Clarina says:

            Smashbox is apparently the number one best selling! They have so many types of primer though, it can become confusing so if you do decide to go with them, go for the standard primer or spend some time finding out about what exactly the others do. The main difference between Smashbox and MAC is the finish and consistency. The Smashbox is so luxurious, has no scent and glides over and fills in pores. It’s a matte finish which I love because i’m oily and that’s what I didn’t like about the MAC. Xxx

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