Times Staff Writer

GET ready for your close-up. A new category of cosmetics hitting stores now is designed to achieve a flawless-looking face under the microscope of pore-magnifying, fine line-focusing, high-definition television.

The products are already popular with Hollywood makeup artists, but now brands such as Cargo and Christian Dior are being marketed to the everywoman who wants to look like a perfectly porcelain-skinned Nicole Kidman, whether she’s under the harsh florescent lights of the office or in the soft focus of an outdoor patio.

HD foundations claim to provide full coverage without feeling or looking too thick. They contain photochromatic particles that reflect light instead of absorbing it, blurring fine lines and imperfections, explains Dr. Jessica Wu, a Los Angeles dermatologist.


Not surprisingly, Smashbox Cosmetics was the first company to enter the high-def category. Owners Dean and Davis Factor, great-grandsons of film makeup pioneer Max Factor, have positioned Smashbox as a professional Hollywood brand that also happens to be commercially available.

“The trend in makeup is to have clean, real-looking, less-made-up skin, so HD techniques and the way we wear makeup in everyday life go hand in hand,” says Smashbox Cosmetics makeup artist Lori Taylor.

Celebrity makeup artist Patrick Tumey has been using Smashbox High Definition Healthy FX Foundation on Sandra Oh and Sara Ramirez for on-camera and off-camera appearances for the last year, and describes it as “more pliable” than non-HD products. “It grabs shadow better and highlights cheekbones and eye sockets.”

Others are more skeptical.

“It’s a clever marketing tool,” says Amy Keller Laird, beauty director at Allure magazine. “But the concept is not that new. There are micro particles and pigments that adjust to light in any good light-reflecting makeup.” (Wu notes that mineral makeup has similar light-reflecting properties.)

Makeup artist Nick Barose, who works with Mischa Barton, Mary-Kate Olsen and Kim Kardashian, agrees. He swears by a Clarins product that has an “auto focus complex” that claims to absorb excess light and make the skin look flawless in bright sun or artificial lighting -- just like HD foundation.

Still, he sees the value of the HD label for consumers. It takes the guesswork out of choosing a product that’s going to make you look good in any light, he says. “It’s like a security blanket.”


We decided to put a few HD products to the test under the harsh florescent light of an office bathroom and the direct sunlight of a Southern California afternoon.

Christian Dior Capture Totale

High Definition Serum Foundation, $75

Definitely the most luxurious foundation of the bunch, it was thicker than expected and a tad bit oily. The foundation glided on effortlessly, filling in every nook and cranny. The finish was soft and a little powdery with ample coverage.

There were no scary surprises when we got into the florescent light, just even skin tone. But under the high sun, you could see traces of the makeup, making the effect less natural.

Smashbox High Definition

Healthy FX Foundation, $38

This slick-feeling formula has a mushroom-based extract that gives it a cushiony texture. The sheer formula made this foundation feel invisible on the skin, and made the face look more luminescent than with the Dior foundation.

The best performer indoors and out, this foundation soaked easily into the skin and looked blissfully natural.

Cargo Blu-ray

High Definition Makeup, $20-$30

Racheting up the lingo to appeal to Blu-ray technophiles, this line includes a highlighter, mattifier and pressed powder designed to be used together, plus mascara and lip gloss. The mattifier was so drying, it actually created fine lines on the face and an uncomfortably tight sensation.


Under florescent light, the powder and blush made the skin look pale and washed out. In sunlight, the effect was clean and natural, except for the flakiness caused by the mattifier.

But the mascara was the real standout. The tiny comb didn’t look like it would do much, but the effects were incredible. It defined each eyelash without any clumpiness or mess -- like false eyelashes minus the hassle.

If only high-def cosmetics had been around for Tammy Faye.