I first discovered the Tarte Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Illuminating Serum through one of those deluxe sample kits that Sephora sometimes does. It came as a 0.3oz sample tube in the In The Glow kit (the same kit which also led me to discover my beloved Boscia Black Mask) and I don't know if I ever would have tried it otherwise. I'm glad I did, because it's become one of my most favorite everyday beauty items.
I love the pretty purple box it comes in, but what's up with Sephora smashing everything to hell lately? Within the past year or so, every time I order something from them, at least one thing in the box comes looking smashed or mutilated and sometimes actually legitimately broken. Someone in their warehouse/shipping department must have anger management issues.
The actual product tube isn't pretty and purple, but it is still visually appealing. It's a fleshy-looking slightly sparkly squeeze tube with a star design and a purple cap with a plastic outer layer.
The squeeze tube is neither flimsy nor overly stiff and the opening of the tube is small enough to keep it from being messy and over-dispensing product, but not so small that it's hard to get enough product out.
The texture of the Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Illuminating Serum is like a light silicone primer. It feels more wet than the average silicone primer, and a little more loose and lotion-like. It's more like a smooth gel with a creamy but not oily texture. The color of it seems worryingly dark, foundation-like and opaque when it comes out of the tube, but it blends out to almost nothing.
When it's blended onto the skin, it doesn't have much color but it does leave behind a slight golden shimmer and a soft-focus blurred effect.
Here's some of the product claims (taken from Sephora.com):
Tarte Smooth Operator™ Amazonian Clay Illuminating Serum
What it is:
An illuminating serum fortified with Amazonian clay.
What it does:
Ideal for all skin types, this natural skin brightener is infused with Amazonian clay, vitamins, and tea extract to moisturize and replenish the skin. This healing clay completely neutralizes any negative skin condition so that you are left with a healthy, radiant complexion.
What it is formulated WITHOUT:
- Synthetic Fragrances
- Synthetic Dyes
What else you need to know:
Oily skin? Amazonian clay minimizes oil in and around pores to balance skin and keep product in place. Dry skin? This nourishing clay hydrates skin naturally to restore moisture so your makeup wears better, longer and truer.
-Amazonian Clay: Reduces dryness and flakiness, improves skin clarity, elasticity, firmness, and texture while removing oil from the skin's surface for smooth makeup application and wear.
-Chamomile Extract: Acts as a hypoallergenic and anti-inflammatory agent; treats and heals dry or damaged skin.
-Vitamin C: Fights free radical damage and prevents oxidative stress and premature signs of aging, while brightening skin.
-Vitamins A and E: Act as anti-inflammatory emollients and protect against free radical damage.
-Sodium Hyaluronate: Retains moisture to plump fine lines and wrinkles.
I actually don't wear this alone (like a primer) as recommended. I didn't really like it applied straight to my skin, but I adore it when mixed with my foundation. When I use this, I squeeze about half a dime's worth of product onto the back of my hand and then I pour out about a nickel-sized amount of my foundation on top and blend them together. I then use a damp Beauty Blender sponge to apply the mixture to my entire face and occasionally set it with powder.
I was already very happy with my foundation on its own (Revlon Colorstay for Oily Skin, I'm talking Holy Grail status happy), but this just puts it over the top. I'll try to explain what I like about in bullet-point form:
What I liked:
- Adds a subtle glow and luminosity to my skin without looking sparkly or greasy. It has shimmer in it, but when mixed with foundation, you don't see sparkles, just an actual, visible brightening effect. I am really happy with how this makes my skin look when used together with my Colorstay foundation.
- Makes my foundation go on extra smooth, much nicer than how it goes on alone.
- It both controls shiny spots and evens out dry spots. This is one of the packaging claims and it really does live up to it.
- Doesn't make me break out.
- When I have dry, flaky areas on my face, it helps make them look smoother and doesn't draw attention to them.
- The tube lasts forever. It took me months to finish the sample tube, and I've been using the full size (1.7oz) for almost four months and haven't even put a dent in it.
What I didn't like:
- When I use it alone (which I've only done twice), it sits weird on my skin and feels strange.
- Wish the tube was purple.
- If I overdo it and use too much, it makes my foundation too slippery and it won't apply evenly.
- It controls oil for a good long while, but around the 6-8 hour mark, I do need to reapply powder or use blotting linens.
I've been on this quest to start paying more attention to my skin/skincare routine and not just the fun things (why spend money on moisturizer when you can spend it on neon green eyeshadow, right?) and while this was an accidental discovery (would have never tried it if it wasn't included in that kit), it's turned out to be one of the best things I've ever used. I've been using it every single day since last September and I still love it. I love the glow it gives me, the brightening effect it has on my skin, the texture-smoothing aspect, the way it absorbs oil but also doesn't make my skin dry or cakey from the clay. Everything. It's not a miracle worker, it doesn't give me 100% perfect skin just from using it, but it does make an obvious, noticeable difference for me, and that's what's important.
Also, after using this and being really impressed by it, I have a renewed interest in Tarte. I tried a sample of the Amazonian Clay finishing powder and loved it, so I ordered the Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Full Coverage Foundation (should be here any day now) and that Miracle of Maracuja kit that was the QVC Today's Special Value last week... Hopefully I like those as much as I love this stuff.
I got my Tarte Smooth Operator Amazonian Clay Illuminating Serum from Sephora, $32 for 1.7 oz.