Behind the Box: An Interview with Dean and Davis Factor of Smashbox

In the cosmetics biz, the illusive pursuit of natural beauty is what pushes product. Yet the founders of Smashbox Cosmetics, Dean and Davis Factor, have taken the approach that natural is overrated. Flawless, now that’s hot. Whether it’s their healthy following within the L.A. celebrity circles or an inherited passion for face paint — their great-grandfather Max Factor is not only credited for innovations like pan-cake makeup and lip gloss but even coined the term “makeup” — the Factor brothers have edged up against the competition with a cosmetic line that’s slick, sexy and smart. And that’s the beauty of it.

Smashbox Cosmetics sprouted almost organically from the duo’s first venture in 1991, Smashbox Photo Studios. At the time, Davis Factor was establishing himself as a celebrity and fashion photographer, his lens capturing the faces of Jennifer Lopez, Kirsten Dunst, Dido and Carmen Electra to name a few. Fresh from pursuing his MBA, younger brother Dean teamed up with Davis to expand his Santa Monica photo studio into a 25,000-square-foot space in Culver City. Smashbox has since morphed into an enterprise that oozes with style and innovation. Dean now tends to the business side as CEO of Smashbox Enterprises and president of Smashbox Cosmetics while Davis balances his high-demand photography career with his position as creative director of Smashbox Cosmetics.

“We are the only cosmetics line that creates products based on the techniques and inspirations from the photo shoots here at Smashbox Studios,” notes Davis. “Our best sellers all came from working under the hot lights where the photographers wanted a flawless finish.” Their standout product since launching the line is Anti-Shine, an oil-absorbing formulation originally developed to keep skin matte under the glare of the studio lights.

2003 brought yet another undertaking that upped the brothers’ credibility as style ambassadors and that for one week each fall, transforms their expansive photo compound into a fashion hotbed: Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios. “Smashbox Fashion Week Los Angeles was the beginning of this venture,” Dean explains. “My brother and I saw a demand for an L.A. Fashion Week. We ran for three seasons and then merged with IMG to partner with Mercedes Benz Fashion Week at Smashbox Studios.”

“Every season the event becomes more and more credible. Down the line we hope to make the L.A. Fashion Week a must-see for press, buyers and celebrities,” Davis adds.

While these two very different entrepreneurial brothers focus on their next project — Smashbox Cares, a foundation designed to give back to the local community along with other charitable causes around the world — they continue to merge beauty and fashion into one smashing success, one color palette at a time.

Get a preview of spring 2008 colors at

Story originally published in ITEM Magazine’s Spring 06 issue.

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