Cosmetic close-up: Make-up now comes in high-def

Smashbox cosmetics, a unit of Smashbox Studios — the photo and film company founded by the great-grandsons of Hollywood cosmetics legend Max Factor — rolled out its HD makeup in March, and has seen it become one of the company's top-selling products.

Cosmetics sales overall have held up relatively well despite the weaker U.S. economy. Deutsche Bank analyst Bill Schmitz Jr. said in a note to investors that sales of color cosmetics rose 1.2% year-over-year for the four-week period ending Aug. 10.

At a Sephora in midtown Manhattan, several women gathered around Makeup Forever and pawed through the brand's HD cosmetics. Sara Gomez picked up the $30 HD Microfinish Powder, stuck her finger in the sample and rubbed the powder between her fingers.

"It's very silky. Fortunately, they're out of it, so I can't buy it!" said Gomez, chuckling. "I guess that makes sense, with everyone wanting to look perfect these days."

The widespread acceptance of HD makeup in Hollywood and in the fashion world may explain the interest among shoppers, experts say.

"We are seeing a huge demand for it," Mandor said. "Their favorite celebrities are getting airbrushed."

Sales of the company's HD makeup, created in 2001, have doubled over the past year, and Temptu plans on rolling out an airbrush model to the consumer market next year.

Still, not everyone is sure that the HD products are ready for the mass market.

"I sit in the middle," said Shana King, an Atlanta-based makeup artist and co-founder of adesign makeup brushes who wears HD makeup herself. "I feel like there's a place for it — in photos, on television or even special events. It's just that everyone is jumping on the bandwagon," says King.

King says there are a lot more steps involved in the application of an HD foundation, and that some of the HD face powders are heavy and cause dry skin. "I just feel like we have to be careful," King says. "There needs to be more consumer education."

University of Southern California sociologist Julie Albright says HDTV, which makes every little wrinkle visible, has put more pressure on women to be beautiful.

Albright, who wore HD makeup once when appearing on a television news show, says women feel "beauty anxiety" when shown images of young, attractive actresses and newscasters, and thinks HD makeup offers a solution to help relieve some of the tension by making them "a little more perfect."

"The pressure is really on, and the beauty bar is being raised," Albright says. "It's going to be interesting to see how women off-screen adjust to this."

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