tarte Smooth Operator and Provocateur review

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photo: we heart this

When Maureen Kelly founder of tarte cosmetics started her business and cosmetic line (from her tiny apartment) in 1999 she was doing all of us a favor! Producing a line not only created with the best ingredients, but also packaged in total finery. Seriously, think about Lights, Camera, Lashes!mascara or their trademark pseudo snakeskin; what could be better! The wht review team seems to agree tarte is a top quality, colorful line as evidenced by our past reviews of the eyeQuatic Summer Essentials Set and the Holiday 2009 Collection.

But it’s not all striking packages and shimmery makeup at tarte; did you know that tarte is also an eco-conscious company worthy of a Green Monday review? Maureen launched tarte when she “became frustrated when (she) couldn’t find healthy, nourishing cosmetics. Everything…was full of unhealthy, synthetic formulas.” To make matters worse, when Maureen located a green makeup line, the packaging was so blah, she didn’t want to buy it, “let alone take it out of my purse in public!”

You will have no such problems with any offering from tarte. All products are not only “98% free of parabens, petro-chemicals, phthalates, sulfates and synthetic fragrances,” they are packaged in chic, runway-inspired cases and compacts. To make things even better, the packaging components are made from recyclable or post-consumer recycled material and can often be re-used to help reduce environmental waste.

That reality is what made trying tarte’s Smooth Operator tinted moisturizer even more exciting for me. It is a subtly tinted moisturizer that packs a whopping spf 20 to protect your skin and is free of parabens, mineral oil, petrolatum, and other yucky stuff. Instead this fabulous tinted moisturizer contains chamomile extract (a wonder for facial skin with its anti-inflammatory effects), vitamins A, C, and E (to protect from free radicals while reducing signs of aging) as well as orange, lemon, Ginseng root…. are you getting all of this? Suffice to say, your skin will thank you for using this makeup.

As for its coverage, it is subtle; giving skin a sheer glow. As someone who never wears foundation that works for me. For some, one layer will suffice, but the formula is easily layered for heavier coverage if needed (mimicking the look, but not the feel of your typical foundation). It goes on smooth, blends incredibly well, and stays put throughout the day.

Offered it in a wide array of colors, you’re sure to find your match. Tarte has recently updated their color selection and the packaging of Smooth Operator, but the natural formula remains. And you really only need a tiny amount to cover your entire face. My tube has lasted a good six weeks and I think I can get a couple more out of it before I need a new one.

If you need more coverage, or prefer a powder, look no further than tarte’s Provocateur Pressed Mineral Powder with spf 8. Also free from all the nasty chemicals we do not want on our faces, this powder offers full coverage that will leave your skin velvety smooth. The fine powder is chock full of healthy, vitamin rich ingredients, and has been known to be a favorite of many a fine lady, including none other than Miss Carrie Underwood! How smooth does her skin look.. bet she’s rocking tarte!

Join me in the comments where I’ll be adding my 5 star love. As always, that’s where you will find the we heart this review team’s thoughts and experiences on Smooth Operator and Provocateur Pressed Mineral Powder. And hey, wht community, have you tried either? What do you think?

Bonus: Check out tarte’s Smooth Operator in action – click to our Lost inspired beauty post, How To Get a Natural Look where our model is wearing one layer of Smooth Operator without powder.

Get Smooth Operatorat Sephora!

Get Provocateur Pressed Mineral Powder at Sephora!

Disclosure: This review includes products that were provided by the manufacturer/PR firm for our consideration. It also contains an affiliate link, a link that gives us a small commission if you purchase the item. For more info, or any questions, please see our disclosure policy.



  1. I Heart Tarte. In truth, the Smooth Operator Tinted Moisturizer/Faux Foundation is just the first of many products from Tarte that I fell in love with. Christy is absolutely correct in her description of how the product can be easily layered for a fuller coverage, and you do get a really nice glow! And SPF 20 is not too shabby either.

    Now the other products? Where to begin? Lights, Camera, Lashes is one of my go-to mascaras. Wearing it today! I love the porcupine brush for separating and really lengthening lashes. A huge fan of the Park Ave. Princess Bronzers. I also wear the Tarte Cheekstains at least 5 out of 7 days a week (Blushing Bride and and old limited edition called True Love are my faves!

    Oh yeah, and if you have not been by Sephora lately and seen the new natural lipstain crayons, then you haven’t yet seen where I’m spending some hard earned $$ this week!

  2. I’m not a fan of foundation or even really of tinted moisturizer, but this awesome review has even ME wanting to give it a second chance!!! I’m more interested in the pressed powder though. I use Bare Minerals, and it would be so nice to have a pressed powder that I could throw in my bag. I love my minerals, but loose powder is definitely not very portable!

  3. I’m always on the lookout for a good tinted moisturizer with spf, especially as summer approaches, and this one sounds fantastic. Its “layer-ability” sounds especially promising. I’ll add this to my must-try list. Thanks for this informative post, Christy!

  4. I got to test the Smooth Operator tinted moisturizer and while I’m usually not a fan of anything beyond some loose powder for basic coverage, I have to say, this was REALLY nice!

    I had never tried the Tarte line before but I’m so impressed with how smoothly the moisturizer goes on and as Christy pointed out, one application gives such a lovely glow. It was lightweight and SPF 20 is impressive. I’m heading down to Austin in a couple of days, so this is going to be the perfect item to bring with and provide protection against the sun.

    I really dig the eco-conscious aspect of the packaging and the natural ingredients used. I will definitely be trying their Provocateur Mineral Powder now. I love Tarte!

  5. I am a car carrying member of Conan and Jim Gaffigan’s Pale Force! So I really could use a great tinted moisturizer with a nice SPF. I have heard great things about the Tarte. I just haven’t given it a try yet. But maybe I should with such great recommendations from you all.

    I can say that I am a huge fan of the cheek stains. Katie can attest to that as we belong to the Tarte Cheek Stain Sisterhood! I am so dying to try the new lip stain. Please dish Katie! I trust your opinion.

  6. I’m adding my 5 stars. This is such an easy to heart product!

    Katie, I’m totally going to try one of the new lip stains too!

    And ladies, give this a try! I have really sensitive skin, and like

    Kellie, I’m a total Irish fair skinned lass too!! And it works really well for me.
    The spf is a nice insurance too, keeping the sunburn away!!

    Melissa if your a tinted moisturizer fan, I think you’ll love this.
    I honestly never thought I’d move to another because I loved my Laura Mercier one so much, but I have to say this is just as good, costs less, and is definitely greener too!

    Lindsay I think you’ll love the powder.. I’m with you on Bare Minerals, not the easiest to travel and touch up with. This Tarte one is great, and easy to bring along in your purse! bonus :)

    Kari, have fun in Austin!! :)

  7. Awww, sad! I’ve never had good luck with Tarte. My skin is pretty oily throughout my T-Zone and my cheeks are super dry- Tarte’s foundations gum up on my T-Zone and emphasize any flakes and dry spots on my cheeks. Heck, I’ve never even had good luck with the mascara or lipgloss! (Too dry/flakey and too goopy/uneven.)

    Good luck ladies, but Tarte is just not for me.

  8. South by Southwest!! I am soo jealous! Who are you seeing?

    Amanda – that sucks! I wonder why some brands work well on some and not on others? I would say to check out the Pressed Mineral Powders the next time you are at their display, if you haven’t already. It’s a nice powder for my skin which sounds similar to yours – shiny and oily in spots (which the powder turns a silky matte) and dry, sometimes flakey on the checks (just a super light dusting with a fluffy brush is all they need).

    I tested the Smooth Operator for this review – it was my first tube and I was excited since I knew our Miss Katie Groves was a fan – always a good sign! I went with Agent 08 for my fair, cool skin and the color is a fantastic match. The formula just glides on and a teent bit of product covers a lot of skin – so it feels light on your skin. Sometimes I need heavier coverage in spots and could dab a bit more where ever and blend it with my fingers or a brush. Smooth Operator wheres well on my combo skin and does not break me out – love it!

    Oh, and I forgot to mention I used this on our model for our Lost inspired Natural Look Piece – here’s one application of Smooth Operator without a powder finish:


    .-= Tyna Werner´s last blog ..Erno Laszlo Sea Mud Soap – oily skin’s best friend =-.

  9. This sounds great! I love a tinted moisturizer that has an SPF. I like that you get UV protection while also getting a nice glow. I have only used the creamy blushes from Tarte and I really liked them. I bet this is just as good.

  10. I tested the Provaocateur Powder in honey 12 and I love it! I also was looking for a good purse powder and this is it! It also has SPF 8 which is better than none. As you can see from the pic above, it is surrounded with tarte’s signature pretty purple packaging – it’s plush and quilt-like, too – like a Chanel purse! Makes you proud to pull it out in public. The powder itself works really well for me. I am a little oily with a shiny nose and this does an excellent job of covering that shine that I’ve always had trouble with, for most of the day. There is a very generous pan of powder, and I love how the applicator is kept separate from the powder itself. I had to keep reminding myself at first to open the bottom compartment first to grab the applicator and then open the powder! Now that I’m used to it though, it’s just as convenient as ever, and I quite enjoy that aspect of it, too. It has a strong magnetic closure for each compartment, so there’s no struggling to get it open and no chance of it coming open on its own in your purse, either. So, all areas of this are thumbs up for me – I would just go lighter if I picked it out myself…honey 12 is maybe a little dark for my fairly fair skin – but it’ll be perfect in the summer! 5 stars!!!

  11. I’ve never been a fan of tinted moisturizer or liquid foundation or even powder foundation until I started reviewing them for WHT. I’ve heard such good things about Tarte in the past, so I was excited to try Tarte Provocateur Pressed Mineral Powder with spf 8. Besides the ultra cool purple quilted compact, the product was great. With just one swipe of the sponge, I was able to cover my whole face. It gave me complete coverage without feeling heavy. My face wasn’t so flawless as to be untouchable. I looked natural but better than average. Kind of like a really great push up bra. lol.

    It is also really fool proof. You swipe it on and go. Really a very good product.

  12. (Oh, I forgot to add, that the color was a very good match for the fall and winter months. If I chose to wear it in the summer time, I might have to wear a bronzer to darken it up a bit.)

  13. Kari!! Have fun! I havn’t been to SXSW for a few years..I always loved going.. such a great chance to see so many amazing bands!!
    Have fun!!!!! & if you get a chance to have Gingerbread Pancakes at Magnolia, they are amazing!

    Tyna, you had me excited about this from that post…and I just love it, seriously one of the best tinted moisturizers ever!

    Cori you won’t be sorry if you give it a shot!!!

    And Mel and Rakisha, so glad you liked the powder.. Rakisha you cracked me up with your description!! Totally spot on! :)

    Its amazing how good of a product it is, and how amazingly cute the packaging is.. you can tell a very talented woman is behind this line!
    First class all the way!

  14. Ah, crud muffins.

    I kept thinking, “Must buy, must buy, must buy” until the big whopper killed it–Vitamin A aka Retinol. My skin cannot tolerate Retinol AT ALL. I get the worst reaction from that ingredient (as in swelling where it’s applies, peeling red dry skin, burning feeling, etc). Why must there be things made with Vitamin A?!

    Sometimes, it sucks to be me.

  15. I forgot to mention in my first comment that I tested Agent 16 which matches my skin tone pretty well when applied lightly and if I go heavier would be perfect during summer months when my skin is tan….

    Speaking of tans, I’ve never been to Austin OR SxSW, so I’m really excited! I’ve been dying to go for years!

    Tyna-We don’t have passes so we’re sticking to a lot of the lesser known bands and unofficial shows. Part of me wishes we could see She & Him, Muse, The XX and First Aid Kit, but I’m definitely ok with seeing all the other bands playing that I might not have heard of otherwise. I think some on our list were Hot Panda, Girl In A Coma and there was some kind of Japanese music showcase one of the nights. Sadly the one band I was dying to see, Go Chic, is playing the night we leave. Also, shameless plug, my boyfriend’s bands, Bella Koshka and Dearling Physique are playing a showcase on Thursday so I’ll be seeing them as well. :)

    Christy-Magnolia is on our itinerary! Everyone I’m going with are SxSW veterans and have been raving about the gingerbread pancakes! :D

  16. Did anyone else have the song Smooth Operator in the head all day after reading this?

  17. And Kari, I want to go too! can you pack me in your bag??

  18. I am a tinted moisturizer connoisseur. And I can say whole heartily; Smooth Operator is amazing! And it just moved up to the number one position in my tinted moisturizers hall of fame (proudly showcased on my vanity top.) Why so fabulous? It really seems to just melt into your skin, providing good coverage, but not a heavy feel. And for me, it’s a miracle that I’m using an spf 30 and don’t notice it at all (no smell or white tinge.) LOVE this!
    .-= stef´s last blog ..Erno Laszlo Sea Mud Soap – oily skin’s best friend =-.

  19. I love Tarte and have been dying to try Smooth Operator. I’m sure it’ll make my short list of summer makeup must-haves. I love tinted moisturizer in warmer months because I can almost pretend I’m wearing nothing at all.
    Cori—I, too, had “Smooth Operator” in my head. That and “I wear my sunglasses at night”, although for completely different reasons…ahem…yeah… :)

  20. @Tyna- good to know, thanks! I’ll have to play with it a bit next time I’m at Sephora!

  21. Ha.. Smooth Operator was in my head too :) Krista I love that I wear my sunglasses at night made it in the mix in your head ha!!! That song creeps up on you when you least expect it!

    This is for sure one of the best tinted moisturizers I’ve ever tried. And a little goes a long way.. I dare say one bottle could last almost all Summer!!
    Well worth the price tag!

    Kari!! Enjoy them! They are so tasty!! And if you want to see the best antique shop ever go to Uncommon Objects.. Its on the same street as Magnolia. I always find treasures there. And if your in the mood for METAL Headhunters is a good bet, and Im pretty sure they don’t care about SXSW wristbands there!! :)

  22. Cori-The more the merrier! In fact, we’d even let you sit in the car! ;)

    Christy- I’ll eat a gingerbread pancake in your honor! :)
    And I just looked up that Uncommon Objects place online and it looks AWESOME!! We’re going to use our last day to just walk around Austin, so hopefully we’ll find our way there. And I’m definitely checking out Headhunters! Thanks for all the great tips! :D

  23. I just tried Smooth Operator, and I really love how smoothly it went on and how much it covers without looking heavy at all. But it is SO hard to pick a shade! I thought I was an 08, but I think that’s actually a little too dark, but maybe if I get tanned in the summer, it’ll be okay. Anyone have good tips on the best and easiest way to determine what color undertone you are?

  24. Kari! I’m so jealous!! Have a blast!!!!

    Cheng, I am pretty sure you can test the colors at Sephora.
    It’s so hard on-line to tell. But if you go to a Sephora you should be able to test them and I’m sure someone there will help you find your undertone.
    I had a girl there help me figure out I was a pink undertone :)
    Hope that helps!!!

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