Setting powders, how I love thee, let me count the ways. You keep my skin looking flawless all day long, you prevent my face from getting shiny, and you prevent foundation from creasing into the lines on my face. Whether you see it referred to as setting powder, loose powder, or translucent powder, it is undeniable that this product is a key player in any strong makeup game.
In those horrible high school days, when I just started wearing makeup and I didn’t really know what I was doing, I could never figure out why my foundation would always seem to melt away by the end of the day. Sometimes it’d smudge, or cake awkwardly above my lip.
When I discovered that my makeup routine was missing the totally essential step of using face powders, I felt a bizarre mixture of relief at finally finding the secret to perfect, long-lasting foundation and shame for not having known it earlier.
In this article, I’ll give you all the details, so that your setting powder game can be on point. I explain what setting powders are, and how they differ from other makeup powders.
I always break down the best methods and tips on how to apply face powder. Lastly, we’ve collected the best setting powders on the market, so you can choose a great face powder right off the bat.
Best Setting Powders for a Flawless Makeup: Contents
For a long-lasting and flawless look, your makeup routine is probably missing any of these 15 best settings powders. So make sure you get that perfect one for you now!
1. Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder
My holy grail setting powder deserves the number one spot on this list as one of the definitively best setting powders of all time. This ultra-fine powder sets makeup perfectly, without caking or emphasizing dryness, and it just creates this perfect photo-finish that works for any occasion, with nearly every skin type.
It is available in two shades – one for fair to medium skin, and another that fits even very deep skin tones. You can pick it up at Sephora.
2. Bareminerals Mineral Veil Setting Powder
This brand is known for its powder foundations, but it also makes fantastic face powders. There are a few options with different finishes, so you can choose something that’ll give your skin more luminosity, a more hydrating version, a powder with a touch of warmth that’s better for darker skin tones, or simply opt for the original. If you’re a fan of natural cosmetics, you’ll be happy to know that this formula is very low on synthetics. It is available for sale at Sephora.
3. Kat Von D Lock-It Setting Powder
This lovely setting powder definitely locks foundation into place, but it stays looking extremely natural on the skin. It is great for those with dry skin or anyone who likes a dewy finish, since it hardly mattifies. It diffuses the look of pores and wrinkles, and looks fabulous on camera. You can buy it at Sephora.
4. Lancôme Absolue Powder Radiant Smoothing Powder
This luxurious setting powder gives the skin a subtle glow, so the skin looks radiant – not powdered. It lightly boosts the coverage of your foundation, and even helps to diffuse the appearance of pores and wrinkles, so you could even wear it on its own on great skin days. This face powder in available in 5 colors at Nordstrom.
5. Cover FX Perfect Setting Powder
This is another setting powder that leans slightly towards the luminizing side of things, giving the skin a lovely glow while making sure foundation stays in place. This formula is very low-pigment, so it won’t change the shade of your foundation. Instead it’ll just ensure that your skin looks perfect all day long.
If you’re trying to avoid talc, you’ll be happy to know there is none of that in here. It is available in 2 shades at Sephora.
6. Too Faced Peach Perfect Mattifying Setting Powder
If your skin is on the oilier side, you’ll be happy to know that there are also mattifying options on this list of the best setting powders. This sweet scented formula keeps foundation in place and oils at bay all day long, while keeping the skin hydrated thanks to peach and fig extracts. Oh, and did I mention it smells absolutely delicious? You can find it for sale at Sephora.
7. BECCA Hydra-Mist Set & Refresh Powder
This is one of the best face powders for dry skin or for anyone who feels like powders usually make their makeup look flakey or cakey. It’s made with 50% glycerin, a humectant that pulls moisture into the skin. So it actually feels like a cooling face mist when applied, and yet it gives a smooth, silky finish to the skin. This powder is available for purchase at Sephora.
8. Chanel Poudre Universelle Libre Natural Finish Loose Powder
If you’re trying to tame oils, then this setting powder is an excellent choice. It sets makeup and gives a velvety finish to the skin without any shine, and it keeps it looking matte and perfect all day long. Choose your favorite of the three shades available at Nordstrom.
9. Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Invisimatte Blotting Powder
This mattifying powder’s main job is to blot the skin and keep it looking matte, although it also sets foundation so it lasts longer. Lighter translucent powders can often leave a white cast on those with darker skin, especially on camera. Some brands simply make darker powders, but Fenty created a truly colorless powder that really works for everyone, and never looks heavy or cakey.
As a bonus, it’s a pressed powder, so it’ll be very easy to use on the go. You can find it at Sephora.
10. Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder
Sometimes a makeup product deserves a few extra marks for having a beautiful packaging. This setting powder gives a luminous finish to the skin since it is made of mica minerals along with some diamond dust. It keeps foundation lasting long, and gives the skin a smooth, ethereal finish. You can pick it up from Sephora.
11. Dermablend Loose Setting Powder
This a professional-grade setting powder for heavy-duty makeup users. It controls shine like no other, and keeps foundation totally put. That being said, it does mean that it can look cakey if you overdo it, and it’s not a great choice for those with dry skin. It comes in three shades at Ulta.
12. Marc Jacobs Beauty Finish-Line Perfecting Coconut Setting Powder
This setting powder is best described as silky or creamy. It is best for dry skin, since it contains lots of emollient oils that give it a uniquely dewy texture. Those with oily or acne-prone skin should probably avoid it. It gives the skin what is described as a “soft-matte texture”. It is available for sale at Sephora.
13. NARS Light Reflecting Loose Setting Powder
This loose translucent setting powder has a matte finish to keep foundation looking great. It is a little lighter than a traditional translucent setting powder, meaning it would work best on skin that doesn’t get too greasy and doesn’t need a super long-lasting finish. This also means that it doesn’t settle into lines or look too heavy. It can be purchased at Sephora.
14. Too Cool For School Dinoplatz Loose & Silly Setting Powder SPF 27
This is another lightweight loose setting powder that is a great choice for oily skin. It contains rosehip oil, which calms and moisturizes the skin, while the SPF protects the skin from the harmful UV rays. It keeps foundation in place without budging. It is currently available in two shades at Bloomingdale’s.
15. Bobbi Brown Nude Finish Illuminating Setting Powder
This is another option for those of you who like pressed setting powders, to avoid the mess of a loose powder. It contains some shimmery minerals that diffuse dryness and unevenness in the skin, and give a natural, lit-from-within glow that is absolutely gorgeous. If you’re into that soft-focus, glowy look, then look no further. There are five shades for you to choose from, available at Sephora.
Setting powder, occasionally referred to as face powder or translucent powder, is a makeup powder with very little to no pigment. Its main role is to keep liquid and cream foundation in place, give the skin a slightly more matte finish, and make face makeup not smudge or melt off throughout the day.
Using a setting powder will make your makeup more waterproof. Setting powders can come pressed into a compact or loose in a jar with a shaker top.
Beyond just setting the foundation into place they make the whole makeup application process a breeze by ensuring that powder products like blushes and contours blend more easily, and by slightly perfecting the look of the skin overall.
Not every face powder is a setting powder, as there are ones that have different purposes. These are all the types of face powders and their differences:
As I previously explained, the main purpose of a setting powder is to “set” foundation, or to absorb some of the liquid in it so it stays in place for much longer, becomes waterproof, and doesn’t smudge. It contains very little pigmentation, so it shouldn’t alter the color of the foundation and it should be nearly invisible on the skin.
Setting powder can come as a loose powder, which usually has a shorter ingredient list, less fillers, and is more cost effective. However, it can also be quite messy.
Pressed setting powders create less of a mess, but they also usually include less product for a higher price, and they have to be pressed in with oils or glycerin, which alters their skin finish. That being said, there are some incredible pressed setting powders out there.
Another category within setting powders is the tinted ones – they can come in any skin tone, although you’ll frequently see yellow powders made for those with warm undertones to their skin or darker face powders made for darker skin tones.
The most common are totally colorless translucent powders, which unfortunately don’t always work for people of color.
Finishing Powder or HD Powder
Finishing powders can set foundation to a certain extent, but that’s not their primary purpose, and they are often actually created to be used after a setting powder. The job of a finishing powder is to give a “soft-focus” finish to the skin by blurring pores and imperfections.
Finishing powders are usually white in color, although they look invisible once applied to the skin.
Whether coming pressed into a compact or as a loose powder, a powder foundation has a lot of pigment, and is meant to perfect the color of the skin in addition to giving it a slightly more matte finish. You will often see powder foundations, especially of the loose kind, advertised as mineral foundations.
They can be used alone for a lighter coverage, over concealer, or even over foundation for a very complete and full coverage. For those who like the extract coverage, they can be used instead of setting powders.
Depending on your skin type and the outcome you want to get, there are different ways to use setting powder, which we discuss below.
The Basic Way – Normal/ Combination Skin and Medium Coverage
This is the technique I use to apply setting powder to my normal/ combination skin that gets a little shiny throughout the day. It gives the skin a naturally matte look that isn’t too heavy, and lasts perfectly on average days.
I find that it is the best technique for those with normal and combination skin types, especially with a more traditional setting powder like the Laura Mercier translucent powder.
• Apply your foundation, concealer, and other cream makeup products as you normally would. Try to keep the layers of foundation as thin as possible, to avoid caking and creasing.
• If you’re using a translucent powder, shake the container very lightly, and then turn it over so that the powder sits on the larger part of the container (the one with the holes), and so that you can use the lid to tap off excess product.
• Swirl your powder brush (either a Kabuki brush or a large yet stiff powder brush) through the powder, and then tap off the excess, or twirl it along the lid. You want to make sure not to have too much powder on the brush.
• Using a tapping motion, apply the setting powder to your skin starting with the areas that will likely require the most help staying set throughout the day – along the center of the forehead, nose, chin, and cheeks. Reload the brush with powder as necessary, although try not to overdo it.
• Use a small, fluffy powder brush and the same kind of tapping motion to apply setting powder to smaller areas of the face, like below the eyes and around the nostrils.
• If you suspect you may have overused the powder, use a clean, fluffy powder brush to wipe off the excess product. Buff it against your skin in circular motions – this will remove unnecessary powder but will also perfect your makeup and give you a smoother finish.
• Finish off the rest of your makeup as you normally would. Afterwards, you can use the same brush you used for applying powder to blend out blush and contour and give them a more natural look.
The Baking Method – For Very Oily Skin and Full Coverage
By using the “baking” technique you are guaranteed foundation and concealer that will not budge under any circumstances. The technique is called baking because initially a very heavy amount of setting powder is applied to the skin, and then sits on it for a few minutes to “bake.” In the end, most of that excess powder is wiped off.
Baking is too heavy for most people, and it is generally not recommended for those who have dry skin. This technique is especially popular with drag queens who need their heavy foundation to stay in place through long performances, during which they sweat under heavy lights and layers of stockings.
The average person will only need to bake the parts of their skin where they get oilier, like in the T-zone, or places where their makeup creases very easily like under the eyes. This technique works better with powder puffs or with beauty blenders.
• Apply your foundation, concealer, and other cream makeup products as you normally would. The thinner the layer of product, the better the final result will be.
• Dip a damp beauty blender or a powder puff into your setting powder of choice, and lightly tap off the excess.
• Apply the powder to your skin by pressing the puff or sponge against it. You will notice that a lot of powder stays on your skin – much more than actually looks good. This is totally fine, you can let it sit there.
• Lift the powder puff off the skin, and go on to the next spot, working in sections. Re-apply setting powder to it as often as seems necessary.
• To apply the powder under the eyes, use the thin end of the beauty blend, or fold your powder puff in half. Press the powder gently into the skin.
• Wait around five minutes, to allow the setting powder to “bake,” or fully sink into the foundation. During the wait time you can start doing your eye makeup.
• Using a clean powder brush buff away the excess powder using circular motions. This will refine the look of your skin and prevent your makeup from looking cakey.
• Finish the rest of your makeup as you normally would.
Dewy Finish – For Dry Skin and Light Coverage
For those with dry skin, it is really easy to overapply powder. Some people with dry skin choose to skip setting powder altogether, although it often means that their foundation doesn’t stay in place.
This is the technique you want to use to set foundation on dry skin, or if you want to set your foundation but keep it looking dewy. It is best used with a less mattifying setting powder, like the Bobbi Brown or Becca setting powders from our list of all the best setting powders.
It might not feel like enough powder at some points, but believe me, it’ll be plenty.
• Begin by applying your foundation, BB cream, or concealer as you normally do. A thinner layer is better, and it is recommended that you opt for a more dewy, moisturizing formula. You can apply a strobe cream beforehand for maximum glow.
• Since you want a more diffused powder application it is better to use a very fluffy brush. Swirl it into your setting powder of choice, and tap off the excess. If there is still visible powder left on the brush, then wipe it off lightly on a tissue – don’t worry, it’ll still be enough.
• In quick and light tapping motions apply the setting powder to your skin, until you’ve covered your whole face. Begin with the areas where foundation tends to rub off the quickest, like the center of the face, and work your way outwards. Do not reapply powder to the brush – there is enough on it.
• When you’re done, your foundation will be set but your skin will still look glowy and radiant. Finish off with the rest of your makeup as you normally would.
• Use a brush very lightly loaded with setting powder to blend out blush and contour. This will give an effect as though the blush is natural, rather than sitting on top of the skin.
• Use a setting powder that is a little lighter than your skin tone, or has a more dewy or glowy finish to set a cream highlight on the apples of the cheeks and center of the forehead. This will give your skin a natural strobed effect.
• When applying heavier or darker eyeshadow, apply a thicker layer of setting powder under your eyes and along the tops of your cheeks. This is called a “powder guard.” Any bits of eyeshadow that fall under your eyes will fall into the powder, instead of staining your skin. When you’re finished swipe all of the powder away, and the bits of fallen eyeshadow will disappear with it.
• If, even after you’ve brushed off excess powder, your skin still seems to look a little dry or powdery, then mist your skin with water or with a hydrating toner. This will refresh the skin and give it a more hydrated, dewy finish.
• If you find that even with setting powder your foundation still melts off by the end of the day, then make sure to use a makeup setting spray, like Urban Decay’s All Nighter Setting Spray from Sephora.
• If you want additional oil control, apply powder to your skin twice, using what is called the Wayne Goss method – once in a thin layer before applying foundation, and again after you’ve applied foundation. This technique doesn’t work for everyone, but there are people out there who swear by it so I thought it deserved a mention.
Photos via @vivaluxuryblog