Setting powders are a controversial makeup item that folks either love or hate. Personally, I haven't used one in years because my skin barrier is slightly damaged, resulting in me having combination skin. If I tried to use a setting powder, my skin would be drier than the Sahara Desert. But as my skin continues to heal, I might consider adding one back into my routine.
Makeup artists have pretty positive things to say about them too. When used correctly, setting powder can create a gorgeous, airbrushed finish that photographs well. Luckily, I also happen to have a few celebrity makeup artists on speed dial who are here to help those of us who may not be well-versed in using one. Keep reading for their best application tips and favorite ones to try.
What Is a Setting Powder?
If you're a total makeup novice, don't worry—celebrity makeup artists are here to explain exactly what a setting powder is and how it can be beneficial to your makeup routine. "A setting powder does exactly [what it sounds like]," says celebrity makeup artist Judi Gabbay. "It sets foundation into place and locks in your base for all-day wear. It also mattifies and blurs pores, leaving skin looking finished and perfected."
Celebrity makeup artist Sara Talias also says it's a key player in creating that Instagram-ready look. "Setting powder is the secret to long-lasting makeup looks," she shares. "The right setting powder will give the perfect finish to the skin and keep makeup in place all day long." Allison Kaye, another celebrity makeup artist, even adds that setting powder will really keep your cream products in place and keep them from creasing.
How to Choose a Setting Powder
Celebrity makeup artist Elizabeth Seropian has a few tips for choosing a setting powder. "Selecting the right setting powder involves considering your skin type and desired finish," she says. "For oily skin, look for oil-absorbing powders with ingredients like silica and rice powder. Dry skin benefits from hydrating powders containing ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Translucent powders work universally, while tinted ones can help with additional coverage. Avoid powders with heavy fragrances or irritants if you have sensitive skin. Testing a small amount and observing how it reacts to your skin throughout the day can help you find the perfect match."
How Do You Apply Setting Powder?
Every makeup artist I consulted agreed that the best way to apply powder is with a powder puff or a small/medium powder brush. "After applying and blending all your wet products, such as foundation, concealer, and cream contour, make sure there are no creases. Then gently pat the setting powder into the skin," Talias explains. "My favorite way to apply setting powder is with a triangle powder puff."
Gabbay also has a few more tips. "If you're looking for a light set, try using a small, tapered dome brush and dust powder just in the center of the face. Think center of the forehead, under the eyes, and chin. This technique will leave skin looking as natural as possible, leaving the outer parts of the face dewy. If you tend to get shinier throughout the day and want to lock in your foundation, use a powder puff. This will give you the most coverage and prevent shine from peeking through. Work your setting powder into your puff, tapping any excess on the back of your hand. Push the powder into the skin in a patting motion, making sure to never drag or pull as it will disturb the product underneath."
Keep scrolling for each MUA's setting powder picks.—they have recs for every skin type.
Best Setting Powders for Oily Skin
Pros: Extends makeup wear for up to 24 hours, provides a matte finish, blurs the appearance of pores and blemishes, and is smudge-proof and waterproof.
Cons: May not be suitable for skin that's oily on the surface but dry underneath (dehydrated).
"For oily skin, try the Make Up for Ever Ultra HD Matte Setting Powder. It keeps skin flawless and shine-free all day." — Talias
Customer Review: "I have skin on the oily side, and this helps to keep the shine down and makeup in place. Hard to believe it took me so long to find this, but I really love it. Also, [I] like that there is no scent. I am fair/medium Asian skin, and the banana works well for me."
Pros: Oil-free, provides a matte finish, gives a soft-focus effect on the skin.
Cons: Contains talc.
"One of my favorite translucent setting powders for light to medium skin would be Laura Mercier's translucent powder. It's a cult classic for a reason and has been a part of my personal and professional kit for over 17 years." — Gabbay
Customer Review: "I have used multiple products in my 48 years of trying to be a stand-out in-the-crowd kind of girl. Laura Mercier powder is not just the only loose powder I will ever use, but the whole line is fresh and a complete success, in my opinion."
Pros: Provides a matte finish, good color range to suit a variety of skin tones, weightless and transparent finish.
"My all-time favorite setting powder is Givenchy Prisme Libre because it is so finely milled and comes in a good range of colors for all skin tones." — Talias
Customer Review: "For the price, I really wanted to have this be an overhyped item, but man, she's good! I've tried all the powders, and this is one of, if not the best. I'm combo/oily, and I even used it to set the face without dying."
Pros: Oil-absorbing, adds luminosity to the skin, and contains hyaluronic acid for extra lightweight hydration.
Cons: May leave a slight white cast at times.
This oil-absorbing powder from Too Faced blends effortlessly, contains hyaluronic acid for extra hydration, and leaves a lightweight, silky finish on the skin.
Customer Review: "A lot of setting powders give you a cakey finish—this is not one of them. It's a great neutral powder that smooths out your pores and gives you an amazing look."
Best Setting Powders for Dry Skin
Pros: Talc-free, ultra-refined, gives skin a naturally flawless and dewy finish.
"The Hourglass Veil Translucent powder is an amazing powder for dry skin because it is so light and maintains a dewy finish." — Talias
Customer Review: "I received this Veil Translucent Setting Powder gifted by Hourglass. This powder is gorgeous! It is so fine and just melts into the skin. It gives a beautiful blurred effect without looking cakey! It's hard to find a good powder, but this one is great."
Pros: Made with a unique air-cream technology that sets, smooths, and diffuses for a radiant finish, squalane provides extra hydration to the skin.
Cons: Finish may be too radiant for some.
Saie Beauty's Airset Loose Setting Powder contains squalane, an ultra-hydrating ingredient that helps lock moisture into the skin and plumps it up for a healthier appearance. Drier skin types will love it.
Customer Review: "This is the most lightweight, flawless setting powder I've ever used! It's probably the most natural skin-like powder that provides a beautiful filter-ish semi-glow that I've ever used! I hope they don't ever reformulate it and [ruin] it."
Infused with fermented arnica, squalane, and tourmaline, this makeup-skincare hyrbid works great for skin prone to dryness or irritation.
Best Setting Powders for Combination Skin
Pros: Blurs the appearance of fine lines and pores, holds makeup in place all day, while the light and silky texture blends seamlessly into the skin.
Cons: Can look a bit dry without proper hydration underneath.
Kaye loves this setting powder from Huda Beauty because it has a light, silky texture perfect for combination skin types. It creates an airbrushed finish that blurs out pores and fine lines and blends seamlessly into the skin.
Customer Review: "This is amazing! I've repurchased Easy Bake for years now. It's my favorite setting and baking powder. This pink color is the literal cherry on top because it does all the wonderful blurring and smoothing, plus the pink is extra brightening on my under eye [area]. The pink looks bright in the container, but it's just the right tone to offset dark circles on my very fair skin. Highly recommend this!"
Pros: Contains rose wax and almond oil to nourish and moisturize skin, and light-reflecting pearls diffuse light and illuminate the complexion.
Kaye loves this Charlotte Tilbury setting powder because it reduces shine. It also contains nourishing ingredients like rose wax and almond oil to hydrate the skin, leaving it more balanced. It also has light-reflecting pearls that diffuse the light as it hits your face to really illuminate your complexion.
Customer Review: "I ALWAYS get compliments on my skin when I use this setting powder. I've even used it over sunblock to blur my T-Zone, and it blends so beautifully onto your skin. I've been using it for three years now, and I'm still obsessed with it."
Pros: Talc-free, aloe keeps skin soft and hydrated, bamboo balances oil production in the skin, rosemary leaf soothes irritation.
Cons: Leaves a bit of a whitecast and may not work as well for darker skin tones.
Ilia's setting powder is another great option for combination skin as it's infused with soothing and hydrating aloe along with bamboo to balance oil production and rosemary leaf to soothe any redness or irritation.
Customer Review: "I have neutral undertones and fair-light skin, so a powder with even a slight tint shows as yellow on my face. It seems harder these days to find a powder with no tint as all. This tint-free Ilia powder looks great on my skin, setting my foundation and imparting a blurred look. Best of all, it does not contain talc."
Best for Deep Skin Tones
Pros: Provides a filtered, photo-ready finish, comes in eight shades, great shades for darker skin tones.
Cons: Contains talc and fragrance.
"The Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Instant Retouch Setting Powder provides a gorgeous finish to the skin and comes in beautiful deep shades." — Talias
Customer Review: "Leaves a nice smooth finish and lasts all night without creasing. Beautiful packaging and smells amazing."
Pros: Budget-friendly, can also be used to contour and highlight, highlight pigmented.
Cons: Contains talc.
"I love the Juvia's Place loose setting powders for darker skin tones. They are rich in color in the best way possible and do not give off a gray or ashy undercast." — Kaye
Customer Review: "One of [my] favorite finishing powders. Pigment and texture of the powder are great and [it] blends well with other Juvia products."
Pros: Provides a soft matte finish, blurs the appearance of pores and texture, and is enriched with hyaluronic acid for extra hydration.
Cons: Doesn't have the best longevity.
"My favorite [setting powders] are the Soft Focus Powders by Sigma Beauty. These powders are finely milled and come in many shades. My favorite for deeper skin tones would be cinnamon or honey!" — Gabbay
Customer Review: "Love! Blurring and serves as a great way to blend makeup for seamless coverage. I bought it in the lighter shade as well!"
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
Shawna Hudson has worked in editorial for over six years, with experience covering entertainment, fashion, culture, celebrities, and her favorite topic of all, beauty. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton, with a degree in journalism and has written for other publications such as Bustle, The Zoe Report, Byrdie, Elite Daily, Mane Addicts, and more. She is currently an associate beauty editor at Who What Wear and hopes to continue feeding her (completely out-of-control) beauty obsession as long as she can. Stay up to date on her latest finds on Instagram @shawnasimonee.
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