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  • Melissa

Setting Powder

Updated: Dec 12, 2020

I'm not going to lie...powders can be confusing. Like any other makeup product, how you choose to use it is going to be very personal to your skin and how you like to wear makeup. I get asked often what the difference is between setting powder and finishing powder. Honestly, there's not much of a difference. They both set down your makeup by soaking up some of the moisture in your liquid foundation and concealer. If you wear your foundation without powder, it may be more likely to transfer, move around, or fade away throughout the day. This is especially true for satin or dewy foundations, but matte formulas have a better chance of holding up throughout the day without powder. Also, dry skin types (like myself) may choose not to set their foundation with powder because it accentuates dryness and texture.

Setting Under the Eye

One area of the face I always recommend setting with powder is under the eye. Once I apply concealer, I make sure there are no creases and pat powder over the area with either a brush or blending sponge. This keeps the product in place longer and prevents the concealer from settling into the fine lines under the eye. Regardless of age or whether or not you have wrinkles, nearly everyone's skin folds around their eyes as they open and close them throughout the day. If you're having issues with concealer looking creasy, definitely try setting with powder!

Different Colored Powders

There are also different colors of powders. You can buy translucent powders which are white but go on the skin with no color (essentially clear). There are setting powders that come in a range of skin tone shades. The main difference between these and powder foundations is that they don't add coverage to the skin the way powder foundations do. There are also color correcting powders, the most popular being yellow-toned or "banana" powders. These are great for brightening your skin, so they are mainly used under the eye to brighten darkness.


If you have never heard of "baking" with powder, it is basically the process of applying an excessive amount of powder to the face, letting it sit for a couple minutes, and then brushing it away. This originated in the world of drag queen makeup, as did contouring and many other makeup trends. It sets down makeup a little more intensely than just brushing on a light layer of powder and it tends to make the area appear brighter, which is why it is typically used under the eye, under the cheekbone contour and anywhere we want to highlight. Honestly, I hardly ever bake and I don't feel that it is necessary for everyday makeup application. Some think it makes their foundation look better in person and some think it makes it look better in pictures. So if you're curious, try it! But please don't think it is something you need to do.


Lastly, the scariest part of powder is the possibility of flashback. Flashback occurs when a picture is taken using flash and your powder appears completely white on your face. Some common powder ingredients like silica and mica have been said to be the culprit and I have found that to be true. In the photo below (left) I was wearing the NYX HD Finishing Powder (the loose translucent one). I loved that powder because it set my makeup but also made it look nice and smooth. However, I found out the hard way that it gives some serious flashback in pictures because it is 100% silica powder. I still recommend it as a daytime powder but DO NOT wear it if you think you will be taking flash photos. The photo on the right is the Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder. I don't believe her regular translucent powder flashes back, but this one did slightly. While I am fair most of the year, you can tell the undereye area was whiter than the rest of my face. When checking the ingredients, I found that this one has silica but the regular translucent one does not. On a side note, SPF can also cause flashback so watch out for it in your skincare and other makeup products when trying to avoid flashback.

Here are some swatches of powders to see if they flashed back:

These are all pressed powders (Top to Bottom: Maybelline Fit Me, Maybelline Fit Me Matte & Poreless, L'Oreal Pro Matte, Maybelline Dream Wonder, NYX HD Banana, MAC Mineralized Skin Finish, Mac Studio Fix)

These are all loose powders. Make Up For Ever was definitely the worst but many of them gave a slight white cast. Laura Mercier Translucent had the least flashback. (Top to Bottom: Make Up For Ever HD, Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder, Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder, NYC Smooth Skin Loose Powder, Coty Airspun Loose Powder, NYX Banana Loose Powder)

Lastly, here are some of the best powders I've used:

CoverFX Perfect Setting Powder, Light ($35 for full size): An all-around nice setting powder. I tried it because CoverFX has cleaner ingredients than most brands. For that reason, I would repurchase.

Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder ($46 for full size): A little pricey for me to repurchase but overall it was really nice and smooth.

Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder ($38 for full size): A cult favorite, and for good reason. Main reason is that it looks good in person and in pictures which is hard to do for powders.

NYC Smooth Skin Loose Setting Powder ($2.99): I don't know if they still make this but it was great and super affordable

NYX Color Correcting Powder, Banana (discontinued): Almost a little dark for fair skin but definitely brightens. This one is a loose powder.

NYX HD Finishing Powder, Banana ($10): Nice and brightening under the eye. This one is in a pressed pan.

NYX HD Studio Finishing Powder ($10): nice smooth finish to the skin but will give you flashback. An "everyday powder" but not for special events/pictures.

NYX #NoFilter Finishing Powder ($12): Has the nicest finish ever! Never looks dry or powdery. I use it in darker shades to bronze my face and press it into my cheekbone before my contour pretty much every time I contour in order to keep the foundation in place underneath and avoid patchiness.

RCMA No Color Powder ($12): Good product and you get so much for a great price. I have noticed recently that it does contain silica so I'm watching out for flashback.

And here are some powders I've used but didn't particularly impress me:

Coty Airspun Loose Powder ($7.99): Great powder but such a strong scent

ELF High Definition Powder ($6)

ELF High Definition Undereye Setting Powder ($3)

Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Compact ($62): nice smooth powder, but didn't wow me enough to justify the price

IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Pressed Powder ($29)

Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder ($26)

L'Oréal Infallible Pro Matte Powder ($12.99)

MAC Mineralize Skin Finish Natural ($34): not bad but not worth the price

Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Microfinishing Loose Powder ($36 for full size): be careful- it has tons of flashback!

Maybelline Dream Wonder Powder ($8.99)

Maybelline Fit Me Matte & Poreless Powder ($6.99)

Rimmel Stay Matte ($3.99)

Urban Decay The Velvetizer Translucent Mix-In Medium ($34 for full size): made to mix in with foundations to give them a more velvety finish. You can also set foundation with it. I did not particularly like it for either use.

Wet n Wild Photofocus Pressed Powder ($4.99)

Wet n Wild Photofocus Loose Setting Powder, Translucent ($5.99): A good option at the drugstore and super affordable for a big container. It also comes in a deeper shade and a banana shade.

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