A good setting powder is the secret to locking in a fresh face of makeup. After all the hard work you've put into completing your beauty routine—whether that's full glam or the no-makeup makeup look—you want it to last as long as possible and look as good as possible. Hence why you should use a setting powder as the final step. If you've ever stepped foot in a makeup store or shopped online, you already know that the options can be overwhelming, which is why we asked professional makeup artists to breakdown what to looking for in a setting powder, how to best apply them, and what the best setting powders are.
- Alana Wright, Alana Wright is a Los Angeles and New York City based make up artist with over 19 years of experience. She's worked with leading brands including Burberry, MCM, and Nike.
- Brittany Whitfield, Brittany Whitfield is a professional makeup artist.
- Jonet Williamson, Jonet Williamson is a professional makeup artist and beauty expert.
Why you should use a setting powder
As the name implies, setting powders set your look, providing you with longer wear and a smoother finish, explains Jonet Williamson, professional makeup artist and beauty expert. 'Technically, setting powders can play two roles. To absorb moisture and to set makeup which is to prevent moisture from disturbing the liquid/cream makeup on the skin," says Brittany Whitfield, professional makeup artist.
Here's what the pros are loving.
The best setting powders, overall
This powder is air light and synchronizes with your skin, adapting to the condition, tone, and texture, enhancing and locking in your look. It’s one of Wright’s go-tos.
One of Whitfield’s favorite setting powders is this offering from Anastasia Beverly Hills. It’s a lightweight, fine powder that absorbs oil, minimizes shine, and provides a matte finish.
We’ll start with the fact that this setting powder has over 84,000 “loves” on Sephora. What differentiates this setting powder from others is that each prism has two unique colors for color correcting and two colors for radiance, combining together to provide you with an even, second-skin complexion.
If you’re someone who enjoys having lots of options, we recommend checking out this setting from Danessa Myricks beauty. It has everything the pros love: a matte finish and a micro-fine setting.
This loose powder from Huda Beauty gives you an airbrushed finish, blurring pores and fine lines and holds your makeup in place all day long.
If you grew up watching the initial seasons of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, you know just how important this setting powder is. At the time, it was one of Kim Kardashian’s favorites, but makeup artists, like Wright, also love it. Its matte finish will definitely make you camera-ready.
This setting powder comes in two shades: translucent for light to medium complexions, and sunstone for medium-deep to deep complexions. It was created to reflect light, giving you that red carpet look. If you’re after a soft-matte finish that’s still luminous, this is the setting powder for you.
It might be a challenge getting your hands on this setting powder, but according to Whitfield, it’s worth it. “It works on every skin tone,” she says, adding that “no one’s complexion is ever compromised.”
This award-winning powder is ultra-blurring and light-diffusing giving you an unfiltered “perfection” look no matter the light you’re in.
Best Drugstore Setting Powder
This setting powder will give you the ultimate glow, and it also comes with a highlighter if you’re looking for a dynamic, two-in-one product.
Best Setting Powders for Dry Skin
Yes, we know that powder seems like it’s going to dry out the skin—but not this Becca powder. It’s supposed to refresh and cool your skin, providing all-day moisture. And because it has over 49,000 “loves” on Sephora, we have a feeling it’s true.
Best Setting Powders for Dark Skin
Wright recommends this weightless setting powder because it’s finely milled and blurs imperfections. This powder can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and pores as well, not to mention, Fenty Beauty features shades for all complexions.
The Pat McGrath setting powder comes recommended by Williamson, explaining that it’s “so finely milled that it blends seamlessly into the skin while locking everything into place.”
This setting powder is one of Whitfield’s favorites and will hold your look for 16 hours, according to the product description. It comes in three shades: translucent for very fair to medium skin tones; honey for medium skin tones with olive, warm, and golden undertones; and medium-deep for medium-deep and darker complexions.
Best Under Eye Setting Powders
“I can’t live without all of the NW Studio Fix powders in my kit,” says Whitfield. “They’re designed to give coverage, and therefore are great for really locking in a look or under eye for an event that I won’t be present for touch ups,” she adds. She likes the neutral warm shades because they read peach/pink, which are optimal for under-eye brightening.
This setting powder comes in four shades and will give you a soft, blurring, and brightening finish under your eyes.
Best Talc-Free Setting Powder
We know this isn’t a loose setting powder, but it’s so good we had to include it in the roundup. If you’re going after the no-makeup makeup look, or any look at that, we highly recommend this powder. It provides a super soft, sheer finish and reduces shine. “Feels like nothing, but looks like everything,” according to the product description.
This talc-free setting powder blurs pores, protects your skin from blue light and harmful UV rays, and adds a soft finish to any look.
Best Setting Powders for Mature Skin
This setting powder was created with all skin types in mind and will provide you with a matte finish. In addition to keeping your makeup in place, it also has SPF 35 to protect your skin.
This setting powder “infuses skin with softness and light,” leaving you with an airbrushed finish. It also protects your skin due to the SPF 25.
How to use a setting powder
Williamson explains that how you apply your setting powder will determine how matte or diffused your skin will appear. "For a soft, focused/diffused look, I suggest lightly dusting [the setting powder] in specific areas, with a small to medium domed shaped brush with loose bristles," she says.
If you're going for more of a matte finish, she recommends pressing the setting powder in using a sponge or a brush with firmer bristles. The size of the brush you end up using will depend on the area of the face you're working on, explains Alana Wright, a professional makeup artist. If you're setting the under-eye area, you'll want to use a small, fluffy brush versus a larger brush to set your entire face.
When it comes to setting concealer, especially under the eyes, Whitfield says she likes to wait for it to dry down and oxidize, and then she applies powder at the end. "Depending on the formula, powders could oxidize concealer and foundation colors prematurely if applied while they're too wet," she explains.
"I don't believe there are 'rules' in how you decide to set your makeup," says Whitfield, but if you're unsure about how to use a setting powder, she likes using fluffy dome brushes "to set and build more depending on the look." She also prefers setting with a brush as they're "more forgiving and less dense."
Regardless of the areas you're setting, Wright says if you're using a loose powder, apply it in a soft, tapping motion, followed by small circles in order to sweep away any excess powder.
What makes a good setting powder
All the experts agree that finely milled powders are the way to go. Whitfield says a bonus is if they're translucent and work on all skin tones. "I look for matte setting powders. Illuminating setting powders are filled with prismatic particles that can disperse unpredictably," says Whitfield.
In addition to the powder being finely milled, Williamson says she opts for powders that aren't overdrying because this can result in the makeup looking cake-y and artificial in natural lighting. "Another really important thing to look for is undertones," she adds.
A translucent powder is a great option, "but having a setting powder that can also brighten or blend in seamlessly with your complexion is how you achieve a perfected skin finish that looks like skin," she says. Wright echoes that sentiment, adding that she likes talc-free setting powders that don't have a flashback in photos.
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