By popular request I’m rounding up the best setting powders I’ve tried for normal/combination skin in pressed and loose formats. I did a roundup of my Favorite Setting Powders back several years ago and sometimes looking back I cannot believe how long I have been blogging! I have normal skin but live in South Florida where the humidity and heat can get very intense! The last time I did my roundup I was living in San Diego and around 1-2 shades lighter in skintone. Living in Florida you cannot escape the sunshine even with hats and good sunscreen. Since I’m deeper in skin tone I usually avoid translucent powders that are white or super pale in color because no matter how “translucent” they claim to be, a lot of times they still leave a slight white/powdery cast. There are exceptions of course and I’m always happy when I find translucent powders that have just even a slight tint.
As a beauty blogger I try and test a lot of powders on my face. My preferences change throughout seasons (sometimes it can get dry here in the winter) and as I travel. I’ve included thoughts on powders I’ve reached for frequently this past year.
Pressed Favorites in Rotation
For many years I actually used pressed powder foundations to set my makeup. So many think that layering powder foundation on top of powder will always result in a cakey heavy finish, but there are a lot of formulas that work if you apply with a brush!
Armani Luminous Silk Powder Foundation is in my Top 2 most repurchased powders. My match is Shade 4, the other shades up aren’t yellow enough or too dark and I’m really surprised this color has worked for me even though I’ve darkened with my Florida tan. This powder has super natural lightweight coverage. I use it as a setting powder because it has a more natural finish. It evens out the skin in a very subtle way, sets my makeup and is great for touch-ups.
Armani Neo Nude Compact Powder Foundation (reviewed here) is my favorite glowy setting powder. It smooths and illuminates skin in a beautiful way. I wore this during my Miami trip and was really surprised it didn’t look greasy even with the glow and a tiny bit of sweat. If you have super oily skin you might want to opt for a matte version though. For an all over finishing powder I can get away with three shades swatched here, I have Shade 4 shown above. This is currently exclusive to Nordstrom or Giorgio Armani Beauty. I love this texture so much I feel like I could buy a darker color as a contour/bronzer.
With both the Armani powders I would say they are definitely more powders, not really like a full coverage powder-foundation. Just wanted to note in case you were worried it would be too heavy for all over. Or if you’re looking for a fuller coverage powder I’d recommend trying different brands. I apply both with a brush.
Becca Be A Light Palette in Light-Medium has two finishing powders that work really well for my skin tone. The lighter one is more brightening but the darker one on the right is perfect to blur the skin and give a soft luminous glow. It’s not quite as glowy as the Armani but is pretty close. I like this because it has four colors for a perfect natural blush + contour look. Also available in a Medium-Deep option swatched here.
Charlotte Tilbury Air Brush Flawless Perfecting Powder #2 is my next most repurchased powder. Color selection is limited but I’ve always managed to pull off #2. This is the best medium-full coverage powder I’ve tried. Skin is instantly smoothed in the most beautiful way. It’s silky, smooth and never fails me. It’s matte so it will reduce the shine and keep makeup set without getting thick.
Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Colour in No 20 (shown) and 30 have been powders I’ve used since they launched back in 2013. I usually find No 20 is best for an all over setting powder. It has SPF 15 but doesn’t have any flash back with flash photography. It is scented which I know some people don’t like. Another downside is that there’s a huge gap between 20 and 30. I can use the deeper colors as a soft contour. The powder has natural sheer to medium coverage you can buff into the skin and not overdo. While there’s no shimmer it does have a soft brightening glowy look when I apply.
La Mer The Sheer Pressed Powder is one of the best pressed powders I’ve used. It’s very expensive and color selection is limited but it wears very well. I’ve used both Light and Medium. Up until right now I used Light (used it enough to hit pan and repurchase). I’m finally tan enough to wear Medium (shown above). It softly blurs fine lines, sets makeup, looks natural and stays put. There’s a translucent option too which I have not tried.
Pressed Powders from MAC
MAC gets it’s own category because they win hands down for best color range. I used the MAC Studio Fix Powder Foundation years ago and had a horrible allergic reaction to it. Many of their foundations caused my skin to flare up so I resisted using it for a long time. I decided to give the line another try after reading reviews from others who had similar reactions. In recent years some have suspected the ingredients changed because they could start using their foundations again. I have not tried the powder foundation again (I might eventually) but I’ve had HUGE success with their pressed powders. I should make it a mission to try all their powders.
Next to Nothing Pressed Powder is the next best thing to La Mer’s Sheer Pressed Powder. Color range is pretty good but Medium and Medium Plus are neutral borderline pink and I typically need something golden/olive. Still this one works really well for a natural setting powder, looks great, doesn’t oxidize and the price point is reasonable to me. Review and more swatches here.
Mineralize Skinfinish Natural in Medium Plus and Medium Golden are my favorite mineral setting powders. I hit the base on Medium Plus and really like it. Coverage is heavier than a traditional powder and with mineral formulas they can sometimes feel heavy. I recommend applying with a buffing method.
Studio Waterweight Pressed Powder is one of the newer formulas. It’s very matte and with a sponge has full coverage. It sets and stays put for hours. There are two colors/portions with a warm/cool option that allows you to mix and customize your color. Coverage is smooth and really nice. It doesn’t feel heavy but upon application you can really see coverage.
Current Favorite Loose Setting Powders
From top to bottom:
Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder is a classic and her loose powders are the only ones used up entirely several times. I’ve always been more of a pressed powder person because it’s more convenient and less messy. Hers is one of the best. It’s white but truly translucent. Many years ago she also had this in tinted versions and my heart broke when it was discontinued. I love this applied with a puff or a brush. It’s a staple to set makeup without adding any color or coverage.
Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder is one of the newest launches I’ve tried (reviewed here). It has the lightest weight texture out of any powder I’ve tried. Blurs fine lines and smooths skin. Completely colorless when you apply. Suitable for all skin types.
La Mer The Powder is a loose beige powder with a very tiny bit of luminosity to it. Coverage is medium in the way it smooths the skin but on me it’s colorless once blended. I love this but think the original version was better. The new version comes in a hefty glass jar which isn’t travel friendly but very sturdy. It’s infused with their Miracle Broth but I didn’t see any changes in skin hydration or texture wise. I was really happy with my splurge but due to the price I don’t think I’ll repurchase.
Becca Hydra-Mist Set and Refresh Powder is a cooling powder that feels like water mist when it touches the skin. It reminds me of the Prescriptives Magic Powder without the pink iridescent sheen. The Becca option does have light reflecting particles but it’s not pink like the one from Px. It sets makeup nicely and is translucent on my skin. A little goes a long way – I also feel this is probably better suited for those with dry skin.
Marc Jacobs Coconut Fine-Line Perfecting Coconut Setting Powder is the most matte powder I’ve tried. It’s also light in color but translucent. It has five forms of coconut and cocoa butter which makes sense to me as it’s not weightless. It’s on the semi-heavy side in terms of how it feels on the skin, especially when compared to the Laura Mercier or Hourglass options. It’s not cakey or drying. It does make the skin look fully matte without adding color.
La Prairie Cellular Treatment Loose Powder in Translucent 2 was one of my biggest splurges. I ordered this sight unseen based on online reviews. The color I picked is too dark for my skin unless I’m tan (like right now). The tub is HUGE and it also comes with a travel size. I really wanted to order Translucent 1 for a long time but didn’t want to splurge especially with less expensive alternatives. It’s an excellent ultra fine powder but sometimes it looks dry on my skin. If I use a hydrating foundation, spray my base with a good mist or tinted moisturizer the powder looks good. If I apply this over a matte finish foundation it ends up looking a little dry. It has coverage on me even though it’s “translucent.” Definitely not lightweight but it does a good job at keeping oil away throughout the day. I absolutely have to use a brush. Using the puff results in a very powdery looking face.
My favorite makeup brushes and puffs
My favorite tools and puffs:
Laura Mercier Velour Puff is a classic no-fuss option. I wash it in the sink with liquid soap. You can air dry it, but I sometimes put it in the dryer. It’s 3# in diameter.
Cle de Peau Puff is an equally soft and fluffy powder puff. It’s slightly smaller in size compared to the Laura Mercier option.
Laura Mercier Bronzer Brush is one of her newly redesigned brushes. So many brands have revamped their tools brushes the past couple of years. I often use bronzer brushes for setting powder because they’re bigger and fluffy. This one is super soft and picks up powders well. It picks up just the right amount of color to apply product evenly on the face.
Laura Mercier Powder Brush is a flat large brush, it can double as a bronzer brush as well.
Hourglass Veil Powder Brush – super soft and fluffy with two sides. The larger is good for all over and the smaller side is nice for setting the under eye area.
MAC 140S is one of the best large powder brushes I’ve used. It is dense so I think it’s best used for pressed powder, but it’s versatile and I think you can really use any powder brush however you like!
Chanel Precision Powder Brush is a nice option for smaller areas or for touch ups. Many of you were surprised to learn their brushes were redesigned. You can see a more detailed post about it here.
Additional ones I’ve tried worth mentioning plus some more thoughts:
I still find the ones from my previous roundup excellent, especially the NARS Light Reflecting Pressed and Loose Powders but I have explored other options since moving to Florida.
The Laura Mercier Candleglow is a pressed powder I still consider a wonderful option for a soft glowing diffused finish. In high humidity it can get a bit glowy looking for everyday. It’s an excellent option for night (for me). I find myself gravitating towards more matte options these days.
MAC’s Patrick Starrr Set Powder is among my favorites but it was limited-edition. I suspect it might be similar to one of the regular MAC Set Powders but I haven’t checked in person to confirm.
I have also tried the Kat Von D Lockit and Cover FX Loose Powders, both are good, but I prefer the other options. For those with deep skin tones and feel that ALL white/translucent powders leave a cast, checkout Cover FX’s Perfect Setting Powder because they have a deep translucent option!
By Terry has a loose powder called the Hyaluronic Hydra-Powder that is highly rated, it’s translucent but the color is white. It does disappear on my skin but I feel leaves a very slight white cast and I think it is better suited for dry skin. Mine is normal. It also feels a little too powdery on my skin. I also might be the only person on the planet that didn’t love this.
Many years ago mineral powders were all the rage. They might still be today but I haven’t kept track of them. With the exception of the ones from MAC, most other mineral powders tend to be too heavy for what I’m looking for. They end up darkening and looking cakey on my skin type.
I still find the La Mer Powder Brush and Wayne Goss Brushes to be excellent for powders. I still use them on a regular basis but the ones above are what I’ve been reaching for lately.
Depending on humidity levels sometimes there’s nothing that will 100% last all day. If there’s humidity and you have sweat, you’re going to have to touch up at some point. But that doesn’t mean your entire face will slide off. Finding a good setting powder to make your base last is a plus, but what you wear underneath (moisturizer and foundation) is also going to impact how long your makeup will last throughout the day.
This Sephora video on the Difference Between Setting and Finishing Powder was interesting to watch. I personally feel like using 1 powder to set and finish works for me, but it was interesting to see their artist’s take on the difference and how to use them. I do sometimes layer powders like the Hourglass or Becca Be a Light on top of my set base.
My top three picks would be pressed options as I find them easier to use for touch up and for travel. Right now I would narrow down my picks to the Charlotte Tilbury, Armani Luminous Silk Powder Foundation and a two-way tie between La Mer and MAC Next to Nothing. Favorite loose powders are Laura Mercier and Hourglass right now. I also still love the MAC Patrick Starrr Patrick’s Powder but it was limited-edition. If you’re in the market for a good powder I hope this guide helps you pick a few to try! What are your favorite setting powders?
Press samples include the MAC Next to Nothing, Laura Mercier brushes, Hourglass Veil Powder + Brush, Chanel Precision Powder Brush and Becca Be A Light Palette.