Make-up melting down your face? It’s time to invest in a good setting powder. But the best setting powders don’t just hold your make-up in place, they also conceal breakouts and prevent excess oil and shine from creeping in.
What is the best setting powder?
With the advent of “glass skin” and our general preoccupation with looking dewy at all times, powder has fallen by the wayside. However, powder formulas have advanced at a rate of knots in recent years. By Terry Hyaluronic Hydra Powder is infused with skincare-favourite hyaluronic acid. The HA microspheres attract water and so help to “blur” and “fill” imperfections, without looking ashy or settling into creases. It’s gossamer-light, so don’t be perturbed by the opaque white colour, as it settles to a soft-focus effect on all skin tones.
What is better: loose or pressed setting powder?
It depends on what you are looking for and where you’re applying it. Make-up artist India Excell prefers to use loose powders to set the make-up and then pressed under the eyes and on the T-zone to help blur pores and texture. “I would opt for loose powder when wanting a more natural finish,” she says. “But I would wear pressed powder in the evenings when going out, usually on the area that I have more texture like under the eyes and on the forehead. I also always take a pressed powder out with me for touch-ups.” Make-up brushes play an important role here. Excell recommends using a fluffy brush for loose powder and then a smaller brush for the pressed powder to enable more precision.
Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Perfection Setting Powder
Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Pressed Powder
Is translucent powder the same as setting powder?
The short answer is yes, and of course, the “go big or go home” option is surely Laura Mercier’s Light Catcher Loose Powder. A brand already beloved by make-up artists for its classic translucent setting powders, this product sits somewhere between the original formula and a highlighter. Infused with pearl pigments and micro-refined silica, it offers an incredibly light-reflecting finish that still grips onto make-up for dear life.
Aside from the additions of microspheres and luxurious-sounding crushed gem particles, one thing that makes 2023’s powders better is the notable absence of talcum powder. Apart from the health concerns around its inclusion, many cosmetic chemists have chosen to remove it from their products altogether as it can lead to a chalky finish. In the ’90s, super-matte was considered chic, but now that dewy skin is in, talc is fast becoming a thing of the past. Instead, additions like silk, peptides and collagens (like the hydrating and firming complex found in It Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Pressed Powder) offer a healthier-looking fix that still helps tackle shine.
Do you use setting powder all over your face?
As the name suggests, setting powder is used to set your make-up, but it’s in no way limited to just the base. It can be used to control shine on bare skin, set your concealer, your eyelid to prep it for eyeshadow and even on top of your lipstick. In fact, a slew of recent lip products demonstrates the power of the setting powder revolution. Giorgio Armani Lip Magnet gives a featherweight wash of colour over the lips with a finish that resembles the effect created by that classic make-up artist trick: blotting a richly pigmented lipstick, while MAC Powder Kiss lipsticks also offer a softly diffused, just-been-kissed look.
Blurring but not masking, hydrating but not greasy, and shine-controlling while still offering a healthy glow, powder can finally sit in that sweet spot between functional and fun. And remember, when it comes to powder – if in doubt, buff it out.
How we chose the best setting powders:
Every setting powder in our round-up is tried and true, and comes recommended by our editors for their blurring, brightening and oil-controlling properties. We put popular formulas through their paces by testing them over several hours of wear, noting their initial finish and feel on the skin as well as how they held up in hot weather. Only the setting powders that were long-lasting and comfortable with a cake-free, natural finish made our list. Don’t just take our word for it – watch Tracy Achonwa, Vogue beauty commerce writer, compare two cult favourites below.
@hairandbeautea Do you prefer pressed powder or loose powder? #makeup #weartest #draft ♬ Ariana Grande / Doja cat / Megan Thee Stallion Type Beat(969753) – RYOTA KATO
Vogue’s best setting powder shortlist:
- Best setting powder for long-lasting oil control: Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder, $76
- Best setting powder for a smooth under eye: Charlotte Tilbury Mini Airbrush Flawless Finish Pressed Powder, $79
- Best affordable setting powder: HNB Cosmetics Soft Focus Loose Powder, $24
- Best skin tone setting powder: Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Perfection Setting Powder, $62
- Best setting powder infused with skincare: La Mer The Powder
- Best setting powder for on-the-go touch-ups: Fenty Beauty Invisimatte Blotting Powder, $55
- Best setting powder for a radiant finish: Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder, $87
Below, Vogue rounds up the best setting powders to help you get the most out of your make-up.
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Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Pressed Powder
Buttery soft and super smooth, Charlotte Tilbury’s powder is made with rose wax and almond oil which effortlessly glide onto skin. Milled with pearlescent pigments that reflect light, it also gives a brightened, airbrushed look wherever it’s applied. We love it as a finishing layer for under-eye concealer—it sets comfortably without creasing to give a flawless, filter-like finish.
Pros: blurs texture for an airbrushed complexion | brightens dull skin | feels imperceptible
Cons: contains oil so may get glowy throughout the day
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HNB Cosmetics Soft Focus Loose Powder
A great setting powder doesn’t have to break the bank. Exhibit A: this purse-friendly pick from HNB Cosmetics. Finely milled for a soft focus finish that rivals that of its spennier counterparts, this powder delivers a flawless shield against sweat and shine. Plus it’s available in six shades spanning translucent, banana and dark deep, which can be matched to your base, concealer and bronzer for lasting dimension.
Pros: affordable | does not feel heavy on the skin | is incredibly smoothing
Cons: none—it’s really that good
HNB Cosmetics Soft Focus Loose Powder, $24, available at HNB Cosmetics
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Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Perfection Setting Powder
A swish of this setting powder will leave skin glowy and radiant while getting rid of any unwanted shine. It feels delicate and imparts a soft-focus veil over skin thanks to amino acid pigments that work with your skin, rather than against it. Best of all, it’s made with micro fine pigments that can layer without looking cakey, and (designed for the runway) guarantee a finish that won’t flashback in photos.
Pros: lightweight | wide shade range that caters to the deepest skin tones | zero flashback | extremely smooth
Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Perfection Setting Powder, $62, available at Pat McGrath Labs
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Laura Mercier Ultra Blur Translucent Loose Setting Powder
Much like the OG formula that came before it, Laura Mercier’s latest powder locks make-up under a lightweight, flawless veil. This iteration, however, has been made talc-free and boasts an ultra-blurring infusion of amino acid and silica powders that doesn’t crease or cake. Proof that cult-classics are hard to beat, it’s the setting powder of choice for those who need their glam to last.
Pros: controls shine for up to 16 hours | infused with skincare | is talc-free
Cons: powder puff is sold separately
Laura Mercier Ultra Blur Translucent Loose Setting Powder, $76, available at Sephora
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Givenchy Prisme Libre 4 in 1 Loose Powder
More than just a pretty face, Givenchy’s chic quad works hard to blur texture, control oil and colour correct the complexion. Coming in six shades for every skin tone, each houses four hues of velvety powder that set and brighten for a luxurious, luminous finish.
Pros: non-comedogenic | feels soft and airy on the face | evens skin with balancing, blurring and brightening pigments | contains a copolymer complex that absorbs excess oil
Givenchy Prisme Libre 4 in 1 Loose Powder, $102, available at Sephora
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Fenty Beauty Invisimatte Blotting Powder
Consider this a must-have for midday make-up meltdowns. Housed in a sleek mirrored compact that’s easily stashed in your purse, Fenty’s powder takes down shine with an invisible talc-free formula. Bonus points for the handy blotting sponge and sustainable case, which you can buy refills for once you hit the pan.
Pros: transparent finish works on all skin tones and can be used to blot lipstick without adding pigment | perfect for on-the-go touch-ups
Cons: rectangular sponge needs some finessing to fit the under-eye area
Fenty Beauty Invisimatte Blotting Powder, $55, available at Sephora
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La Mer The Powder
Formulated with the brand’s patented Miracle Broth, which is made up of hydrating marine ingredients, La Mer’s finishing powder might be expensive, but it certainly does the job well. It’s translucent enough to be imperceptible on the skin, so you can look forward to the most flawless finish.
Pros: sets without drying the skin | packed with skincare | natural finish – blurs texture without leaving a cast | comes with a powder puff
Cons: pricey, but worth the spend
La Mer The Powder, available at La Mer
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Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder
A glow isn’t the first thing you’d usually associate with powder, but Chanel has somehow created a formula that reduces shine while retaining radiance. Natural-looking, flattering, and best for when you need to add a subtle hint of warmth to a pale complexion.
Pros: natural finish | adds a slight bronzy glow | brush included
Cons: very sheer—best for non-oily skin types
Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Sheer Powder, $87, available at Chanel
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By Terry Hyaluronic Hydra-Powder
Smooth skin or lock your make-up in place with this translucent powder from By Terry. Containing hyaluronic acid microspheres, it’s designed to plump lines and iron out pores for a more even complexion.
Pros: attracts moisture to the skin | melts-in as opposed to sitting on top of make-up
Cons: white powder can appear pale on darker skin
By Terry Hyaluronic Hydra-Powder, $91, available at Sephora
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Bobbi Brown Sheer Powder
Bobbi Brown’s Sheer Finish Loose Powder is lightweight enough that you can barely tell you’re wearing it, plus, its oil-free formula is enriched with vitamin E for comfortable wear. Great for setting make-up that you need to last all day.
Pros: skin caring ingredients | weightless feel
Cons: can get messy
Bobbi Brown Sheer Powder, $73, available at Takashimaya
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Illamasqua Loose Powder
This lightweight and finely-milled powder absorbs excess oil leaving skin matte with a smooth finish and sets foundation in place preventing make-up from sliding throughout the day.
Pros: fixes make-up in place for several hours | invisible—does not disturb the colour of other products
Cons: has a light scent that may bother those sensitive to fragrance
Illamasqua Loose Powder, $37, available at LookFantastic
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Kevyn Aucoin Loose Powder
Thanks to microspheres in this silky-smooth powder, expect any surface imperfections to be blurred without the hefty “powdery” finish, and skin to remain shine-free for longer.
Pros: travel-friendly inner closure keeps the container mess-free | thin texture is great for both setting lightly and baking | beauty puff included | glowy without being shimmery
Cons: small size
Kevyn Aucoin Loose Powder, $65, available at Zalora
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Urban Decay All Nighter Waterproof Pressed Powder
Lock in your foundation for up to 11 hours Urban Decay’s feather-light All Nighter Waterproof Setting Powder. It smoothes and camouflages the appearance of pores and imperfections without dulling natural radiance.
Pros: purse-friendly | waterproof
Cons: does not come with a powder puff
Urban Decay All Nighter Waterproof Pressed Powder, $106, available at Amazon
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Since Glossier is a brand dedicated to dewy skin, the launch of Wowder was somewhat unexpected. The loose, light-reflecting powder won’t leave you without a glow though, it’s designed to set make-up whilst maintaining a radiant complexion.
Pros: mattifies without flattening skin | lightweight & buildable
Cons: dispensing powder is tricky with the cushion packaging
Glossier Wowder, $44, available at Shopee
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Laura Mercier Translucent Light Catcher Setting Powder
A finely-milled and lightweight powder, Laura Mercier’s Translucent Light Catcher acts as the perfect finishing touch for make-up. Highly pigmented, only a small amount is needed each time. One pot will keep you going for some time.
Pros: sets make-up without a powdery look | adds a lit-from-within glow | can be used as highlighter and eyeshadow
Cons: luminosity is great but may be too much for those who prefer invisible powders
Laura Mercier Translucent Light Catcher Setting Powder, $76, available at Sephora
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Bare Minerals Mineral Sheer Setting Powder
Minimising the appearance of pores, absorbing oils, softening the complexion—this vegan setting powder ticks all the boxes.
Pros: clean, vegan-friendly formula
Cons: no translucent options
Bare Minerals Mineral Sheer Setting Powder, $48.89, available at Amazon
This story originally appeared in British Vogue.