At the end of the day, you want the makeup you carefully applied to still be there, and setting powder is the key to making sure your look stays put. It absorbs oil but repels water (see how we tested the waterproof power of some of the most popular setting powders in the TikTok below), ensuring long-lasting wear that is crease-, transfer- and sweat-proof.
Ahead, we hear from six professional makeup artists about how setting powder secures makeup, how to apply it and the best setting powders to shop for every skin type and budget.
What does setting powder do?
“Setting powders have a dual purpose — to set the makeup under it (liquid foundation, concealer, cream blush) while providing a base for powder products (powder blush, highlighter, contour), and to absorb excess oils on the skin,” explains celebrity makeup artist Fiona Stiles, who works with Lily Collins, Natasha Lyonne, Gabrielle Union and more.
Those oils “will begin to break down your face makeup as the day goes on,” Stiles says, so using a setting powder will prevent any slippage and shine. Moreover, a quality setting powder will keep your makeup in place without creasing or creating a “cakey” effect. Instead, it should have a smooth finish that seamlessly binds with your foundation, whether it is color-correcting, tinted or translucent.
While setting powders absorb excess oils on the skin, creating a matte effect, that doesn’t mean you have to compromise on having a glowy complexion. “Most traditional setting powders give a matte finish, but many new-generation powders have a luminous glow to them,” says New York-based makeup artist Jas Doyle.
How to apply setting powder
The way you apply setting powder can be adjusted for your skin’s needs and your desired effect.
“Your tools are a large component to consider when applying setting powder,” makeup artist Jaleesa Jaikaran says. All of the experts we spoke to said that a big, fluffy powder brush is the best for a natural, diffused look. If you have oily skin, you may need to use a heavier hand when it comes to setting powder and apply it with a powder puff or makeup sponge with a patting or rolling motion to bind the powder without disrupting your foundation or concealer.
“If you’re looking for more coverage or you’re into baking, using a damp Beautyblender helps to give more coverage and melt the product into the foundation,” Jaikaran suggests.
Whether you use a brush, puff or sponge, you’ll want to let your base makeup dry for a minute before applying the setting powder. “It’s best to let your foundation settle for a minute or two after you’ve applied it,” says Wendi Miyake, a celebrity makeup artist whose clients include Madonna, Kelly Rowland and several of the Kardashian sisters. “You don’t want to apply powder over your foundation when it’s still freshly wet, since this can cause patchiness or caking.”
Stiles also says to avoid applying setting powder over a powder foundation as this “will be redundant and make the makeup look too dry and thick.”
If you prefer a lighter hand, setting powder can be applied to target specific areas of the face. Makeup artist Mai Quynh, who works with Jessica Alba and Chloë Grace Moretz, opts for a small, fluffy brush when setting makeup around the nose and under the eyes — areas that are prone to creasing. Spot-applying setting powder can also help you maintain a dewy finish while controlling shine. “If you lightly apply the powder to the forehead, sides of nose, chin and leave the rest unpowdered, you’ll have lovely dewy cheeks while managing oil in the T-zone,” Stiles explains.
Setting powders for dry skin
$32 at Sephora
Jaikaran loves this loose setting powder that comes in five versatile shades. “Bounce Soft Focus Gemstone Setting Powder is literally a gem!” the makeup artist says. “This is great as it carries hyaluronic acid, which is great for drier skin [and can] set foundation without the cake. It also has freshwater pearls and rose quartz that add radiance and energy to the skin.”
Quynh says that Hourglass’ top-rated setting powder is a favorite of those with dry skin. “[It] takes shine away naturally, leaving skin looking like skin,” she says.
$30 $22.91 at Amazon or $30 at Mineral Fusion
“These powders are fantastic,” Stiles says. “They’re very finely milled and I love the brightening shades.” Both the color-correcting Banana and neutral Beige shades apply translucently and work on all skin tones. “Having a brighter base to the powder ensures that it doesn’t dull the skin as some beige tones can,” she explains.
Miyake says that this powder “sets makeup and mattifies without drying the skin,” thanks to its hyaluronic acid-infused formula.
Doyle loves this long-wearing yet super-lightweight pressed powder. It's available in 10 shades and reviewers with dry skin love it because of its weightless application and glowy finish.
Setting powders for oily skin
$34 at Nordstrom and MAC Cosmetics
Stiles and Doyle vouch for this oil-controlling powder. “I’ve been using this powder personally and professionally for decades,” Stiles shares. “It absorbs oil without adding much product, so you can really use it all day without any cakiness.”
$24 at Sephora
Miyake trusts this setting powder for oily skin as it locks foundation in place for transfer-resistant wear. “For oily skin and to ensure longevity, I apply setting powder with a puff and press into skin all over the face,” Miyake advises.
From $25 at Sephora or $45 at Charlotte Tilbury
Editorial and celebrity makeup artist Dmitry Kukushkin and Quynh love this shine-reducing powder, which Quynh says “mattes the skin without leaving it dull.” Plus, she adds, “Pressed powder is perfect for on-the-go.”
From $20 at Sephora or $34 at Ulta and Fenty Beauty
This fan-favorite loose powder passes the water glass test, and reviewers say it's great for oil control and keeping makeup in place all day. It comes in eight shades for all skin tones.
A pressed powder that Kukushkin loves, the Crystal translucent shade is a great option for those looking to set their makeup with a luminous finish that won’t turn greasy.
From $16 at Sephora
“One/Size has gone viral for all the right reasons,” Jaikaran says. “This is a superfine powder with a soft matte finish and an additional blurring effect that lasts up to 14 hours. I love using this on my clients that tend to be a bit oiler as it helps lock makeup in.”
Translucent setting powders
Laura Mercier’s Translucent Loose Setting Powder is a pro-approved pick that four of the makeup artists we spoke to recommended. Miyake says, “It delivers a matte, flawless finish for all skin tones,” while Quynh confirms it “blends easily into the skin — a makeup artist’s must-have!” Not to mention, it has over 6,000 5-star reviews on Sephora, proving its holy grail status for many.
“You can apply translucent powder all over your skin, or just on the T-zone, depending on your skin type,” Kukushkin says. Available in six color-correcting shades that apply translucent, this top-rated setting powder is worth the splurge, according to the MUA. It has a hint of shimmer for a radiant finish, and works for all skin types.
Stiles says this option is “a lovely talc-free formula that feels velvety on the skin.” It has a diffusing effect that gives a satin finish to any base makeup.
$34 at Sephora, Ulta and Fenty Beauty
An alternative to a loose powder, this pressed option from Fenty Beauty that mattifies and gives a pore-blurring effect is also recommended by Kukushkin.
From $20 at Sephora or $37 at Make Up For Ever
This pore-blurring powder is Doyle’s favorite translucent pick. It sets seamlessly over foundation and won’t look chalky.
Kukushkin says this smoothing and luminous loose powder is another universal option. It has a slight shimmer and the finely milled powder is infused with La Mer’s Miracle Broth, which is the antioxidant-rich base for the brand’s luxury skin care products too.
Drugstore setting powders
The e.l.f. brand has several pro-approved setting powders for under $10. Quynh likes the Halo Glow Setting Powder because it’s great “to take away shine while leaving skin looking luminous.”
$6 at Ulta
Doyle loves e.l.f.’s High Definition Powder, which doesn’t crease or cake. It comes in a matte Sheer shade and a slightly shimmery Soft Luminance.
Miyake says that this drugstore option truly gives a velvety finish.
$8.49 $3.42 at Amazon
Jaikaran and Miyake agree that Maybelline’s popular Fit Me Loose Finishing Powder is another high-performing drugstore powder that is lightweight and oil-absorbing. “This has to be my favorite drugstore setting powder not only because of how affordable it is but because it comes in such a wide shade range,” Jaikaran says. “[It] has a tint of color that perfectly finishes makeup no matter the finish you’re going for.”