While most people are decidedly team liquid or team powder foundation, “it’s not just a matter of preference that should dictate which team you’re on,” says Gabriel Almodovar, Maybelline New York Global Makeup Artist. Whether you’re a powder girl or a liquid foundation fan should come down to your skin type. For those with dry skin, powder foundation can cling to dry, flaky spots. Not cute. On those with an oily complexion, the dewy factor of a liquid formula can go greasy all too quickly — probably not the look you’re going for. “Ideally, you'd use a powder foundation if you have oily skin,” Almodovar says. When used correctly, you’ll have a satin matte finish that will last all day, he adds.
Why Powder Foundation?
So, aside from the fact that, well, it’s a powder, what makes powder foundation different from other formulas? Unlike liquids and creams, powder foundations don’t get absorbed into the skin, but rather sit on the surface. Thus, the coverage tends to last a bit longer than other formulas, Almodovar says. It’s also what can make powder foundations appear heavy on your skin, but with the right application (we’ll get to that), you can keep your look light and fresh.
We asked Almodovar for a primer on powder foundations: how to pick the right one, and wear it the right way. Then we dusted on a ton of different formulas, all in the name of research, to bring you our short list of the very best powder foundations out there. Ahead, find a few tips and tricks to keep in mind when purchasing your first powder-friendly foundation.
Choose the Right Texture
Powder comes either pressed or loose. The difference? Loose tends to be more lightweight. The pigments are finer, so they’re more blendable. If it’s full coverage you want, go with a pressed powder compact. Another plus for pressed powders: “Loose powders can get very messy,” says Almodovar. If you take your makeup on the go, then a pressed compact is a smart choice. However, if you like the lighter look of a loose powder, look for one that comes in no-spill packaging with a built-in brush.
SPF in Your Foundation Is Good (But Don’t Rely on It Alone)
Like other types of foundation, powder formulas often contain sunscreen ingredients such as titanium dioxide. Sneaking sun protection into your makeup is always a good idea, but if you’re going to be outside for long periods of time, it shouldn’t be your main source of protection. Layer a traditional sunscreen or a moisturizer with SPF 30 underneath your base. Powder foundations with SPF do, however, make for easy sunscreen re-application. Give your skin a fresh dusting before you run errands during your lunch break — or anytime you may spend a prolonged amount of time outdoors.
Powders Go With Powders
This is important. “Liquid and creams don’t blend well on powder,” says Almodovar. Try to rub a cream blush over a powdered cheek and you’ll likely get pills. If you’re using a powder base all over your face, opt for powder blush, contour, highlighter and eyeshadow, he says.
How to Wear Powder Foundation
There are a few different ways to apply powder foundation, depending on your coverage needs. Ahead, Almodovar breaks it down for us:
For sheer coverage: Ditch the sponge applicator that your compact likely came with and apply it with a fluffy brush (try NYX Cosmetics Tapered Powder Brush) instead. It will disperse the pigments in the sheerest way, says Almodovar. If you want a little more coverage, apply your powder with a brush that has densely packed bristles such as IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Flat Top Buffing Foundation Brush #6.
For medium coverage: Use the applicator that comes with the compact (often a sponge) to tap the powder all over your face, or wherever you need it most. “Then follow up with a fluffy brush to blend what needs to be blended and brush off the excess from the skin,” he says.
For full coverage: You can either lay on a thicker layer of powder using the sponge applicator, or you can start with a liquid foundation and top it with your powder foundation. Doubling up gives you more coverage and the powder helps set the liquid, so it doesn’t make your skin look oily, says Almodovar.
Scroll down to see which formulas made the cut of our favorite powder foundations.
This full-coverage powder lasts up to 16 hours and gives you the softest matte finish that almost appears creamy. You can apply this with a brush all over the face or a wet sponge for a more dewy, luminous effect.
This lightweight, cake-free powder has the most velvety-matte finish on the skin and it lasts for hours. What we also love about this one is that it comes in 24 shades, allowing you to find your perfect powder-foundation match.
Bye Bye Foundation Powder is a great buildable option if you prefer a no-makeup makeup style. You can simply tap this over moisturizer and go about the rest of your minimal routine.
The finish on this pressed powder (available in eight shades) is semi-matte, which means that it won’t appear too powdery. With a super natural finish, this is one of our go-tos if you’re searching for that extra silky product.
We love the Dual Finish Powder Makeup because you can easily use it wet or dry. It’s sheer coverage, so it feels extremely light on the skin yet proves to be super buildable with a few applications.
You can easily layer the powder foundation over a bare face or CC/BB cream. It’s also completely oil-free and blurs excess shine.
For a super silky finish, we love Laura Geller Baked Versatile Powder. It feels super hydrating and creamy to the touch and has incredible full coverage.