Why You Need a Translucent Powder in Your Makeup Bag

March 25, 2020
Alanna Martine Kilkeary
By: Alanna Martine Kilkeary | Makeup.com by L'Oréal
nyx hd finishing powder

Translucent setting powder is arguably one of the most underrated makeup products in your collection. You can set with it, bake with it and re-apply it as much as you please. Plus, if you have oily skin, it’s a lifesaver. And we can’t forget to mention that  the right translucent setting powder formulas won’t give you flashback! But where did translucent powder come from, how does it work, and most importantly — what makes it different from setting sprays? Ahead, we broke down all of your translucent powder inquiries, plus rounded up five of our absolute favorites.

The History of Translucent Powder

Translucent powder may seem like a trendy makeup product but it has a long history. The 1940s and ’50s were the golden age of face powder. Women would excuse themselves to go to the powder room (AKA the bathroom) where they would touch up their makeup or “powder their noses.” Because most makeup of the day was heavy enough to need a trowel to spackle it on, translucent powder both set the foundation and gave skin a porcelain, velvet finish that was all the rage back then. During the swinging ’60s, though, natural skin was in, and heavy makeup and powder fell out of fashion. These days, translucent powder has made a bigtime comeback. Lighter liquid and cream foundations allow us to create even, natural-looking skin that can then be set with — you guessed it — powder.

Tinted Powder vs. Translucent Powder

“A translucent powder is perfect for setting your foundation because it's super lightweight,” says NYC-based makeup artist Ashleigh Ciucci. But, you might say, why can’t I just use my tinted powder? Of course, you definitely can, but remember that it’s going to add more color to your face. Translucent powder has zero pigment, notes Ciucci, so you “aren't building any extra weight or coverage to the skin.” Instead, you’re enhancing what’s already there.

Setting Spray vs. Translucent Powder

Setting sprays have been getting a lot of attention lately as a long-wear tool, but Ciucci warns that they aren’t a one-size-fits-all product. “Pairing something wet with something dry is what makes makeup long-lasting,” she says. Like when you apply a cream shadow and put a powder shadow on top to keep it from creasing or sliding. The same applies to foundation: A cream or liquid should be set with translucent powder, but a powder foundation should be set with a spray. “Using two different textures really locks and loads things.”

How to Choose the Right Translucent Powder Formula

One of the first decisions you need to make when you start using translucent powder is if you want one that is loose or pressed. Ciucci likes loose powder for at-home use because it provides a softer touch that sets yet still lets skin look like skin. Just be sure the one you choose has a sifter, otherwise you’re in for a mess every time you use it.


Pressed compacts, on the other hand, are fab for on-the-go touch-ups. Throw one in your purse or in your emergency desk supply stash to keep your makeup from sliding off and suck up excess oil.


The Golden Rules of Translucent Powder

#1: Start at the Top of Your Face

“After I apply foundation and concealer where needed, I use a large powder brush and I swirl it into the translucent powder and then tap off the excess,” Ciucci says. “Then I start sweeping the powder on in the center of the face, going from the forehead down the nose.” 


#2: It Helps Conceal Breakouts, Too

“If I have a blemish, I'll go back over the blemish with a cotton swab dipped in translucent powder,” says Ciucci. “It just gives it a little extra coverage.”


#3: Use it to Mattify Your Lipstick

Simply swipe on any lipstick, advises Ciucci, then take a multi-ply tissue and peel one of the layers off — this should leave you with a very thin, almost translucent piece of tissue. Gently place that on your lips, then lightly dust translucent powder over top of the tissue. Wait a few seconds, then peel the tissue paper off. Boom: matte lips in a flash. This trick will also work on lipsticks that are already matte to provide even more setting powder.


#4: Use Powder to Add Extra Volume to Your Lashes

No, seriously! Put on your mascara, says Ciucci, then lightly sprinkle some loose powder on your still damp lashes while your eyes are closed, then apply another layer of mascara. Ciucci swears it builds up massive volume on your fringe.


Ahead, we rounded up five of our favorites that won’t give you flashback.

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