“Hearst Magazines and Verizon Media may earn commission or revenue on some items through the links below.”
If you don't already have a favorite setting powder sitting in your makeup bag, you're in luck. We just spent over one month playing with, applying, sweating in, talking to makeup artists while wearing, and testing out some of the most popular setting powders on the market — and we're getting brutally honest about them.
What Is Setting Powder?
As you may already know, setting powder is a game-changing element of any proper complexion makeup base. Not to be confused with a finishing powder that you typically sweep on after all of your other makeup is applied, setting powder is usually applied after foundation to give your base a no-budge hold while reducing shine and oil.
“Setting powder will literally set the makeup to make sure it stays put. They usually come translucent and are a bit heavier,” professional makeup artist Pamela Faller tells us. “A finishing powder acts as more of a veil and goes on like a light dusting than setting powder to blur any lines to create that seamless finish.”
Whether you prefer a loose powder, in which loose pigments are contained in a jar, or a pressed powder, which is patted down onto a smooth surface, this step is essential to long-wearing, flawless-looking makeup.
How to Apply Setting Powder
Before we get to testing, let's talk application. There are endless ways to apply setting powder, so feel free to experiment and find what's best for you. "You can use a blending sponge like Mehron's Face Smoothie Sponge to pack on the powder, and then use a big fluffy brush to dust off the excess," Faller explains.
We concur that this is the best way to apply it, but you do you! If you're looking for serious staying power, Faller says you can even try adding a layer of powder in between primer and foundation.
The Best-Selling Setting Powders We Tested
How We Tested
There are tons of setting powders on the market, so we decided to focus on some of the most popular brands and top-rated setting powders. When testing these setting powders, one of the most important points for us was how well they work on a variety of skin tones, so we gathered a diverse group of team members to try out these powders.
Other factors that came into play while we were testing each setting powder were:
How well does it set makeup?
How long do its effects last?
Does it make your makeup water- and/or sweat-proof?
Does it cause flashback and/or white cast?
Is it worth the price?
Now check out our full reviews to find out which of the best setting powders is right for you.
COVER FX Perfect Setting Powder
Best For: oily skin types; darker skin tones
Our senior food & drink editor, Danielle St. Pierre, says this setting powder works "almost too well!" She notes that this particular setting powder has a great hold, and keeps her makeup on for 8-plus hours, and even takes a little more muscle power to wash off at the end of her day.
But one issue she does have with this formula is that it isn't truly transparent. The “light” hue is a tad warmer than her naturally light skin tone, and she couldn't find the best match for her shade.
She also says that the COVER FX setting powder kept her face mattified and oil-free the entire day, making this an amazing pick for those of us who get a little too oily by the middle to end of the day.
At $35, St. Pierre thinks this setting powder's price is reasonable considering how effective the formula is at setting makeup, especially if you wear a fully beat face on a regular basis.
L’Oréal Paris Infallible Tinted Loose Setting Powder
Best For: lighter skin tones; normal-to-dry skin types
Courtney Linder, tester and senior news editor of Popular Mechanics, says that this drugstore pick actually does what it claims. Its inexpensive price tag and large size is definitely a bonus for all bargain shoppers, Linder says, but its formula is actually pretty impressive for an under $20 option.
“The L’Oréal Infallible Loose Setting Powder really does live up to its name. When I use blush, for instance, it normally tends to fade really quickly throughout the day, leaving my skin kind of sickly pale looking from whatever foundation I’m wearing. This setting powder helped to keep my blush intact all day, which kept the warmth in my face for far more than my usual few hours,” she says. “I also like the way that the powder helped to set my eyebrows. I used a fluffy powder brush to sweep over my brows — which I filled in with Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz — and the color saturation stayed intact all day. That’s really saying something, considering I have nearly invisible auburn eyebrows. As for foundation, it stayed in place well, too.”
Though the shade she tried, shade 612/Translucent Light-Medium, did cause a slight flashback for Linder when she was in front of a camera, she says that this setting powder is great for regular daywear and doesn't cause a white cast on her skin tone. However, she does note that deeper skin tones may want to opt for another shade.
Linder noted that this setting powder's mattifying effects don't necessarily last for long, and lasted for 90 minutes before having a greasy feel on her T-zone and sides of her nose, so she recommends taking it with you to reapply throughout the day, especially if your skin is on the oilier side of the complexion spectrum.
Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder
Best For: all skin types and skin tones
Chances are you've probably owned this setting powder at least once in your life, and Daisy Hernandez, tester and news editor for Runner's World, Bicycling and Popular Mechanics, says you should definitely stock up on it again. There’s a reason why she gives this beloved setting powder a “10/10” rating: She notes that it instantly locks your makeup in place for hours on end, sans smudging or oiliness.
“I highly recommend this setting powder to anyone who wants something that provides all-day matte coverage without appearing thick and settled into pores,” she says. “I also love how light the powder feels the entire time it’s on my face all the while preventing cakiness.”
Though the setting powder didn’t waterproof her makeup, she does say that it did a great job of mattifying her pores. She also notes that this powder steers clear of any flashback or white cast, as long as you're not caking the powder on.
“With this setting powder, a little goes a long way — a huge plus since the $39 price tag isn’t the most affordable, but it is well worth it since it’ll last you a long time,” she says. “I used the setting powder in ‘translucent’ which was a good match for my fair/medium undertone but there are two more colors for those with deeper tones.”
COVERGIRL truBLEND Minerals Loose Powder
Best For: normal-to-oily skin types
Our parenting editor, Cat Bowen, says the loose powder formula feels great and similar to her usual go-to, the Coty Airspun Loose Face Powder. She also notes that this formula blends out and brushes off with ease, making it a great pick for baking your complexion products. “The puff that’s included is super soft, feeling like freshly shorn lambswool,” she adds.
However, she did have a few mishaps with this setting powder. She says that this powder oxidized on her skin, leaving an orange hue that made her look like “an Oompa Loompa that had a bad mid-aughts tanning experience.” Considering that she used her usual (and pricier) makeup products during testing, she knew the outlier to this issue was unfortunately this setting powder.
A few other issues Bowen had with this: It highlighted the fine lines and wrinkles on her face, and she wasn't so fond of the strong smell. Overall, she'd rate this product a 5/10.
Glossier Wowder Finishing Powder
Best For: all skin tones; all skin types
Don't let the name fool you: Yes, technically this is a finishing powder, but it can also be used as a setting powder. St. Pierre used the shade “G8-G10 Light/Medium” in this powder, and she was quite impressed by how well it matched her natural tone.
Though this particular setting powder did excel in terms of shade matching and shade range (there are five shades to choose from, which is more than many of the brands on this list and beyond), it did fall a little flat when it came to actually setting makeup.
"This setting powder was so subtle that I felt I had to apply multiple layers with my kabuki brush to actually notice any mattifying effect," St. Pierre says. "It does set makeup, but this wouldn’t be my go-to to set a full face of makeup for a night out since it’s quite minimal."
She further explains that the powder’s setting power lasts about 3-4 hours, so you’re going to want to pack it with you if you’re stepping out. But overall, she thinks it’s worth its $22 price tag if you’re a makeup minimalist.
PAT McGRATH LABS Skin Fetish: Sublime Perfection Setting Powder
Best For: all skin tones; all skin types
This tinted setting powder is one of Hussein's favorites, but she does want to note that it works best with the PAT McGRATH LABS Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection Foundation. However, that doesn't mean that its performance falls flat with other foundations: Hussein loves using this setting powder when she's wearing a full face to lock in her complexion products.
“Before I dive into my love for this setting powder, I do have to say that I’m a very dedicated PAT McGRATH LABS fan,” she says. “This setting powder lives up to the hype: I’s super lightweight, it smooths out my skin, and it’s breathable. Plus, I love that there are more than two shades to choose from.”
Hussein likes that this setting powder has a “cushiony” feel to it, and that its ultra finely milled finish makes it extremely easy to blend out. She’s tried it out with her go-to Gucci foundation and she says it locks it in perfectly, but it does require a little touch-up after approximately 6 hours of wear. And if you’re worried about flashback or white cast, don’t be: Although it’s tinted, this formula stays completely sheer throughout the day.
Though it is pricey and comes with less product than other setting powders (it has 5 grams’ worth of setting powder, whereas most brands have 9-12 grams), she does note that a little goes a long way with this formula.
Bobbi Brown Cosmetics Sheer Finish Loose Powder
Best For: all skin tones; all skin types
Lakota Gambill, tester and photographer at Hearst Magazines, says that this setting powder truly does it all. She noted that this setting powder keeps makeup on "like glue" yet still gives your skin a natural look and feel.
“The second I put a little bit on, I could feel it smoothing out and creating almost a locked layer for my foundation and blush,” she says. “Though not in a cakey way — honestly, it just felt light and natural.”
On top of being totally transparent on her skin, Gambill was also surprised by how well this setting powder held her makeup during a particularly sweaty day of moving homes, and says that it made her makeup look freshly applied through an 8-plus-hour ordeal.
It's one of the pricier products on this list, but Gambill thinks it's worth every penny for its smudge-free hold, sweatproof formula, and natural finish.
La Mer The Powder
Best For: dry skin types; sensitive skin
If your skin tends to feel dry and irritated with makeup on, then Hussein is literally begging you to give this setting powder a try. Yes, it is expensive AF, but if you have some wiggle room in your budget, then Hussein says you should definitely make the investment if your skin is on the drier side.
“It has a cooling sensation to it the minute it’s applied, almost like a tall glass of water for your skin,” says Hussein. “It leaves your skin feeling velvety-smooth even with tons of foundation and concealer on, and it really locks in your makeup while giving it a slightly dewier (not greasy!) finish.”
However, you will have to reapply this setting powder after about 4 hours of wear, which does bug Hussein since this product is almost $100.
Danessa Myricks Evolution Setting Powder
Best For: oily skin types; all skin tones
This is another favorite of Hussein's, especially if you're wearing heavier amounts of makeup. She says this setting powder is especially great if your makeup creates an oily sheen on your skin.
"If your skin is on the oilier side, then you absolutely need this setting powder, stat," she says." Danessa Myricks Beauty is such an underrated brand, and their products work absolute wonders, including this setting powder. On top of a no-budge hold that could last for days at a time, this one acts completely translucent, lightweight, and makes your complexion products feel like actual skin."
Another very important factor Hussein would like to highlight is that there are a whopping seven shades of this setting powder to choose from, making it the most diverse in shade ranges on this list.
MAC Prep + Prime Transparent Finishing Loose Powder
Best For: all skin types; lighter skin tones
Unlike most of the setting powders on this list, this pick is not tinted, which St. Pierre says creates a truly transparent and “chameleon-like” finish to her makeup. She also notes that this setting powder has an extremely impressive 8-plus hours’ hold that keeps makeup looking and feeling fresh the entire day.
“This setting powder did a thorough job of setting my makeup (tinted moisturizer/serum plus concealer) and reducing oil, especially in my T-zone and forehead, throughout a full sweaty day of moving into my new apartment,” she says. “The effects lasted for a full 8-hour workday in humid/rainy weather, which is a serious feat.”
Another bonus: St. Pierre says this setting powder doesn't cause any flashback and creates a soft, matte, and even finish. However, she does note that this pick may cause flashback and white cast on deeper skin tones due to its original white hue.
So, is it worth the $30 price tag? Though it is a bit smaller and steeper in price than other formulas, St. Pierre gives this pick her seal of approval and says it's worth every buck.
bareMinerals Mineral Veil Finishing Powder
Best For: sensitive skin types; lighter skin tones
Though Gambill says that this setting powder does need some reapplication every 6-7 hours, she notes that this setting powder is especially great for sensitive skin types.
"I definitely favored the ingredients of this more so than the Bobbi Brown setting powder," she says. "While I love Bobbi Brown, I noticed that it made my sensitive-oily-acne-prone skin a little irritated and I didn’t see that as much with this one!"
Gambill also notes that this setting powder leaves a slight white cast on her skin, but says it isn’t terribly noticeable. “As a note, I’m Native American, so I naturally have a darker complexion,” she says. “I believe for someone with lighter features it may blend a tad bit easier. It wasn’t terrible, but it was noticeable here and there.”
Overall, she says it's worth the $27 price tag if you have sensitive and easily irritable skin.
Mented Cosmetics Skin Silk Loose Setting Powder
Best For: normal-to-oily skin types; anyone looking for a fragrance-free formula
This finely milled powder sits lightly on your skin and feels as soft as a cloud, making your skin feel as soft and supple as ever even with makeup on, according to Hussein.
“This powder is great if you’re wearing a light amount of makeup,” she says.“It’s very light and a little can go a long way, but it can pill if you’re wearing heavier amounts of makeup.”
This pick also lasts for about 4 to 5 hours before needing to reapply, which is another reason why Hussein recommends using it for lighter-makeup days. It gets bonus points for its three shades that actually work on a variety of skin tones.
She definitely recommends it for people who have minimal makeup routines, but those of you with a heavier makeup routine may want to opt for a stronger setting powder.
Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Setting Powder
Best For: dry-to-normal skin types; anyone looking for a fragrance-free formula
This is the only pressed formula on this list, which intimidated Bowen at first. “At first I was really worried about a pressed formula with no puff,” she says. “Growing up in the late ’90s and early ’00s, Maybelline’s pressed translucent powder with the puff was basically an essential item in my purse.”
But Bowen realized that pressed formulas have significantly improved since the early aughts. She says some of the highlights of this product include its fragrance-free formula, lightweight feel, and its ability to smooth skin without settling into crow's feet and fine lines. She also says it's great for minimizing oily complexions.
However, she notes that this pressed powder is very light and does need to be layered on for a more solid hold on your makeup — its effects last for about 4 to 6 hours before needing to be reapplied.
You Might Also Like