Base Makeup

Favorite Setting Powders: Pressed and Loose

March 7, 2015

I’ve discussed foundations, primers and tinted moisturizers on this blog but haven’t done a roundup on my favorite beauty powders. One of the keys to making my foundation or tinted moisturizer last is to use a good setting powder to make everything stay put. I’ve rounded up my favorites for my sensitive medium-toned skin.

Finding a good powder can take time and a lot of testing. Just like foundation, some colored powders look good once you apply it but can end up darkening after a few hours. Others might be too matte and make your face look completely flat. Then there are powders that are too heavy and can end up looking cakey on your skin or feel like it just sits on your skin.

When it comes to setting powders, I like both translucent kinds and ones with medium to medium-full coverage. If a powder is tinted but too sheer, I find it can look too powdery on the skin and I’d rather just stick with something that is translucent.

Translucent Loose Powders

I have two favorites for translucent loose powder that I’ve repurchased several times over. First is the Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Powder which is an oil-free loose powder. It has a silky texture and colorless finish. The powder itself looks white but it doesn’t make you look pale or turn the skin white. At my darkest, I am a Chanel B40 and this works when I have a tan. It’s lightweight but you can definitely see a soft transformation on your face once you apply it. This one sets foundation really well without looking too powdery or cakey. It’s also good for my sensitive skin, doesn’t irritate my face or emphasize pores.

My next favorite is the NARS Light Reflecting Loose Powder. This is another colorless powder that has contains what NARS calls a Light Reflecting Complex which optimizes light-reflection on the skin. It doesn’t add any visible shimmer or glow but it sets the makeup really well and once applied it melts into the skin and photographs really well. It does help to blur any lines or pores but won’t make them disappear completely. This gives a slightly more matte finish to the face compared to the Laura Mercier but it doesn’t make the skin look flat.

Loose Powders – Tinted

I’ve tried and used up a number of loose powders including Chanel, Giorgio Armani, Laura Mercier (Mineral), Becca and Clinique. Loose powder is one of those things where I use up entirely even if I don’t 100% love it as long as it doesn’t irritate or break out my skin. For me it’s challenging to find a tinted loose powder that has enough color or coverage. So many darken or look so powdery on the skin. Laura Mercier made several Loose Powders in Ivory and Beige but it appears they have been discontinued. I am hoping it makes a comeback or is simply being repackaged because Beige was one of the best loose powders I’ve used. The Laura Mercier Mineral Loose Powder is another alternative I’ve used before, it has a pearl finish similar to other mineral powders. In terms of loose mineral powders, the Laura Mercier is the best one I’ve tried, but it’s a bit heavy for my personal preference.

My all time favorite loose powder is Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Natural Lighting Powder. It comes in one shade that will suit fair to medium skin tones. I do hope they add more colors in the future because this one is really good. It’s made of an ultra-fine pearl powder formula that works to set foundation and add a bit of coverage to even out the skin. The soft pearls particles cover pores and balance skin
surfaces for a natural glow. The shimmer in this one is visible but it’s not over the top and it won’t make your face look shimmery.

Powder Foundation

I typically prefer powder foundation to set my liquid foundation. I know you might think it sounds too heavy, but I’ve really loved the way dusting powder foundation with a brush over liquids gives a flawless canvas to work with. Those who have seen me in person usually can’t tell I’m wearing foundation (which is always a good thing because you don’t want it to look super obvious). My all time favorite used to be Chanel Double Perfection Powder but they’ve reformulated it several times and I’ve found that I am sometimes in between colors. Right now I’m in between Beige 20 and 30. If you can find a good color match this is a really good silky smooth powder that adds the perfect amount of medium coverage. Using a sponge will add more coverage but I prefer applying this one with a brush. It’s a good touch up powder too for mid-day. It won’t cake if you touch up your nose or forehead.

My current favorite is the Dolce & Gabbana Powder Foundation in Warm 100. I have alternated between Warm and Tan depending on how dark my skin is, but 100 has been my exact match for a long time. This one covers perfectly and flawlessly. It won’t irritate or break out my super sensitive skin (MAC and Bobbi Brown always break me out). It has a soft velvety finish that doesn’t cake, darken or look overdone while still giving you a decent amount of coverage to even out the skin.

Pressed Powder

I’ve avoided regular pressed powders for a long time because so many just don’t look good on my skin. They look like they sit on the face or alter the color of my foundation. I’ve found three that are phenomenal. The Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Powders are among my favorite. (Review + swatches here). #20 is my match for an all over dusting powder. #30 and #40 are good for subtle contouring or adding color for warmth. These are ultra smooth powders that have a sheer to medium finish that just melts into the skin. I dust with a powder brush to set powder and it gives a sheer smooth finish.

The Charlotte Tilbury Air Brush Flawless Finish Skin Perfecting Micro-Powder is as good as pressed powders get. I saw this one applied on my friend at the Nordstrom Charlotte Tilbury counter at the grove. My friend already had some tinted moisturizer on, she just needed a touch up. I watched her skin transform into this amazing airbrushed finish that looked amazingly natural. It evens out the skin but won’t alter the color of your foundation (as long as you get a good match). The only downside is the color selection is pretty limited and there’s a big jump in between the three colors. I use #2 Medium and am a Chanel B30 in foundation. My friend is a Chanel B10 in foundation and was matched to #1 Fair.

Tom Ford Translucent Finishing Powder is another really good pressed powder. I’ve had this one applied on my face numbers times at the Tom Ford counter and it took me a long time before I was willing to splurge on this one (it’s $77, yes ouch!). My match is Ivory Fawn which looks light in the compact but it has a sheer enough finish to be quite forgiving (I use the Traceless Perfecting in Bisque 4). The only downside (other than the ridiculous price tag) is the color selection is limited. There is a huge gap between Ivory Fawn and Sahara Dusk which is the next shade up. If you are either fair or tan you will have better luck finding a match compared to those of us with medium skin. Once I get tan in the summer, I will be in that gap.

For translucent pressed powders, I’ve found most end up looking and feeling too powdery on my skin. The only one I’ve tried and loved is the NARS Light Reflecting Pressed Powder which performs the same way on me as the loose version. It sets the foundation with a sheer finish and gives the skin a slightly matte looking finish. I prefer the loose version because I find it lasts longer on my skin compared to the pressed.

I hope you found this roundup of setting powders helpful! As always I’d love to hear from you what your favorites are. Do you have any tried and true powders? Do you prefer loose or pressed?

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  • beautybyalicee March 7, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    These all look really interesting, fab post, I love the packaging from Charlotte Tilbury.

    alice x | beautybyalicee | bloglovin'

  • Cecilia March 7, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Thank you for your review. I currently use the Nars light reflecting pressed powder and am quite happy with it. Will definitely try Laura Mercier translucent loose power based on your recommendation.

    • Sabrina March 10, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      Glad this review helped! The NARS Light Reflecting line is so good 🙂

  • Mandy S March 7, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    The Dolce and Gabbana powder sounds great! I'm in need of a new powder and I think I might just pick it up 🙂 x


    • Sabrina March 10, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      It's my most favorite powder ever!

  • Livia Francine March 7, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    This is so useful! Thank you x

    • Sabrina March 10, 2015 at 1:41 pm

      Glad it helped!

  • ame March 7, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    I LOVE the Charlotte Tilbury pressed powder–I alternate it with Ready Mineral Veil in Translucent. If I was to change anything about the CT, I'd have it come in a truly translucent, colorless version. I wear the fair but I would love a colorless version of it.

  • Madeleine S-B March 7, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Oh wow, Charlotte Tilbury's pressed powder sounds amazing! I've had my eye on it for a while and this post may have just convinced me to make the splurge :O x

  • Rachel Polansky March 7, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    I like pressed powders the best, especially the Bobbi Brown skin finish powder

    • Sabrina March 10, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      Ahhh, Bobbi Brown. I loved her original foundations and powders (like the ones back in the 90s). After she reformulated her face products I found many of her items broke me out (inserts sad face).

    • Lost in Jersey January 23, 2016 at 1:18 pm

      My first post here – enjoying the site and happy to see we have similar tastes (at least for this review)! Hey I am new here ☺️.I Love LaMers loose finishing powders and YSL for the luminosity it gives to the face. Fav Pressed powders include CT as I find it weightless and For more coverage the Chanel Beige Healthy Glow is perfect and finally, the Tom Ford is an amazing finishing powder for my fair but pink or is it yellow undertones. Your recommendation show great research and elegant writing.
      I look to learning more about you and the blog.

  • Arnella Kajtezovic March 7, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    I love both translucent and tinted powders. I prefer to use translucent powder later in the day to touch up my make up and oily spots.

  • Rouge March 7, 2015 at 11:04 pm

    Love the CHANEL pressed powder 'Les Beiges', although I have to admit I have 2 of those – bought in two different countries (I brought one from Paris) and the lid on both has broken almost immediately. It just loosened and broke.
    Now I have to struggle to place it back on when I finish putting on the powder, and this is not a usual thing for CHANEL packaging, so this is quite disappointing.

    Powder is great, though.

    • Petunia March 10, 2015 at 4:58 am

      My lids broke too! I do love the powder though.

    • Sabrina March 10, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      That's too bad about the packaging. One of my pans broke in the middle but I was still able to use it.

    • Rouge March 18, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      I hope CHANEL will put a thought into it and make sure packaging is getting better with time, not sloppier.

  • Blushing Betta March 7, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    Amazing post, very thorough! I am a huge believer in powdering over my liquid foundations. I love the Chanel Vitalumiere loose power – I know it's a love it or hate it kind of product. In the summer, I always go back to the Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder.

    That being said, I agree that the Chanel Les Beiges is a brilliant power.

    • Sabrina March 10, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      I'm wondering why the US never received the Vitalumiere loose powder, or perhaps I just missed it? I've been eager to test that one – I will have to see if I can track it down.

  • Georgina Fox March 8, 2015 at 12:21 am

    I definitely need to get better with powders. I currently work with Soap & Glory Glow All Out which is nice, but very pink toned and has a subtle shimmer so I reckon I need a translucent!

    G x

  • Kaitlyn Wretham March 8, 2015 at 12:34 am

    This was helpful, Ive been interested in a powder foundation for awhile now, the Dolce & Gabbana seems like such an awesome product, thank you!

    Kaitlyn xo

  • Eileen March 8, 2015 at 2:52 am

    I do not use setting powders as I have dry skin and don't need to matters my skin or prevent oil from shining through. I haven't had that problem in years! I do; however, love a whisper soft veil of finishing powder to unify the complexion. For me, the ne plus ultra is Guerlain's Météorites. During summer, I also love Les Beiges in #10 when I want to add a bit of color and warmth to my skin. I apply it with the same brush I use for Météorites–Tom Ford's bronzer brush. I've tried many other finishing powders, but always come back to those two. I also love the new Guerlain Terracotta Joli Teint Powder Duo but I use that as more of a delicate bronzer on my fair complexion.

    • Sabrina March 10, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      Ooh! I love the look of Guerlain Meteorites on the skin, makes the face glow beautifully!

  • Jo March 8, 2015 at 3:50 am

    My favorite loose powders are Sunday Riley and Chantecaille. I used to like the LM but after a while I felt like it made my skin look too powdery. The Chantecaille and Sunday Riley melt right into my skin. For pressed powders I like the Charlotte Tilbury too and the Le Metier de Beaute.

    • Sabrina March 10, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      Thanks for sharing your top picks! I'm adding them to my list to check out 🙂

  • Gee Leigh March 8, 2015 at 4:56 am

    I have been trying to find a loose setting powder to try. This was super helpful.

    Thanks heaps,

    • Sabrina March 10, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Glad to help!

  • jenna cantillion March 8, 2015 at 9:24 am

    Such a lovely post! I always use translucent powders. I really want to try the Nars one now.

    Jenna | Jenna Loves Beauty

  • Maiko Sharp March 8, 2015 at 10:16 am

    I definitely have a special spot for Ben Nye's banana powder. It just gives such a subtle glow and lifted look.

  • Catherine Sayer March 8, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Still yet to find my perfect setting powder but these all sound great! Think the Charlotte Tilbury one is next on my wish list x

  • Jane at Daly Beauty March 8, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Ahhhh I the Charlotte Tilbury powder is on my lust list! And I agree – the Nars Light Reflecting Pressed Powder is amazing. Always in my purse.

    • Sabrina March 10, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      Yay! Another CT fan 🙂

  • Cojo Graab March 8, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    I have this Chanel powder, and maybe it's only me, but it looks really cakey:( But you gace me many different propositions so I will definitely try them!:)

    • Sabrina March 10, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      I think it depends how you apply it. For me it looks cakey if I apply with a sponge or on bare skin. Over foundation it looks nice if the face isn't completely matte or dry and I like buffing it in with a powder brush.

  • Maimoon23 March 8, 2015 at 8:02 pm

    Charlotte Tilbury powder was gorgeous-very matte though and made me look ghostly. Sadly I'm in between shade 1 & 2 so I had to return. I'll stick to Hourglass ambient powder in Dim Light which airbrushes and warms me up. I may have to try the Chanel compact as I love their scented face products! Great post. Thanks -Wendy

    • Sabrina March 10, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      I hope CT adds more shades! I forgot about Dim Light as a setting powder – that's another great one 🙂

  • Claudia Zhu March 8, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Great post!! Thank you~

  • Coco N March 8, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    The Laura Mercier Loose Setting Powder is flawless. I'm wearing it right now xx

  • Maria March 9, 2015 at 1:21 am

    I haven't tried any of these! Now I really want to!


  • Jules March 9, 2015 at 12:43 pm

    Great review! Now I have many choices. I have tried Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Powder and I so love it. I have repurchased it two times now.

  • Lifestyle by Numbers March 9, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Did you not like the Laura Mercier pressed setting powder then? I currently own the press and like it but if the loose is better I may pick up that next!

    • Sabrina March 10, 2015 at 1:49 pm

      I've had and used the Laura Mercier pressed translucent powder. I used it up until I hit pan but didn't repurchase. It's a good one, but I think the loose is so much better. Also for pressed powders I prefer ones that have color.

  • silvita March 10, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    What a great summary of powders! I'm currently using the Laura Mercier loose translucent, have used it for years– and when it's really humid the IT Cosmetics HD loose translucent is fantastic at keeping the face shine free. I agree w/ you on the Dolce & Gabbana foundation powder, amazing product!! it's my travel fave!

  • stephanee March 18, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    I just adore powders both pressed and loose! . I alternate between Ben Nye neutral in loose to set my foundation then I do my highlight and contour and apply Banana for under my eyes. I also use La Mer loose powder. When summertime hits here in Southern Cali I reach for Chanel les beige in #70. That's about it, I love my Ben too much to expand my collection no matter where I travel my face looks the same at 9pm as it did at 9am lol!

  • Aurora July 20, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    I want to order the Charlotte Tilbury pressed powder, but I'm so unsure as to what shade I should order.. I'm a B20 in Chanel foundation, any advice? Adore your blog!

  • Shin Shu Joanne July 28, 2015 at 9:07 am

    Fantastic post! I've been frantically searching for an executive summary of quality powders, and I'm blaming my googling skills for finding this blog now… I've got one question, though. My skin is rather dry, so I've been applying just liquid foundation or tint moisturizer alone until now. Now I want to graduate from this dewy look and move on to a more sophiticated, veiled look of a powder. Could you give me an advice on choosing a finishing powder for dry skin? Thanx.