To be totally honest, most days, I try to get away with wearing as minimal makeup as possible. It’s not that I don’t love makeup, I really do, but when I’m running around in the morning trying to get ready for work, I don’t have much time to put on a full face. I could wake up early to leave more time to have a leisurely morning, but let’s just chalk that up to laziness and the need for more sleep.
Even my full-face look when I’m going out is pretty minimal by most standards. So I never really gave a second thought to setting powders. In fact, when I used to think of them, I’d picture a big pouf of chalky white powder on my grandma’s vanity. While I love her, it wasn’t quite the look I was going for.
But after doing some investigative beauty research into setting powders, I realized maybe it’s a necessary step to making my makeup look flawless and to control unwanted shine. “A setting powder adheres to your concealer, tinted moisturizer, or foundation to reduce shine, create a smooth working surface for other powder-based product, and it helps to hold your makeup in place,” says celebrity makeup artist Lisa Aharon, whose clients include Gwyneth Paltrow, Chloë Grace Moretz, and Anna Kendrick.
Aharon says setting powders are her first recommendation for people who are fighting an oily complexion or having the issue of foundation or concealer settling into fine lines. All those benefits sounded like things that I definitely wanted. When I spend time doing a whole look, it gets pretty frustrating when my makeup is a total mess after a couple of hours. But again, I was worried about a caked-on look, so Aharon shared some application tips.
“Use a smaller brush—like one that you’d typically have for your blush,” Aharon recommends. “A smaller brush will give you more control with powder distribution. Unless you’re applying powder-based makeup products afterward or have a very oily complexion, concentrate it only on your T-zone. When you dip your brush into the powder, don’t use too much, and tap the excess off before applying to your face.”
And as for choosing a setting powder, Aharon suggests looking for talc-free, finely milled formulas that will leave a smooth, blurred finish. They’re also less drying. “If your skin is fair to medium/tan in color, choose a universal shade,” she says. “But if you’re a tan to deep skin tone, use one with darker pigments. Some of the translucent powders can leave dark skin tones looking ashy.”
Need some more recommendations? Take a look at some of the best setting powders I’ve found, with help from Who What Wear editors.
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