Best Loose Setting Powders

Updated April 2021
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best loose setting powders

When you take the time to do your makeup, you want it to last all day. But if you get stuck late at school or the office or are out with friends longer than anticipated, you may notice your makeup starting to fade. Foundation and concealer are wonderful beauty products, but for long wear, they must be locked into place. Loose setting powder is often the best way to achieve this.

Loose setting powder is similar to pressed setting powder, but instead of being mixed with binders and pressed into a compact, it has a texture similar to flour and comes in a small pot or tub. Because it’s so effective at setting foundation and concealer, it is typically one of the last steps of a facial makeup routine.

Compared to pressed powder, loose setting powder usually offers lighter coverage. This helps prevent makeup from looking cakey, settling into fine lines and wrinkles and accentuating dry patches. There are several variations of loose setting powder to choose from, including translucent and tinted versions. Our buying guide can help you determine which loose setting powder would be best for your skin type.

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Loose setting powder can help soften the look of blush or bronzer that has been applied too heavily. Carefully buff the powder over the makeup to blend out excess color.

Key considerations

Skin type

Your skin type is a critical factor in finding the right loose setting powder. If you don’t choose a formula suitable for your skin type, it could leave your makeup looking cakey or dry.

Oily skin produces excess oil, which can lead to shiny skin, enlarged pores, and breakouts. It can also make it difficult for makeup to stay in place. Most oil-free loose setting powders work well for oily skin because they soak up excess oil, but you’ll get the best results if you choose a powder labeled as mattifying, oil-controlling, or shine-controlling. These formulas contain ingredients like clay, rice starch, or silica, all of which are extremely effective at absorbing oil.

Combination skin features oily skin in the T-zone (the forehead, nose, and chin) and dry skin on the rest of the face. A mattifying or oil-controlling loose setting powder works well for the T-zone, but a basic oil-free powder works best for the rest of the face.

Dry skin doesn’t produce much oil, which can make it look dull and dehydrated. It might seem like using a loose setting powder is a bad idea, but if you choose the right powder, it can help prevent your foundation and concealer from creasing. Avoid formulas with oil-absorbing ingredients that could further dehydrate dry skin. Instead, consider a loose setting powder with mineral pigments. The soft, lightweight texture is less likely to accentuate dry patches. Further, mineral pigments reflect light, which can help brighten the skin.

Translucent vs. colored

Loose setting powder is available in translucent and colored formulas.

Translucent loose setting powder is colorless; it does not alter the shade of the foundation or concealer over which you apply it. Translucent powder works well if you don’t want a heavy makeup look, and it’s suitable for a range of skin types, though it does have a whitish cast that may look ashy on darker skin tones.

Colored loose setting powder is tinted and is usually available in several shades to match various skin tones. It’s generally not available in as many shade options as foundation or concealer because it doesn’t offer the same amount of coverage, making an exact shade match unnecessary. However, using a colored setting powder over your foundation and concealer can boost coverage to give you a more flawless complexion.

Coverage

Loose setting powder typically doesn’t provide much coverage. Even colored or tinted formulas are mostly sheer. They can brighten and even out your skin tone, but they won’t conceal dark spots or blemishes on their own.

Even if you’re not wearing foundation, you can apply loose setting powder over your face to minimize shine and greasiness.

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Features

Shade range

If you opt for translucent loose setting powder, most brands offer a single shade. Darker skin tones can sometimes have an issue because translucent powder often has a white cast that looks ashy on dark or golden skin.

Tinted or colored loose setting powders are usually available in several shades. Some brands offer light, medium, and dark shades, while others provide as many as eight shades, allowing for a closer match to your skin tone.

Finish

Many loose setting powders have a matte finish, which is ideal for oily or combination skin because it minimizes shine. However, you can find some loose setting powders with a luminous or dewy finish. This gives the skin a healthy glow, making it ideal for dry or mature skin.

Packaging

Loose setting powder comes in a small tub or jar with a screw-off cap. A few brands feature a completely open jar, so nothing keeps the powder in the tub when the cap is off. These containers can create quite a mess if jostled or knocked over. However, many brands include a plastic insert with holes that sits over the open jar to keep the powder contained. When the cap is still on, you can shake the jar a bit to get some powder out.

Some high-end brands take it a step further with an insert that features a turning dial to open and close the holes. With this mechanism in place, you don’t have the worry of opening the container to find a bunch of powder sitting inside the insert, just ready to make a mess.

SPF

Some loose setting powders contain SPF to protect your skin from UV rays. This makes it extremely easy to reapply sunscreen throughout the day without ruining your makeup. Look for a formula with at least SPF15 for adequate sun protection.

Puff

A few loose setting powders include a puff for applying powder to your face. While a puff can come in handy in a pinch, it’s usually not the best application tool. A makeup brush is ideal for the even application of face powder in a light layer.

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DID YOU KNOW?
You can use loose setting powder to lock your lipstick in place, too. Blot your lipstick, and lightly dust your lips with the powder. Let it sit for a minute or two, and then apply a second coat of lipstick for maximum pigmentation and staying power.
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Accessories

Makeup brushes: Real Techniques Everyday Essentials Brush Collection
You’ll get the best application of loose setting powder if you use a fluffy brush. This brush set from Real Techniques includes a large fluffy face brush and a smaller setting brush for under the eyes.

Makeup setting spray: Urban Decay All Nighter Long Lasting Makeup Setting Spray
Top your loose setting powder with a makeup setting spray to lock it in place. This spray from Urban Decay can keep your makeup looking fresh for up to 16 hours and sprays in a micro-fine mist that won’t cause streaks.

Loose setting powder prices

Inexpensive: The most affordable loose setting powders come from drugstore brands and typically contain low or average-quality ingredients. They usually come in jars without a sifter or a basic sifter with holes. Expect to pay between $5 and $14 for these setting powders.

Mid-range: Mid-range loose setting powders tend to contain average to high-quality ingredients. They come in jars with sifter holes or a locking sifter. You can find mini jars on the low end of the price range and full-size jars at the high end. Expect to pay between $15 and $36 for these powders.

Expensive: The priciest loose setting powders are made by luxury brands with extremely high-quality ingredients. They come in jars with sifter holes or a locking sifter. Expect to pay between $36 and $58 for these setting powders.

If you find that your makeup looks too heavy after applying loose setting powder, mist your face with makeup setting spray to reduce the powdery look.

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Tips

  • Use a makeup brush for the most even and flattering application of loose setting powder. A large, fluffy brush is best because it allows you to dust the powder lightly over your skin without creating a cakey look.
  • Use a smaller brush for below the eyes. For example, if you’re using your loose setting powder to set under-eye concealer, a small, fluffy brush will yield a more precise application.
  • Apply powder methodically. First, tap a small amount of powder into the jar’s lid. Press your brush into the powder, and then tap off the excess into the lid. Start applying the powder at the center of your face, gently moving over the face in small circles to buff it in.
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You can reapply loose setting powder throughout the day if you find that you’re getting shiny. Use blotting papers first to remove excess oil, and then dust the powder over your face.

FAQ

Q. Where should I apply loose setting powder?

A. You can dust loose setting powder all over your face where you want to ensure your makeup stays put or won’t crease. However, if you’re concerned about your makeup looking dry, you may only want to apply it where you usually get shiny, such as the forehead, nose, and chin.

Q. Should I use loose setting powder if I have dry skin?

A. Some people with dry skin prefer not to use setting powder because they find that it leaves their skin looking dehydrated. However, if your makeup creases or fades throughout the day, you may want to apply setting powder to dry skin. Use a light hand, and choose a formula with a dewy or glowing finish.

Q. What type of shelf life does loose setting powder have?

A. Because loose setting powder doesn’t contain water, it’s less likely to develop bacteria. Most setting powders can stay fresh for up to two years.

 

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