Best Translucent Powders

Updated September 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best translucent powders

Last Updated September 2019

When you take the time to put on foundation and concealer, you want it to last all day. Setting your makeup with powder can help lock it in place for long school or work days, but if you don’t want your foundation to look cakey or heavy, translucent powder is your best bet.

Unlike other powders, translucent powder is colorless and sheer, so it doesn’t add any real coverage to your skin. It helps set liquid and cream foundation and makeup, and it blurs imperfections and smooths the look of your pores to give your makeup a flawless finish. Translucent powder is also extremely effective at reducing shine, making it an ideal option for oily skin.

If you want your makeup to look as fresh as possible, it all comes down to choosing the right translucent powder. You have to decide on a pressed or loose formula, what ingredients are best for your skin type, what finish you prefer, and what other features would make a translucent powder the best fit for your makeup routine. Our shopping guide can help you find the best powder for your makeup bag.

Setting your foundation isn’t the only reason to use translucent powder. You can also dust it over bare skin to banish any shine.

Key considerations

Loose vs. pressed translucent powder

Translucent powder is available in two formulas: loose and pressed.

Loose translucent powder is exactly what it sounds like — powder with a consistency similar to flour or baking soda. It usually comes in a jar or tub and features smaller particles that have been finely milled. Because of its fine texture, it usually has a lightweight look and feel on the skin.

Pressed translucent powder uses the same base ingredients as loose powder, but binders are added to turn it into a semi-solid product that’s pressed into a compact. It usually has a slightly heavier look and feel on the skin than loose translucent powder, so it may give your makeup a cakey appearance if you apply too much.

Loose translucent powder is messier to use because of the loose nature of the product. It doesn’t travel well, so it isn’t the best choice if you want to bring your powder with you for touch-ups throughout the day. Pressed translucent powder, on the other hand, is extremely easy to take with you on-the-go, which makes it the better option if you want a powder for touching up your makeup.

Incredibly fine with an airbrushed finish

La Mer The Powder carries a hefty price tag, but its luxurious feel and finish blow away other powders on the market. Made with airspun seaborne particles, it has a lightweight texture that glides over the skin for a flawless but natural look. We love the slight sheen it provides, making it a terrific option for dry and mature skin.

Ingredients

When choosing a translucent powder, it’s important to consider your skin type to make sure the formula contains ingredients that agree with your skin. Overall, powders are a better match for oily skin than dry skin, so pay attention to the ingredient list if you have dry skin.

For oily skin, a translucent powder should have ingredients that help absorb oil and reduce shine. Talc, cornstarch, rice starch, clays like kaolin, and silica are all ingredients to look for. Some formulas even contain salicylic acid, which can absorb oil and help prevent breakouts.

If you have dry skin, choose a translucent powder that won’t dry out your skin. Avoid formulas that absorb oil or reduce shine because they usually contain ingredients that will pull moisture from the skin. Instead, opt for powders infused with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, and/or hyaluronic acid.

Flashback

While translucent powder is extremely helpful in smoothing out the skin, blurring imperfections, and reducing shine, there can be one drawback — the possibility of flashback in photos. Flashback occurs when the flash from a camera causes a white cast to appear on your face where you applied the powder because some ingredients reflect the light.

If you’re not taking photos, flashback won’t be an issue. However, if you need a translucent powder to use for special occasions when you will be posing for pictures, avoid any formulas that contain silica, which is the main culprit of flashback. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide can sometimes cause flashback, too.

EXPERT TIP

If you have oily skin, it helps to use blotting papers to absorb excess oil before touching up your makeup with translucent powder.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

Finish

Most translucent powders have a matte finish because they’re meant to reduce shine. The powder has a mostly flat finish, which means it adds no glow or dimension to the skin. For oily skin, a matte finish translucent powder is better since your skin is usually shiny enough on its own.

If you have dry skin, a matte finish powder can accentuate flaky patches and make your complexion look dull and dehydrated. Instead, opt for a translucent powder with a luminous or dewy finish, which adds a soft glow to the skin to make your complexion look fresh and healthy.

Tint

While translucent powder is essentially colorless, it usually does have a slight white or pink cast. It blends into the skin easily, but if you have extremely tan or dark skin, it can make you look ashy. To address this problem, some translucent powders are available in multiple “shades.” There are usually light and dark shades, so deeper-toned skin doesn’t end up looking too pale.

SPF

To protect your skin from sun damage and skin cancer, you should wear a dedicated sunscreen every day. For extra protection, you may want to choose a translucent powder with SPF. Sunscreen should also be reapplied throughout the day to maintain protection, but applying a lotion or cream over your makeup can ruin your entire look. A translucent powder with SPF makes it easy to apply a fresh layer of sunscreen whenever you need it without spoiling your makeup.

If you want a translucent powder with some sun protection, choose a formula with at least SPF 15 for adequate protection.

Blend a small amount of translucent powder over your lips to give shiny lipstick a matte finish.

Translucent powder prices

Translucent powder varies in price based on its ingredients and special features. Most translucent powders range from $4 to $95.

Inexpensive: The most affordable translucent powders typically contain lower-quality ingredients like talc and silica, and as a result, they can cause flashback in photos. They may contain SPF but usually only come in one shade, which may be a problem for deeper skin tones. These powders tend to cost between $4 and $22.

Mid-range: Mid-range translucent powders usually contain average to high-quality ingredients, so they’re often talc- and silica-free. However, they may contain titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, which can cause minor flashback issues. They often have some type of SPF and come in multiple shades, making them an option for a range of skin tones. These powders usually cost between $22 and $58.

Expensive: The most expensive translucent powders contain the highest-quality ingredients, so they’re usually talc- and silica-free and don’t contain any parabens, sulfates, or phthalates. They may contain SPF, and they often come in multiple shades to fit more skin tones. These powders usually cost between $58 and $95.

EXPERT TIP

If you apply too much translucent powder and your makeup looks cakey, mist your face with a setting spray to help tone down the powdery look.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Apply translucent powder before your foundation and concealer have dried completely. This helps set your makeup so it won’t move around throughout the day.
  • To avoid applying too much translucent powder, dust it over your face with a large, fluffy makeup brush. The brush helps diffuse the powder across the skin for a softer, more natural finish.
  • The center of your face is usually the oilest area, so be sure to apply translucent powder to your forehead, nose, and chin to keep your makeup in place and prevent shine from breaking through.
  • If you like to apply your eye makeup after your foundation, dust a generous amount of loose translucent powder beneath your eyes and along your cheekbones to catch any fallen eye shadow or flecks of mascara. When you’re done, just sweep the powder away with a brush, and the errant makeup will go along with it without ruining your foundation.

Excellent and affordable setting powder

bareMinerals Mineral Veil Setting Powder is lightweight and sheer, so you never have to worry about it making your makeup look cakey or heavy. The minerals it contains help blur the appearance of pores and fine lines to give you a lovely soft-focus finish. It’s available in a couple of different finishes and colors, so it should work with all skin types and tones. We love that the high-quality, paraben-free formula isn’t as pricey as other high-end options.

Other products we considered

There are plenty of high-quality translucent powders on the market — you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a powder that suits your skin type and makeup routine. Viseart Seamless Setting Powder is a great option for occasions when you’re taking photos because it’s silica-free and won’t cause flashback. It effectively absorbs oil and reduces shine and boasts a vegan formula to boot.

We also love Givenchy Poudre Première Mat & Translucent-Finish Loose Powder for its superfine texture that looks and feels extremely lightweight on the skin. It has a matte finish to help keep oily skin shine-free all day.

After picking up some translucent powder on your brush, carefully tap off any excess to avoid over-powdering your face.

FAQ

Q. Can I apply translucent powder with a sponge?
A.
While translucent powder is usually applied with a brush, you can use a beauty sponge if you prefer. Some pressed translucent powders include a flat sponge applicator, while loose formulas often feature a puff that works similarly to a sponge. With a sponge, you can press the powder into areas that get oily or where your makeup tends to fade or crease throughout the day for better staying power. The pressing motion can actually help smooth out the look of your pores, too.

Q. Can I use translucent powder if I have dry skin?
A.
Dry skin usually doesn’t require translucent powder for setting foundation because there aren’t many oils in your skin to break down your makeup. However, in hot weather or other situations where you might sweat, you may want a powder to help lock your foundation in place. In that case, avoid mattifying or oil-absorbing powders, which can dry out your skin. Look for formulas that add hydration so your complexion looks as healthy as possible.

Q. Does translucent powder expire?
A.
All makeup products can go bad over time, but powders have a longer lifespan than cream or liquid products. Pressed translucent powders are usually good for two years, while loose translucent powder typically doesn’t expire for at least three years.

The team that worked on this review
  • Amber
    Amber
    Writer
  • Angela
    Angela
    Editor
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Jennifer
    Jennifer
    Writer
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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