We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
No matter whether your makeup routine is a complex, multi-step process or a simple, swipe-and-go situation, a finishing powder is an invaluable asset. “The most immediate benefit is shine reduction, while the long-term benefit is enhanced staying power of your makeup,” says New York-based makeup artist Shayna Goldberg. And if you equate powder with matte skin, guess again. “Finishing powders come in a variety of finishes, and don’t necessarily have to result in mattified skin, so they really can work for all skin types,” explains Goldberg.
To that point, there are a variety of formulas out there that can offer the above-mentioned effects, plus blur blemishes and spots and enhance radiance. Keep an eye out for product format, finish, and coverage. These are available as both pressed and loose powders, with finishes ranging from matte to radiant. And some offer more coverage than others, so it’s great to know up front how heavy, or not, the final effect will be.
Here, the best finishing powders you can find on the market today.
Finishing powders deserve a spot in pretty much anyone’s makeup routine and the featherweight, blemish-erasing Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finishis our overall top pick. If you’re in search of a translucent powder the Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder (view at Hourglass Cosmetics) has a lovely, skin-like finish; if you want more pigment and coverage, the Maybelline New York Fit Me Loose Finishing Powder (view at Ulta) is a good pick and also comes in an impressive array of eight shades. We’re also big fans of the Ilia Radiant Translucent Powder SPF 20 (view at Sephora) for daily use, given that it pulls double-duty as an easy way to reapply sunscreen.
What to Look for in a Finishing Powder
Loose vs. Pressed
Don’t get too hung up on this difference, as it really is a matter of personal preference, says Goldberg. (Also, depending on your application technique, you can usually score both types of effects from either product.) Makeup artist Khera Alexander points out that “the difference between loose and pressed powders…is that loose powders tend to be much lighter in texture and are more finely milled.”
Again, not all powders are mattifying, so Goldberg recommends checking the description to see if it describes the finish as matte or natural/radiant. Matte makeup has been trending for some time, so if you’ve been on the fence about trying it, know that you’ll be in good company if you take the jump.
Most of the finishing powders out there are pretty translucent (even if they do have a tint to them), but some may pack more pigment than others, so check on that as well, suggests Goldberg. Knowing how heavy the coverage will be can prevent you over applying your powder, as can being well-versed at powder application.
If you’re looking to use it instead of any other makeup, you may like the more pigmented, opaque options.
A setting powder is used for the purpose of keeping your makeup from wearing off. Conversely, a finishing powder is used to give your face a smoother, lightly airbrushed look that makes blemishes less prominent.
Surprisingly, the answer to this question is not “everywhere,” says Byrdie writer Julyne Derrick. “Instead, press the brush into the skin under the eyes and then in a line from your forehead, down the bridge of your nose to the chin—as well as any other areas that are typically oily throughout the day,” she says.
You can definitely use only powder on your face, but don’t expect the same results as if you had applied foundation or creams too. Powder alone can’t fully conceal blemishes. However, used alone it will slightly diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as well as prevent shine.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She holds a BA in Journalism and English from New York University.
Meet the Expert
Shayna Goldberg is a New York-based makeup artist and consultant who often works on editorial as well as brand campaigns.