They’re basically the undercover star of a flawless look.

By Andrea Jordan
Dec 30, 2019 @ 8:30 pm
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Before you assume that setting powders aren’t for you, hear us out. Setting powders can be your best friend or your worst enemy. But truth be told, they’re basically the undercover star of a flawless makeup look. They work to mattify and keep makeup locked into place, blurring out and smoothing imperfections so you look red carpet ready no matter what’s on your agenda.

Sure, most of us have experienced some of the downsides that come with choosing the wrong setting powder, like an unsightly flashback in photos or formulas that fade before you even have your morning coffee. But thankfully, these problems are all fixable. There are dozens of top-notch products available now that work with a variety of skin tones and types, so we scoured the market and rounded up some of the best to date.

Before we dive deep into our go-to picks, let’s talk about why setting powders are so important. There’s nothing worse than applying a full face of makeup that melts off your face midday, and that’s where setting powders come into play. If you choose a tinted formula, we recommend applying this immediately after your concealer and foundation routine. This will keep your base locked-in without smudges or splotches. If you opt for translucent powder like Laura Mercier’s, these are best applied after your entire makeup look is complete. Since there’s no color to the powder, it can be applied on top of your shadows, blushes, and bronzers without washing away their color, keeping your entire face intact no matter what the day may bring.

Setting powders are usually formulated with oil-absorbing ingredients and micro-fine minerals that act as a veil to smooth out imperfections and large pores. Depending on your skin type, you may want to opt for a hydrating formula if you tend to be drier or an oil-absorbing formula if you’re on the oily side. Either way, setting powders are basically the magical product your makeup routine has been missing.

Here are the best setting powders that will turn you into a convert after just one use:

Best Drugstore Option: Maybelline FIT me! Loose Finishing Powder

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Don’t let the small price tag fool you. You’ll be impressed with this mineral-based formula that keeps base makeup in place without a cakey finish. It works well with all skin types to absorb excess oil and give an all-over matte finish. If an even complexion is your concern, the subtle tint of color in this powder will even out your skin tone for all-over even color without looking like you’re wearing layers of makeup.

Shop now: $5; amazon.com

Best Translucent Powder: Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder

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This cult-favorite formula is a best-seller for good reason. It’s lightweight (trust us, you won’t even feel it) with a sheer finish that makes your skin look like silk. And thanks to the soft-focus effect, those tiny imperfections are easily blurred away. More than 6,300 Nordstrom shoppers have given the product a five-star rating, with many praising its “very natural finish” that doesn’t feel drying. 

Shop now: $39; nordstrom.com

Best Loose Powder: BareMinerals Mineral Veil Setting Powder

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A tried-and-true formula that won’t disappoint, this setting powder wears like a second skin. Just as the name implies, it’s like a veil for your skin that literally feels like air, but locks makeup in place for hours. Not to mention, it absorbs oil, minimizes lines, and makes enlarged pores disappear.

Shop now: $24; nordstrom.com

Best for Oily Skin: Urban Decay All Nighter Waterproof Setting Powder

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If you have oily skin, you know that setting powders seem to dissipate within 20 minutes of wear — but not this mattifying one. It keeps excess oils at bay for up to 11 hours and makes any base formula waterproof. Though it only comes in one universal shade, Urban Decay’s setting powder gives skin an airbrushed finish so your skin actually looks like skin. The comments section is full of people who credit the compact with keeping their makeup intact even through weddings in 100-degree weather and two-hour workouts.

Shop now: $34; sephora.com

Best for Dry Skin: By Terry Hyaluronic Hydra-Powder 

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Don’t let dry skin stop you from wearing setting powders. This hydrating formula is infused with micro-fine hyaluronic acid that not only keeps skin moisturized, but also blurs fine lines and uneven texture. You can even swipe this on during no-makeup days for the appearance of smoother skin in 15 seconds.  

Shop now: $50; dermstore.com

Best for Under-Eye Area: CoverFX Perfect Setting Powder

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When choosing makeup for the under-eye area, you’ll definitely want a quality formula. This talc-free powder is our go-to for setting concealer because it won’t settle in fine lines, and it’s formulated with a green tea complex that soothes skin and protects against free radicals.

Shop now: $14; sephora.com

Best Drugstore Option for Oily Skin: NYX Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Setting Powder

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For a budget-friendly option that keeps oil at bay, this NYX lightweight powder is clutch. Tap it on your T-zone or sweep it all over your face for a flush of color and an all-over matte finish. It comes in six shades, including a banana powder ideal for setting concealer.

Shop now: $12; ulta.com

Best for Large Pores: Marc Jacobs Finish-Line Perfecting Coconut Setting Powder

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Consider this creamy powder a photo filter for your skin. Thanks to coconut and cocoa butter, this powder literally melts into skin, magically making large pores disappear. Plus, you’ll stay shine-free for up to eight hours, so your skin will look better than ever before.

Shop now: $44; sephora.com

Best for Dewy Finish: Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish

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If you’re looking for a setting powder that keeps makeup in place without mattifying your complexion, this is for you. Available in three shades, this micro-fine powder zaps shine, but leaves skin with a dewy finish for that lit-from-within glow, thanks to a blend of rose wax and almond oil.

Shop now: $45; nordstrom.com

Best for Photos: Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder

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No more unflattering white masks appearing during your next selfie session with this light-reflecting powder. It’s formulated with diamond powder for ultra-light refraction and an invisible finish. There’s a reason why this coveted powder has sold out twice already.
Shop now: $46; nordstrom.com