face powder explained difference setting translucent baking loose

Baking, setting, loose and pressed: What’s the difference between makeup powders and which do you need?

8th December 2020 | Author: Amira Arasteh

You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s just one type of face powder but from translucent to mineral; setting to finishing, and even powders best used for baking – your face, not a cake – the world of makeup powders is a lot more complex.

To put it simply, a face powder is makeup you apply to set foundation or other cream-based makeup products. Chances are you’re familiar with the fact you can buy matte or glow-finish face powders, but we’re certain most people only have one, maybe two face powders in their makeup bag.

Which powder you use not only depends on your makeup goals, but also your skin type.

Face powders can gather in certain places if you suffer from dry skin or other skin issues such as acne or rosacea. If you have irritable skin, you’ll most likely want to steer clear of any harsh or heavy powders, keeping to light ones that you use sparingly. Oily skin? Opt for matte. But what if you want to control oil but create a dewy look? It’s a minefield. We’re here to help!

Face powder: What’s the difference?

From loose to pressed, and mineral to baked, here are the differences between face powder types – and which ones do you actually need.

♥︎ Setting powder: For setting your foundation 

As their name suggests, setting powders help – you guessed it – set your foundation or other face cream makeup product. Designed to hold the first major step of your makeup routine in place, a setting powder also helps remove that sticky or shiny feel to your makeup, by replacing it with a matte one.

To add to the confusion, setting powders can come in a loose form or as a compressed compact.

There’s no real difference here, apart from being able to use the loose form powder a lot more sparingly and control how much you apply to your face and in which areas. On the other hand, a compressed compact powder is a lot easier to have in your handbag for on-the-go touch-ups. Both loose form and pressed compact powders can come in mineral or translucent form.

Best loose form setting powder

Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Setting Powder 

£24 | Buy now from Boots

This loose-fit setting powder is fine and weightless, making it the perfect makeup product to set your foundation/tinted moisturiser or other face creams. Fenty gets our vote because, not only are there eight shades to choose from – which is a lot when it comes to face powder – but it blurs, mattes and illuminates the skin in one go. Well, it is Rihanna’s brand, after all.

FURTHER READING: From Fenty Beauty to Thrive Causmetics, here are the makeup and skincare brands making beauty more inclusive

Best pressed compact setting powder

Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish

£35 | Buy now from Charlotte Tilbury

For once the ‘airbrush’ descriptor is not deceptive as the formula of this enviable powder is soft-focus and light-diffusing, which helps blur lines and imperfections on your skin while also leaving you with a radiant finish.

Never one to leave your skin looking and feeling ‘caked on’, this Charlotte Tilbury bestseller also includes ingredients such as rose wax and almond oil which make this compact powder suitable for dry skin types.

FURTHER READING: Best setting powder: Set your makeup with the best powders for oily and dry skin from Laura Mercier to e.l.f

♥︎ Translucent powder: For removing shine 

Translucent powder is a favourite among many makeup artists and beauty addicts. It can come in both loose forms and pressed compact and is used to ensure the skin has a matte, shine-free finish post-makeup application.

The final step in the routine, sweeping a bit of this powder across your face will help set your makeup, as well as smoothing your face in full.

Say goodbye to dry skin effects and powder gathering in certain areas as translucent powders, particularly those that are loose-form, will create a natural finish to your look.

Best translucent powder

Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder

£32 | Buy now from Lookfantastic

Often known as the OG of translucent powders, Laura Mercier’s version sets your makeup for up to 16 hours and keeps your skin looking radiant, thanks to pearl pigments within the product.

Enjoy a crease-free finish with this powder, which also delivers a matte finish with a sheen look making it the perfect powder to blur your skin and keep your makeup intact all day long.

FURTHER READING: How to master makeup for oily skin, according to the experts

♥︎ Finishing powder: For sealing your final makeup look

Finishing powders are often translucent but can also be matched to your skin tone. You can find them in both loose forms and pressed compacts but the main distinction for a finishing powder is that they offer a Photoshop-effect. They’re ideal for occasions where you’re going to be under hot lights and in front of the camera as they are great at helping you avoiding flashback and shine.

They are finer and softer in consistency than a regular setting powder. Some people use a finishing powder to finish the whole makeup look, applying it on top of the setting powder and bronzer, etc. This is the ultimate step in making skin look its smoothest and removing all visibility of fine lines and pores.

Another differentiation for you: a translucent powder can be a finishing powder but not all finishing powders are translucent. It’s also worth noting that most people choose between setting or finishing powders as their face powder so don’t fret if you’re worried about suddenly having to purchase more!

We’ve recommended one below that does both.

Best finishing powder

Glossier Wowder Weightless Finishing and Setting Powder

£18 | Buy now from Glossier

Living up to its name and surprising us with how good it is, as well as feeling completely lightweight when applied to the skin, this Glossier powder blurs all imperfections and leaves your face looking matte and refined.

It’s available in five shades, and it’s vegan too!

FURTHER READING: Glossier UK: The best Glossier products from across its makeup and skincare range

♥︎ Baking powder: Best for glam makeup looks

“Baking” your face is a term and process that’s up there with contouring and involves adding an extra thick layer of translucent powder underneath your eyes, and in other areas where you want extra coverage that will definitely stay put.

You put the powder on all the areas where you’ve put concealer, or where you need extra coverage, leave it to ‘bake’ for 10 minutes and then brush off the excess.

The reason it’s called baking powder is because as the powder sits on your face, your skin’s natural warmth heats and ‘melts’ it into your creases and lines and creates a smooth finish.

This is for serious powder-wearers as not only does it take that little bit extra time, you’re also going to go through your powder faster than usual.

Huda Beauty Easy Bake Loose Powder

£29 | Buy now from Cult Beauty

This baking powder is pricey but we can’t rate it highly enough. Not only does it smell incredible – as do all Huda Beauty base products – it lasts a long time and does exactly as promised. It’s loose, meaning you can use a beauty blender to apply it, or a highlighter brush to push it into the areas under your eyes. Read more in our Makeup brushes 101 guide. 

FURTHER READING: Huda Beauty UK: Where to buy Huda Beauty in the UK 

♥︎ Mineral powder: For flawless skin without the chemicals

Mineral powders are more categorised based on skin type and personal preference rather than what you want to achieve. If you’re someone who is trying to use makeup with fewer chemicals, mineral makeup is your go-to.

The face powders include various minerals and sometimes even vitamins, with the main attraction being how weightless they feel on your skin, despite still offering a flawless finish.

Mineral powders can also come in the form of a powder foundation so you can almost achieve a two-in-one effect.

They come both loose and pressed, although seeing as they can be used as the first major step in your makeup routine, many people prefer the loose form as it is easier to blend and apply.

bareMinerals SPF 25 Mineral Veil

£23 | Buy now from bareMinerals

bareMinerals is known for its Original Powder Foundation so it’s got to be the only choice for a mineral powder, too. This Mineral Veil not only leaves your face soft, light, and luminous, it also offers that airbrushed finish we’re all hoping to achieve from our makeup routine. Available with and without SPF, we like having the extra sun protection in there.

FURTHER READING: Clean beauty: What are clean beauty products and how can I shop more consciously?

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