Powder foundation often flies under the radar compared to its liquid counterpart, but that’s started to change over the past couple years, with more and more influencers going viral for testing out its coverage and wear. L’Oréal Paris Infallible Powder Foundation sold out for weeks after TikTok discovered it, and just a few months ago, Maybelline’s Super Stay Powder Foundation got hundreds of beauty aficionados’ attention after a video from creator Mikayla Nogueira took off.
So what is the allure of powder foundation? In addition to most full-coverage powder foundations having an “instant transformation” effect that makes for a great social media post, makeup artist and influencer Rose Siard says, “There are a lot of benefits that powder foundation brings to the table, but the two that jump right out to me are ease of use and portability.”
Also noting that reapplying it on the go is extremely easy, makeup artist Karol Rodriguez says powder foundation can up the longevity of your coverage for multiple hours. It’s especially ideal if you’re working long hours or don’t want your makeup to move throughout the day.
“The main appeal of powder foundation is having that smooth, full-coverage foundation look with just a few swipes of a sponge,” they add. “It’s especially appealing for those struggling with skin discoloration whether through acne, hyperpigmentation, rosacea, et cetera.”
If you want to go full glam, you can even use liquid and powder foundation together to get the “most flawless finish,” according to makeup artist and esthetician Jill Sharkey. On the other hand, she adds, “On a daily basis, I just really recommend throwing on a sunscreen, a little powder foundation — pop it on and call it a day.”
Interested in learning how to add powder foundation to your routine and make it work for your skin type? Read on for a how-to and 27 makeup artist-approved foundations, skin prep products and tools to get a picture-perfect base.
How to pick a powder foundation
Look for powder foundations with a lot of pigment to avoid heaviness; the thinner the layer is, the better. “When applied properly, they create a very thin layer on the skin and this is beneficial because the thinner the layer product, not only the less issues you will have from it throughout the day, but the better it works with other products,” Siard says.
As for picking one based on your skin type, those with dry skin definitely want to favor a powder that’s lighter, blurring and meant to smooth the skin, if you have a little bit of flakiness or texture. On the other end, Sharkey says, “Anybody that’s not dry, normal to oily: Have a ball, you can pick any powder you want because your goal is really just to mattify, so you can really use anything.”
How to apply powder foundation
Don’t forget to prep the skin
Before you even start putting powder foundation on — or readying your skin for it, for that matter — one step that’s often overlooked is making sure your brushes and sponges are clean for the best blending. Some may use the compact sponge that comes in most powders for the convenience, but Sharkey stresses the need to change that out regularly, especially if you’re covering blemishes, so as not to spread bacteria.
Next, you want to make sure to prep your skin with skin care products, whether that be moisturizer, spray, serum or primer — or all of the above. Makeup artist and influencer Analiza Garcia says that the major, full-coverage transformation you see in viral videos can’t be achieved without this crucial stage.
“Your makeup is only going to look as good as your prep that’s underneath it,” Sharkey says. “And keep in mind, powder, it can cling to any little patch on your skin — you may not even be able to see it visibly when you’re looking at your skin without makeup, but powder will catch it. So what’s really important is to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.”
For mature skin
Garcia recommends putting on a hydrating serum, noting that this step is especially beneficial for mature skin that has lost more hyaluronic acid with age.
For oily skin
If you have oily skin, your skin is producing extra oil to compensate for its lack of moisture, so going in with a hydrating formula is crucial to minimize the amount of oil produced, according to Sharkey. She recommends using a facial oil on your skin beforehand. “When the powder goes over it, it’s gliding like butter and absorbing a little bit on the surface of the skin,” she says. “So it’s looking more like skin and very natural looking, as opposed to going on top of dry skin, adding more drying powders.”
For dry skin
For dry skin or skin with dry areas, you want to moisturize and exfoliate; the aim is to get the skin, regardless of type, as balanced as possible. “For dry skin like mine, I like to go the extra mile and hydrate with serums and moisturizes and perhaps even a dewy primer before I apply powder foundation just because I know my skin gets dry very easily and if I’m using any more powder than a light dusting requires, I’m going to start feeling my skin getting tight,” says Rodriguez.
Garcia suggests avoiding swiping powder foundation onto your skin, which may pick up the problem areas that you’re trying to cover up. Instead, she says, “If you have any buildup of dead skin or if you just have a lot of texture, big pores, you’re going to want to nicely dab that powdered foundation into your skin.”
Skin prep products for powder foundation
“If you’re balanced to dry like I am, you can use the Elemis Superfood Oil,” Siard says. “I place this under my eyes or any other dry spots I might have that day.”
Siard recommends Glow Recipe’s drops to prep for powder foundation if you have combination or oily skin.
“You don't have to spend a lot of money to get a good hyaluronic acid,” Garcia says, and the Good Molecules serum is a case in point.
Garcia also loves the L'Oréal hyaluronic acid, which is suitable for every skin type and boosts moisture and radiance.
Sharkey suggests trying out her line’s Soothing Oat Savior Facial Oil, which is designed to soothe the skin barrier. “A facial oil is going to be like magic for under powder,” she says.
You should avoid using sticky primers meant to go under liquid foundation, Sharkey says, because they don't allow powder to blend out — instead, turn towards more hydrating options, like the Bobbi Brown Face Base.
Sharkey says this “pro makeup artist favorite” goes hand-in-hand with face oil and doubles as a primer. It works with all skin types, and over 20,000 reviews on Amazon have given this moisturizer a 4.6-star rating.
To make the skin look more natural and luminous, Rodriguez likes to go in with a hydrating spray. They recommend this hyaluronic acid and cucumber extract-infused mist for those with dry skin.
If you have oily skin, Rodriguez advises applying fixing or water spray, “as it doesn't add any slickness that will cause oiliness, it just moistens that top layer enough that when it sets it'll have a lot more luminosity to it.”
Use a brush, sponge or puff
If you’re aiming for lighter, softer coverage, you should go in with a fluffy brush, according to Garcia and Sharkey. Sponges are an option as well, though Siard thinks that they lack evenness and control in the application. “[A brush] also helps with product waste because the foundation that I pick up gets applied to my face and won’t stay on the brush,” she says.
For the most coverage possible, a brush that’s dense and flat is ideal, Sharkey says, adding that a stippling method is the best bet to get the most concentration of product. “All the product sits at the top of it, it doesn’t really go in it like a fluffy brush would, so you’re getting every single ounce of product directly onto the skin,” she says.
Lastly but certainly not least, powder puffs are also a route for more precise coverage. Rodriguez uses a triangle puff to set and highlight the undereye, in particular, with powder foundation.
For loose powder foundation, Sharkey recommends placing a dime-sized amount on the puff, folding it in half and rubbing it together so the powder settles into the bottom of the puff. If you tap it against the back of your hand, the powder will come to the top and be ready to press onto the skin. The same can be done with pressed powder, though it takes a bit more effort to work into the puff.
“You know how annoying it can get having a powder, your brush, all this stuff in your purse, and then you have no room to put your wallet and everything,” she says. “So just having a teeny, little triangle puff saves so much time and room.”
Application tools for powder foundation
Siard suggests her brand’s C-42 brush if you’re looking for a “dense, synthetic fiber” option to apply powder foundation. “I get plenty of coverage, but also the included benefits of even, precise application,” she says.
Sharkey recommends sticking with a white or a very light pink puff as opposed to darker colors, and this Laura Mercier one is one of her favorites.
“This one's awesome because you can get the smaller end for underneath the eyes, covering blemishes, spots and the top is just so soft so it blends everything like a dream,” Sharkey says.
Sharkey also likes Sigma Beauty’s flat and wide Kabuki Brush for its ease. “You dip it into the product, put it right on the face and call it a day,” she says. “I don't recommend swirling it because it doesn't move that much, so it's just for stippling.”
Best powder foundations
Both Sharkey and Siard recommend Make Up For Ever’s sweat-proof and water-resistant powder foundation, which became an internet favorite. Though the brand discontinued the first iteration of its popular formula, they released the updated “HD Skin” version this spring to largely favorable reviews, with many praising the foundation’s coverage.
It comes in 32 shades, ranging from fair to deep with yellow, neutral and red undertones. “They have a great shade range, and it wears wonderfully,” Siard says. “It’s also very pigmented which allows for a thin layer of product."
“It has great coverage as well as a great price point,” Siard says of Beauty Creations’ powder foundation. It's a fraction of the cost of most other brands, and there are 18 shades in three undertones to choose from. It has medium to full buildable coverage, controls shine, has a velvet finish and is oil-free — ideal for those working with combination or oily skin.
If you want to test it out before you commit, the brand also stands out with its offer to mix and match four powder foundation samples to color-match your skin tone at no cost, aside from shipping.
Laura Geller’s option has a matte finish and claims that it’s “made for movement” and perfect for mature skin with fine lines and wrinkles. You can apply it dry or wet, if you’re looking for more coverage. “[It has] light to medium coverage, but [is] incredibly easy to apply and also has a great price point,” Siard explains.
Garcia loves the "filter effect" that Juvia’s Place powder foundation gives. “It’s buildable and it's not going to get splotchy or patchy," she says. "[It's] not going to texturize your skin underneath, [which] is also important.”
If you’re looking for anything from light to full coverage without even needing concealer, both Garcia and Sharkey recommend L'Oréal’s viral powder foundation, which Sharkey remarks is remarkably sweat-proof and water-resistant. “I’ve gone to the pool and used this and it still looked pretty good to me,” she says. “It lasts such a long time.”
Garcia and Rodriguez both rave about the Maybelline SuperStay powder foundation. Rodriguez was particularly impressed with its smoothness after applying it heavily using several methods, as well as its shade range.
“I've been using the very light 110 shade to really amp up the brightness in my undereyes, especially when I'm not getting a lot of sleep,” Rodriguez says. “I use it sparingly and press it in with my powder puff while looking up and I swear my fingers just glide right off of my skin after I set it from how silky smooth it is.
Sharkey recommends Tarte’s powder, which she says is great for sensitive and acneic skin types. “This powder is so smoothing,” she says. “Even though it’s loose … I have gotten complete, full coverage of my acne.”
She also notes that it’s talc-free, which isn’t likely to affect your skin but may still be beneficial. “The only people who will probably be affected by [talc] is people who have very sensitive skin, maybe even irritated, acne-prone skin as well," she adds. "Talc-free products are just more gentle on the skin."
Calling this one a “dream,” Rodriguez suggests adding Patrick Starr’s beauty brand’s powder foundation to your routine. “It is smooth as silk and blurs the skin with such ease, and not to mention the color range is a dream, so you can set, sculpt and highlight with three different shades and achieve a flawless finish to the skin,” they say.
This MAC powder foundation comes in more than 50 shades and is a makeup-artist go-to, according to Rodriguez. It “offers medium to full coverage, a natural finish, but is very mattifying,” they say.
This mineral powder has buildable coverage and a blurring effect. Plus, the clean formula is made without fillers, preservatives, fragrances, oils or synthetic dyes, and is safe for acne-prone skin.
If you want to recreate Rihanna's Super Bowl halftime show makeup, you can start by adding her Fenty Beauty line's powder foundation as your base. With a natural-looking finish, the Pro Filt'r foundation offers light to full coverage. It also has an impressive 50-shade range, so you're essentially guaranteed to find your perfect match.
This transformative cream-to-powder formula allows you to seamlessly blend the balm in, and once it sets, it gives a shine-free powder finish. In addition to a translucent version that anyone can set their look with, it comes in 10 tinted shades for light, naturally enhanced coverage.
Who doesn't love a two-in-one? Bareminerals' option delivers both buildable coverage and sun protection, and is made from clean and vegan ingredients. Plus, it'll be gentler on your skin since it's free of talc and unnecessary additives.
Designed to work with all skin types, this matte-finish powder foundation is oil-free and minimizes shine. "This product offers good coverage, absorbs oil, controls shine and allows for touch-ups during the day without icky build-up," one reviewer writes on Ulta's website. "Good for really oily skin."