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Makeup artists rely on lots of tips and tricks that the rest of us simply aren't aware of (or, quite frankly, just couldn't replicate). But finishing each and every look with a setting powder is one of those insider secrets that anyone and everyone can and should try.
If you're wary of powder for fear of ending up with skin that looks cakey and chalky, don't be. The latest formulas are silkier than ever, with a featherweight finish that will set and lock makeup in place while remaining completely undetectable. The best part? That holds true even for the cheapies you'll find at the drugstore, which deliver results that are equally as impressive as their pricier counterparts.
Want proof? Check out the best drugstore setting powders below.
Best Overall: L'Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Glow Highlighting Face Powder
Goes on easily
May look more glittery than light coverage
Quite literally the absolute antithesis of the chalky and skin-dulling powders of years past, this leaves behind the most gorgeous, glowy finish. The dual-sided product features a foundation setting powder on top and a highlighting powder on the bottom. Use them separately or blend them together for a super subtle radiance and added staying power, too.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: Ivory to Medium | Finish: Radiant | Size: 0.31 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Budget: Coty Airspun Face Powder
Leaves skin smooth
May make darker tones look pale
The OG of OGs, this has been a go-to for women since—wait for it—1935. (We appreciate that the vintage packaging speaks to that old-school history.) As the name suggests, the pigments are blended with air so that this feels totally featherweight. Also nice: It works just as well as a setting powder as it does for all-over coverage.
Coverage: Full | Shade Range: Fair/Light | Finish: Translucent, Flawless | Size: 2.3 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Translucent: NYX Professional Makeup High Definition Finishing Powder
Can be a bit messy to apply
If you're looking for a totally undetectable setting powder that won't alter the shades of your other makeup in the least, opt for a translucent formula like this one. Completely sheer, the silky, barely-there powder does it all: It sets makeup, tamps down unwanted shine, and magically blurs away imperfections.
Coverage: Lightweight | Shade Range: Fair, Translucent | Finish: Matte | Size: 0.28 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Matte: Flower Beauty Miracle Matte Translucent Finishing Powder
Concentrates on T-zone
Tackles covering up pores
Color may look unnatural
Setting powders are an especially great option for anyone with oily skin. They're the choice for absorbing excess oil and sheen and are perfect to use as a quickie touch-up. We're especially partial to this one from Drew Barrymore's line. The finely milled formula looks just as great dusted over makeup as a finishing touch as it does worn solo, powdered across the skin to stop unwanted shine in its tracks.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: Fair | Finish: Flawless | Size: 0.28 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Radiant: e.l.f. Cosmetics Halo Glow Setting Powder
Creates a soft-focus look
Soft glow without shine
Lightly veils the skin
Chalky to some
Pretty much the real-life equivalent of your favorite Instagram filter, this pick uses finely-milled synthetic sapphire particles. These babies do two things: One, they blur away pretty much every line, pore, and whatever else needs blurring for a gorgeous soft-focus finish (hence the filter comparison). Two, they have just a hint of luminosity to them, making skin look fresh and glowy, though not overly or unnaturally shimmery. We just wish it came in more than two colors.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: Light to Medium Beige | Finish: Airbrushed | Size: 0.24 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Loose Powder: Covergirl Professional Loose Powder
Can be a bit messy
We love loose powders for their ultra-airy feel and buildable coverage that never feels (or looks) heavy on the skin—and this one is no exception. The applicator makes it easy to get the perfect amount of the luxe, fine-milled formula onto your brush. It's as good at setting makeup as it is zapping shine, and we also appreciate that it's cruelty-free.
Coverage: Buildable | Shade Range: Translucent Fair to Medium | Finish: Flawless, Natural | Size: 0.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Fair Skin: Rimmel Stay Matte Long Lasting Pressed Powder
Gives up to five hours of wear
Evens skin tone
Packaging could be more durable
This comes in a lineup of 10 shades, seven of which skew toward the lighter side, ideal for fair complexions. It's also ideal for oily complexions, thanks to its mineral-based formula that wards off shine for up to five hours at a time, rendering touch-ups basically obsolete. And while the coverage is light, it's still totally buildable should you prefer more.
Coverage: High | Shade Range: Fair, Light | Finish: Matte | Size: 0.49 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Medium Skin: BLK/OPL True Color Soft Velvet Finishing Powder
Absorbs excess oil
Airy and soft
Goes on smooth
Tones may be too dark for some
Don't be put off by the fact that there are only four shades to choose from; they all tout unique, color-adjusting pigments that blend in perfectly with your skin. That being said, it's especially nice for medium skin tones, given that even their lightest shade isn't that light. Regardless of the color you choose, you get the same soft and (true to the name) velvety formula.
Coverage: Transparent | Shade Range: Medium | Finish: Velvet-Matte | Size: 0.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Olive Skin: Maybelline New York Fit Me Loose Finishing Powder
Sets foundation for 12 hours
Sheer hint of color
Various shades available
May cake up
The perfect topper for any foundation, this formula delivers a wash of sheer color that blends in beautifully. It comes in eight shades, including some nice picks for more olive complexions. And while the finish is matte, it never comes across as dry, even if you choose to add on layer after layer.
Coverage: Lightweight | Shade Range: Fair to Dark | Finish: Natural | Size: 0.7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Dark Skin: IMAN Second to None Semi Loose Powder
Can be worn alone
May be blotchy when applying
Powders can prove to be tricky for darker skin—if the color isn't dark enough, you risk ending up with an ashy cast to the skin (no, thank you) or a weird flashback in photos. That's why we appreciate that this pick comes in shades that work with even very deep complexions. Although it's a pressed formula, it still has the airy feel of a loose one and also touts a unique oil-reducing core to reduce shine.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: Medium to Medium Deep | Finish: Natural | Size: 0.21 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Sensitive Skin: Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Loose Powder Foundation
Gentle enough for sensitive skin
Very natural looking
Probably not best for mature skin
As a general rule of thumb, any and every kind of powder formula is a good bet if you have sensitive skin; because powders are waterless, they tend to not contain as many potentially irritating preservatives as their liquid and cream counterparts. This mineral-based, talc-free powder definitely works great as a foundation, but it can be used as a topper to set other makeup in place as well. Plus, it has the added bonus of containing good-for-your-skin vitamins A, C, and E.
Coverage: Sheer to Medium | Shade Range: Fair, Ivory | Finish: Natural | Size: 0.19 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Skincare Benefits: Revlon PhotoReady Candid Anti-Pollution Setting Powder
Full of antioxidants
Too white in color for some
Yes, setting powders already offer a host of different benefits, but if you want one that goes above and beyond, try this option from Revlon. It's great for setting makeup and evening out the complexion, but it also has serious skincare benefits—namely antioxidant and anti-pollution ingredients that protect (and perfect!) skin. Bonus points for the sifter top that prevents too much powder from spilling out.
Coverage: Light | Shade Range: Fair, Translucent | Finish: Airbrushed | Size: 0.5 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
What to Look For in Setting Powders
Choose a setting powder that provides the type of finish you are looking for. Check the label for indicators such as radiant, matte, natural, or airbrushed. If you have oilier skin, you may wish to look for one that is mattifying. A radiant option will provide a glow or sheen to the skin.
Choosing the correct shade for your setting powder will make all the difference to your finished result. A setting powder that is too dark will look off-putting and unnatural, while a too-light shade might result in chalky or ashy-looking skin. Some setting powders are translucent and work to set makeup and create a lasting effect without any color deposit.
Look for a formula that suits your skin type and personal preferences. Some setting powders are mineral-based, some are clean, while others are not. Check for fine-milled formulas that will not look gritty or obvious. Some powders are made specifically for aging skin or sensitive skin, so if you need those options, be sure to look for them.
Look for a setting powder that provides the coverage you need. If you plan to wear your powder alone without foundation, you may require more coverage. If you prefer a natural look to be used on top of concealer or foundation, look for a setting powder that provides sheer coverage.
What is setting powder for?
The purpose of setting powder is to help preserve your makeup and create a specific finish. Setting powders can seal your makeup, reducing transfer or smearing. They can also add some additional coverage while providing the desired finish, such as glowy or matte looks.
Do you really need setting powder?
You do not need setting powder per se, but it is a useful product for reducing the need for touch-ups and preserving your makeup throughout the day. It can also help absorb oil or prevent creasing.
What is translucent powder vs. setting powder?
Translucent powder is a type of setting powder that contains no pigments. Some setting powders provide pigment, which helps provide additional coverage or can be worn alone. Translucent powder helps preserve makeup, absorb oil, and create a certain finish without adding color.
Which is the best setting powder?
The best setting powder, in our opinion, is the L'Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Glow Highlighting Face Powder. It is our overall pick because it is long-lasting, easy to apply, and works as a built-in highlighter. The best setting powder for you may be different, depending on your skin type and preferred look.