Thanks to TikTok, powder puffs are surging in popularity, but they've been in makeup kits for decades. Nikki La Rose-Bonaldi, a professional makeup artist based in Los Angeles, says professional makeup artists have used powder puffs for ages to smooth and mattify makeup without disrupting it. And some makeup artists even prefer a powder puff to other makeup brush styles. "Most brushes can give powder a patchy look and may disrupt liquid or cream makeup underneath," La Rose-Bonaldi explains. Meanwhile, modern powder puffs tend to result in a smoother, more airbrushed effect—especially around the under-eyes.
So how exactly do you use a powder puff for a flawless finish? Ahead, La Rose-Bonaldi and makeup artist Emily Gray break down everything you need to know.
Meet the Expert
- Emily Gray is a professional makeup artist who has a wide roster of clients from Kristin Cavallari, Mickey Guyton, and Lily Aldridge
- Nikki La Rose is a professional makeup artist based in Los Angeles
What Is a Powder Puff?
A powder puff is a tool designed to apply setting powder to the face. And while the term might bring to mind those massive feathery puffs from the early 2000s, modern-day powder puffs are typically about the same size as your palm, feature a velvety texture, and are round or triangular in shape to powder the contours of your face.
"A powder puff gently locks in makeup without the tugging or streaking of a brush, giving an overall more flawless finish," says La Rose-Bonaldi. She adds that this technique also minimizes the appearance of pores and uneven skin texture. Gray is also a fan of powder puffs and uses them exclusively for setting makeup. "A puff can better control where the powder goes and, in my opinion, gives an airbrushed effect," she says. "I only use a makeup brush when I want to cover the entire face in setting powder."
How to Use a Powder Puff
Start With Base Makeup First
Before setting your makeup, ensure your base is complete, Gray says. So, apply your skincare, foundation, concealer, bronzer, and contour first. Then you can move on to setting your makeup with a puff.
Dip Your Powder Puff Into the Formula of Your Choice
To start, dip your puff into your setting powder. (Gray and La Rose-Bonaldi agree that this technique works with either pressed or loose powder.) "These include pressed powders, like Catrice Prime and Fine Mattifying Powder ($8), and loose powders, such as Catrice Loose Banana Powder ($7)," she says. "This banana powder even includes the perfect-size puff, which is ideal for touch-ups on the go. I also like the brightening effect it gives the skin."
Choosing between a pressed or loose powder comes down to personal preference. Pressed powders will be less messy, making them a great option if you're on the go. However, La Rose-Bonaldi notes that loose powder formulas look the most natural. As for how much powder to use, our experts say it depends on your skin type and the look you're going for. If you have very oily skin, La Rose-Bonaldi recommends applying a generous amount of powder to combat shine.
For dry skin, La Rose-Bonaldi says less is more, so use it sparingly and in strategic areas. If your skin is generally balanced, Gray says to tailor your powder application to the look you're trying to achieve. For a matte look, apply more powder; for a dewy finish, apply less powder.
Warm Up Your Powder Puff
Once you have powder on your puff, before applying it directly onto the skin, La Rose-Bonaldi and Gray recommend patting the puff into the palm of your hand. This will remove any excess product and evenly distribute the powder on the puff, making it easier to achieve a flawless application.
Press, Don't Pull
La Rose says the key is gently patting (not rubbing) to press the powder onto the skin. According to La Rose-Bonaldi and Gray, the best place to apply product using a powder puff is the T-zone, where many people get oily throughout the day and under the eyes to set and brighten.
Powder Puffs Versus Baking
Using a powder puff is a different way of setting your makeup than the "baking" technique (although powder puffs can be used for baking your makeup). La Rose-Bonaldi says baking involves adding excess powder, leaving it on for a few minutes, and then dusting off the rest to brighten under the eyes. While baking may have been all the rage circa 2015, Gray says it's better suited for stage makeup, not everyday use. On the other hand, using a powder puff will still mattify and set your makeup but not look as heavy.
Picking the Right Puff
While tons of fancy powder puffs are on the market, you don't have to break the bank to add them to your routine. La Rose-Bonaldi loves these triangle velvet powder puffs that come in a 12-pack for under $10. Beautyblender also released its version of a triangle-shaped puff, a popular choice among makeup lovers.
On the other hand, Gray prefers powder puffs made of a velour material, like Laura Mercier's cult-favorite puff. "These feel soft and luxurious and pick up powder wonderfully," she says. Size and shape also matter, she adds. "I love smaller-shaped puffs like the circle or triangle-shaped ones to set the more delicate areas of the face."
Like most beauty tools, you should regularly wash your puffs. "I suggest washing by hand in warm water using a gentle soap bar," La Rose-Bonaldi says. "Then lay them flat on a towel to dry overnight. Don't throw them in the washing machine since that might be harsh and impact lasting power."
That said, powder puffs are not meant to be used forever. Gray suggests replacing your powder puff once a week or so, depending on how often you use it. And when in doubt, use your best judgment. "You'll know in your gut when it's time to replace your puffs," La Rose-Bonaldi says. "Once the material starts to get balled up like an old sweater, that's when it's time."