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How to Apply Powder Foundation for Flawless, Glowy Skin

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Raise your hand if powder foundation confuses the heck out of you. If you’ve got your hand in the air, don’t worry—you’re not alone. While there are tons of powder foundations out on the market (which must be a good thing, right?), choosing the right kind of powder foundation to use and applying it the right way can get a bit confusing. We’re constantly shown on TikTok beauty people using creamy, liquidy, glowy foundation formulas that pour into the palm of your hand and blend like butter with the latest trending makeup sponge—it appears that the powder foundation category has seemingly taken a back seat with only a few that have gotten some social media love. The truth is, powder foundations can create the same gorgeous, flawless, glowy results that any other foundation can. Once you try them, you might be just as hooked as you are to that coveted bottle of CHARLOTTE TILBURY’S Airbrush Flawless Longwear Foundation.

If you think powder foundation is all about caking and baking, think again! We did a deep dive into everything powder foundation with hair and makeup artist Ashley Gomila.


About the Expert:

Ashley Gomila is a hair and makeup artist based in Los Angeles.

Who is powder foundation best for?

Answer: EVERYONE. Made without the emollient, pore-clogging ingredients found in some liquid foundations, powder formulas are pretty much every skin type's best friend. Combination and acne-prone babes get breathable coverage that smooths over imperfections. Oily skin types get shine control that lasts all day (or night). Everyone gets a buildable, velvet-matte finish. What's not to love? 

While it takes less time and precision to apply powder foundation than some other foundation formulas, there are some tried and true makeup artist tricks to creating different looks. We're going to share our favorite tips with you and walk through two different techniques: one for achieving a sun-drenched finish and great for everyday wear, and one for a perfectly blended full-coverage makeup look.

P.S. Want to know our picks for the best powder foundations for every skin type and coverage level? Check out our guide to the best powder foundations here. Need a visual? Check out this easy tutorial on how to properly apply your powder foundation here: 

Before You Apply: Prep Your Skin

To get the most comfortable, natural finish with powder foundation, there are a few prep steps you'll want to take before even reaching for a primer:

1. Use a cleanser and toner with replenishing ingredients. This makes sure you're not trapping any pore-clogging impurities under your foundation when you apply it.

2.“Regardless of skin type, always prep the skin with a light application of facial oil, with a concentration on the dryer areas and any blemishes,” says Gomila.Apply serums if they're part of your skincare routine and follow up with a moisturizer. Makeup sticks best to a clean and hydrated face, so it's important to apply moisturizer (after using a cleanser that doesn't strip your skin of its natural oils) even if you tend to get shiny during the day.

3. Hands off your face for a couple of minutes. This part's important—your moisturizer needs to absorb completely for your primer to do its job.  

4. Use a primer. Why?  It’s simple; no matter which formula of foundation you use, you'll get the most control over your foundation finish by applying a primer first. Not sure which primer to choose? We've got you covered here with our complete guide to choosing the best primer for your skin type.

Pick Your Product

Like with any foundation, you'll want to go for the shade that's closest to your natural skin tone and complementary to your undertones. And, like with any foundation, there are different products for every coverage level and finish. “Anytime you’re buying a foundation, it’s important to go outside in the sunlight with a mirror and see how the finish and color applies to your skin type, texture, and tone,” Gomila advises. 

To get lighter coverage: “Most powder foundations are formulated as having medium coverage, which makes coverage easily buildable. The trick to getting a more sheer coverage level with powder foundation would be to apply a very small amount to each quadrant of your face,” Gomila says. Then, lightly and evenly blend it without adding more product. “The goal is to use less foundation so the product is properly distributed on the face in a lighter application,” Gomila adds. Loose powder foundations, as opposed to pressed-powder foundations, work best for a sheer, your-skin-but-better finish. YC COLLECTION Loose Setting Powder  is an Ipster favorite for minimal coverage because it's non-irritating on even the most sensitive skin types, and it also provides light-to-medium coverage. “ With loose setting powder, lightly bake under eyes, corners of the lips, and any deep wrinkles to set the product. Then dust off the setting powder,” Gomila recommends.

To get buildable coverage: pressed powder will take you from sheer to full coverage and anywhere in between. Try thePÜR 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Makeup Broad Spectrum SPF 15, a richly pigmented SPF-infused powder.

To minimize redness, blemishes, or an uneven skin tone: go for a smoothing full-coverage formula like ONE/SIZE Turn Up The Base Versatile Powder Foundation. “To combat redness, I always reach for my secret weapon,  CLINIQUE Redness Solutions Instant Relief Mineral Pressed Powder. It’s super easy to apply and works instantly!” says Gomila.

To combat oily skin: mattifying powders work even harder to keep shine at bay. Use theFENTY BEAUTY Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Powder Foundationfor long-lasting oil control and a shine-free matte finish. 

To create a dewy finish: look for a powder that allows for a wet or dry application, like the NARS All DAy Luminous Powder Foundation.

Next, we'll show you two different ways to apply powder, for lighter or medium-to-fuller coverage.

F.A.R.A.H BRUSHES Large Powder Brush 50F "Rose Gold Collection"

How to Apply Powder Foundation with a Powder Brush

Generally speaking, powder brushes are your best bet for getting a non-cakey, sheer finish, though this can vary based on the product you choose. 

However, you can also use a powder foundation and powder brush over liquid or cream foundations for a fuller coverage. We love this technique for when our usual face makeup routine just isn't cutting it (hello, blemishes) or when we want to make sure our makeup will last without settling into fine lines or creases.

On days when your skin needs a little extra coverage, start by putting on a tinted moisturizer, foundation, or BB cream (we love this one with SPF 30). Finish it off with a light dust of powder foundation to give you an effortlessly polished, natural-looking finish.

You can also go in with concealer just where you need it. The IT COSMETICS Bye Bye Under Eye Full Coverage Anti-Aging Waterproof Concealer is one of our favorites for hydrating the delicate under-eye area and masking any blemishes or dark marks.

Once you've set the perfect base, swirl a big fluffy brush like the COMPLEX CULTURE Plush Powder Brush into your loose or pressed powder, using circular motions, and gently tap the handle to shake off any excess. For a fresh-faced and natural look, focus on the areas that the sun hits first (the same way you'd apply bronzer). Begin buffing the powder into your forehead, cheekbones, nose, jaw, and neck with firm but gentle circular motions. Blend it out a little and boom, done. 

For full coverage, you'll do the opposite. Start blending from your T-zone outward and across your cheeks and toward your hairline and jawline. Stippling the powder on with an angled foundation brush (such as the F.A.R.A.H Angled Contour Brush 30F)will give you more control over how much product you apply with the bristles, and where.

Different shapes of makeup sponges or beauty blenders

How to Apply Powder Foundation with a Makeup Sponge

Makeup sponges give you more coverage with every foundation formula, and many powder compacts come with one included. If you want to use a wet blender sponge with powder, be sure to wring it out thoroughly and blot it with a clean towel or tissue first to remove excess water. This'll keep you from getting a cakey or streaky application. Just as you would with a powder brush, apply your concealer, tinted moisturizer, foundation, or BB cream first. “Using a damp beauty blender, take a small amount of the product and apply it to the four corners of your face. Blend that product out and add more where needed,” recommends Gomila.

You can also take your sponge, dry or damp, and tap the big side into the powder, then gently tap off any excess. Next, stipple the areas that tend to get shiny first—your nose, chin, and forehead—to create an even point of distribution. From there, you can start bouncing your way out across your cheeks, jaw, and neck for a seamless finish, being careful to tap the sponge and not drag it across your skin. 

And that's it! Seal the deal with setting spray if you like, and your powder foundation look is all set.

Want to receive personalized makeup products (like powder foundation) sent to your door every month? Take our fun beauty quiz (check it out below!) to get started. 

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Article Last Updated November 22, 2022 12:00 AM