Makeup Artists' Secret Weapon: Powder
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Makeup Artists' Secret Weapon: Powder

Powder isn't just for teens -- there are so many uses for this makeup bag staple, whether it's pressed, loose, translucent or mineral-based.

Powder is every makeup artist's little secret! It helps set makeup -- locking in placement and extending wear. It's also the absolute best way to blend. If you read my Step-by-Step Makeup Application, you'll see what an important role it plays.


But there's more! Powder sets blush, especially cream blush. It makes lipstick go matte (put a tissue over your lips, then powder through the tissues). Powdering over lip pencil gives amazing wear. Luminous powder even highlights decollete.

Read on for the very best ways to make powder work for you.

Color Choice

Translucent (a non-color) is best for setting and blending. If you're wearing powder alone, without foundation or concealer, go translucent or use a color that matches your skin tone and disappears when applied. If you're wearing powder over foundation and concealer, go slightly lighter. When placing powder over liquid or creams, powders can turn slightly darker, so lighter is safer.

Loose or Pressed?

The form of the powder and the way you apply it determines how sheer it will be. Loose powder is extremely sheer, while compact or pressed powder can be opaque. Loose powder often comes with a puff, but brushes are better suited for most powder tasks. When you use powder to set smaller areas, adapt your brush size to get better control. Under the eye, I use a large eye shadow brush -- dab it in, shake it off, and brush on. When you do the final dusting of your whole face, use a large powder brush. I always hold my brushes very lightly, since a heavy hand equals a heavy-handed application.

Warning: The only kind of portable powder I find useful is pressed powder. When loose powder gets loose inside a handbag, it's not a pretty sight.

Where to Put It

Powder dusted on the full face sets cream foundations and cream concealers. Setting these is important because cream products will literally slide down your face over the course of a day (that darn gravity). Think of it this way -- pantyhose without a waistband would end up around your ankles. Powder is the waistband that holds your makeup in place.

A full face dusting of powder also takes away shine; if it's sheer enough, you'll still have a healthy, natural-looking sheen. When you're after a dewy finish, use a minimal amount of loose powder, dusted with a brush, or use your powder brush without putting powder on it at all (unless it's just been washed, the brush will have a smidge of product in it from when you last used it, and that will be enough).

Tricks of the Trade

Here's a use for powder you may not have thought of. Let's say your foundation and concealer are done, and you're moving onto eye makeup. It would be horrific if a fleck of eye color fell on freshly done skin. You'd try to wipe it off, and the problem would snowball. So here's my top secret trade tip: before doing any eye application, dust extra powder under the eyes (use a large eye shadow brush or a small blush brush). This is a protective layer of powder that will collect anything that might fall off an eye shadow brush or eye pencil. Once you've applied eye makeup (including brows), simply brush this "drop cloth" of powder away.

More uses for powder: the eyelids! You've put a layer of foundation over them. Now powder them if you're using a powdered eye shadow. (If you're using cream eye color, you don't need powder here. Cream glides best over foundation alone.) Powdered lids make powdered shadow go on smoothly, without any pulling or "drag" on the delicate skin around the eyes. Make sure you get right up to the lashline. Use powder under the eyes, too, to set any concealer; apply lightly and delicately.

Whenever you're setting foundation on the lid of the eye, or setting concealer under the eye, look first to make sure the foundation or concealer hasn't creased. You must blend out any creases before setting with powder; if you powder over creases, you'll set those creases!