Do you avoid wearing foundation on those hot summer days? Are you tired of reapplying your makeup at lunchtime? Read on to discover setting powders that
keep you looking great all day, every day.


When you’ve got a hectic life, the old foundation and eyeliner aren’t enough to keep you looking your best. By learning to use a makeup setting or finishing powder you can polish your look by locking in your makeup and preventing sweat from melting it later! Thanks to modern hydrophobic silicone technology, a setting powder can keep you looking fabulous.

Why silicone belongs in your makeup kit

Today’s setting powders are generally made with silicone compounds. These compounds won’t soak into your skin and many can even absorb moisture. With slight variations on their chemical structure, silicones have found their way into everything from shampoo to food. You probably already use these little miracles! Here are some common, safe cosmetic silicones that you can find in the beauty aisle:

  • Silica
  • Dimethicone
  • Simethicone
  • Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate
  • Calcium Sodium Borosilicate
  • Silicon Dioxide

When and how to use silicone-based powders

Setting powders are a great option for your day-to-day look, but they have one big drawback: flash photography! While these powders do a great job of refracting light to blur the look of pores and imperfections under normal lighting, the bright flash from a camera causes silicones to light you up like a Christmas tree! Whether you’re attending a wedding or a red-carpet event with lots of paparazzi, steer clear of silicone. Foundations containing SPF can cause the same problem, but in that case the culprit is titanium dioxide.

These translucent setting powders are best applied with a short, domed kabuki brush like this brush from Make Up Forever, this one from e.l.f, or this retractable brush from Sephora. If you don’t have a kabuki, you can use a large domed powder brush like this Classic Setting Powder Brush from Sephora, or 168 Large Angled Contour Blush Brush from MAC. Gently grip the bristles at their base to mimic the dense kabuki. Dip the brush into the powder and start gently swirling or patting the powder into your foundation (swirl if you have a light foundation, pat if your makeup is heavier) and blend it in until you feel silky smooth.

Here are five different setting powders with a variety of price-points and formulations. Let’s take a look at their pros and cons before deciding on the best bang for your buck!

COASTAL SCENTS Silica Powder Spheres

$5 for 1oz, $27 for 8oz, $50 for 1lb 

PRO: By far the cheapest option for pure silica. Silica can be re-re-re-applied as the day goes on without looking caked-on, so it’s perfect for long days in the heat, and it buffs right out if you over-apply it.
CON: Since it comes in a plain lidded plastic jar, you have to repackage it to prevent powder from getting everywhere! Also, Coastal Scents is currently only available online.

LAURA MERCIER Invisible Loose Setting PowderLaura Mercier Invisible Loose Setting PowderER

$44 for 0.4oz

INGREDIENTS: Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate, Silica.

PRO: Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate is similar to quartz, or sand, and like them it has a natural sheen and refracts light. In fact, most sand is made from different types of silica! Cosmetic varieties have only tiny differences. In this case, the borosilicate combined with silica will give you a softer glow compared to pure silica. It won’t dehydrate your skin as much as the extremely dry pure silica. If you are using it over a light foundation, the borosilicate won’t irritate even the most delicate skin. The Laura Mercier Powder comes with a own powder puff. The packaging is small and sleek, and prevents you from getting too product much on your puff or brush.

CON: Unfortunately Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate does not dissolve in water, so it won’t soak up sweat as readily as other silicones. As well neither the borosilicate or silica are considered good preservatives so your powder puff may draw bacteria from your face to the jar.


NYX HD Studio Finishing PowderNYX Cosmetics Studio Translucent Finishing Powder

$10 for 0.21oz
INGREDIENTS: Silica, Propylbaraben, Methylparaben

PRO: The parabens in the product prevent bacterial growth, extending its shelf life. This is especially important because NYX comes packaged with its own powder puff. If you use the puff on your face, then put it back in the jar, bacteria from your face would contaminate the product if it wasn’t for those parabens. The packaging is very similar to both the old Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder jar and the current Laura Mercier Invisible Loose Setting Powder jar. The silica and paraben formula holds up equally well on the puff as on a kabuki brush.

CON: While research is ongoing, some customers prefer to avoid products containing parabens because there is a belief that are linked to breast cancer even though both Health Canada and the American Cancer Society have rejected such claims.


e.l.f. Studio High Definition Powder

e.l.f. Studio High Definition Loose Face Powder

$6 for 0.28oz
INGREDIENTS: Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Silica, Tin Oxide, Calcium Sodium Borosilicate, Sodium Dehydroacetate
Available in: Translucent, Corrective Yellow and Shimmer

PRO: The packaging keeps too much product from coming out at once and includes a powder puff. Instead of parabens, e.l.f. uses Sodium Dehydroacetate as a preservative to keep the product stable if you put a contaminated puff back into the jar.

CON: With such a grocery list of ingredients, it’s hard to figure out how much of everything is in it! And if you choose to apply it with a brush, the dimethicone makes the product slip off the bristles. This wastes the product and it can easily ends up on your clothes and hair. Dimethicone sinks into clothes more than silica, so you might end up with a slippery blouse. As well, it has the same issue as the Laura Mercier and NYX products because of its powder puff — makeup cakes on to the velour, and stays there. Puffs don’t clean very easily, so you might have to buy a new one if you smear lipstick on it. As well, at 1.5″ high, 2 3/4″ wide, the packaging is gigantic compared to the other products and probably won’t fit into your purse.


MAKE UP FOR EVER HD Microfinish Powder HDMAKE UP FOR EVER HD Microfinish Powder

$39 for 0.3oz

PRO: Its recently updated packaging converts the hole-punched plastic into a fine mesh and really prevents the light, flyaway silica from disappearing. Pure silica rests beautifully on the top of kabuki brushes, and it can easily be dusted away if gets on your clothes.

CON: The product has no preservatives so you must be careful to use a suitable brush and wash it frequently to prevent contamination. As well, pure silica is the worst offender for white-out in flash photography.

Let’s run some numbers! Which product is the LEAST expensive?

      1. COASTAL SCENTS Silica Powder Spheres, for as little as $3.13 per oz
      2. e.l.f. Studio High Definition Loose Face Powder, $21 per oz
      3. NYX Cosmetics Translucent Studio Finishing Powder, $47 per oz
      4. LAURA MERCIER Invisible Loose Setting Powder, $110 per oz
      5. MAKE UP FOREVER HD Microfinish Powder, $130 per oz

So which powder is the BEST?

The best powder is the one that works best for you! Before you buy, ask yourself:

  • What’s my budget?
    • If budget is an issue, choose Coastal Scents Silica or e.l.f. Face Powder.
  • Am I planning to use this for special occasions with flash photography?
    • If you’re going to be around flash photography, choose Laura Mercier Loose Powder because its formula will mean it will be less noticeable.
  • Do I need to be able to keep it in my purse for re-application?
    • Choose NYX Finishing Powder because it comes with its own puff and resists bacterial growth.
  • Do I have the right brush for it, or would I use a powder puff?
    • If you’re willing to invest in a good kabuki brush, choose one of the 100% silica products from Coastal Scents or Make Up For Ever.

So there you have it. Not only do you know the most important facts about these five settings powder, you’re now equipped to understand the labels on the dozens of similar products on the market! The only thing left is to get out there and pick one up for yourself!

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