The best makeup setting powder you can buy

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Laura Mercier

  • A good makeup setting powder must cut down on shine without caking, look natural but last for hours, mattify but enhance luminosity, and remain undetectable on most skin tones.

  • Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder ticks all those boxes, making it the best makeup setting powder you can buy.

I'm a very recent makeup setting powder convert - I don't typically wear foundation and my face isn't super oily, so I figured it was just an unnecessary step, useful only for full-glam Instagram-style makeup. But once I incorporated it into my routine, I never looked back. Advertisement

Nowadays I reach for a translucent or lightly tinted powder on a day-to-day basis. Though I don't wear foundation often, I do apply Glossier Stretch Concealer under my eyes and on spots of blemishes and redness most days. Concealer, especially the dewy, emollient ones I prefer, often benefits from setting powder.

As with most makeup categories, the options are overwhelming. There are translucent setting powders or tinted ones, ultra-matte or diamond powder-infused, sheer or full-coverage. The right formula will lock your makeup into place and cut down on shine without mattifying you within an inch of your life or making you look cakey and overdone.

Hopefully this list of my five favorites will help you cut through the noise and find the one that's right for you.

Here are the best makeup setting powders you can buy:

Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.

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The best makeup setting powder overall

The best makeup setting powder overall
Why you'll love it: Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder is virtually undetectable, but don’t let that fool you — it locks foundation and concealer in place for hours.

Loving the Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder is a total cliché — it has almost 7,000 Sephora reviews and countless more on YouTube — but it really is as good as everyone says. The elegant formula disappears into the skin, setting concealer and foundation into place while remaining virtually undetectable.

Whenever I wear foundation or tinted moisturizer, this is the powder I reach for most often, because it’s airy enough to wear all over the face. It’s translucent so it doesn’t add any coverage, but does minimize shine and cut down on creasing. At the same time, it doesn’t flatten out my complexion and allows the luminosity of my favorite base products to come through.

This powder earns the top spot for me due to its versatility — it works well with many different complexion products and with many skin tones. If the translucent powder gives you a white cast, the brand recently came out with a tinted Medium Deep iteration for darker skin tones.

Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder appears on just about every “best setting powder” list online, but most recently has been featured by Cosmopolitan, Allure, and Fashionista.

Pros: Versatile, comes in two shades (plus Glow version), sets makeup without looking cakey, great for using all over the face

Cons: Clunky packaging makes it easy to spill product, not great for travel

Buy the Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder on Sephora for $38

The best luminous makeup setting powder

The best luminous makeup setting powder
Why you'll love it: Don’t want to go super matte? The Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder is infused with diamond powder to add a subtle, natural glow.

Setting powder doesn’t have to be synonymous with the ultra-matte look. In fact, the Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder manages to set your makeup and control oil while delivering subtle luminosity to the skin thanks to the diamond powder in the formula.

I think of this as a fusion of Hourglass’ famous Ambient Lighting finishing powders and a more traditional setting powder. It’s not shimmery like a highlighter, but it does deliver glow and dimension to the skin. Don’t be afraid to use it all over your face — under your eyes, in the middle of your forehead, across your chin.

This powder does an incredible job of setting my under-eye concealer without flattening out the dewy appearance. I definitely notice less settling into fine lines by the end of the night when I use it. I also love how the Veil Translucent Setting Powder cuts down on oil without making me look like a total corpse, and I find it smooths any rough spots in my makeup application. It’s like a soft Instagram filter for the face.

Despite being a recent launch, many shoppers and experts already consider this a holy grail powder. It has a 4.6 rating on Sephora based on 760+ reviews and publications like Allure and Cosmopolitan. It definitely has a permanent place in my makeup bag.

Pros: Sets makeup without looking cakey, diamond powder gives a luminous finish, packaging prevents powder from spilling too much on-the-go

Cons: Very expensive, packaging makes it hard to shake out the right amount of powder

Buy the Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder on Sephora for $46

The best blurring makeup setting powder

The best blurring makeup setting powder
Why you'll love it: Got oily skin? Milk Makeup Blur + Set Matte Loose Setting Powder blots away shine like nobody’s business.

If you’re looking to stop shine in its tracks, give Milk Makeup Blur + Set Matte Loose Setting Powder a try. This is the most mattifying powder in my collection. It completely blots away oil upon first application and does a good job of keeping it at bay for hours afterward.

For that reason, I vastly prefer to use this tinted powder on my T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) as opposed to under my eyes. I find that it mattifies my concealer too much and, as a result, leaves it little cakey. But I love how it works on the rest of the face. The formula contains avocado oil and hyaluronic acid to blur fine lines or blemishes and prevent your skin from looking dried-out.

Blur + Set is a great choice for those long, hot days when you’re wearing a full face. The packaging is similar to Wowder, with a mesh sifter that you press down on to draw up the powder. There’s a smaller plastic lid underneath the screw-off lid that houses the included sponge and prevents the powder from spilling.

While I think it’s a cool design, there are a few flaws. The plastic part snapped off its hinge the first time I opened it, and I also noticed that it dispenses a puff of powder every time I close it, which makes me feel like I’m wasting the product. Despite the packaging flaws, I still recommend this to anyone who wants some heavy-duty mattifying power.

Pros: Cuts shine and controls oil, super mattifying, talc-free, blurs imperfections

Cons: Packaging is smart in theory but difficult to use in practice

Buy the Milk Makeup Blur + Set Matte Loose Setting Powder on Sephora for $29

The best subtle makeup setting powder

The best subtle makeup setting powder
Why you'll love it: Glossier Wowder is powder for people who don’t like powder. It’s lightly tinted to give you just a bit of extra coverage, but it won’t eliminate all the shine.

Glossier Wowder is the powder that got me into powder in the first place. I had never used a powder before I tried this for the first time, and it remains my favorite for everyday use.

There are a few main reasons why I love this stuff. First of all, it’s extremely natural and while it does a good job of setting makeup, it lets some dewiness shine through. For example, it works like a dream with the brand’s Stretch Concealer, which is emollient but can cake up when paired with heavier powders.

I also love that Wowder is tinted and adds a tiny bit of coverage while remaining sheer enough to apply over cream blushes without diminishing the color. Most days I use it over concealer and bare skin and it works wonderfully as a natural base. Like Hourglass Veil it contains diamond powder for glow, plus kaolin clay to absorb oil and vitamin E to hydrate.

The packaging is also genius — powder is dispensed from a small circle of mesh in the center of the jar, whose lid features a stopper that fits over the opening so product doesn’t spill in transit. It’s truly the best for travel.

Wowder comes in three shades: Light/Medium (my shade), Dark/Deep, and Rich. As far as downsides go, the main one is the size of the jar, which holds .25 ounces of product. That said, I’ve used my original jar a ton over the past year and there’s still quite a bit of powder left, so if you use a light hand it will last you.

Pros: Lightweight, natural tint, sets makeup while retaining dewiness, packaging prevents spillage

Cons: Jar is small for the price, not super mattifying so keep that in mind if you’re oily

Buy Wowder on Glossier for $35

The best drugstore makeup setting powder

The best drugstore makeup setting powder
Why you'll love it: You don’t have to pay high-end prices for an effective makeup setting powder. The Neutrogena Shine Control Powder is an incredible pick from the drugstore.

Neutrogena is one of my favorite brands available at the drugstore and I’m constantly impressed by the quality of both the makeup and skincare offerings. The Shine Control Powder is one of the best products I’ve tried from the brand’s extensive catalog.

Unlike the other options on this list which are loose, Neutrogena Shine Control is a pressed powder that comes in a compact. It’s easier to travel with for this reason, but it still feels like nothing on the skin.

I really like the packaging, which is a matte black compact with a sizeable mirror under the lid — perfect for touch-ups! Like the Milk Makeup Blur + Set, this comes with a flat sponge and has a similar mattifying finish, but the effect is less intense. Because of this, I found I liked using it under my eyes and around the oily areas of my face. It’s the perfect happy medium.

You may prefer applying this with the included sponge, because the pressed nature makes it more dense and harder to pick up with a fluffy powder brush. This product is more mattifying than I look for on a daily basis, but I forsee returning to it on really hot days or days when I need my base makeup to last for a long time.

The one major downside to this powder is that it comes in only one shade. It is mostly translucent, but I’m not sure how well it would work on darker skin tones. Here’s hoping Neutrogena expands the color range, because Neutrogena Shine Control Powder is a fan-favorite. It has over 1,000 reviews on Influenster and has been recommended by Byrdie and Cosmopolitan.

Pros: Affordable, ultra-mattifying, lightweight

Cons: Only one shade

Buy Neutrogena Shine Control Powder at Target for $11.99

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