If you're anything like me, you will have clicked on this with some reservations when it comes to powder foundations. As a journalist and make-up artist, I know from interviewing artists and from experience that the general wisdom when it comes to the best foundation etiquette is to apply something that's fluid, build it where needed, add concealer, then, finally, powder where needed.
Powder foundations ignore all of that, combining coverage with a powdered finish. But they also have a bit of a bad reputation, don't they? Powder = caked. Powder = chalky. Powder = overdone. But what if I told you that I went on a quest to find the best powder foundation and, despite being sceptical on the outset, I was seriously impressed by the below, and actually found they compete with the best foundation for acne prone skin on mine when it's spotty.
But don't just take my word for it; two beauty insiders who famously love beautiful complexions are also fans of powder foundations—and one, in particular:
"One of my favourite powder foundations is the bareMinerals Original Foundation SPF 15," explains top make-up artist and YouTuber Cher Webb. "The unique, lighter-than-air powder texture is packed with just five vegan-friendly minerals, feels lightweight and looks luminous on the skin. I love how versatile it is and that you can create a sheer-to-full coverage that never looks like you’re wearing powder."
Equally Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is also a fan of the bareMinerals powder foundation, telling us back in 2018: "At first I was a bit apprehensive about using powder as a foundation. Like, how is that going to look on my skin, is it gonna look cakey? Am I gonna look dry? Is it really going to give me coverage? But I’m so pleasantly surprised by the coverage, how quick and easy it is to use and how glowy I look; surprisingly it doesn’t make you look powdered."
The best powder foundations
Like Cher and Rosie, I like my skin to look like skin, but better—not choking in product. I was therefore extremely strict with the list of things any of the powder foundations listed below had to be —and had to not be. Here is what was non-negotiable:
- They couldn't look grey/chalky when on.
- They had to be buildable, allowing for anything from a sheer to fuller coverage.
- The powder had to mimic skin to an extent.
So, although there are heaps of different formulas out there, these were the only three that I feel really ticked all of the boxes for the best powder foundations.
Best for healthy-looking skin
1. L'Oreal Paris Infallible 24H Fresh Wear 24H Fresh Wear Foundation Powder
This powder foundation caused something of a furore on its release and it's not hard to see why. It slips on with the sponge (which is included in a separate chamber under the cake of powder) in a single swipe for medium coverage, but a second pass builds it up quickly. That said, even when layered, it doesn't overwhelm the skin, or make it look mask-like.
- Quickly builds coverage
- Comes with a sponge to make application easy
- Doesn't look heavy on skin
- Really lasts and lasts
- It's relatively inexpensive
- You'd need your own brush to get lighter coverage out of it
- The sponge could harbour bacteria if not washed often
- It could come in more shades - though the existing ones span a wide range
Best for a velvety finish
2. Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Powder Foundation
If you're after a one-stop foundation for perfected, minimised pores, and to look polished, this is the one for you. I stashed mine in my handbag for those moments when I realise my make-up has disappeared from around my nose/chin/that big spot and want to cover and powder it, quickly.
- It's velvety without making skin look flat
- The texture is great and it slides on easily
- It covers spots quickly
- Fans of sheeny skin will hate it - it's very much a powder
- It's more expensive than others in the edit - but a little goes a long way
Best for customising your finish
3. bareMinerals Original SPF 15 Foundation
By far the most popular powder foundation going, this loose powder can be used buffed onto spots to conceal them, as a wash of light coverage for the whole face, or applied in layers to really build to a full finish.
I like to use a thin layer all over my face, then take a small buffing brush and add more where needed, which suits my preferences; too much though, and I found I looked like I really had skin make-up on.
- It's buildable
- It covers spots really well
- The finish on a medium amount looks like healthy, but not shiny, skin
- There's a great shade range
- You need a brush or brushes to apply it with
- Add too much and it starts to look obvious on skin
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Madeleine Spencer is a journalist and broadcaster who has contributed to titles including Grazia, Glamour, InStyle, The Independent, The Evening Standard, and Stylist, as well as offering commentary for the BBC, Sky News, and ITV.
She is keen on exploring the significance beauty rituals, products, and memories have on people from different walks of life, and enters into conversation on the topic with guests on her podcast, Beauty Full Lives.
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