The Gloss Report: Finishing Powders

Anna Hunter 21 July 2017
Any products in this article have been selected editorially however if you buy something we mention, we may earn commission

1 / 12

The Gloss Report: Finishing Powders

In the past year, powder sales have soared by 41% according to market information experts the NPD Group, with the motivation for extra sales thought to be our increased demand for long lasting makeup . Basically, we don’t have time to be faffing around with retouching- we want our makeup to look awesome, real and to stay in place, thanks very much. A good finishing powder should take care of the latter two makeup stipulations, with no heaviness either in feel or appearance. We road-tested a selection of powders on the market to see which ones stood the test of time, humidity and “realness”. Puffs at the ready.

2 / 12

Bourjois Poudre de Riz de Java, £9.99

Buy online

The promise: “Feather-light powder boosts skin’s radiance, smoothes the complexion and sets make-up.”

We give it: 9/10

Review: “This vintage inspired setting powder was first launched in 1879, so it’s fair to say it’s got longevity down, but thankfully this isn’t dusty remnants of 19th century cosmetics- it’s been reformulated for modern times, which is just as well. I first discovered this backstage at fashion week, with makeup artist Attracta Courtney  singing its praises for its ability to keep a look in place in confined catwalk conditions. Loose, with a slightly pink undertone and a teeny tiny smidge of shimmer, it’s a beautifully finely milled brightening option (I wouldn’t rely on this to mattify- think setting and ‘softening’ your makeup) . The whimsical mint green packaging adds old skool glamour to your dressing table, and the twisty powder wheel means that it doesn’t go absolutely everywhere on application. If you dread the prospect of cakiness and aren’t averse to fragrance, it’s a classic choice.”

Reviewer: AH

3 / 12

Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Powder, £33

Buy online

The promise: “Prevents excess shine and brighten complexions.”

We give it: 9/10

Review:  “I've always avoided powders, as I have dry skin which I try to make as dewy-looking as possible using cream concealers, foundations and blushers; but the problem with all those soft textures is that they don't last very long. Enter finishing powder.”

“To set Charlotte’s offering apart from the outset, the rose wax and almond oil-infused powder really impresses. The shade (I tried Medium) was a bit too dark for my very fair, extra pale (due to lack of sun) skin but it has a silky finish that doesn't settle into dry patches or look obvious on the face - a pet peeve of mine when it comes to powder. 'Airbrush' is an accurate name indeed; I swiped onto my T-zone and even dusted a little over my creamy under-eye concealer to fix it in place; shine disappeared, but left me with that soft-focus glow that these days only an Instagram filter can create. It did seem to smooth everything out - powder perfection. I'll be investing (it's quite pricey in my opinion!) in a lighter shade and saving this one for when my summer tan comes along.”

Reviewer: JJ

4 / 12

Chanel Natural Finish Loose Powder, £39

Buy online

The promise: “Evens out and mattifies the skin without emphasising lines.”

We give it: 9/10

Review: “I do love a powder, whether it’s pressed or loose. This finely milled luxury option is so unbelievably soft- it is really easy to apply. It left me with a sheer yet matte natural finish that lightly covered imperfections and blended in effortlessly. It was very long lasting, with only a quick touch-up needed before I left the office. While it is expensive for a pot of translucent powder, it’s a generous size so should last a while. Just note that if you prefer a more glowy look then this may not be the right powder for you."

Reviewer: SM

5 / 12

Laura Mercier Mineral Finishing Powder, £31

Buy online

The promise: “Helps to prolong the wear of makeup, protect the skin, control sebum production and visually minimizes pores for a fresh look.”

We give it: 10/10

Review: "A cosmetic doctor specialising in acne recommended that I try this and given the state of my jawline breakouts I gladly gave it a go. I wouldn’t normally opt for a loose powder; I’m a messy pup at the best of times and past experimentation has evoked dust storms and resulted in a slightly odd ‘dandruff face’ look.”

“I clearly haven’t been using the right powder, as this mineral powder left no anarchy in its wake, either on my dressing table or my skin. Just the lightest dusting of this translucent shine-stopper minimized the appearance of pores on my nose and mattified my t-zone with no hint of cake. While sheer, it brought down the colour in my blusher very effectively (heavy handed is my middle name) and locked my make-up in place all day without ‘sitting’ on my skin. While it’s pricey, only the most minute amount is required to achieve relative flawlessness. I wore it over liquid foundation; bear in mind that it’s called a finishing powder for a reason: it’s too transparent to disguise imperfections."

Reviewer: AH

6 / 12

Jurlique Rose Silk Finishing Powder, £26

Buy online

The promise: “Refines the complexion and helps reduce unwanted shine.”

We give it: 7/10

Review: “The first thing to note about this powder is its smell. It contains sage and rosemary, so it has a lovely rosy scent that is fresh without being too overpowering. Double points for the fact that all of the ingredients are naturally derived. I used a powder brush to apply it (I’m not a fan of the puff that it comes with) and it did make oil do quite the disappearing act. It balanced things out nicely and was barely perceptible on the surface of my skin.”

“It upheld its staying power through a sweaty commute, although my oily nose did break through around lunchtime, but it was nothing a quick touch-up couldn’t fix.”

Reviewer: HI

7 / 12

MAC Prep+Prime Transparent Loose Finishing Powder, £21.50

Buy online

The promise: “A silky finishing powder that provides an invisible way to set makeup.”

We give it: 9/10

Review: “Ideal for any skin tone (I’m Sri Lankan and this white powder didn’t leave a trace), this has been the perfect finishing touch for my morning regime, eradicating excess shine and setting my make-up for the day. Although getting a handle on its floury texture is a little fiddly to begin with, it wasn’t as messy as I thought it would be thanks to its handy size. I also opted to dip my brush into the lid instead of the pot to ensure I had enough to gently diffuse imperfections. A great addition to my anti-shine artillery, it’s provided the subtle boost that my my make-up needs to combat temperamental seasonal oil levels."

Reviewer: AM

8 / 12

Bobbi Brown Sheer Finish Loose Powder, £28

Buy online

The promise: “This sheer powder is 100% oil-free and oil-absorbing, with vitamin E for the most comfortable wear.”

We give it: 7/10

Review: “Extremely lightweight with a slightly yellow-tinged base that looks a little terrifying but is actually designed to enhance any skin tone, this powder doesn’t look obvious during wear, but it also didn’t do too much for me.”

“I personally don’t like applying powder to my whole face, as I find it dulls any highlighting and contouring in my make-up- I prefer the dewy look. For fixing makeup and brightening up select areas though, it’s incredibly long-lasting, doesn’t gather in fine lines and brushes on like a dream. I think if you’re a powder fan, it’s great quality, although I don’t think it’s an essential and I wouldn’t invest at this price point.”

Reviewer: KB

9 / 12

Aveda Inner Light Loose Mineral Powder, £24

Buy online

The promise: “Silky on skin, and kind to complexion: it sets makeup while reducing excess shine.”

We give it: 6/10

Review: “For those with very oily skin, using a great finishing powder is more than just advisable - it’s a necessity. This one is extremely lightweight and gives a translucent finish post-makeup application, but if you’re after a very matte look, it’s not the one. It will mop up a bit of midday shine, but the finish is more radiant than “velvet”, plus if you do find yourself needing to top up, carting around the pot and brush isn’t exactly practical. Tested on dark skin, it did leave behind a bit of a white cast, despite that fact that it’s meant to be translucent. If you’re on the pale end of the skin tone spectrum and find that powders make you look chalky, however, you’ll appreciate the luminosity that this one delivers, and the 100% recyclable packaging is a positive too.”

Reviewer: KR

10 / 12

La Mer The Powder in Translucent, £65

Buy online

The promise: “Air-spun seaborne particles – some of the lightest materials on earth – create an imperceptible finish to help skin appear flawless.”

We give it: 8/10

Review: “I really don’t normally like wearing face powder, in fact, I’m slightly phobic about it. I feel it always makes me look cakey and I don’t actually want anyone to know I’m wearing make-up as such. Recently however, when I’ve seen pictures of myself I realise I look shiny and may need to come round to the idea of wearing powder.”

“When La Mer does something, it generally does it very well, and this product is no exception. The tub, whilst huge (definitely not one for your handbag), contains the finest powder I’ve ever tried. It takes the shine off skin without mattifying it, leaving you with the faint real skin-like glow of your dreams (you literally don’t know it’s there). I would recommend using it a decent powder brush for getting into those areas where you need powder most, such as the sides of the nose and under the eyes. With a slightly a warm tint to it, this is perfect for taking the shine off any skin colour. I am a convert - if only I could fit it in my washbag..."

Reviewer: ST

11 / 12

Kiko Invisible Touch Face Fixing Powder, £10.30

Buy online

The promise: “Setting and mattifying face powder that banishes shiny areas from the skin.”

We give it: 5/10

Review: “I'm a huge fan of a loose powder - I love that it sets my makeup for the day while mattifying shinier patches. The texture of this powder is soft, and the matte finish definitely lives up to it's promise. It worked well on my drier skin too, which is good going in my book. It's packaged in a small pot with a sponge attached to the lid so that the powder doesn't go everywhere. Unfortunately this didn’t really work (there was a lot of powder spillage), and in the end I’ve been using my own powder brush with it, because I cannot get onboard with the sponge applicator that it comes with - it's heavy and it feels as though I am dragging my makeup completely off my face. Great powder, but purely due to the clumsy applicator sponge, I don't think it's one that I'll be repurchasing.”

Reviewer: SM Save

12 / 12

Cover FX Perfect Setting Powder, £38

Buy online

The promise: “Lightweight, loose setting powder for all day wear.”

We give it: 9/10

Review: “I like to use cream textures, especially when it comes to foundation or concealer, but I need something to set some of those more slippery products and this powder from Cover FX is a great option to keep everything in place. A finely milled talc-free powder with light-diffusing particles, it has a very silky finish that neither looks nor feels drying or cakey; I have found others draw attention to your concealer rather than invisibly setting it like this one. I used a fluffy brush to apply and though a little messy (an issue I have with all loose powder formulas) it dusted on well, though you can use a blender or sponge if preferred. It did stay put and helped keep my base in place for longer, so I would give it top marks; however, it’s fairly pricey - though you do get a full 10g and you don’t need a lot - and the shade range (only two) could be wider. That said, Cover FX guide you on which shade to pick based on the assumption you wear their other products, which suggests there’s one to suit all."

Reviewer: JJ