Know Your Powders

Loose. Pressed. Highlighter. Bronzer. Contouring. Primer. Finishing. Mattifying. Blush. There are so many types of powders – how do you keep them all straight? Powders come in a couple basic forms and usually serve multiple purposes depending on the product. They can be worn as a primer to set your make-up or they can be the finishing touch. Colored powders can add blush, contouring, or highlighting shimmer. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a powder that performs just one function, so below are some of the roles powder can play in your make-up regimen to help you select the right one for your needs.

Loose Powder comes in a jar or pot and is made from fine particles that can be applied using a brush to build layers on the face. It’s most often used to set make-up and worn over top of foundation for extra coverage and to prevent foundation from melting, smudging, or moving around. It can perform a few further functions covered below.

Pressed Powder comes in a compact form and applied with a sponge applicator. It’s great for light to medium coverage on its own or used to build up problem areas as well as touch-ups on the go.

Mineral Powder is found in both pressed and loose formats and is composed of natural minerals from the earth. While providing coverage, mineral powders can also provide health benefits and won’t clog pores. There are also mineral versions for many of the types of powders below.

Multi-function Powders do over-time by serving several functions in one. The Compact-Expert Dual Powder from By Terry cosmetics and make up is a blush, contour, highlighter, foundation, and all-over powder. It performs several of the roles below. These powders have great versatility and are excellent purse pals for touch-ups across-the-board.

Translucent Powder is setting and shine control powder that adds a matte finish to oilier skin types – or to tone down unwanted shine from foundation. It’s basically invisible once applied, so it’s easy to use to set your finished look.

Finishing Powder, while many powders are used to ‘finish’ or set make-up, this powder is usually white and often used by make-up artists for photoshoots to minimize the appearance of lines and give a flawless finish on camera. Be careful with every day application of this powder to avoid ghost face! (HD Powders are often interchangeable with Finishing Powders, depending on the brand.)

Blush and Contouring Powders both provide similar functions to add shape and definition to the face. Blush achieves this primarily through providing a natural (or sometimes dramatically unnatural) flush to the cheeks and cheekbones. Contouring is more for sculpting and shaping the face to enhance cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin shapes, often alongside a highlighter. Bronzer is applied to add a sun-kissed bronzed look to skin.

Highlighting Powder can be used with the above to shape a face or to add a shimmer and iridescent shine to areas like cheekbones, forehead, nose, and chin. It can come in subtle colors to create an extra dimension of rainbow sheen and glimmer.

Many of the above can be sold by slightly different names but these are the basic types. Powders can be used on all skin types but those with dry skin should use sparingly, as too much powder, especially loose powders, tends to set in lines, creases, and around flakes. Use caution when applying loose powders when you’re already dressed, as the particles can drift and settle on your clothes.


Married for eons, mom of 10, Nonnie to 26 with a great grand coming soon, to add to the mix. Avid reader and photo taker, scrapbook queen and jewelry maker. Collector of dishes, planners and pens. Lover of animals, chocolate and spends…long hours soaking in the spa tub (with a fully charged tablet, diet soda, and grub). She’s worn lots of hats, tossed most to the wind, and doesn’t mind starting all over again. Every day is a new adventure…come along for the ride!

Libby has 4361 posts and counting. See all posts by Libby

9 thoughts on “Know Your Powders

  • Well i just started to wear makeup again so this was defiently informative

  • Every product here is amazing

  • There are soooooo many

  • Theres just so much beauty to share…. And so many products to help show our skin we care!

  • Thank you for explaining the many products ou there and how to use them.

  • I will definitely be trying out mineral powder next! Thank you for this useful information!

  • Your night out look doesn’t need all of these. Less powders are more in my opinion.

  • SO many great options now on the market it seems. It makes it so difficult when choosing. I have found some really great ones along the way, though!

  • Thank you for sharing. This has been very helpful.


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