Um, are you setting your makeup with a tinted face powder? Here’s what you need instead

Nicole Kidman powder face

We need to talk.

(And no, Nicole Kidman, I’m not talking to you… we’ll address your little powder mishap a bit later.)

No, dear reader—this post is all about that powder you’ve been using to set your makeup. You know, the one you love, that matches your skin tone exactly?

Maybe you just use it in the morning, or maybe you’re a repeat offender who carries a tinted powder compact in her handbag for touch-ups throughout the day. Either way, I hate to break it to you but… it’s not doing you any favours. (And don’t worry, I was making this mistake too.)  Here’s the deal:

Translucent powder is the best way to set your makeup

If you want the most flawless, poreless, “I’m naturally gorgeous and don’t NEED any makeup” look, you want to be using a translucent powder to set your makeup. As in, one with no colour whatsoever.

See, even Nicole Kidman uses it (in this case, to “catch” any wayward eye makeup as it’s being applied—and you know what? I bet she uses it on her whole face to set her makeup too). Except she forgot to blend. Blending is key, ladies!

But I digress…

I recently did a story for Glow magazine on how to get flawless skin, and picked up this tip from Make Up For Ever educator (and makeup artist) Erin McCarthy.

Erin says: “I know a lot of women like to have a compact powder to blot throughout the day. It’s fine… but you’re going to be adding texture to the skin, so it’s going to look like [you're wearing] makeup.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather people noticed my eyes or smile than the layer of cakey powder on my face, which only gets worse throughout the day if you’re layering powder on top of powder again and again. (For my beauty ideal, see makeup artist Diana Carreiro’s gorgeous, barely-there makeup. ADORE.)

The solution? Besides using a primer or mattifier underneath your makeup (check out these 7 ways to stop shine), you need translucent powder…

Why? Here’s Erin again: “[Translucent powder] works for any skin tone and gives a natural skin finish. It takes away shine, but it doesn’t add texture.” Also: don’t freak out when you see how chalky white these powders look! Unless you pull a Nicole, they’re going to Blend. Right. In.

Two of the best translucent powders

Make Up Forever HD Microfinish Powder

make up for ever hd high definition microfinish powder Um, are you setting your makeup with a tinted face powder? Heres what you need insteadI haven’t tried this one personally, but does it not sound amazing?

Erin says: “[This powder] was specifically made for HD and is completely translucent in colour and texture, so it doesn’t add any texture, which is crazy. I’m pretty sure it’s our top-selling powder. Almost every makeup artist in HD uses it and not because they love Make Up For Ever—it’s because they literally can’t use any other powder. It actually blurs texture because it reflects light in a soft focus effect. It’s [made up of] only one ingredient—pure mineral silica. So it’s not some crazy technology, but the quality of it is very high and the mineral is very finely micronized.”

Alison Raffaele Transparent Finish Powder

alison raffaele transparent finish powder Um, are you setting your makeup with a tinted face powder? Heres what you need insteadThis is what I’m using these days and I’m loving it—it goes on completely clear and gives a nice, even, matte finish. (Great for oily skin types!) The formula is based on cornstarch (not talc) and there are no parabens, mineral oil or fragrances, so I feel like I’m dusting something very pure on my skin. It even comes in a to-go version that I’m dying to get my hands on. Need more proof it’s great? Check out the glowing reviews on Makeup Alley.

What to use if you don’t have any translucent powder

Use blotting sheets, of course! For the same reasons as above, look for ones without any powder on them and just blot shiny areas as needed. Ones to try: Clean & Clear Oil-Absorbing Sheets.

So what about you?

Are you a translucent or tinted kind of girl? Or am I the only one who had a beauty breakthrough with this whole powder thing? Ever had a makeup mishap like Miss Kidman here?


Tuesday, July 6/2010 at 10:38 am

I WAS a tinted powder person, but I guess I’ll be switching now :)

Is there anything super convenient you can recommend? Something I can grab at my local Shoppers Drug Mart? I have a CoverGirl compact in my purse right now, and was hoping to find something along the same lines.

If not … where can I get Alison Raffaele products, or can you only order them on their website?


Tuesday, July 6/2010 at 1:27 pm

has anyone tried the revlon photo ready translucent powder? it’s pressed and easier to carry than a loose one. i just don’t know how good it is


Tuesday, July 6/2010 at 2:40 pm

I use pure cornstarch on my skin as a setting powder – im about a NW20 and it doesnt show on me as long as you blend. i also use cornstarch as dry shampoo (i hate the scented versions) – i’m blonde but this wil show up in your hair if you don’t comb it through well


Wednesday, July 7/2010 at 4:48 pm

I’ve been using Bare Escentuals Translucent Mineral Powder for years now and I like it but because I have dark skin I have to make sure I really blend and use very little at a time, or it’ll look chalky. But I’m a little confused about which type of powder is referred to here: is it powder foundation or tinted powder? I know some people set their liquid foundation with a matching powder foundation. In any case, I want to try the MUFE HD Powder to see how it works on dark skin.


Wednesday, July 7/2010 at 9:23 pm

Love this post, Michelle. Great info.

I have to highlight my longtime favourite can’t-live-without-it blotting powder — MAC Blot Powder/Pressed. I must sound like a broken record, but I love it precisely because it isn’t a regular pressed powder. It’s a tinted transluscent that absorbs oil beautifully but never. ever. ever. cakes up. I can wear it even over mineral powder to knock back shine.

And when I wear it on bare skin, Blot Powder diffuses the light subtly and invisibly — people think my skin is much better than it is because you can’t see powder my skin at. all. No matter how many times in a day I use it.

Do love the Make Up Forever HD powder, mind you. Used it on a photoshoot just recently. MAC Blot Powder just travels better in my purse.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, July 7/2010 at 10:34 pm

@Gimped – Sorry – this is what happens when I ramble too much! I shouldn’t have cut this post short without mentioning a few portable options. Mainly because I can’t personally vouch for any of these… but here are a few to check out (maybe look at reviews on Makeup Alley before you buy). Some of these come in a range of shades, even though they’re supposedly translucent…

Revlon: (not sure if avail in Canada?)
Physicians Formula (comes in 3 translucent shades):

And here’s where you can find Alison Raffaele: You can definitely order online from


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, July 7/2010 at 10:37 pm

@?? – I haven’t tried the Revlon powder but some reviews here: Didn’t have time to read thoroughly but sounds like some people rated it low because they thought it was a foundation not a finishing powder. And also, you should NEVER use the brush that these compacts come with – you’ll never get good results. Invest in a big fluffy one (I like MAC’s) and it will make a world of difference.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, July 7/2010 at 10:44 pm

@Crystal – Sorry I wasn’t more clear! Talking about both regular powders and powder foundations. I guess what was eye-opening for me when I interviewed the MUFE pro (Erin) was that makeup technology has come so far now that you can get a flawless look by using primers and liquid foundations designed for HD… and then to get rid of shine, it’s all about the translucent powders… no traditional tinted powder needed.

Tinted ones aren’t *terrible* of course… Make Up Forever sells them obviously – but you’re just not going to get the same finish. AND I would caution against re-applying over the course of the day, which a lot of women do. That’s where you *really* get cakey looking.

That’s interesting that your BE powder still goes a bit chalky. Really curious how the MUFE would be. Let me know if you try it (am sure Sephora would give you a sample).


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, July 7/2010 at 10:46 pm

@Janine Of course! Totally forgot to mention that one – I know we had this conversation and I meant to dig it out of the archives :-)
Great recommendation.


Crystal Nina
Saturday, September 4/2010 at 10:28 pm

What a coincidence! I literally just bought Makeup forever HD powder. Although it makes your skin feel incredible, i applied it all over, took a picture of myself and i looked just like Nichole kidman! NOW i’m not bashing the product cause i literally just bought it today and tried it out over my foundation i was wearing all day. It’s funny cause you only see the powder laying on your face in the photos and not in person. Weird!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, September 8/2010 at 3:41 pm

Oh no! It sounds like you might have used too much. There is some talk of this on Makeup Alley:

I would try tapping or wiping off most of the powder from my brush and then making sure to really blend well. Probably you need a lot less than you think to get the “setting” effect.

I hope that helps!


Thursday, September 23/2010 at 9:49 pm

Ditto. You really can’t use the MUFE HD microfinish powder like a normal translucent powder. Less is more. I use probably a fraction of what I’d normally use for translucent powder, swirl it on a brush (large fluffy brush like a kabuki is good) then swirl it on the back of my hand, then brush it onto my face. Not that much buffing is required. I like to put it on top of my tinted moisturizer when I want a more refined look. But yeah, I’ve had mine for what, 2 years and I haven’t even made a dent in it.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Monday, September 27/2010 at 5:28 pm

Awesome – thanks for adding your two cents here! (Since I don’t own the MUFE powder) :-)


Thursday, December 23/2010 at 1:13 am

MAC Blot Powder is by far the best portable option for a translucent blotting powder. I apply it several times a day, and it soaks up shine without leaving colour or texture. I even prefer to use the compact at home, because I find loose powders messy (MAC also makes a loose version of this blot powder).


Cathy from ChickAdvisor
Wednesday, January 12/2011 at 4:30 pm

This post comes at a perfect time, I’m currently in the market for a new powder to lug around in my purse with me for touch-ups. Make Up Forever’s powder has been on my radar for a while actually, maybe it’s time I finally tried it!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, January 12/2011 at 7:30 pm

I actually just convinced my mom to buy some with a Sephora gift card at Christmas! Will be swiping it to try… it looks pretty similar to the Alison Raffaele one I have, but the MUFE is the brand everyone raves about.


Friday, April 22/2011 at 9:35 pm

I use the ELF translucent powder which costs…..$2!!


Tuesday, November 15/2011 at 11:17 am

For anyone wanting to use HD powder but are like me and can’t spend a bunch of money on it, I bought E.L.F’s and it’s amazing. Works just as well! I think it’s 3.00 on their website :D


Tuesday, January 31/2012 at 2:09 pm

Any thoughts on Tarte smooth operator™ Amazonian clay finishing powder?


Sunday, August 5/2012 at 3:21 am

Just found this article and wanted to chime in :D

For the past 30 years (yup, I’m old, lol) I’ve used a light dusting of cornstarch to set foundation as well as in place of foundation. It works better than any powder I’ve ever used, has no perfumes, and is very inexpensive. About ten years ago, I gave up wearing foundation most days; at 47 years old it began to set in the little lines…ugg! So I dust my face (and colllar bone if it shows) with a little cornstarch using a big fluffy brush to even out my skintones and provide a nice matte finish. It eliminates shiny spots on bare skin and provided nice oil control when I was much younger. For three decades, I’ve had compliments on my ‘glow’. I just smile. Cornstarch is my secret weapon. It’s very lightweight and wears well till you take it off.

Just be careful applying it; a little goes a long way. As in you may look like Casper the ghost’s sister if you get carried away. Unless of course you’re going for that white skinned goth look., in which case, have at it. :D


Friday, October 5/2012 at 4:07 pm

I’ve been using MAC Prep+Prime Transparent Finishing Powder Pressed (compact version). It’s pure white, super fine. I just blot it lightly in the areas I need it. I have dry skin and powders tend to show up, but not this. Especially if I soften it with a mist of setting spray after.


Saturday, October 6/2012 at 8:47 pm

I’ve been using corn starch as a natural powder! There’s no added oils and its completely natural so it helps oily skin, I brush it on lightly and it looks much more natural that colord powder, plus, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper. 1.50 at target for what would last years vs. 30.00 at sephora for 2 months worth.


deadra castille
Tuesday, January 8/2013 at 2:12 pm

never know what shade of makeup to use.
lighting is never good in the store.


Sunday, November 24/2013 at 10:04 pm

Hi, Michelle,

Wondering if you’ve tried Smashbox Halo Perfecting Powder?

It was recommended to me in place of MUFE pro powder.

Thoughts? Review?


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