First Nicole Kidman, then Eva Longoria, now Ashley Judd (twice!): Why are so many celebs wearing visible white powder?

Ashley Judd white powder

Bit of a firestorm happening today over this one, peeps. (At least in beauty circles. Not that we aren’t also concerned over the second quake in Japan. We’re not completely shallow.) Anyway, today’s celebrity news—which is making beauty editors and makeup artists HIGHLY uncomfortable—is the appearance of Ashley Judd on the red carpet with dingin’ white powder under her eyes. Not once, no. Twice!

And that’s the not the first time a celebrity has stepped out with this particular makeup “look.” As you may recall, Nicole Kidman was the frontrunner in this new “trend,” and then Eva Longoria really went to town with it.  And now here we are, and most of yous are probably thinking that a) these makeup artists should be fired, because clearly they harbour secret hatred for their clients, or b) the suspected powder, Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder, should be banned. In fact, just a few days before this latest disaster broke, reader Nicky wrote in with this timely question:

Make up forever HD powder, responsible for Nicole Kidman’s white powder face according to this blog, but in yours, you were saying it was tha shitz for NOT having cakey white powder all over. Who says the truth? Im concerned, because on your advice, I just ordered the HD powder on Sephora’s website… PLZ help!

Oh dear! I don’t want to lead anyone astray, so let me reveal what I’ve learned. Because I’m not giving up on MUFE just yet!

But first, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane and re-visit all of these powder disasters…

Here’s my Nic, last year, when everyone went ballistic over her makeup:

nicole kidman powder face First Nicole Kidman, then Eva Longoria, now Ashley Judd (twice!): Why are so many celebs wearing visible white powder?

(Meanwhile, I thought she looked quite good otherwise. Love that side bun.)

Anyway, the next offender, wearing even MORE powder, was Eva Longoria. Yowza!

Eva Longoria white powder First Nicole Kidman, then Eva Longoria, now Ashley Judd (twice!): Why are so many celebs wearing visible white powder?

Though I didn’t mention them in my headline, I discovered a couple of other (less highly-publicized) powder mishaps. Uma Thurman:

Uma Thurman white powder First Nicole Kidman, then Eva Longoria, now Ashley Judd (twice!): Why are so many celebs wearing visible white powder?

And Drew Barrymore looking like she’s auditioning for a kabuki play:

Drew Barrymore white powder First Nicole Kidman, then Eva Longoria, now Ashley Judd (twice!): Why are so many celebs wearing visible white powder?

And then, finally, here’s the latest on poor Ash:

Ashley Judd white powder 2 First Nicole Kidman, then Eva Longoria, now Ashley Judd (twice!): Why are so many celebs wearing visible white powder?

Clearly she didn’t get the memo about the visible powder the night before, too.

Anyway, here’s the deal as I see it:

1. Translucent powder is the BOMB if you want the most natural-looking “real skin” texture. I wrote about this last year, and I still stand by it. When you’re using regular compact powder or what have you, it does add texture to the skin, and especially if you touch-up throughout the day, it’s going to get a bit cakey and heavy. Translucent powder, which looks white but is colourless on your face, can be used on all skin tones and gives you the most seamless, natural finish.

2. However. You need to apply it SPARINGLY. Let me repeat that. Spar-ing-ly. Get rid of your giant-sized fluffy powder brush or kabuki brush, stat—and instead invest in a domed eyeshadow brush. Yes, eyeshadow brush. You want to dip it in the loose powder, tap of all the excess, and sort of buff your skin. And ONLY apply it on the areas where you tend to shine, such as the forehead and chin. If you’ve primed correctly, you shouldn’t need much at all. (Priming is key, people!)

3. If you’re using this powder to “catch” errant eye makeup, don’t. You know that old trick where makeup artists apply a bunch of powder under your eyes before they do your shadow and mascara, so that any flaky bits can be quickly dusted clean afterward instead of sticking to your cheeks? It looks to me like that’s been done with most of these celebs, and this is absolutely NOT the right product to use for that, because you’ll have to use too much of it. Instead, try something like Shadow Shields (at Sephora):

shadow shields First Nicole Kidman, then Eva Longoria, now Ashley Judd (twice!): Why are so many celebs wearing visible white powder?

4. You will look amazing  both in person and if you appear on high-definition film. That’s what these powders, such as the MUFE one, are made for. HD film is very cruel and unforgiving because it reveals every line and pore—so that’s why these prodz have been a boon for anyone in the public eye. They conceal and soften imperfections.

5. But yes, you DO need to be careful around flash photography. It’s true. Unfortunately, the flashbulb is like the devil to these products—for some reason, the light reflects off the pigments and, well, we have a situation on our hands. Makeup artist Wayne Goss did a great vid on this, which reader Chelsea brought to my attention a while back:

However, even HE says that it’s not problematic unless you apply a lot. So I will direct you back to my point #2—use sparingly.

6. There are other options besides MUFE. While it’s still up for debate whether it was indeed MUFE’s product that caused these celeb makeup mishaps (the company says it wasn’t), there are certainly other options out there. Goss says M.A.C’s Prep + Prime Translucent Finishing Powder doesn’t do this… and there’s a great post here with swatches of various powders so you can see how they perform. MUFE does, unfortunately, produce the most whitish cast under flash. But I’m still a fan, and because I’m really not photographed all that often, it’s not really a problem for me on a day-to-day basis. Your mileage may vary.

Are you a fan of these types of powders?
Ever had a mishap of your own?
Will you still wear ‘em or is the flash photography business enough to scare you off?


Thursday, April 7/2011 at 1:13 pm

Is it that the powder is only visible with the flash of a camera? Hard to believe the stars and their makeup artists would consider this kind of makeup a ‘finished product’…


Thursday, April 7/2011 at 1:16 pm

Oops – yes! to answer my own question…


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, April 7/2011 at 7:28 pm

Yes just the flash! That’s why the makeup artists allowed their clients to go out like that (although if they are in that line of work, they really should know better!)


Thursday, April 7/2011 at 6:46 pm

I used MUFE for my wedding….and have regrets only with the non-professional photos (like my mom just snapping candids). I was so disappointed considering how much I paid and how much everyone raved about it. I should have had my makeup done but I figured why pay $80 when I always felt pretty confident about my makeup application skills. MUFE is still awesome though…I just wish I knew how little to use!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, April 7/2011 at 7:30 pm

Oh noooo – sadness, Mary! So it didn’t show up in the profesh photos at all? That’s weird – I wonder if they had some extra adjustment setting on the camera. Well I’m happy that at least you got some photos that turned out. MUFE really needs to put a warning label on this product.


Friday, April 8/2011 at 11:33 pm

Most professional photographers don’t work with flash, they play with time exposition settings, and balance out the whites to achieve much, much better results than any flash would/could. I have worked with quite a few PPs in my days, and they all had the same opinion about the flash: it SUCKS!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 15/2011 at 8:15 pm

Oh interesting – I did not know that! (as you might guess from the photos on this site, I am no prize-winning photographer!)


Jacqui D
Thursday, August 11/2011 at 2:17 am

As a photographer, I can vouch for the fact that this is untrue. Professionals who know how to use a flash properly value it!
Weddings are often in low light conditions EG church buildings etc. The location will effect the light needed.
Flash will be used, but often bounced and not directly pointed at the subject. Therefore there is less reflection off the subject.
It’s still surprising that so many make-up artists have gotten away with this. However the effect wouldn’t be visible until the bright, white lights hit. A lot of red faces in Hollywood!

Samantha Lee
Friday, November 11/2011 at 2:50 pm

Usually professional photographers will take several “test” shots first and make necessary adjustments, i.e. low lightings, include flash or not, etc. A professional photographer will look at those pictures and if they will see that if they use flash, it’s going to make the bride look like they have flour on their face, then they won’t use the flash, simple as that.

Chelsea C
Thursday, April 7/2011 at 8:05 pm

Another great post! I will continue to wear my MUFE HD powder on my date nights with my husband (because I know there won’t be any flash photography); however, for other occasions such as weddings and birthday parties, I will not wear this powder (there are a few pics of me with that ghostly glow even though I buffed the powder in). I like the HD powder on date nights because I have oily skin and I like my evening “date look” to be matte. Otherwise I am a Cover FX girl and love their mineral powders and Skintint FX. BTW I love the pics : ) Poor Ashley Judd. She is so classically beautiful. She is one of those women that don’t need a lot of make-up and what she does wear just enhances her natural beauty. I caught part of her interview on “The View” yesterday when I was at the gym. She seems like a nice person too. XO


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 15/2011 at 8:16 pm

Good plan! That’s what I’m doing too. And I really need to locate my Cover FX powder because you’re the second person who has raved about it lately.


Thursday, April 7/2011 at 11:40 pm

Eva longoria wears a disgusting amount of makeup anyways (white under eyes or not)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 15/2011 at 8:16 pm

I have to agree with this.


Nomadic D
Friday, April 8/2011 at 5:15 am

I fell in love with the MUFE HD powder when I first tried it, the texture was just luscious. But after a few weeks I just felt like, even without flash photographers following me everywhere (doesn’t happen too often in my life!) I was slightly whiter than I needed to be. I’m a pale girl to start with and I just felt a little ghostly with this stuff. Ended up returning it, but every once in a while I admit I’m tempted to try it again. Thanks for the link to the swatches, now I’m really curious about the Laura Mercier one. Have you tried that?


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 15/2011 at 8:17 pm

What were you using to apply the MUFE?

And no…haven’t tried Laura Mercier’s. I do have Alison Raffaele HD powder and like it – can’t really tell the difference between it and MUFE, although I could probably do a flash test for kicks sometime to see how they fare.


Nomadic D
Saturday, April 16/2011 at 4:55 am

I admit it, I was using the super soft kabuki brush that MUFE sold with the powder. I know, I know, that’s the whole point of this post, but in my defense this was back when they first released it, in actually came in a set with that brush, how was I to know!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Saturday, April 16/2011 at 12:03 pm

That’s so bizarre! And I just looked at their website and they have the kabuki brush recommended there as well!


Nomadic D
Saturday, April 16/2011 at 1:12 pm

right? glad it’s not just me that misunderstood.

Friday, April 8/2011 at 9:33 pm

I actually really like the (cheap!) Revlon Photoready Translucent powder. It is a pressed powder but it seems to work just fine. It seems to have a bit of a golden finish to it so it isnt so harsh. I tried the MUF powder and I just looked super ghost like because I am super pale to begin with.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 15/2011 at 8:18 pm

You know what – Revlon has some really great products in the Photo Ready line! So not surprised at all… I will have to see if I have their powder, thanks for the tip.


Saturday, April 9/2011 at 9:12 am

I find that celebrities looked just fine in photos and videos BEFORE the HD makeup, even on HD TV. Not sure why celebs would want to take a step back and have themselves appear with ‘powder’ on their face in photos. Is the HD makeup just all hype?


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 15/2011 at 8:22 pm

No, I don’t think so – I think the HD makeup technology really is an improvement because the textures are so much finer and there are light-reflecting and imperfection-diffusing properties that you can’t get in regular makeup.

I think the problem is really with makeup artists using the products incorrectly – for example this powder under the eyes looks like it was used to catch bits of eye makeup as it was being applied. Absolutely the wrong way to use this stuff.


Kimmi @ The Plastic Diaries
Sunday, April 10/2011 at 5:38 am

Before I bought the MUFE HD Microfinish Powder the sales assistant at Sephora ran through exactly how to use it (as you have done), and I have never had a problem. It is my all time favourite powder!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 15/2011 at 8:22 pm

Hooray! Glad you agree – I really think people who are disillusioned with it have applied too much and with the wrong brush.


Sunday, April 10/2011 at 5:41 pm

MUFE HD is a great HD powder, and that is what it is meant for – HD. Says so on the tin, so not surprising in flash photography it goes all haywire. So unless you are hounded by paparazzi or grandma with a point and shoot, we’ll be fine. ;)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 15/2011 at 8:22 pm

Haha! My thoughts exactly. This comments wins the thread.


Monday, April 11/2011 at 1:01 am

I just bought the Laura Mercier loose powder- it’s the newer one that’s white, and it looks very similar to the MUFE HD powder. I haven’t taken any pictures yet with flash while wearing it, but so far I love how it sets my makeup without leaving flakes (I have extremely dry skin). I’d recommend it for sure, I got it at Sephora.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 15/2011 at 8:23 pm

Cool – thanks for the reco Erica!


Tuesday, April 12/2011 at 4:51 pm

Those pictures gives me second hand embarrassment… yikes!
-Lauren from ChickAdvisor


Wednesday, May 4/2011 at 5:39 pm

Wow, that’s TERRIBLE!!! And these are makeup artists?!?!?


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Wednesday, May 4/2011 at 6:28 pm

Keep in mind that they looked great in real life – it’s just the flash photography that makes the white show up. But yeah – makeup artists who work with celebs should know this.


Thursday, May 26/2011 at 2:47 pm

I really enjoyed the presentation, he explained and showed the points both ways and easy to understand.
I know that a translucent light powder can camoflage facial problems and make you glow, I just haven’t found the name of it as yet,maybe what he said answers what I’m looking for but not sure, but where to get it? I’m looking for that in which has bits of sparkle in it.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, July 29/2011 at 4:58 pm

Hmm I don’t think I know of any with sparkle – I’m quite anti-sparkle/shimmer actually :-)

I don’t think you can go wrong with the Make Up For Ever one, as long as you apply sparingly.


Sunday, December 11/2011 at 2:29 pm

It is for sure a powder that contains Titanium Dioxide and not good for flash photography…same with the foundation….god knows how many artist are not getting booked again…sad…


Tuesday, January 10/2012 at 4:10 pm

I just dont know why people dont blend in! with powder/foundation! blend it in well! lighting only brings out your true tones whether its dark or light! so i dont wanna here about blaimng lights/cam..its only doing its job.
I understand some people prefer to look bronzer, others pale but these blotches of color from all over isnt my cup of tea. I dont care how much makeup you wear or anything, just mkae sure to blend it in.
its a person’s choice if htey want to wear that white powder, i know many who have it, I also know many pale people who have the same effect in photos because THYEYRE NATURLLY PALE TO BEHIN WITH.
anyways, live an dlet live is my motto. But when it comes to makeup, the only advice i would give anyone is to blend anything to perfection.


Monday, February 6/2012 at 12:15 am

I’ve been wearing Bareminerals for over a year now and LOVE the product, but started to notice that I looked abnormally white or washed out in photos of me (and I blend very well Diana) although I don’t look that pale in person. After some research I found the culprit was the Titanium Dioxide. I don’t want to give up my make-up because I can’t even think about going back to a liquid (even my old beloved, Lancome), so is there anything I can do to minimize the photo flash white out? I am going on a trip in March and don’t want to be ‘white.’


Diana Lomelin
Saturday, February 11/2012 at 12:42 pm

For everyone out there that is unsure which powder to use in these cases, try Kryolan anti shine powder! Not only does it last forever so your face won’t get shiny, it’s awesome for photography!! I’m a professional makeup artist and this powder is my favorite! You can find it online.
This is a professional line but anyone can buy it! When you’re in the industry you learn that there are better lines out there than Mac and MUFE. Those lines can be great for your average everyday user, but not for professional jobs!
Hope this helps!!


Saturday, June 8/2013 at 8:22 pm

Wow is this seriously a joke!? These women look like ridiculous idiots. Especially Drew Barrymore its all over her hair. How are these people successful.


Wednesday, January 1/2014 at 11:20 am

I have been using this Makeup forever loose powder for 2.5 years. I found out I end up with the under eye racoon type mishap if I Use eye cream under my makeup. I Stopped it and I am fine. On the rest of the face you need to even out the powder thoroughly with your powder brush. I had 1-2 of those mishaps and I have since rectified this by paying more attention


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