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The 11 Best Clean Setting Powders + Application Tips & More

Hannah Frye
Author:
August 29, 2023
Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
By Hannah Frye
Assistant Beauty & Health Editor
Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.
woman putting on powder
Image by mbg creative
August 29, 2023
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Setting powder can take your makeup look from DIY to celebrity-grade, but only if you have the right product to match your goals. 

There’s a plethora of different brands to choose from so we’re sorting through the best clean options out right now. To come, some A+ picks, how to choose, and expert application tips. 

Setting powder vs. finishing powder

Before we dive into our picks, let’s establish something: There are many different kinds of powder out there and not all of them serve the same purpose. 

As professional makeup artist and director of education at Saie Beauty Stevie Adams tells mindbodygreen, there's a difference between loose setting powder, pressed setting powder, and finishing powder. Below, the 101 on each: 

  • Loose setting powder: Setting powders comes in both loose and pressed formats. Loose powders generally require a sponge or powder puff for the best application and can be used for a number of benefits. “The finely milled particles control oil production and prevent it from breaking through the makeup, disturbing the texture and longevity,” Adams says. Plus, a traditional powder will be matte, helping to negate any flashback. Finally, this type of powder helps your makeup last all day and night, so it’s worth the extra step. 
  • Finishing powder: “A traditional (loose) finishing powder has a mix of shine control, pore blurring, and complexion perfecting by way of light reflecting particles that result in an overall brightened, blurred look,” Adams says. Some finishing powders can function as a setting powder as well, but they offer different benefits—including blending fine lines and blurring enlarged pores
  • Pressed setting powder: Finally, you have powder that’s been pressed into a mold. “Pressed powder is packed more densely so it can provide more mattification and shine-reduction,” Adams says. However, it’s typically not as finely milled as loose powder—which Adams says can make it more visible on the skin. However, it’s low-mess and travel-friendly, so it may work better for some folks. 

How we picked

Talc-free

All of the products we chose are talc-free, as this ingredient has raised safety concerns due to potential contamination with toxic mineral asbestos.

Additional skin care

Many of our picks include skin-boosting ingredients so your makeup is contributing to a healthier complexion, not working against it.

Variety & affordability

We included a variety of options for each type of finish and goal. You'll find picks for different skin types and makeup preferences in our list. We also include budget-friendly options that still meet our ingredient quality standard.

Testing & testimonials

Many of the products have been first-hand tested by mindbodygreen editors. When wasn't isn't possible, we relied on authenticated customer reviews to provide more context to each selection.

Mbg’s pick for the best clean setting powders of 2023

Best overall: Saie Airset Radiant Loose Setting Powder

Pro

  • Long-lasting
  • Strong blurring power

Con

  • Super fair skin may not match the lightest tint

Best for:

BlurringFine linesMattifying

Key ingredients:

MicaSqualaneAerated-cream technology

Talc content:

Talc-free

This setting powder isn't just great for blurring pores and easing fine lines, but it actually keeps your skin hydrated while doing so thanks to the addition of squalane. "Patented Aerated-cream technology softens excess shine while ethically-sourced Mica leaves behind a bright, blurred luminosity to the skin (like an Instagram filtered effect)," Adams explains.


What our tester says:

This one is my favorite of the bunch because it never dries out my skin. Even after wearing the setting powder all day and into the night, my under eyes and T-zone look blurred but never flaky or splotchy as they have with other setting powders. If you have super fair skin you may not love the slightly yellow hue of the lightest shade, but otherwise, the tints help to minimize flashback.

Best for acne-prone skin: Haus Labs Bio-Blurring Talc-Free Loose Setting Powder

Pro

  • Safe for acne-prone skin

Con

  • Difficult packaging

Best for:

BlurringAcne

Key ingredients:

SqualaneArnicaTourmaline

Talc content:

Talc-free

Calling all acne-prone folks: This is a safe option for clog-prone skin (phew). It's certainly not always easy finding noncomedogenic makeup products that actually check the performance box, but consider your powder found with this formula. The finish is blurred, smooth, and mattified but the formula contains soothing arnica and squalane so your skin barrier is kept happy, too—which is key to maintaining a healing environment for breakouts.


What reviewers say:

Many reviewers adore the finish of this product, describing it as lightweight and blurring. Some people note frustration with the packaging as it can be difficult to get the powder out of the container. However, others love the mess-free packaging.

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Best pressed: Kosas Cloud Set Baked Setting & Smoothing Talc-Free Vegan Powder

Pro

  • Mess-free
  • Super mattifying

Con

  • Noticeable finish

Best for:

MattifyingAcneMakeup longevity

Key ingredients:

Bamboo stem extractPassionfruit leaf extractChinese peony

Talc content:

Talc-free

While loose setting powders have many benefits, pressed powder is the superhero when it comes to keeping your complexion matte all day long, and this clean find is an A+ example. It's just heavy enough to keep your T-Zone from shining through, but it never turns out cakey. The ingredient list is packed with antioxidants and natural oil absorbents like bamboo stem extract.


What our tester says:

This setting powder is no joke—it will minimize any oil patch and keep it that way for hours. As a pressed powder it's pretty much impossible to deliver a fully invisible finish, but this one does come close when compared to other pressed formulas I've tried. Plus, that more obvious powdery look only lasts for an hour or two before it's a bit more absorbed, so it's not the end of the world. Also, the packaging is super protective, as I dropped mine and only saw a small dent which is pretty impressive for a pressed formula.

Best translucent : Ilia Soft Focus Finishing Powder

Pro

  • No flashback

Con

  • Not super long-lasting

Best for:

BlurringBrighteningFine lines

Key ingredients:

MicaPassionfruit leaf extractCorn starchRosemary

Talc content:

Talc-free

This one has a super simple ingredient list (like many Ilia products) and a soft, natural-looking finish. It's an ideal fit for those no-makeup makeup fans out there as it gently blurs pores and eases extra shine without being too noticeable. Aloe vera helps to soothe the skin while castor seed oil hydrates and protects, making this one another skin-healthy choice.

What reviewers say:

Many people who use this product love that it has a blurring finish without feeling too heavy. The translucent shade is great for keeping under eyes bright without simultaneously creating flashback. However, some folks note this one is better for day-to-day wear and not big events as the effects fade quickly when compared with other powders.

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Best for large pores: Tatcha The Silk Powder Protective Setting Powder

Pro

  • Filter-like finish

Con

  • Pricey

Best for:

BlurringBrighteningFine lines

Key ingredients:

SilicaSilk extract & powderRice ferment

Talc content:

Talc-free

For those looking to minimize the look of pores but maintain radiance, let me introduce you to your new holy grail. This one is not for everyone, as many people use powder with the intention to completely mattify the skin and eliminating any chance of shine or glimmer. However, the lightweight formula does keep a T-Zone blurred while still looking bright and radiant.

What our tester says:

I like this powder for those no-makeup days, just to maintain oil and make my skin look more balanced. When used over foundation or concealer, it adds a noticeable soft and almost glittery look—I appreciate this radiant finish but not everyone will. If you want something super matte or completely invisible, opt for another product.

Best budget: Ami Colé Skin Melt Talc-Free Loose Setting Powder

Pro

  • Comes in three shades
  • Affordable

Con

  • Tints aren't for everyone

Key ingredients:

SilicaHyaluronic acidBaobob seed extract

Talc content:

Talc-free

This setting powder is budget-friendly while still checking all of the boxes. It's safe for acne-prone skin, it contains hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and baobab seed extract, and it comes in three different shades so there's a product fit for everyone. The translucent powder works for every skin done, but the brand also provides a shade for medium to deep skin tones and a slightly darker shade for rich to deep skin tones— great addition given some folks want the additional coverage from the setting powder.

What reviewers say:

Many people adore this formula for its mattifying power and affordable price tag. However, some reviewers note a yellow tint when using the medium to rich shade. To be fair, tinted setting powder isn't for everyone—if you're concerned about your setting powder being too visible, opt for the translucent shade.

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Best with SPF: Supergoop (Re)setting 100% Mineral Powder SPF 35

Pro

  • Contains SPF

Cons

  • Not the best for makeup longevity

Best for:

BlurringMattifyingAcne

Key ingredients:

SilicaZinc oxideCeramides

Talc content:

Talc-free

One of the easiest ways to reapply sunscreen is via brush-on powder. Whether you have oily skin or not, finishing your makeup or touching up your look with this product is sure to deliver a gently blurred, mattified finish while protecting your skin from UV damage. The formula contains additional soothing hydration via ceramides to prevent overdrying the skin, which is especially important for those spending time in the sun.

What our tester says:

This really is the easiest way to protect your skin when you're spending all day outside without messing up your makeup. However, it's not as high performance as the other products. So, keep this on hand when you're booked for loads of sun exposure, but opt for another formula if you're prepping for a big event or you're focused on makeup finish and longevity.

Best for sensitive skin: RMS Beauty UnPowder Translucent

Pro

  • Simple ingredient list
  • Lightweight

Con

  • May be drying

Best for:

MattifyingAcneMakeup longevity

Key ingredients:

MicaSilicaTitanium dioxideIron oxide

Talc content:

Talc-free

The ingredient list here is simpler than many of the others, so this pick is ideal for anyone with sensitive or acne-prone skin, as the risk of additional fillers causing irritation or breakouts is mitigated. The translucent is more invisible than the tinted options, but the tinted formulas contain a bit more coverage.

What our tester says:

This one is simple and it shows. You can hardly see the powder when it goes on, but it doesn't nourish the skin or stay put for too long. Again, I'd deem this a great staple for folks with sensitive skin, but I'd pick another product if you really need your makeup to stay put.

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Best radiant finish: Glossier Wowder

Pro

  • Doesn't make skin look dull

Con

  • Not mattifying enough for some

Best for:

BlurringBrighteningMattifyingAcne

Key ingredients:

Kaolin clayVitamin EDiamond powder

Talc content:

Talc-free

Some people skip powder entirely in hopes of maintaining that dewy, lively skin appearance. If that sounds familiar, this powder will be a product that walks that tightrope of mattifying and setting makeup where needed without washing your skin with a dull overlay. Kaolin clay helps to absorb oil without overdrying while vitamin E keeps the skin barrier happy. Diamond powder is a lovely plus, adding even more radiance.

What our tester says:

I'm a dewy skin lover at heart, so powder isn't inherently a part of my routine. However, this powder was one of my first favorites because it's so lightweight and luminous, providing just enough mattification without overthrowing the glass-skin appearance entirely.

Best long-lasting: bareMinerals Mineral Veil Talc Free Setting Powder

Pro

  • Maintains glow

Con

  • Doesn't contain addition skin care ingredients

Best for:

BlurringBrighteningFine linesMattifyingMakeup longevity

Key ingredients:

MicaCorn starchTitanium dioxideIron oxide

Talc content:

Talc-free

This is a classic for a reason—it gets the job done and lasts all day. Plus, the powder comes in various shades including a radiant finish for everyone who wants to look glowy but not oily. The particles are a bit larger when compared to other powders so it's best to use a brush rather than a powder puff, as less is more here.

What reviewers say:

This staple powder does what a powder should, without any fluff. If you need something simple and to the point, this one is for you. The radiant finish seems to be a crowd-pleaser, but the matte finish not as much due to the dry look it may leave behind. It doesn't have additional skin care ingredients, which is a very modern "con" to have, as so many makeup brands are raising that bar.

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Best for fine lines: MOB Beauty Blurring Loose Setting Powder

Pro

  • Helps smooth and plump fine lines

Con

  • Not the best for acne-prone skin

Best for:

BlurringBrighteningFine linesMattifyingMakeup longevity

Key ingredients:

MicaSilicaHyaluronic acidVitamin ENiacinamideAvocado oilVitamin C

Talc content:

Talc-free

Using powder on fine lines is a delicate task: You'll want to apply just enough to smooth over small wrinkles but not so much that it settles between the skin, accentuating the lines. Luckily, some formulas like this one contain loads of skin-plumping ingredients like hyaluronic acid, avocado oil, vitamin E, and more to keep your complexion hydrated while still maintaining a visible blur. These ingredients ensure that a filter-like look lasts all day without becoming dried out.

What reviewers say:

Many reviewers note the fine and almost invisible feeling this powder has. The blurring power is a fan favorite, especially because it lasts all day without looking cakey. The skin-boosting ingredients make it an even better pick, especially for dry and mature skin.

How to use a setting powder

Now for some expert application tips from Adams: 

  1. For smooth undereyes: “Under eyes tend to have the most amount of fine lines, wrinkles, and movement throughout the day so is an area that's highly prone to creasing,” Adams says. So, take a loose setting powder and pop it in that area after applying concealer to minimize wrinkles and keep your makeup in place. 
  2. For more coverage: If your foundation just doesn’t deliver the coverage you want, try applying loose setting powder in between layers. “This results in more coverage and a soft-focused finish,” Adams says. This trick can also be done when using concealer to cover a breakout. 
  3. For long-wearing eyeshadow: If you’re out of eyeshadow primer or you want to keep your routine minimalistic, apply some loose setting powder over your concealer to prep your lids for a long-lasting eyeshadow look. Adams notes the powder helps to absorb excess oils on the lids, ensuring nothing gets in the way of your eyeshadow and a long night out. 
  4. To boost lash volume: This one is often overlooked, but worth testing out. Adams recommends sprinkling loose-setting powder on top of bare lashes before applying the first coat of mascara, then sprinkling once more and finishing by combing out the lashes. 

FAQ

Is translucent powder the same as setting powder?

Translucent powder is one option when it comes to setting powders, but there are tinted setting powders as well. If you want more coverage, opt for a tinted product. If you want your powder to look invisible or brighten your undereyes, go with a translucent powder.

How do I choose a good setting powder?

Take into account what your goals are: If you want more coverage, look for a dense formula with pigment. If you want an airbrush finish, go with something light and translucent. Some powders have a glowy finish, others super matte. Find out what your goal is and then look for products that align with it.

What does setting powder do?

Setting powder comes in a loose and pressed format. Loose powders generally require a sponge or powder puff for the best application and can be used for a number of benefits. “The finely milled particles control oil production and prevent it from breaking through the makeup, disturbing the texture and longevity,” Adams says. Plus, a traditional powder will be matte, helping to negate any flashback. Finally, this type of powder helps your makeup last all day and night, so it’s worth the extra step. 

The takeaway

Setting powder is an essential product in any high-performance makeup bag, but there are plenty of options to choose from. When shopping, keep in mind the finish you want (matte or radiant) along with other skin benefits you seek, as your makeup should boost your skin's health, too. If you want more tips on managing an oily complexion, check out this dermatologist-approved routine.

Meet The Experts

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.

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