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When to Use Pressed Powder vs. Loose Powder

And how best to apply each one.
January 23, 2023


The best part of applying a stunning makeup look complete with winged eyeliner, a colorful lip and a lengthening mascara is the fact that you can enjoy the look all day — provided you set your look, of course. Along with setting spray, the best way to set your makeup is with a powder, but you may not know what kind of powder to reach for.

Setting powders come in both loose and pressed versions, and many people treat them like they’re interchangeable. The truth is, both powders have very different uses, textures and offer different results, and picking the right one can be a game changer for your beauty routine. Read on to find out what you need to know about pressed powder versus loose powder.

What Is the Difference Between Loose Powder and Pressed Powder? 

While both types of face powders are used to set foundation, concealer and cream products, there are some key differences between the two.

Loose powder is finely milled powder that’s used to set makeup (hence why it’s also called setting powder), and it also blurs and conceals fine lines while absorbing oil on your skin during the day. The finely milled texture means it has a lightweight coverage, and since loose powders tend to come in jars, they’re best left at home as the final step of your beauty routine. 

Pressed powder comes in a semi-solid powder form, and they offer more coverage and color payoff, so while they can be used to set makeup, you can also use them in place of foundation. Pressed powders also tend to come in a large range of shades, while loose powders will usually come in less shades with a translucent option. Pressed powders are a lot more portable, as they come in compacts with powder puffs often included so you can use them on-the-go for touch ups.

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Pressed Powder vs. Powder Foundation: What’s the Difference?

Pressed powder and powder foundation are very similar, but the difference is that powder foundations tend to be a bit more pigmented with more coverage. The main usage of pressed powder is to set makeup. You can use a pressed powder as foundation, but unless the product specifically touts itself as a dual-usage product, the coverage will likely be more lightweight.

How to Apply Loose Powder

Loose powder is best used for setting the concealer underneath your eyes to avoid  creasing, fine lines or cakiness as the day goes on.

Step 1. Grab a powder puff and take some of a loose powder, like the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Sweep & Lock Loose Setting Face Powder, and apply it under your eyes, making sure the layer of powder is even but not too thick (too much powder can lead to the same cakiness that you’re trying to avoid).

Step 2. Let the powder sit on your skin for at least two minutes, but feel free to leave it for up to five minutes for more coverage. 

Step 3. When time is up, dust off the visible excess with a makeup brush, then finish your look with the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Spray and Set Make-Up Oil-Free Setting Spray, spraying in a “T” and “X” motion to fully cover your face.

If you want to use your loose powder all over your face, take a large fluffy brush and tap into your loose powder. Dust off the excess on the lid of your powder, then lightly swipe the brush across your face once, making sure to still target your under-eyes and T-zone.

How to Apply Pressed Powder

Pressed powder can be applied more directly all over the face, and your tool of choice will depend on how much coverage you want.

Step 1. For light to medium coverage, grab a powder brush. If you want full coverage, go for a powder puff or makeup sponge. 

Step 2. If you’re using a brush, take it and and swirl it into a pressed powder like the L’Oréal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Powder. If you’re using a sponge or powder puff, tap it on the surface of the powder, then take your tool and press it onto your skin.

Step 3. When you’re satisfied with your level of coverage, spray the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Spray and Set Make-Up Oil-Free Setting Spray over your makeup to seal your look.

Is Loose Or Pressed Powder Better for Oily Skin?

If you have oily skin, a loose powder will help mattify your skin as the day goes on, as the formula contains very little oil. A pressed powder can also work if it’s a foundation formula like the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Up to 24H Fresh Wear Foundation in a Powder.

Next: What Tool Do You Use to Apply Blush?

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Creative Producer: Becca Solovay, Digital Tech: Erik Dalzen, Photo Assistant: Sam Kang, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Mirna Jose, Hair Assistant: Keila Rivera, Wardrobe Stylist: Alexis Badiyi, Wardrobe Assistant: Jazmine Alzado, Model: Zlata Semenko

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