finishing powder

By which I mean the kind of sheer powder that one fluffs over one’s visage. For any of the following purposes:

  • general smoothing out (skin tone, not all features)
  • reducing shine
  • the same, whilst adding lustre, glow, luminosity–but whilst avoiding glitter
  • some folks like to shimmy and shimmer and glimmer; a matter of taste
  • blotting: this is of especial interest to the more copiously oil-endowed or sweat-producing amongst us
  • setting one’s makeup
  • sort of setting sunscreen, as some of them can have a somewhat greasy finish on some people
  • “silkifying,” to use the good Elfy’s splendid word

What I’m looking at here is powders that are translucent: no colour, adding no colour to one’s face, and in an ideal world, making one look like one’s wearing no makeup. It could be argued that it’s not really makeup–not drastically changing what’s already there. And at least as much for one’s own comfort as the stuff is for others’ viewing pleasure.

Quibbling aside: here are some options. Many are corn-starch based (check ingredients if you’re allergic), some based on rice, some on silica and silk powder (serica).

Have a look at powder primers too–there’s often little to no difference other than labelling between a primer and a finisher, and no difference in end result if you’re just using it as the last thing on your face. Though not all finishing powders can be used as primers…


These are all called something like “translucent finishing sheer loose finishing setting powder.”

  • Bare Escentuals
  • BeneFit (Matterial Girl)
  • Bobbi Brown
  • Clarins (with reservations: I’ve sometimes had reactions to this, but sometimes OK)
  • Everyday Minerals
  • Laura Mercier
  • MAC
  • Make Up For Ever: mainly talc, silica, serica. Lovely stuff, and the reason I did some research and found the cheaper and even simpler Silk Naturals (see next section)
  • Sonia kashuk
  • TheBalm: pressed, decent stuff, still living in my office drawer. Hit or miss, this one, very individual…

Check ingredients: I’ve met quite a few that claimed to be translucent but did have some colour to them; iron oxides are the usual give-away, some will have bismuth oxychloride too. Really just a lighter shade of makeupy powder–might work for the paler, but no use as a genuinely clear powder for the population at large. Usually not that good on palefaces either, as the stuff’s not as light as actual, you know, fine light translucent powder. For more of these pseudo-translucents, see V. ALSO further below.

Serious reservations on the following, as I can’t use them on my face without rapid irritation–but just putting the information out there, as other sensitives have thoroughly enjoyed them. Silk powder-based.
  • Dr.Hauschka body silk
  • Jurlique rose silk dust
These next ones are lovely, but I’d be grateful if anyone could clear up for me whether or not they’re cruelty-free. My online reading points to now cruelty-free, but there are too many conflicting bits of information to be sure:
  • Clé de Peau
  • Serge Lutens
  • Shiseido


  • Coastal Scents: Diva Defense Primer
  • Jane Iredale: Amazing Matte Finish Powder. Slightly too dark on me. Mainly mica, rice starch, silica (see next section: you could make something similar up yourself for much less moolah…)
  • Mattify! offers a wide range of formulae and finishes: seriouly recommended; to all, even thought they’re targeted mainly at oilier skins
  • Silk Naturals: I’ve been using their Perfecting Powder for the last while. INGREDIENTS: mica, silk powder, silica microspheres. They have various others too, including vegan versions of that one. And “Glows.”
  • this is really just a sample–there’s loads on etsy. Over to you…


  • Coastal Scents: rice powder, silica powder spheres, mica & methicone, semi-matte mica, ultra silk mica, sericite
  • Garden of Wisdom: arrowroot and cornstarch powders
  • Majestic Mountain Sage: silk powder
  • Mountain Rose Herbs: arrowroot and cornsilk powder


  • Cornstarch powder and some body / baby powders, of the finely-milled minimal unscented variety. Avalon Organics would just about to, at a pinch–not quite fine enough to my tastes, and does have a teeny bit of scent (chamomile and calendula). Some folks are cool with plain old talc. Some worry about it getting up their nose and into their lungs.
  • Arrowroot powder: any grocer’s / food shop / supermarket, in the baking section
  • Rice powder: often there too, also a staple in East Asian supermarkets


Other options: pressed or loose *tinted* powder. Some powders in their very lightest shade can work as super-light translucent finishers: in the past, I’ve used ones from

  • Almay
  • Boots No. 7
  • Clinique.

Others to try:

  • Alima Pure
  • Becca
  • Chanel
  • Chantecaille
  • Coastal Scents Veil
  • ELF
  • Estee Lauder
  • IsaDora
  • MAC
  • Maybelline mineral
  • MUFE
  • Nars
  • Palladio
  • Physician’s Formula
  • Rimmel

All suggestions, as ever, limited to stuff that’s cruelty-free. Be careful, I’m afraid there’s more label-reading in store, as companies often use the word “translucent” for their lightest shade. This doesn’t necessarily mean the powder is translucent. In my experience, it’s pretty common that translates to “makes me look like I’m wearing makeup, noticeably, several shades too dark.”


  • if the powder’s not already in one: a sifter-jar. The ones with the twist-close half-lids are perfect–I’m using an old one from a Laura Mercier powder from a year or so back. It looks like this:
  • various other sifter-containers work nicely too. An old baby- / dusting-powder tub, a kitchen sugar-sifter, that sort of thing.
  • a brush, if you’re a fan of the swirl and brush technique. Whatever takes you fancy on these–there are about a billion on the market. I like the Ecotools and Body Shop ones, but that’s mainly because these were the last powder-brushes I bought (kabukis from both), at least a year ago for the most recent. They’re still working very nicely so I’m not replacing them. Therefore haven’t been looking around for any others. Brushes need to be cleaned, more or less regularly depending on your inclinations; I’d have said it’s a good idea to have at least three, use each for a few days at a time maximum, and wash two at the end of every week so you’ll always have one on the go and two drying. Yes, this is an adaptation of the “how to travel the world for a whole year with only three pairs of (under)pants” method.
  • hands, if you’re in favour of the Clinique “powder pat-down” approach. This is what I do most of the time: faster and even lazier than the brush.
  • some people like those lovely fluffy powder-puffs: very pretty, but not the most hygienic things ever invented, and they can get manky fast.
  • also, sponges. Ditto re. mank, and well-known for their potential for cultural enrichment, via fostering bacterial growth.

That’s it folks. More chocolate coming up later in the week.

Image at top: Flickr

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