Finishing Vs. Setting Powder: What's The Difference? A Cosmetic Brand Founder Explains

Beauty gurus may have made our makeup routines longer and more complicated, though with stunning results, but setting and finishing powder have at least remained easy to place. Their names imply something about the end of a makeup process, and even the most casual beauty guru viewer can picture the dramatic grand finale of a dab of powder. 

Finishing powder and setting powder might occupy the same beauty routine step in your mind, but are they really interchangeable? Not as much as you might think. Without the proper knowledge of these tools, you might be throwing off your look at the last moment. Fortunately, we sat down with an expert to get all the who, what, and how of your favorite beauty pow. To get the truth, we spoke exclusively to Sophia Tang, the founder of Nako Cosmetic, a trusted brand developing and manufacturing makeup for over two decades. Now, grab your flashcards and your foundation — it's time to shake up everything you thought you knew about makeup powders.

Finishing powder vs. setting powder: the real difference

Sophia Tang puts it simply. "In one word ... yes, there is a difference," she exclusively tells Glam. After over 20 years in the cosmetics industry, she has plenty of experience using each product (and prescribing them to her models).

You may have been using them interchangeably, but the beauty expert revealed many contrasting purposes for finishing powder and setting powder. "Setting powder is primarily used to lock your makeup in place, ensuring it doesn't slide off or crease throughout the day," she explained. If it helps you to justify your purchase, know that Tang called this a "secret weapon," noting that it helps your makeup look its best all day long. Finishing powder, on the other hand, is about refinement (rather than retainment). "It's often translucent and is used after all makeup has been applied," she adds. "Its job is to minimize pores, smooth texture, and provide an extra-perfect finish." Easy enough, right?

Knowing when to use finishing and setting powders

Don't worry — growing your makeup knowledge doesn't need to mean that you have to greatly expand your makeup routine. Not every look or day will require setting powder or finishing powder, and there's a simple way to remember which is which. 

Think of it this way: When you use setting powder, you're "set." This powder will keep your makeup in place and ensure your look doesn't budge. "When I'm prepping a model for a long photo shoot, I always use setting powder," Sophia Tang exclusively tells Glam. When facing a long day, hot lights, or other makeup-mangling environments, setting powder will be your best friend. Using too much is a mistake you don't want to make with setting powder, though, as it can make it hard to remove your makeup at the end of the day.

Meanwhile, finishing powder is your "finishing" touch. It's the cherry on top — a little extra pizzazz to make sure that your look sparkles and photographs well. As Tang puts it, "Picture a celebrity on the red carpet, with that flawless, camera-ready look — that's the work of a good finishing powder." It's not an essential or everyday step, but when you're craving a little extra flair, finishing powder is good to have on hand.