Our Guide To The Different Types Of Powder Foundation (& Top User-Rated Picks)

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Aside from personal preference, there are many valuable benefits that are unique to powder foundations. Similar to liquid foundations, powder foundations offer buildable coverage, but they also offer versatility in terms of the type of powder and the specific finish. For instance, you can choose from loose, pressed, or sheer powders. Each type of foundation also leaves either a matte, satin, or radiant finish.


What's more, powder formulations mattify the skin, so those with oily skin types often reach for powder foundations to absorb excess oil and control shine, per Ipsy. In this regard, "[p]owder foundation is ideal for oily to combination skin types," celebrity makeup artist Carolina Dali explains to Byrdie.

Compared to liquid foundations, powders come with a minimal learning curve and they're easier to apply due to the built-in sponge. Not to mention the compact design, which provides a convenient solution for corrections and touch-ups on the go. Speaking of convenience, we took the liberty of selecting popular beauty picks for each option based on consumer reviews and ratings, so you know exactly what to look for during your next beauty haul. If you're curious about trying a powder-based formulation, or if you're already geared up to make the switch, follow this straightforward guide to help you decide between the three different types of powder foundations.


Loose powder

A loose powder foundation offers a lightweight feel and a subtle, blended coverage. Typically, loose powders are a match made in heaven for those with oily or acne-prone skin, as they contain little to no oil compared to pressed powders.


BareMinerals' Matte Foundation is a prime example of a high-quality loose powder. This fan favorite has over 7,000 reviews on Ulta and an average of 4.5 stars, with many buyers commenting on the lightweight coverage, mineral-based sun protection, and buildable formula. The BareMinerals foundation also leaves a matte finish, so it's a perfect option for those who want to reduce shine and minimize the appearance of large pores. While a single application of loose powder will give you a sheer look, the finely milled formulation makes it easily buildable, so you can still achieve medium to full coverage with a few more swipes.

Purchase the BareMinerals Matte Foundation Broad Spectrum SPF 15 at Ulta for $38.


Pressed powder

If you're aiming for greater coverage, opt for a pressed powder as they're more densely packed than a loose powder. They're equally buildable, but they'll provide fuller coverage with fewer applications. Pressed powders are also available in a range of finishes — from matte to satin — and they're arguably the easiest to apply as they're compact and far less messy than a jar of loose powder. Moreover, pressed powders work for a variety of skin types, according to New York City-based makeup artist Suzy Gerstein (via Allure). "[They] bind moisture to the skin," she says, which makes them a great fit for dry and mature skin types. 


Pur 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Powder is another go-to foundation, as demonstrated by its 6,000+ reviews and 4.5 star rating on Ulta. One reviewer shared, "This is hands down the best powder foundation I have ever used. The key is to place on top of moisturized skin. A little bit goes a long way. Super blendable and the coverage is amazing!" Reach for Pur's Pressed Mineral Powder Foundation if you prefer powders with a natural finish and medium yet buildable coverage. This foundation also contains nourishing ingredients, which is especially useful for dryer skin types.

Purchase the Pur 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Powder at Ulta for $29.50.

Sheer powder

Sheer powder foundations are the way to go if want to brighten your face with minimal makeup. The great thing about sheer powders is that they can be either loose or pressed, so you have the freedom to select your preferred consistency while playing around with your desired finish. That said, sheer powders are designed to complement your skin, rather than conceal it, so they're likely you're best bet if you're a devoted no-makeup makeup kind of gal. 


A sheer foundation should also provide subtle coverage that enhances your natural complexion. If you have combination-to-oily skin, Clinique's Stay-Matte Sheer Pressed Powder does just that. The oil-wicking formula mattifies the skin as it contains talc, which absorbs oil, and gives you a fresh look that you can touch up throughout the day as needed. This 4-star, highly-reviewed foundation boasts over 1,000 ratings, which attests to the product's performance and the brand's well-known reliability within the sensitive skin crew. A reviewer on Sephora reveals everything you need to know: "This is my go-to, it looks natural on the face, doesn't cause break-outs, and gives good coverage for someone who doesn't like a caked-on look." If you're still unsure which type of powder foundation is right for you, consider whether a sheer, pressed, or loose powder is better for your makeup look. It also helps to identify your skin type and coverage needs.


Purchase the Clinique Stay-Matte Sheer Pressed Powder at Sephora for $38.

How we selected products

While it's fun to test out new makeup products on a quest to find your next beauty favorite, sometimes it's easier to take the guesswork out of the equation. That way, you know just what to expect when you purchase a new foundation, which cuts down on cost and reduces the likelihood of disappointment.


The three powder foundations featured in this guide were selected by taking into account the following criteria: buyer ratings, popularity, and reviews. Not only do these top-rated picks come highly recommended — based on total ratings from go-to makeup destinations such as Sephora and Ulta — but they also stand out due to the number of user reviews. To gain an accurate understanding of product performance and customer satisfaction, Glam combed through online reviews to find honest, tried-and-true experiences.