The Best Setting Powder for Dry Skin: Our Five Favorites
Setting powders aren’t the flashiest cosmetic in the world—they don’t necessarily make you pop, or glow, or look luminous—but they’re still one of our absolute favorite items. Good ones can cover lines and creases and they can elongate the wearability of your makeup by hours. They’re amazing, and we love them, but it can be heartbreaking when you’ve got dry skin and you can’t find a formula that works for you.
So, to help you out, here are our picks for the best setting powder for dry skin. Hopefully there’s something here that will make sense for your skin, and after our reviews, we discuss what to keep in mind when selecting a setting powder for dry skin, and offer some tips on how to use them. Let’s take a look:
Setting Powders for Dry Skin: Our Picks
Here are our “quick picks,” followed by our in-depth reviews for each powder:
Now let's take a closer look...
Coty Airspun Loose Face Powder
The Coty Airspun Loose Face Powder has a cult status amongst makeup fans, so we figured it would be important to include it in our list. We think it’s a great all-around setting powder that can be appreciated by beginners and experienced MUAs alike, and the reason we included it for people with dry skin is that it’s very finely milled: finely milled powders are designed to be less likely to catch on dry patches, while still helping to keep makeup in place, and they usually have a pleasant, lightweight feel on the skin, which is something makeup wearers with dry skin usually want.
As for finish, Coty is designed to give the skin what we consider a “demi-matte” finish, so if you’d like it to look a little more glowy, you may want to mist a hydrating spray on after applying it. Coty manufactures this setting powder with talc, which gives the mattifying effect, as well as light-reflecting minerals designed to add a healthy sheen and help to blur the skin. This powder is also made with a very light floral scent, which is very nice, but something to keep in mind if you’ve got a sensitivity to fragrances.
The translucent version is the original one that Coty released, which we think works nicely on light to medium skin tones, but you may want to try one of the tinted shades, like Suntan, if you have darker skin.
May be a good match for: all experience levels and those who would like a demi-matte finish.
Wet n’ Wild Photo Focus Pressed Powder
If you’re only starting to dip your toes into the world of setting powders, we think the Wet n’ Wild Photo Focus Pressed Powder might be the best-pressed setting powder to try. This powder is designed to offer a satin-finish, meant to set foundation while still retaining a natural sheen—you know, what a setting powder is supposed to do—and it’s designed for wearers with dry skin.
Wet n’ Wild makes the powder in eight shades, which is wonderful—that’s a wide shade range for a simple setting powder, and with such a low level of pigmentation, most brands would call it a day with three or four shades. It’s designed to add just a hint of coverage—kind of a neat feature for a setting powder—but it is a setting powder first and foremost, so you may not want to skip any other cosmetics you’re using for coverage.
The other feature that sets the Wet n’ Wild apart from other setting powders is that it’s designed to keep flashback from photos from occurring, even for those with darker skin. That’s a very insightful feature for those of us in the Instagram Generation, and it’s kind of surprising other cosmetics companies aren’t offering this kind of feature. We imagine other makeup companies may focus on this sort of benefit in the near future.
The only critique we have of this pressed setting powder is the packaging—like many other drugstore/entry-level products, the packaging is a little uninspired, and we wish it had a mirror.
All in all, though, we like this pick, and love, too, that it’s fragrance-free for people with sensitive noses and irritable skin, and we truly love that Wet n Wild is a cruelty-free brand—not bad for a drugstore option!
May be a good match for: setting on the go and adding a bit of photo-focus coverage for all experience levels and skin tones.
L’Oreal Paris Hydra Perfecte Perfecting Loose Face Powder
The first thing we like about The Hydra Perfecte Loose Face Powder from L’Oreal is that it specifically includes moisturizers in the ingredient list. That seems like such a gimmee—so many people want to use powders, but so many people stay away from them because they have dry skin, and it seems like a no-brainer to add gentle moisturizers to a setting powder. So, first things first—that's wonderful.
The powder was formulated without talc, so it's designed to set makeup without being overly mattifying, and L’Oreal milled the powder in this cosmetic to be extremely fine and silky to the touch. Finely milled powder tends to be very sheer and translucent, which means it might work for a wider range of skin tones than the average translucent powder, and even for flash photography. L’Oreal also offers it in two more shades—light for those with light to tan skin tones, and medium for those with dark to deep skin tones, which is OK. It would be nice to see a wider range of shades, but that's not most important thing for a delicate setting powder.
The formula contains a touch of oil, included to keep dry skin moisturized. It also includes fragrance, which isn’t overpowering, but we think is important to mention in case our readers have any sensitivities. The packaging is nice and sturdy, as we expect of a good mid-range product, and combined with the lovely finish of this powder, we think it's a solid entry on our list of favorite setting powders for dry skin.
May be a good match for: setting all skin tones with a natural finish.
By Terry Hyaluronic Hydra Powder
The By Terry Hyaluronic Hydra Powder is an incredibly unique product, and because we imagine many people don't know about it, we thought it would be a good addition to our list. It's a simple product, designed to do two specific tasks—to blur pores and provide hydration.
Ingredient-wise, By Terry formulated a very simple product with just silica and hyaluronic acid. Silica is a mineral that has absorbent and light-diffusing properties, and it's included in the ingredients list to absorb oils from the skin, set foundation, and help blur texture and imperfections. All good so far.
The hyaluronic acid, though, is what we think makes this setting powder special. Hyaluronic acid is a humectant, which means it acts like a sponge to absorb moisture from the air around it (and it's actually an ingredient included in a lot of Korean moisturizers and skin creams). It's a great addition to a setting powder, and especially a setting powder for dry skin, because of its moisturizing properties.
As for application, the first application is designed to look kind of matte, but throughout the day, as the hyaluronic acid in it starts to attract moisture, it can take on a more glowy / luminescent look. By Terry manufactured this setting powder to be colorless, so even though it looks white in the container, it designed to fade into the skin. It shouldn't change the color of your foundation, so on the one hand, it won’t amp up your coverage, but on the other hand, no matter how light or dark you are, it shouldn't disrupt things too much.
We consider this one to be a find, and we're glad we got to include it!
May be a good match for: those who would like an invisible setting powder that keeps makeup hydrated.
Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder
The Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder is our luxury pick for the best setting powder for dry skin. It's got literally everything we'd hope for in a setting powder, and it's designed both to set makeup and to pamper skin. It's made without some of the "problematic" ingredients you find in a lot of drugstore makeup—parabens, nanoparticles, and fragrance, specifically—and that can make it a little gentler than other powders.
It's designed for an almost "airbrush feel" (and if you've haven't experimented with airbrush makeup, we'd urge you to do so—it can offer such incredible coverage), and that's what we'd want in a high-end setting powder: something designed to mask pores, to cover fine lines and wrinkles, and gently cover any creases or cracks. It can be a great "special occasion" cosmetic, for use at weddings, black-tie events, etc., because it's infused with diamond powder (!) for refined light refraction but without any flashback.
Plus, it's crafted for all skin tones, which—while it may not be that impressive, because it's easier to make a single setting powder for a range of skin tones—is very nice to see, and it can make it a great gift for a friend or loved one.
There are a few other details that we really like about this powder: Hourglass made it fragrance-free, vegan, and cruelty-free, and they packaged it like a true luxury product, with a beautiful mirrored lid and a very classy branded sifter. There was a trend a few years back of making high-end, luxury cosmetics look like drugstore options, and we're soooo glad Hourglass didn't do that here. The packaging is, in our opinion, graceful and streamlined and defined.
May be a good match for: those looking for a gentle, high-end setting powder good for special events / photography.
How to Choose the Best Setting Powder for Dry Skin
When you have dry skin, it can be a real struggle to find a great setting powder that won’t make your skin look parched or cakey, so here’s some advice, based on our experience:
Pressed vs. Loose
The first decision to make is whether you’d prefer a pressed powder or loose powder, as each comes with its own benefits and drawbacks:
Professional makeup artists usually prefer loose powders, for a few reasons. Generally, loose powders are more budget-friendly since a single container holds more product so the price per ounce tends to be better. Loose powders are usually (though not always) less pigmented, so they can be used on a wider range of clients. Lastly, their formulas are usually more simple and straightforward, since there are no fillers or emollients that keep them pressed.
Loose powders also come with one main drawback: they can be very messy—powder can fly in every which way during a makeup application—and if you don’t seal them correctly, they can spill in your bag and make a huge mess.
Pressed settings powders are a much more streamlined option. The main benefit of pressed powder is that it takes up less space on the counter or in the makeup bag. Pressed powders are not anywhere near as messy to use, so they lend themselves well to on-the-go touch-ups and for frequent travelers. They are often made with emollient oils and glycerin, so for those with dry skin there is the benefit that they can be a little more hydrating than the average powder, but to be fair, there are some great hydrating loose powder options as well. Pressed setting powders are usually more pigmented than loose ones, so color selection is more important.
The main drawbacks of pressed powders are that they are usually more expensive per ounce (although that’s not always the case). They can also be a little harder to pick up on the brush because of the emollients (though, to be fair, that can also be a blessing in disguise since it prevents over-powdering).
Color and Pigmentation
Setting powders come in all kinds of colors and levels of pigmentation, so it’s important to take your preferences and skin tone into account before purchasing one.
Translucent powders are the most common setting powders available on the market. They usually look white or cream-colored in the container, but their pigmentation is extremely low so they deposit very little color on the skin. Most translucent powders will work on skin tones from very fair to tan.
Tinted translucent powders are usually meant for deeper skin tones. The names may change from brand to brand, but generally, they can come as yellow-tinted to suit those with warm undertones and medium to dark skin, or with a copper or bronze tint to suit tanned to very deep skin tones with a neutral or warm-orange undertone.
At the next level of pigmentation, we have tinted powders that offer a touch of coverage—they often come as pressed powders. They will usually come in a wider range of shades meant to mimic the skin tone, and they will help to slightly amp up the coverage of a foundation. These are also more likely to come pressed, rather than loose. With these, selecting the correct shade is very important because the wrong color can make your foundation look lighter, darker, or with the wrong undertone.
Lastly, we have powder foundations, which have the highest level of pigmentation, and are meant to be used instead of a liquid foundation. They are not ideal for setting liquid foundation, especially if you have dry skin. As setting powders, powder foundations can end up looking very heavy and cakey though they will add another layer of coverage to your skin. If you do choose to go this route you should color match your skin the same way you would with a normal foundation.
Setting powders can come in matte, demi-matte, natural, or glowy finishes. Matte is the flattest and least reflective, while glowy powders are made with ingredients that offer a reflective sheen and tend to look more dewy or luminescent.
We would recommend that those with dry skin stay away from totally mattifying setting powders and that they be careful not to over-apply demi-matte setting powders since the result can be cakey, powdery, or very dry looking. Generally, the more talc or starch there is in a setting powder, the more mattifying it will be.
Natural and glowy powders are usually the best for those with dry skin because they are able to set foundations in place without emphasizing dryness. These are usually made with reflective minerals and silicates, which are reflective without being shimmery and are still able to absorb excess oils from makeup.
However, it’s also important to be a little careful with glowy powders, which are usually made with highly glowy mica minerals. When they are well-made and finely milled they have a light-diffusing reflectiveness that is really beautiful on dry skin, but poorly made powders can act more like highlighters with overly large particles of shimmer that make the skin look too shiny and can emphasize dry patches and texture.
The Best Way to Use Setting Powder When Your Skin is Dry
Even when you find the best setting powder for dry skin and for your own personal routine, technique matters. And when you have dry skin, you’ll probably want to stay away from the heavy baking techniques YouTube beauty gurus love, and instead opt for lighter methods.
Here are some “best practices” to try out:
Before starting, make sure you have an appropriate brush for applying the setting powder. For those with dry skin, we recommend using a fluffy, medium-large complexion brush. Avoid very stiff kabuki brushes or powder puffs, since they usually apply too much product which can end up looking cakey on dry skin.
Always start with your face clean and well-moisturized before applying any makeup.
If you like, apply a non-mattifying primer to your skin in order to help your makeup glide on nicely and stay in place.
Apply your foundation, concealer, and any other cream-based makeup products as you normally would, but remember that it’s always better to keep the layers as thin as possible.
Whew, finally, time to powder! If using translucent powder, dispense a bit of it into a tissue or the lid.
Swirl your fluffy brush in the powder to load it up, and then tap on the brush while holding it over the powder container or tissue to remove the excess.
Next, if you can still see a lot of powder sitting on top of the bristles, take things a step further by actually lightly running the brush over the tissue.
Start tapping the brush over your skin to set your makeup. The tapping motion is important because it deposits powder perfectly without disrupting the layers of cream or liquid underneath.
Start at the center of the face, focusing on the T-zone or any parts of the face that can get a little oily or that tend to smudge throughout the day.
Work from the center outwards, with the same tapping motions, but don’t reload your brush with any more powder.
Once you’ve set your whole face, feel free to touch it lightly with your fingers to check if it feels set enough—you will be surprised by how well it’s set even with such a minimal amount of powder.
You can go back in with a hint of more powder if there are any areas that still feel tacky.
You can use the tip of your brush or opt for a small, fluffy blending brush to set harder to reach areas like under the eyes or the curve of the nose.
If you notice that any areas look too powdery, use a clean brush and gently wipe away the extra powder.
With your base all set, you can finish your makeup as you normally would.
For a final dose of moisture, spray your face with a hydrating fixing or setting spray—you can also use a mineral water spray if you like. Hold the spray bottle around 8-10 inches away from your face, and mist the product on lightly in an X or S shape. You might want to do this before applying mascara or non-waterproof liquid eyeliner.
How to Bake Setting Powder for Dry Skin
So while we’re generally opposed to the baking technique when one has dry skin, sometimes there are special situations that call for extremely well-set and waterproofed makeup. We also have to admit that this method is better if you use a lot of concealer or foundation, so here is our guide:
Quick note: you don’t have to bake your entire face! Baking is usually reserved for areas of the face where foundation is likelier to settle into creases or wear away because of facial oils.
Your skin has to be extremely well-moisturized, either with a nice, heavy cream or with multiple layers of essences, serums, and lotions.
Skip powder puffs and dense brushes, and instead line up a very well-dampened egg-shaped makeup sponge as your applicator. Make sure you have a translucent powder on hand as well, since a pressed powder won’t work.
Apply your foundation and concealer as you normally would—we recommend this method for instances when you use thicker layers of cream makeup than normal, in which case you have to use more powder to set.
Pour out a generous quantity of your translucent powder into a tissue or lid.
Right before you’re ready to set, first use tapping motions to blend out any creasing with your damp makeup sponge.
Soon after, before your makeup has a chance to crease again, dip your sponge in the powder, tap off the excess, and then press it into the skin. Use firm, slow pressing motions, and cover the entire area you want to bake.
If you are baking the undereye area, use the slim end of your sponge, while if you are baking your entire face use the thicker end.
Let the powder sit on your skin for about 15 seconds, and then brush away excess product with a clean, fluffy brush.
Wait a few minutes, during which you can continue with your makeup application, and then re-dampen your makeup sponge.
Press the clean, damp makeup sponge against where you baked your skin to rehydrate your makeup and to give the skin a more dewy finish.
Finish off your makeup as you normally would, and end with a generous misting of a hydrating spray.
General Setting Powder Tips and Tricks
There are a few other things you can do with your setting powder beyond just setting your foundation:
One of the classic uses for setting powder is to blend out other powder complexion products like blush, contour, and bronzer. This helps to diffuse them better, making them seem like they are under the skin.
If you apply your base before your eyeshadow, you can apply a layer of translucent powder under your eyes to act as a powder guard, to catch any falling bits of dark eyeshadow. Once you finish your eye makeup, you can just brush it away without staining your undereye area.
Use your setting powder to mattify any lipstick with a satin finish! You can apply the powder directly on top of your lipstick, though applying it through a single sheet of tissue actually works better.
If you’re new to highlighting and contouring, tinted setting powders that are a touch darker or lighter than your skin tone can be great. Since they’re not as pigmented as the average setting powder, they offer a very natural, fool-proof look.
Powders for Dry Skin Can Be Tricky…
…so keep trying things until you find something that works for you. Some powders contain too many moisturizers, some too few, and others may simply not work for your skin type. If/when you find one that works for you, though, it can be a reliable, gentle stand-by that can elongate the life of your makeup. We hope you find what you’re looking for!