Pressed Powder vs. Loose Powder as Setting Powder

Pressed Powder vs. Loose Powder as Setting Powder

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Powder is a classic beauty staple we all love.

It’s every girl’s best friend that helps mattify your skin and sets your foundation and concealer to ensure your makeup lasts longer.

pressed powder and loose powder placed in a wooden table

And while a compact may have been the go-to for many years, this beauty product has evolved, and now several brands and formulations are available.

With so many choices, how do you choose the right powder for you?

While there are many options, the most basic consideration is deciding between pressed powder vs. loose powder.

These are the two most popular types of powder.

And while they have similarities and are both used to set makeup, they also have several differences, including textures, uses, and even results.

So which one should you be using?

We’ll look closer at both types of powder, the differences between them, and how to use each to help you decide which is best for you.

Ready to look closer at pressed powder vs. loose powder? Here’s everything you need to know!

Why Do You Need Powder?

Face powder is essential in everyone’s beauty arsenal, it’s one of the important basic beauty products you should absolutely invest in.

Why? Because it’s versatile and very effective.

Powder can help give your face a matte finish, smoothen and blur uneven skin, and set makeup to ensure that the look you worked so hard on lasts all day.

It’s the best daily beauty product to use if you want a flawless finish and a smooth and even complexion.

And while buying powder may not be as exciting as looking through lipsticks or blushes, finding the best powder for you can easily elevate your makeup game.

Plus, they are also a lifesaver for mid-day touch-ups.

Those with combination and oily skin can especially benefit from this skin-enhancing beauty product that combats oil and sweat to help the skin stay smooth and fresh.

We recommend ensuring your powder is always readily available by keeping it in your makeup bag. 

Powder Types 101

Before we stack up pressed powder vs. loose powder, let’s look at the different types of loose and pressed powder available.

  • Powder foundation — Powder foundations offer a lighter coverage alternative to heavier liquid foundations and provide a lightweight finish.
  • Finishing powder — This is meant to help blur imperfections and enhance the appearance of the texture of your makeup once it’s done. It gives you an airbrushed finish when applied and ensures you’re camera-ready.
  • Setting powder — The purpose of this type of powder is to set your makeup and keep it intact all day and night. It helps soak up the excess oil in the skin and in liquid foundations and cosmetics to make products last longer.

    It can be used several times throughout the day on top of your makeup for touch-ups.

This article will look at setting powder, including the differences between pressed vs. loose setting powder.

Pressed Powder vs. Loose Powder: The 411

Now that you know why powder is a beauty staple and that our focus is setting powder, let’s learn about the two most popular types of setting powder.

What Is Pressed Powder?

pressed powder with puff and powder brush placed in a pink table cloth

Pressed powder is a powder that comes in a semi-solid format, packed into a compact.

It is used for setting makeup and applied with a powder puff or brush.

Pressed powder offers excellent coverage and color payoff. It usually comes in a wide range of shades to match every skin complexion. 

Because they come in a compact and usually have their own powder puff, they are easier to transport and use on the go.

What Is Loose Powder?

loose powder scattered in a table with powder brush

On the other hand, loose powder is finely milled powder. It is also used to mattify the skin, blur fine lines, and help keep oil at bay.

Because of its fine texture, loose powder provides lightweight coverage.

It’s usually packaged in a jar or a tub and applied primarily with a powder brush.

Because of their packaging, loose powders are usually not brought around regularly.

What Is the Difference Between Pressed Powder and Loose Powder?

Now that you know more about the two kinds of powder, you might wonder — what exactly are the differences between loose powder and pressed powder?

These two types of setting powder are very similar, but they have distinct differences. 

Here is a breakdown of the differences between pressed powder vs. loose powder:

Pressed PowderLoose Powder
Compact portable packagingJar or tub packaging
Densely compact in a semi-solid formulaLoose, finely milled powder form
Available in many shadesUsually translucent; has fewer available shades
Travel-friendlyCan be hard to bring around

Difference #1: Form

The primary difference between pressed vs. loose powder is their form. 

Pressed powder is semi-solid and literally “pressed” into a compact, while loose powder is milled powder packaged in a jar or tub.

While this may seem like a simple physical difference, the truth is that their form also enables them to give different results.

Difference #2: Pigmentation

Because of their forms, pressed setting powder vs. loose powder also differs in pigmentation.

Pressed powder is more pigmented between the two.

Because it is densely packed, it tends to offer fuller and more pigmented coverage.

This is why it comes in different shades to match different people’s skin tones.

Loose powder is commonly translucent or clear and colorless, so it can work on everyone.

Most loose powder products come in limited shades, but it’s still vital to find a shade that’s closest to your skin tone.

And take note that while loose powder still works as effectively at mattifying the skin, it provides less overall coverage.

Difference #3: Application

As mentioned above, pressed powder compacts often come with their own powder puffs. These are often used to apply pressed powder when on the go or when you want fuller coverage.

Loose powder is applied with a powder brush to achieve light to medium coverage and help set foundation and concealer.

You may also apply loose powder with a powder puff. In fact, some loose powder tubs have one too. 

A puff is used when applying loose powder to bake your makeup, which means using a loose powder to set your concealer and foundation base before carefully dusting it off for a flawless finish.

You can use a large, fluffy powder brush for loose powder all over the face to get even product distribution.

Difference #4: Portability

Because pressed powders are in compacts, they are easier to transport and bring with you on the go.

Moreover, a compact also usually contains a powder puff and a mirror, making application a breeze.

Loose powder may also be brought around, but it’s less portable than pressed powder. Because it comes in small tubs or jars, it’s bulkier.

Additionally, many loose powders aren’t packaged with a powder puff or mirror, which means you may need to bring your own brush and mirror for application.

Pressed or Loose Powder for Different Kinds of Skin

Now that you know the difference between pressed and loose powder, you’re probably wondering which is better.

There is no one right answer to this question. The type of powder which is better for you depends on your skin type and your skin’s needs. 

Let’s look at pressed and loose powder for different skin types to give you a better idea.

Pressed Powder vs. Loose Powder for Oily Skin

If you have oily skin, which is more ideal for you — loose or pressed powder?

If your skin is oily, a loose powder is better for you. This is because loose powders are milled finely, so they contain less oils.

Because of this, they can help mattify your skin throughout the day and control the oil your face develops regularly. 

If you want an excellent loose powder for oily skin, try the Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder with cornstarch that helps control oil throughout the day. 

There’s also the Rimmel Stay Matte Loose Powder with a lightweight finish that helps keep oil on your face at bay,

Pressed Powder vs. Loose Powder for Dry Skin

Now let’s answer the question, “Is pressed or loose powder better for dry skin?”

If your skin is dry or flaky, pressed powder is a better option for you. This powder type has more oil in its formulation and thus works better on dry skin.

Because pressed powders have oil, they can look a bit cakey if used on very oily skin. However, they help dry skin look fresh and flawless.

Some pressed powders for dry skin include the MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Natural Powder, which has jojoba seed oil — a hydrating ingredient — in its formula and a natural matte finish that doesn’t settle into or emphasize dry patches.

Another good option is the Neutrogena Healthy Skin Pressed Powder, which contains vitamins C and E that boost the skin’s moisturization. The powder also offers sheer coverage with a fresh-looking finish. 

Pressed Powder vs. Loose Powder for Mature Skin

So how about as we get older? Which powder type would be more suited to our needs?

When answering whether pressed or loose powder is better for aging skin, the answer is mainly determined by what kind of look you want to achieve and how your skin changes.

For many people, skin tends to get drier with age due to the reduced production of natural oils, decreased cell renewal, and accumulated damage over the years.

This may be a new consideration when buying makeup as you get older.

Some might want to give dry mature skin a boost of radiance. Loose powder with good blurring capabilities is an excellent way to achieve this.

You can use this powder for a luminous glow as you set your makeup.

You can also pair a moisturizing pressed powder foundation with a luminous loose powder to give your skin the best of both worlds, although using one or the other is fine as well.

A good pressed powder for older skin you can try is Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Setting Powder. It contains rose wax and almond oil to hydrate the skin and gives a light and flawless finish.

An excellent loose powder we’d recommend is Supergoop Resetting 100% Mineral Powder Translucent. This loose powder is ceramides and olive glycerides to help seal in moisture while creating a perfect finish.

If you want an even more luminous finish, try Glo Skin Beauty Luminous Setting Powder, which is an illuminating powder that creates a soft-focus finish while nourishing the skin.

an asian woman applying powder on her face

How Do You Apply Powder Properly?

Now that you know which powder will work best for you, you’ll also benefit from learning how to apply your powder correctly.

Here’s how to apply pressed powder vs. loose powder.

Applying Pressed Powder

You can apply pressed powder all over your face depending on how much coverage you want. Here are simple steps for applying pressed powder:

Light to Medium Coverage

If you want light to medium coverage, use a powder brush to apply pressed powder.

  1. Swirl the brush into the pressed powder and tap off the excess product. 
  2. Carefully buff the product onto your skin using the brush, first focusing on the oiliest part and working your way outward.

Full Coverage

For full coverage, use a powder puff or makeup sponge.

  1. Tap the puff or sponge onto the product.
  2. Press it into your skin and distribute it as evenly throughout the face as possible.

Applying a Loose Powder

Loose powder can be used as a setting powder all over the face. It’s especially effective for setting the concealer underneath the eyes to avoid fine lines, cakiness, or creasing during the day.

Here are simple steps on how to apply loose powder:

  1. To set your concealer, grab a powder puff, take some loose powder product, and apply it under your eyes. Make sure this layer of powder is even and not too thick.
  2. Let the powder sit on your skin and “bake” for at least two minutes. You can even leave it on for up to five minutes for more coverage.
  3. Then use a powder brush and dust off the excess product. 
  4. You can finish off by applying loose powder to the rest of your face with a large fluffy powder brush. Sweep the brush across your face, specifically targeting your T-zone.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Life Span of Pressed Powder vs. Loose Powder?

Both pressed and loose powder can last from 18 months to 2 years, depending on how well they are stored.

It’s best to store your powder products in a cool and dry place. Humidity can cause them to get cakey and saturated.

Don’t store them in the bathroom, as the shower humidity can reduce the life span of these products.

How Can I Prevent My Pressed Powder From Looking Cakey?

Sometimes your pressed powder may look cakey and thick because you’ve used too much powder or applied it directly to your skin (especially if your skin is oily).

Use just one coat of powder on your face to keep the powder from caking or creasing. And it’s best applied lightly with a makeup brush, carefully buffing the product.

You can additionally use a setting spray to keep the powder in place and prevent it from caking up like Milani Make it Dewy Setting Spray.

A setting spray works well with setting powder as a combined duo. Setting powder absorbs excess oil from your face and products for a lasting finish all day. 

On the other hand, setting spray works like hairspray for the face and helps lock makeup in place by preventing your product from being absorbed into your skin.

So you can use one or the other, or both, for ultimate long-lasting beauty.

Powder for Perfect All-Day Beauty

Pressed powder vs. loose powder — what’s our final verdict? Both are indispensable beauty products that should have a permanent spot in everyone’s beauty arsenal.

If you’re wondering which powder you should get, the best answer, if possible, is to have one of each. They can both serve different purposes and help you achieve the perfect finish.

So be sure to look at both pressed and loose powders, check out our recommendations for different skin types, decide which best suits your needs, and you’ll soon find the best powder for you. 

When you do, you can enjoy gorgeous, long-lasting makeup and a fabulously flawless finish that lasts all day.

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