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How to Apply Face Powder

A beauty consultant by profession, Jayne has been advising on correct skin and hair care, makeup, and other cosmetics for almost 20 years.

How to properly apply face powder with a brush, a powder puff, a cotton pad, or even a moistened cosmetic sponge for a flawless, dewy complexion.


Myths About Face Powder

According to myth, face powder blocks pores, accentuates lines and wrinkles, and dulls the complexion to make the face appear flat.

But none of this has to be true; it all depends on which product you use, and how you apply it.

What to Expect of Face Powder

Face powders of today are sheer and translucent. Apart from mattifying and setting foundation, they also leave a satin smooth finish thanks to ingredients like hyaluronan, which helps keep the skin hydrated.

For good results, your powder should match your complexion exactly, as should your foundation and concealer. This obviously isn't applicable if using a perfectly translucent or colorless product. However, these must be well blended in order to be invisible, especially if you're going to be photographed with a flash. You may have heard of "flashback," which is when face powder shows up on photos as chalky white patches.

If your skin is dry, oily, or acne prone, choose a powder formulated specifically for your skin type. This will not only benefit your skin, it will also leave the best possible texture.

Pressed or Loose?

Both pressed and loose powder fulfill the same functions: to set and mattify foundation, or to take unwanted shine of an oily complexion and even out skin tone.

But pressed powder (also referred to as compact powder) is more portable. A compact case always has a mirror, nothing can spill out if it accidentally opens in your purse, and it takes up little space. On the other hand, it's more inclined to settle into lines and wrinkles.

For mature skin, use loose powder or a very light textured pressed product applied with a brush. And remember, less is always more: the reason many women complain that powder makes their face seem flat is because they apply too much.

How to Apply

How to Apply With a Brush

You can use a large powder brush for either pressed or loose products.

If you’re using loose powder, deposit the amount you need on a cosmetic tissue rather than working directly from its container. That way, the product adheres to the brush more evenly for a smoother application, and it won't form clumps.

The secret of applying powder properly is not to brush it on, but to gently press it on, working from forehead to chin. If you work the other way—chin to forehead—the tiny hairs that cover your face will stand on end and make your complexion appear dull and chalky.

You can use a brush for either pressed or loose powder.

You can use a brush for either pressed or loose powder.

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How to Apply With a Powder Puff

A fleecy powder puff is supplied with most loose powders. It’s more difficult to use than a brush, but results are equally good once you've refined your technique.

You can pick up from a cosmetic tissue, as with the brush method, or work straight from the container, but only it has a perforated, sieve-like divider (see photo below). If so, turn the container upside down once keeping the lid on, then turn it back again. When you remove the lid, powder should have collected on the divider from which you can pick up.

To apply, wrap the powder puff around your middle and ring fingers. Press the powder puff into the product, then onto the back of your hand. This ensures that you don’t apply too thickly. Now roll the powder puff over your face, working from forehead to chin.

You can sweep away excess powder with a brush, or pat it into your foundation with a moistened sponge for a dewy finish.

If using the sort of sponge applicator that comes with pressed powder in a compact case, use it only for touch-ups. Instead of swiping or wiping it over your face, gently press it onto areas that have accumulated shine. You may want to replace it with a fleecy puff, which can also be used for pressed powder.

How to Apply With a Cotton Pad

A lint free cotton pad is the best applicator for oily or acne prone skin, as well as for sufferers of enlarged pores. Because it's disposable, it's more hygienic than a brush or powder puff, and it actually leaves a better finish on problem skin.

For optimal results, use a product formulated for your skin type.

To apply, just pat the powder into your complexion from forehead to chin until it becomes invisible. Take a new pad as soon as fibers start to loosen—this will happen several times during a single application.

If using loose powder, pick up from a cosmetic tissue rather than the container for reasons of hygiene and to prevent clumping.

If using a pressed product, it's likely to develop a hard surface over time, making it impossible to pick up. This is known as "hard pan," and is caused by an oily film deposited by applicators that have collected sebum and other fatty substances from the skin (e.g., from moisturizer and foundation). To remove "hard pan," press a piece of packing or duct tape firmly over the powder, then carefully peel it off. This should lift away the film, making the product usable again.

A loose powder container with a perforated divider.

A loose powder container with a perforated divider.

How to Apply With a Moistened Cosmetic Sponge

If you'd like to achieve an impossibly refined complexion akin to that of a glossy magazine's cover girl, you need to apply loose powder with a moistened sponge.

Doing so enables the powder to stay on without touch-ups for up to twelve hours, which is ideal for weddings and other all-day events. Typically, makeup artists use this method for close-up shots where the model needs a flawless complexion without looking as though she’s loaded with foundation.

Work from a cosmetic tissue rather than the container, otherwise the powder will form clumps.

Moisten the sponge with thermal water and wrap it around your middle and ring fingers. Press it into the powder, then quickly roll it over your face working from forehead to chin. It should leave a mottled mess. Now, without reloading the sponge, go over your face again, pressing the product into your skin until it becomes invisible.

© 2010 Jayne Lancer

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