Loose Powder vs. Pressed: Which is best for me?

By: Alison Cooper

Loose powder of the mineral makeup variety. Someone wisely traded the puff that came with it for a brush. Good move.
Loose powder of the mineral makeup variety. Someone wisely traded the puff that came with it for a brush. Good move.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

No matter how long we've been using makeup or how expert we consider ourselves to be with foundation application, blush contouring and eye-shadow blending, the issue of how to use powder still eludes many of us. Are loose and pressed powder interchangeable, or do they serve completely different purposes? Is one better than the other for certain skin types, or is it just a matter of personal preference? Do you use powder over foundation or by itself?

The answer is ... a little of everything. Both kinds of powder have the same basic function: to even out your skin tone and absorb oil. But the question of which is best for you depends on a few factors. Your skin type definitely comes into play, as does the amount of coverage you want. If you wear a full face of makeup every day and need things to stay put, you might use loose powder over foundation and carry pressed powder for touchups. But if you're the type who swipes on a couple of products before dashing out the door, an occasional dab of pressed powder could be all you need. If you have dry skin, you might find that loose powder reveals flakes and wrinkles, and oily skin might end up looking cakey with pressed powder.

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Read on to figure out which type of powder is best for you.

Advantages of Loose and Pressed Powder

Because the answer depends on so many factors, it's pretty much impossible to give a blanket statement about which kind of powder is better for everyone. And actually, what's best for you will probably change with the day. Let's start with loose powder and outline the situations that could make it the best choice.

Loose powder generally isn't used on its own -- you apply it after foundation, to set the makeup on your skin and make it last longer. It's finer than pressed powder, so it tends to settle into fine lines and wrinkles more easily than pressed powder does. Because it's finer, it contains less oil than pressed powder, so it's definitely the best choice for oily skin. For a sheer look, you apply it with a big, fluffy Kabuki brush; for more coverage, wrap a powder puff around your finger and press it into your skin, always paying more attention to your forehead, cheeks and chin.

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Now, for pressed powder. One of its greatest advantages is portability -- even if you use loose powder over foundation, you don't want to carry it in your purse all day. A small compact of pressed powder is perfect for touchups during the day. It goes on heavier and has more oils than loose powder, which makes it easier to conceal blemishes and attain an even skin tone. For this reason it can get a little cakey on oily skin. And for a natural (but still made-up) look, you can't do better than pressed powder over liquid foundation.

So, here's our final, extremely noncommittal statement on the battle of loose vs. pressed: Go out and buy both! Unless you wear absolutely no face makeup, there will certainly come a time when you're in need of powder. If you get some of both, you're sure to be covered (pun intended) in any situation the cosmetics gods throw at you.

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Related Articles

  • Dogra, Aastha. "Pressed Powder vs. Loose Powder." Buzzle. Dec. 14, 2010. (Sept. 2, 2012) http://www.buzzle.com/articles/pressed-powder-vs-loose-powder.html
  • McEvoy, Trish. "What's Better: Loose or Pressed Powder?" Fitness. (Sept. 2, 2012) http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/beauty/makeup/foundation/whats-better-loose-or-pressed-powder/
  • Rivera, Jessica. "Loose Powder vs. Pressed Powder." Makeup by Rivera. Nov. 9, 2011. (Sept.2, 2012) http://www.makeupbyrivera.com/2011/11/loose-powder-vs-pressed-powder.html