The Beauty Of Powder And All Its Many Uses

Powder often takes a back seat where make up is concerned. So much is talked about foundations and primers, that we tend to forget that powder can do wonders in minimising imperfections, brightening sallow skins, reducing shine, colour correcting and increasing the longevity of our makeup.


There are two types of powder: loose and compact/pressed. Loose powder is preferable to set camouflage crème and most used by makeup artists. Varying shades can be mixed together to achieve the desired skin-tone, making it a very versatile product. However should you need to reapply your makeup throughout the day/evening to remove shine, compact powders are easier to transport and are good for last minute touch-ups. A word of caution, compact formulas contain binders (usually gums), which may cause irritation to sensitive skins.


Powders are available as:

  • Translucent powders which allow the colour of the foundation to show through. They come in varying tints but a yellow or neutral undertoned powder suits most skins.
  • Colourless powders, which are without pigment, and therefore appear white in the container but colourless on the skin, won’t alter the colour of the foundation underneath.
  •  Tinted powders, which should match the colour of the foundation exactly.
  •  Bronzing powders which when used lightly can give a warm, healthy sun-kissed glow. Matte versions of these can be used as contouring powders.
  •  Iridescent powder, which creates a shimmery complexion and is a useful highlighter when contouring the face. However it can accentuate uneven skin texture such as scarring, blemishes and wrinkles, and create more shine to oily skins, so less is always more in this case.


The principle ingredient in powders used as cosmetics is talc. Talc makes an excellent blotting paper, absorbing moisture from the air and soaking up the skin’s natural hydration process, as well as any overstimulation of oil. Talc has received bad press for being unkind to skin but talc is actually a natural mineral that has been safely used for over 75 years. Only talc that meets very high levels of quality and purity is permitted for use in cosmetics. Cosmetic talc is not to be confused with industrial talc, which has very low real talc content and may contain impurities. Other ingredients found in powders are clay/kaolin, precipitated calcium carbonate, zinc sterate and magnesium carbonate.


Many products also contain titanium dioxide and iron oxides. They are used in powders to reflect UV light and prevent photosensitive reactions. They also help to give a degree of opaqueness to the camouflage crème or powder. Therefore, the eye doesn’t see for example erythema, because of the opaque quality of the camouflage foundation and light bouncing ‘white’ back into the eye. Unfortunately these ingredients when photographed (particularly when using a flash), can cause whitening and make the area appear pale to the surrounding skin. This is what is meant when you hear people talk about “flashback” or “ghosting”.  To prevent this from happening use a powder that contains titanium dioxide as a colouring agent CI77891 (in the may contain listing), rather than being high on the list of main ingredients. If however you need to use a camouflage crème with titanium dioxide, apply a cosmetic foundation that doesn’t contain titanium dioxide over the top.


Some other problems associated with titanium dioxide are that it may ‘grey’ dark skintones and make them appear ashy. To prevent the ‘greying’ effect, try a powder that is rice, silk or cornstarch based. Ground nutshell based powders also work well but can cause problems for those with nut allergies. A simple solution for bronze and ebony skintones is to use a powder with golden-orange undertones, which brighten the skin and give it that warm glow. For darker skintones use one with warm brown undertones. Loose powders with a matte finish can make bronze and ebony skin appear very flat and ashy, thus they should also use a loose powder with a shimmer to it. This helps to absorb any oils in the skin and will keep it looking fresh and dewy.


As with all powders, powdering will give a matte finish to the skin. To stop camouflage or foundation appearing overly matte, use a non-matte fixing spray over the camouflage crème or foundation (with or without powder below), building up gradually to achieve the desired sheen. Finishing with a spritzing spray also helps to give the skin a radiant, dewy glow, which is very on trend at the moment.


Many large cosmetic houses also carry a range of micronised (finely milled) mineral powders that give a greater coverage than traditional loose powder, and can act as a concealer, foundation and powder in one. Jane Iredale is a particular favourite of mine. Non-comedogenic and oil free, they won’t clog your pores and the natural minerals are less likely to react with sensitive skins, so are great for skin disorders such as rosacea, acne and psoriasis. The main ingredients do however include titanium dioxide, so be aware of flashback. They can also be a good substitute for skin camouflage, as their strongly pigmented micronized particles and skin friendly ingredients make them ideal for covering a variety of skin abnormalities. The only drawback is that they may not be as water resistant as standard camouflage products.


Fixing or Setting Powder is an essential part of skin camouflage application, applied over the camouflage crème it helps to fix the product to the skin and enhance its waterproof properties by stabilising the waxes and oils in the crème. Where colourless powder is ideal (so as to not alter the colour of the camouflage crème underneath), some tinted powders are specially designed to mimic skin tones, so can deepen or lighten the camouflage colour to the desired tonal shade. This is extremely good for when an exact colour match cannot be found when using camouflage crèmes alone.


Colour correcting powders are also good for correcting any discolouration or skin abnormality. Yellow is used to reduce any erythema; orange to help lift dark shadows under the eyes; pink/lilac to counteract sallow skins and white to lighten the camouflage crème for porcelain/alabaster skins. I find that it is best to mix a colour correcting powder with a neutral translucent powder, in a ratio predetermined by the skin imperfection, so as to not overload the skin with a different colour to the one you are trying to take out. Cosmetic bronzing and shimmer powders can also be worn over the set camouflage to give lustre and prevent it from looking overly matte.


When applying powder to the skin, use a powder puff to press and roll the powder into the skin. This will help to really set the camouflage or cosmetics. To remove any excess powder, using a powder brush with light strokes, first brush upwards to lift the hairs and remove any trapped particles, then downwards to flatten facial hairs.  You can run a clean, old mascara wand through the eyebrows and eyelashes to remove any excess powder that has settled on the hairs. A word of caution, apply too much and the camouflage or foundation will appear caked and unnatural, so work in layers, as opposed to loading the skin with powder all in one go. Powder can also sit in the lines of mature and dehydrated skins, so make sure the crème underneath is crease free (smooth the skin with a brush or cosmetic wedge) and then apply powder minimally to these areas; blot with a damp sponge flannel, or omit powder altogether and use a fixing spray instead.



  • Oily skin can turn powder yellow or orange with time, so you might need to opt for a lighter shade and always blot oily skin first with blotting paper before applying powder touch-ups.
  •  Skin looks ashy - warm up the powder colour and/or add bronzer.
  •  Flaky – the skin is too dry. Use an emollient first to soften and smooth any areas of dry skin.
  • Cakey – make sure you work in thin layers and the skin is well moisturised; leaving it to sink in before blotting to remove excess.


If you would like to learn more about Skin Camouflage and cosmetics and how they can help to conceal any visual imperfections and enhance your natural beauty, book a consultation with me and we’ll soon have you prepped and looking gorgeous in no time.