Professional Setting Powder

by | Product Review

Setting powder is one of the most important steps for ensuring the durability of a makeup application.

The first thing we should address is the difference between a setting power and a finishing powder. A setting powder does exactly what the name implies – it absorbs excess surface moisture and “sets” foundation in place.
A finishing powder is not for setting makeup, it’s for adding a custom “finish” to your completed makeup – like adding a glow, additional oil-control, or even a corrective tint.

A well-formulated setting powder should have a sizable amount of high-quality cosmetic grade talc.

Talc (hydrous magnesium silicate) is a soft, inert clay mineral and is used in cosmetics and personal care products as an absorbent, anti-caking agent and to improve texture (feel). Cosmetic-grade talc is produced so that it conforms to United States Pharmacopeia (USP) specifications and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in ingested and topical products.


NOTE: The recent Johnson & Johnson lawsuit and settlement have created a lot of concern (hysteria) over the use of talc and it’s possible ties to cancer.
In the past, commercial talcum (baby powder) may have contained traces of asbestos fibers.
We forget that the dangers of asbestos weren’t uncovered until the mid-1980’s, and the official EPA Ban didn’t happen until 1989. Many of us grew up in buildings with asbestos insulation, flooring – I remember asbestos oven mitts in our kitchen.

So you’re wondering, “how did asbestos get into the talc?”
Talc is a mineral, and where a mineral is mined determines its quality and purity. Some talc quarries contain potentially high levels of dangerous trace elements (lead, asbestos, etc.). To avoid possible risk, ethical cosmetic companies make sure their suppliers are sourcing talc only from select mining sites and that they take every step to purify the talc sufficiently.
I cannot vouch for products imported from China. Many Chinese manufacturers do not disclose where they source their talc, so its purity and safety remain in question. 

In the 21st Century, modern cosmetic grade talc does not contain asbestos fibers or other potentially dangerous heavy metals…

…if the mineral is sourced responsibly and ethically.

Back to choosing your setting powder…

I prefer loose powder for setting makeup. The oils and/or waxes added to bind loose powder into a pressed form can diminish it’s setting ability. I keep the pressed powder in my kit for quick touch-ups.

I only use color-free setting powder. I spend a lot of time custom blending and perfecting complexion colors, the last thing I want is a tinted “translucent” powder changing the color of all my hard work. Besides, color-free powders have NO pigment and work beautifully on ALL global skin-tones. I love an efficient, tightly edited kit – so carrying a universal setting powder works perfectly for me.

Some companies add a touch of silica, mica or calcium carbonate to their formula for better oil-absorption.
Although color-free powder appears white, it should contain NO pigment. If you see the words titanium dioxide or zinc oxide in the ingredient list, that powder contains an opaque white mineral and will leave a white cast on the skin – especially on dark skin tones.

I don’t suggest applying setting powder with a brush. Brushing powder over wet foundation will not incorporate it properly and can sometimes break the foundation apart. I prefer pressing loose setting powder into foundation/concealer with a sponge or puff. This application technique assures even powder coverage for optimum setting results.
You might see residual powder left on the surface of the skin using this technique – no problem, simply remove the excess with a soft makeup brush a few minutes after application. If you still feel the skin looks powdery after brushing away any excess, a few spritzes of finishing spray will remove any residual powder texture. (I prefer Skindinavia Original Makeup Finishing Spray)

Below are my favorite color-free loose and pressed setting powders for all media formats.

RCMA No-Color Setting Powder

RCMA No-Color Powder

This universal loose setting powder has been around for over 50 years and a staple in my professional makeup kit for over 20 years. The iconic powder in the “spice shaker”, got a formula update in 2016. It was good before, now it’s even better.
Kett Sett Colorless Setting Powder

Kett Sett Colorless Powder

Kett Sett Loose and Pressed powders were developed specifically for HD compliance and show NO texture or color under the scrutiny of the most sensitive HD camera lens. Kett Sett Pressed is my go-to for touch-ups.


The #MyTwoCents Blog is informational only and not a substitute for professional advice. Product(s) featured in posts were purchased unless otherwise noted. ALL reviews are unsponsored, and product links are NOT MONETIZED (no affiliate links). Outgoing links are directed to reference sources and trusted retailers. Click the star (above left) for more Legal information.

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