Powder vs. Liquid Foundation: Which One You Should Choose

Liquid foundation or powder foundation? The answer is complicated. Both makeup products have their pros and cons, and which foundation you choose will depend on your skin type, the level of coverage you’re looking for, and your desired finish (like dewy vs. matte). 

While we can’t decide which foundation you should reach for, we can help you figure out which formula might suit you best. Read on to learn more about the benefits of liquid foundation, powder foundation, and some considerations to keep in mind when deciding between the two.

The Benefits of Liquid Foundation

Liquid foundation is designed to blend seamlessly into your skin. The base of liquid foundation is often a water-in-silicone mixture, which allows for a slick application and helps provide a streak-free finish. Pigment is also a key ingredient in the formula to even out your skin tone and make your skin look flawless. Many liquid foundation formulas also come with additional skincare ingredients, like built-in moisturizer or SPF, which help to keep your skin hydrated and protected from the elements. 

This type of foundation also comes in a wide range of coverage levels, from light (or sheer) to full coverage. Light coverage foundation is similar to a BB cream or tinted moisturizer, and adds just the slightest amount of pigment. Full coverage foundation is designed to cover up any imperfections and create an even, blank base to build the rest of your makeup look on. Most liquid foundations are also super buildable, so you can layer and create your own custom coverage as you see fit.  

The Benefits of Powder Foundation

Powder foundation is a dry formula that’s made up of pigments and minerals. This foundation comes as either a pressed or loose powder. Whichever option you pick is entirely up to you. Either way, you’ll apply it to the face using a large powder brush.

With the right formula and a little bit of work, this style of foundation can provide full coverage, but it’s especially great for anyone looking for light to medium coverage. A swipe of sheer powder foundation can lightly even out your skin without looking cakey, for a “your-skin-but-better” look. Powder foundation is also an ideal choice for anyone with oily skin, as powder formulas are great at absorbing excess oil. And if you tend to sweat easily or you expect to be wearing foundation in the heat, powder foundation should be your go-to. Unlike liquid foundation, which tends to melt in the heat, powder can easily stay put in high temperatures. 

When to Choose Powder vs. Liquid Foundation

1. Consider your skin type.

If you have oily skin or combination skin, powder foundation might be your best bet. Powder formulas are excellent at absorbing and controlling excess oil. If you have combination skin and you’d like to get the best of both worlds, you could try using powder foundation in oily areas and a liquid formula in other areas around your face. Or, top off your liquid foundation with a dusting of powder foundation for a full coverage, oil-free look. Those with mature or dry skin may find more benefits in a liquid foundation, as powder foundation can settle into fine lines and wrinkles.

2. Consider your desired coverage.

In general, a powder foundation will provide a lighter level of coverage than a liquid foundation. Some powders skew closer to full coverage and are buildable, but if you want a foundation that’s honestly and truly a full-coverage product, go with a liquid foundation. 

3. Consider your desired finish.

You can achieve a matte finish with both powder or liquid formulas, but powder foundations tend to pull just slightly ahead in this category. The formula’s oil-absorbing capabilities lend itself well to this type of finish. Those in search of a dewy finish can also achieve this look with either type of foundation, but it tends to be more common and easier to achieve using a liquid formula.   

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