The best powder foundations for quality coverage that keeps shine at bay

Our expert beauty testers have handpicked the best powder foundations for flawless coverage across all budgets

A selection of the best powder foundations by e.l.f., bareMinerals and Fenty Beauty
(Image credit: Future/brands pictured)

There's nothing quite like the convenience and practicality of the best powder foundations. Having your trusty base with you while you're on the go, with minimal risk of spillage or mess, can be a godsend. From lunchtime retouches to a freshening up before happy hour, or as a travel or wedding-day purse essential, powder foundation can solve myriad complexion emergencies.

But portability isn't the only thing that makes powder one of the best foundation choices (although it's up there among the reasons why we love it). Powders absorb excess oil, help blur imperfections, set liquid makeup, and give your look extra staying power. "Use a [loosely packed] sheer powder brush and sweep powder foundation onto the skin for a lightweight finish," advises Bobbi Brown Pro Artist Hollie Ellis (opens in new tab). "On areas where you want a little extra coverage, a full coverage face brush also provides a cushion effect; simply press and stipple into the skin. Tailor this to those areas where you want coverage to avoid the skin looking cakey."

Unlike powder foundations of days gone by, which had dry, chalky formulas and limited shade ranges, today's powders feature innovations that help create a flawless base with surprisingly substantial coverage, similar to what you can expect from liquids, creams, and the best foundation sticks.

How we tested the best powder foundations

Why you can trust Woman & Home Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

A selection of the best powder foundations from Estée Lauder, e.l.f. Cosmetics, bareMinerals, and Fenty Beauty

A selection of the powder foundations one of our testers trialled for this feature

(Image credit: Lucy Abbersteen)

In order to ensure that our guide to the best powder foundations truly does feature the best of the best, our testers put dozens of formulas through their paces to see how well they covered and lasted. While trialing and testing the various powders, they took note of the following factors:

  • Number of shades available
  • Packaging
  • Format – is it loose or pressed?
  • Ease of application and buildability
  • Finish 
  • How it wears throughout the day – did it go shiny, patchy, or transfer?
  • Cost 

The result is a guide that covers all price points, from drugstore powder foundations to higher-end, luxurious compacts, to ensure there's an option for all budget levels. Our best powder foundations run the gamut from MAC Cosmetics Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation to Chanel Le Teint Ultra Tenue Compact, among others. And, of course, we pay homage to bareMinerals, the leading brand in powder foundation with a cult following. 

The best powder foundations, by our beauty experts

bareMinerals Original Foundation

(Image credit: bareMinerals)

1. bareMinerals Original SPF 15 Foundation

Best powder foundation overall

Specifications

RRP: $32/£23
Shades: 30
Coverage: Light, buildable coverage

Reasons to buy

+
Vegan
+
Mineral-based
+
Customizable coverage (sheer to full)
+
Won't clog pores, settle into fine lines, or cause breakouts

Reasons to avoid

-
Could do better at covering hyperpigmentation

A real cult beauty buy, mineral foundation suddenly became a makeup bag essential when bareMinerals hit the shelves. Happily, this is still as good as we remember, leveraging a vegan formula and buildable coverage that won't look cakey, clog pores, cause breakouts, or settle into fine lines. Not to mention it has a broad and diverse shade range (30 options to be exact), and the formula is hypoallergenic, which is ideal for sensitive skin types, though we would stress that it works for all complexions, as our testers with different skin needs loved it.

Not all powder foundations are buildable, but this loose formula works as a very sheer veil that can be dialed up to full coverage – we found that it was able to disguise discoloration and blur the look of pores and some blemishes very easily. The brand's Get Started Kit (opens in new tab) is great if you're new to mineral foundation, as it contains buffing brushes, two shades of foundation (plus two other brilliant products), and full instructions from the pros. Truly, everything you need.

MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation

(Image credit: MAC Cosmetics )

2. MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation

Best powder foundation for oily skin

Specifications

RRP: $33/£24
Shades: 53
Coverage: Medium-to-full buildable coverage

Reasons to buy

+
Extensive shade range
+
Non-streaking, non-caking, non-settling
+
Sweat and humidity resistant
+
Non-drying and mattifying

Reasons to avoid

-
Might feel too heavy for some

This powder foundation is a longstanding woman&home favorite - one that we'll wax poetic about and laud as the best foundation for oily skin. Unlike many creamier formulas, MAC's Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation was designed with oily skin in mind, so the pigment is high and its coverage strong but without the pore-clogging clagginess you might be used to from compacts of yore.

Promising up to 12 hours of wear and eight hours of oil control, our testers found that it did a great job of providing long-lasting coverage and staving off shine, making this one of the best matte foundations on our list. The mirrored compact packaging is extremely light and slim, ideal for anyone who loves a makeup declutter, and comes in MAC's signature monochromatic colorway, making for a chic-feeling user experience. Yet more evidence that MAC is unlikely to let you down.

e.l.f Cosmetics Camo Powder Foundation

(Image credit: e.l.f Cosmetics)

3. e.l.f. Cosmetics Camo Powder Foundation

Best affordable powder foundation

Specifications

RRP : $11/£11
Shades : 30
Coverage: Medium-to-full

Reasons to buy

+
Affordable 
+
Extensive shade range
+
Generous size

Reasons to avoid

-
Can become a little cakey if too much is applied

We already love e.l.f. Cosmetics for making high-performing products available to everybody, thanks to its lower price point. This is a brand that really has won over makeup fans thanks to viral buys like Halo Glow Liquid Filter and Poreless Putty Primer. But we're here to talk about its brilliant powder foundation. This addition to the super popular Camo line only launched this year, but it has already cemented itself as one of the best powder foundations on the high street, in our opinion.

The shade range here deserves a mention as it's very inclusive, covering a broad spectrum of skin tones. The coverage is also excellent –  as is the staying power. Just don't apply too much as it can cake a little around areas like the nose if you overdo things. We found that it lasted well even on very oily skin types and love the generous size of the compact. e.l.f. has done it again with another affordable and effective beauty buy!

Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Powder Foundation

(Image credit: Fenty Beauty)

4. Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Powder Foundation

Best powder foundation for a truly matte finish

Specifications

RRP : $39/£30
Shades : 50
Coverage : Buildable, full

Reasons to buy

+
Extensive shade range
+
Buildable formula
+
Promises no flashback
+
Chic packaging 

Reasons to avoid

-
Finish will be too matte for some

According to the brand, Rihanna could never find the perfect powder foundation and spent three whole years perfecting this formula. And we have to hand it to her, this is a brilliant powder foundation that ticked many of our tester's boxes. 

Powder foundations aren't always buildable, as some go cakey if over-applied. That's not the case here, as this velvety soft formula's coverage can be built up with ease thanks to its light-as-air consistency. That extends to the wearing experience, as we barely noticed that we were wearing any powder during the testing process. We would, however, stress that the finish is undoubtedly matte, so steer clear if you prefer a glowy or more radiant-looking base. 

As is the case with the original Pro Filt'r Foundation, the shade range is very extensive, with 50 different options to cater to all skin tones and undertones. As ever with Rihanna's makeup products we are seriously impressed by this powder foundation. Not to mention that the minimalist, octagonal white compact looks seriously chic.

Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay In Place Powder Foundation

(Image credit: Estée Lauder)

5. Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay In Place Matte Powder Foundation

Best silky powder foundation

Specifications

RRP : $48/£39.50
Shades : 40
Coverage: Buildable, medium to full

Reasons to buy

+
Silky soft, very fine powder
+
Non-comedogenic
+
Luxurious compact
+
Refillable 

Reasons to avoid

-
Fairly pricy

If you've ever read an Estée Lauder Double Wear foundation review, you'll be aware that it is one of the most iconic foundations on the market, but did you know there's a powder version? In a chic black-and-gold compact, this powder foundation feels seriously luxurious from the moment you pick it up – something that we found extends to the formula inside. 

This powder is very finely milled and has a silky soft feel, blending into the skin with ease. In fact, it's so fine that it also doubles as a setting powder (great news for those fans who are married to their liquid Double Wear) and it takes the edge off any shiny patches perfectly.

Both humidity and sweat-resistant, this promises to control oil for up to 12 hours, and much like the original foundation, we can attest to the fact that it does have great staying power. That luxury experience does come with a significant price tag – it's more than three times the cost of the cheapest powder foundation in our round-up – but if it's a luxury buy you're after and you can afford it, we think you'll be as impressed as we were.

Sisley Phyto-Teint Éclat Compact Powder Foundation

(Image credit: Sisley)
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6. Sisley Phyto-Teint Éclat Compact Powder Foundation

Best dewy powder foundation

Specifications

RRP: $130/£94
Shades: 6
Coverage: Light and natural

Reasons to buy

+
Silky and second-skin texture
+
Smooth and buildable application
+
Diffuses light 
+
Ultra luxurious user experience 

Reasons to avoid

-
Very expensive

Everything about this foundation - from the sleek claret compact to the incredibly finely-milled powder to the matte but somehow also glowy finish - says luxury. The price does too, of course, but if you've got a little more to spend and want a truly fabulous powder base, then we think that this should be it. Use the soft peachy sponge to apply and blend the silky powder; the coverage is light at first, but we found that you can easily build it up bit by bit where needed, say, around the nose and under the eyes. Alternatively, you can leave a sheer look wherever you want your skin to show through.

We know it sounds unusual to describe a powder foundation as dewy-looking, but Sisley Phyto-Teint Éclat Compact Powder Foundation won't cake or look flat no matter how much you layer on; such is its lovely, light-diffusing effect. If you want a weightier look, you could wet the sponge to lay the powder down in a more robust way to offset a stronger smoky eye or lip look. 

Clinique Beyond Perfecting Powder Foundation + Concealer

(Image credit: Clinique )

7. Clinique Beyond Perfecting Powder Foundation + Concealer

Best powder foundation for acne-prone skin

Specifications

RRP: $34/£25
Shades: 12
Coverage: Full coverage

Reasons to buy

+
2-in-1 multipurpose makeup product
+
100% fragrance-free
+
Sweat- and humidity resistant
+
Smooth, blendable application

Reasons to avoid

-
Has to be built up slowly 

Compact foundation can be a very good thing indeed if you suffer from breakout-prone or oily skin, as the powdery formula easily absorbs excess sebum. This silky, finely-milled compact from Clinique is a great choice if you're looking for medium coverage with a side order of skin-clearing ingredients. 

Featuring an oil-free formula, this foundation-concealer hybrid imparts a natural matte finish and our testers reported that it lasts all day on all but the oiliest of areas. We did notice that it looks quite light at first, so don't be afraid to load up little by little with a sponge – this gradual approach will avoid your skin feeling heavy – and also don't forget to wash said sponge between uses to avoid bacteria-friendly build-up. As it's aimed at blemish-prone skin the coverage may be too high for those looking for a sheer, barely-there base. Otherwise, this would suit a wide range of makeup wearers seeking the best powder foundation. 

Bobbi Brown Skin Weightless Powder Foundation

(Image credit: Bobbi Brown )

8. Bobbi Brown Skin Weightless Powder Foundation

Best creamy powder foundation

Specifications

RRP: $52/£36.50
Shades: 17
Coverage: Medium to full buildable coverage

Reasons to buy

+
Silky and oil-free formula
+
Doesn't look cakey
+
Great color match

Reasons to avoid

-
Coverage is quite high, which may not suit everyone

A household name for high-quality, high-performing foundations, we knew we could trust base maestro Bobbi to come up with a beautiful, natural powder foundation that we immediately want to swap our regular liquid for. The main selling point of Bobbi Brown Skin Weightless Powder Foundation is the fact that it isn't made up of dry ingredients pressed into the compact; instead, a liquid mix is baked for 12 hours until set. It's safe to say that we were intrigued. 

The result? A formula that covers and evens out skin tone without feeling at all heavy or drying our complexions out. It blends particularly nicely for a powder, which we assume is down to its liquid origin. We couldn't feel anything on our skin at all, which is basically the holy grail of powder foundations. Kudos to the Bobbi Brown brand for offering a decent range of shades for various skin tones, too. It was an easy decision to feature this in our edit of the best powder foundations. 

Shiseido Synchro Skin Powder Foundation

(Image credit: Shiseido)

9. Shiseido Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Custom Finish Powder Foundation

Best light coverage powder foundation

Specifications

RRP: $45/£33
Shades: 16
Coverage: Sheer to medium buildable coverage

Reasons to buy

+
Heat, humidity, and oil resistant
+
Breathable formula
+
Won't crease or transfer

Reasons to avoid

-
Won't cover pigmentation or blemishes

We agree that weightless is a very apt description of this little beauty. It would suit you if you've got reasonably well-behaved skin and are looking for light coverage and a touch of radiance enhancement in the mix. If you have more pronounced skin concerns that you wish to camouflage, you'd definitely need a concealer on hand too.

As for the formula, there's plenty of ingredient technology here that impressed us (namely, the Synchro Skin Responsive Sensory Technology, which responds and adapts to environmental shifts.) But what you really need to know is that it goes on smoothly, blends easily, and makes your skin look a little bit blurred, Photoshopped, and a lot more luminous. The long-wearing formula helps skin resist heat, oil and humidity for up to 16 hours, which we found resulted in our complexion sporting a gorgeous natural finish.

Chanel Le Teint Ultra Tenue Compact

(Image credit: Chanel )

10. Chanel Le Teint Ultra Tenue Compact

Best full coverage powder foundation

Specifications

RRP: $60/£44
Shades: 32
Coverage: Full and buildable coverage

Reasons to buy

+
Velvety formula
+
Features double-sided applicator
+
Smooth application
+
Long-lasting wear

Reasons to avoid

-
Can feel dense

Designed to be super long-wearing and launched alongside a liquid version, Chanel's foundation formula is impressive in many ways, but it won't be for everyone. If like some of our testers, you love a classically 'done' look, then you'll love this. The coverage is purposely high and covers pigmentation, rosacea, and other tone issues exceptionally well. The formula is soft and finely milled, and despite an initial bit of buffing work required, we found that it blends in very well and sets to a matte finish, which will then not budge all day long. 

As mentioned, it won't be for everyone; if you don't like or need full coverage or have dehydrated skin that needs to be saturated in emollients to look healthy, maybe give this one a pass. Also, the compact comes in fewer shades than the liquid, meaning less choice for darker skin tones, frustratingly. Otherwise, we think this is another excellent launch from Chanel in a chic compact that you'll be proud to whip out on the train. 

Vichy Dermablend Covermatte Compact Foundation

(Image credit: Vichy )

11. Vichy Dermablend Covermatte Compact Foundation

Best powder for a variety of skin types

Specifications

RRP: $21/£15
Shades: 5
Coverage: Medium-to-full buildable coverage

Reasons to buy

+
Great for a variety of skin types: dry, oily, and combination
+
Long-lasting formula
+
Very good coverage 

Reasons to avoid

-
Extremely limited shade range

Vichy's Dermablend range creates bases built to last, making Vichy a particular favorite of makeup artists on shoots (as well as the woman&home beauty team). Among the best powder foundations, this one certainly stood the test of time – we got from 7 am to 2 pm before feeling the need to touch up our oil-prone chin – and it completely knocked any redness and discoloration out of our complexion for that time, too.

The finish is full but not fake-looking, and the formula melts nicely into the skin without sitting on top of it as some powders can. The sturdy compact with a built-in mirror and sponge will withstand any amount of handbag transit, which we can vouch for based on experience. Also, we'd like to award this some bonus points for its stunning embossed finish, which adds to that whole premium-level look and feel.


What are the benefits of powder foundation?

  • Ease of use: If you don't usually wear foundation, many makeup artists recommend starting with powder; it's often easier to apply and won't leave any telltale streaks or visible lines. Most also include a sponge or puff, which makes things exponentially handier for travel or on the go. Many of the best foundation brushes may also be seamlessly used on a powder formula.
  • Mattifying properties: Powder foundations are great for oily or combination skin types due to their ultra-lightweight base. The powder absorbs extra oil and can easily be used to touch up and remedy any excess shine or grease spots throughout the day. "Foundation powder gives you a more matte finish and is really easy to use with a sponge," explains celebrity makeup artist Lisa Armstrong (opens in new tab).

What skin type should use powder foundation?

Any skin type can use powder foundation, but it tends to suit those with oilier complexions because of powder's blotting properties and its ability to both mattify and keep shine from developing throughout the day. 

If you do have dry skin but prefer the look and feel of a powder finish, the key is to make sure you're moisturizing well before applying your powder – this will soften from the get-go, preventing the powder from clinging to those areas of dry skin and looking noticeably patchy. Our guide to the best foundations for dry skin has all the tips you need to master your base. 

How to apply the best powder foundations

You may know how to apply foundation with liquid and cream versions, but a slightly different approach is required for the best powder foundations. 

  1. Prep your skin: Once you've cleansed your face to ensure you're starting with a clean canvas, you'll also want to incorporate serum, moisturizer, and potentially also a primer that suits your skin type in order to hold the makeup in place for long wear. 
  2. If you're using a powder brush: Powder brushes help deliver non-cakey, sheer coverage and finish. Swirl your brush into your loose or pressed powder and gently tap off the excess. Apply the product in a circular motion, buffing the powder lightly into your forehead, cheeks, and the rest of your face. Or, if you want full coverage, focus on your T-zone first, working outward.
  3. If you're using a makeup sponge: By design, sponges give more coverage. Use the sponge to collect powder, and tap off any excess to prevent streaking and splotching. Apply the powder to the most shine-prone areas of your face and work outwards, bouncing it over the skin and working into any contours such as around the nose.
Lucy Abbersteen

Lucy is a UK-based beauty journalist who has written for the likes of Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, OK!, Women's Health and more, as well as contributing to woman&home. Her work covers everything from expert skin and haircare tips to the latest product launches and the show-stopping beauty looks spotted backstage at London Fashion Week. During her career she's interviewed some seriously famous faces, from Little Mix to Drag Race royalty The Vivienne, as well as chatting to the industry's leading hairdressers, dermatologists and make-up artists.