Game, Set, Matte: The Pitfalls of Powder and Shine

Published in: Beauty Tips, Guest Post, Makeup Tips/How To


Written by Sam

Game, set, matte! Only shine when and where you want to with the help of today’s guest post from Sam.

Strike the Powder
Photo by sekushy

Some of the most inappropriately applied makeup products are the ones we use every day, like shine/shimmer products and setting powder. When used correctly, they can produce beautiful, subtle effects, but when used improperly things can go terribly, horribly, no-good, very badly wrong.


Let’s review some application techniques and tips to help you use shine/shimmer products and setting powders to perfection.

Beware of Shine

Shiny isn’t usually a word you want used in reference to your face. It brings to mind other less attractive words like greasy, oily, dirty — you get the picture. But no glow at all can make skin look flat, two-dimensional, dull, and expose things like large pores and dry patches (not a good look either).

What we want is a happy medium — a selective sheen — with a bit of “wetness” on the tops of our cheekbones, down the bridge of the nose, on the chin, and on our cupid’s bow. Everywhere else should be more or less matte.

To pinpoint exactly where to apply, stand almost directly under an overhead light, and note where the light highlights the planes of your face. We’ll call these your highpoints.

When you have some time to prepare, try using a cream or liquid foundation, and then dust a powder lightly over every part of your face except for your highpoints. Blot these areas with a tissue instead. This way, the moisture in your foundation will produce a skin-like gleam only where you want it to, and where one would appear naturally.

For a more satiny look — say, if you have naturally oily skin or find yourself in harsh lighting — try the reverse, applying the powder to your highpoints, while blotting the rest of your face with a tissue.

Over the course of the day, try misting your face with a bit of distilled water before refreshing your makeup. The temporary moisture will keep your skin looking more like healthy skin than settled foundation.

To sum up, remember that shine and shimmer act as highlighters. They bring features forward and make them appear more prominent, so if you think you have a big nose and want to minimize it, skip the enhancer, and matte it into submission instead.

Powder Problems

Powder has texture, and texture, when it’s mixed with moisture, is a big hell nah for your face. If your face has too much moisture on it from your moisturizer and/or your foundation, powder will cling unevenly to your skin and settle or clump rather than bond.


Discolored blotches and raised areas may not be noticeable in low light or from a distance, but they will be easy to spot up close. Avoid this by blotting your face lightly with a tissue to remove excess oils and moisture before applying powder. If you have time to spare, take a disposable cosmetic sponge, and wrap a tissue around it like a Hershey’s Kiss. Use this to gently blot all over.

Often, powder problems have more to do with the powder than your application technique. Lower end powders and powders with bases containing corn starch are often not as finely milled as higher end brands, and the actual powder particles can be larger and irregularly shaped. Applying these, even lightly, can highlight differences in texture on the skin (things like scars, dry skin, etc.) and produce a bumpy, powdery look in pictures.

Instead, try to invest in higher end, silky powders with bases of silica or talc, and apply them with a puff rather than a brush (pushing powder into the skin with a puff makes it meld into your foundation, rather than sit on top). If you don’t have a puff handy, load the top of your brush with powder, and holding the bristles right above the ferrule, press and roll it into the skin as if it were a puff. You can also use a large flat-top kabuki for this.

Lastly, be careful not to sweep powder across your skin, as it can disturb and drag any previously applied products and leave you with a mottled, uneven finish. Instead, push and roll the puff or brush into your skin. It may sound silly, but place your middle finger in the middle of the back of the puff and pull either side up around it to form a sort of taco shape. Then, simply press onto the skin, and rock your finger side to side.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Now take control of your powder and shine!


Written by Sam

Sam is a 17-year-old, oddly tall guy whose love of all things skincare, makeup, and fashion started when he entered the modeling world at 14. Since then, he’s established himself as a freelance makeup artist in the theatre and fashion worlds, and started his own blog to preach the wonders of orange eyeshadow, Asian skincare, and designer fragrances to the masses.


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  1. Diana says:

    I LOVE all of Sam’s posts. I think he is an exceptional blogger…however now I’m thinking that ALL of us are walking around busted looking, using all the wrong techniques with our foundations and powders. LMAO!

  2. Katie says:

    This is good timing!

    After using Make Up For Ever’s HD powder (100% silica) for the past month or so, I am considering returning it. I can’t make it work with my foundations (MAC Pro Long Wear and Face & Body). I tried applying it on different “points” of the face, using it with different methods (duo fibres, flat-tops, even sponges), blotting the face beforehand, patting/pressing instead of brushing it on, and it still gives this flat, matte appearance. And I want to like it badly because it does sucks up the oil. (I’ve got super oily, acne-prone skin.) Suggestions, anyone? Thanks.

    • Liz! says:

      I’ll have to check that MUFE HD stuff out, I have super oily/acne prone skin too and almost nothing keeps it matte for too long. I get like 1 or 2 hours of matteness max lol. If you are worried about a flat and overly matte appearance, have you ever used a highlighting product on top of it? There’s tons of them out there, in powder, cream and liquid forms depending on what your preference is.

    • Zach says:

      I apply the MUFE HD powder after I finish my concealer, and foundation with a kabuki brush. I add the bronzer, blush, and highlighter afterwards because the silica tends to make the face look a bit pale because of the soft focus effect. The cream highlighters are my favorite, and currently I’m using MAC cream colour base in pearl.

    • Diana says:

      I could never get it to work for me either. I kept it way past my Sephora return date, so unfortunately it will never be used, but you’re right. It doesn’t seem to work well with any of my foundations and I could never find the perfect MUFE HD foundation match.

    • Sam says:

      I absolutely despise MUFE HD powder… It’s honestly worse than most cheap drugstore powders I’ve used.

      It looks chalky, dry, and emphasizes texture. And I find it doesn’t do anything to keep my oil at bay. I’ve tried applying to every way I know how, over a ton of different foundations, with and without setting spray, and I just CANNOT get it to work.

      It also looks AWFUL in flash photography. Anyone remember that Nicole Kidman powder mishap on the red carpet a year or so ago? Her artist used the HD Powder…

      My powder of choice is RCMA Loose No Color. Keeps my face demi-matte for 6+hours and still does a great job from there on. It’s super cheap ($8 for like, 3 oz!!) and works for all but the deepest skintones. I’m going to be doing a video review on it tomorrow, so check my blog/YouTube channel for that…

  3. Vijaya says:

    Great tip about rolling and not sweeping powder across the face! Thanks for this post!
    Vijaya recently posted … Apothica- Youve Earned A New Customer

  4. Cindy says:

    Great tips!
    I’ve always read about misting water on the face, but I don’t know what to do after that- do I just let the water soak in or do I blot? I’m confused 😐

    • Sam says:

      I usually mist on just enough so that my face is barely damp (you certainly don’t want it to be wet!) and let it air dry. Make sure not to touch your face during this time, or you could smudge it.

      The spritzer should be held about 6-10 inches away from the face, and should have a fine, diffused spray, not a concentrated one.

  5. JENA says:

    i was LOVE sam’s posts!

  6. Eva says:

    I’m oily and ‘dewy’ usually translates as ‘greasy’ on my face, thank you for the great tips, I’ll definitely try them out!

    • Sam says:

      I’m SO oily, so I have to be careful as well. It’s all about selective shine. If you get shine to appear where you want it, it just gives skin a healthy, youthful sheen. But all over, and you look like you just fell in a puddle of PAM.

  7. Nicole says:

    MUFE’s HD and MAC’s Prep & Prime powder are almost identical to me, and I too had trouble using it, but now have it down pat and I love them!

    1. Make sure you have blotted with a tissue first
    2. Use a velvet puff and apply a little powder to it – tap it lightly to shake off the excess, and then press the puff all over your face. I usually start on my forehead, and do the sides of my face, and then apply more powder and start at my nose and then do the rest. Usually only 2 powder applications, starting each time at somewhere in the T zone.
    3. Lightly mist your face and then blot with a tissue before finishing.

    Honestly, the first time I almost gave up, but you have to use a quarter of the amount you would use of normal powder, and you can’t use a brush….then it works great – and one tub lasts forever!

  8. Kate & Zena says:

    Great tips Sam!

    Have you ever tried the Palladio’s rice paper blotting tissues and its finishing powder? That stuff is GODLY. GODLY, I tell you. I’m oilier than a refinery in the summer (oh, the joys of combination skin) and their blotting tissues are the only thing that dries up my oil all day. I haven’t tried the finishing powder because I honestly don’t use powder except to keep my undereye concealer on (although I should). Their blotting tissues though……I love those things. It took me three years to finish one package because I swear it’s formulated to suck up oil like a vacuum cleaner.

  9. Sam says:

    Actually… I have both haha. And I feature the Blotting Sheets on my most recent blog post. The powder is great, but I never use it because it has pigmentation, and changes my foundation color… But the blotting sheets are absolutely invaluable, and SO CHEAP!!

    • Kate & Zena says:

      Yes, those blotting sheet are the greatest thing I’ve EVER found. I swear it’s a vacuum in a sheet. If they ever stop making them, I’m going to die.

      Are you using the translucent powder? It does come in translucent. I don’t care if it changes my tinted moisturizer color…because my tinted moisturizer is too dark for me (Two shades off! Why don’t they make vampire pale tinted moisturizers and foundations? Seriously, I mean VAMPIRE PALE). I’m thinking after I finish the Clinique one I’m using, I’m going to try Laura Mercier to see if they come pale enough (I just don’t like the price.)

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