How to Know If You Should Be Using Powder, Liquid or Cream Foundation

It’s a dilemma that can be difficult to figure out on your own. As powder, liquid and cream makeup formulas continue to evolve and change for the better, it’s hard to know which products work best on your skin and which ones work well together. There are so many questions to consider. Do liquids work better than powders? Which one lasts longer? How do you layer one on top of the other? If you have a makeup bag filled with powder, cream and liquid products, here’s what you need to know about selecting the right products and how to use them together to get a long-lasting, flawless finish.

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Consider Your Skin Type
The pros and cons of powder vs. liquid foundations are many, but a basic rule to follow is to start with your skin type. If you have oily skin, pick up a powder as they tend to provide a matte, velvety finish. “Powder foundations are excellent for oily, combination skin or those who prefer a matte finish,” says Cover FX global brand ambassador Derek Selby. “These are also the easiest and quickest formulas to apply. If you are a beginner or time-challenged, go for powder.”

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Those with drier skin, or mature skin, should opt for liquid or cream foundations, as they don’t tend to sit in fine lines or enlarged pores like powders can. Liquids or creams are more blendable and provide a fuller coverage than their powder counterparts. Cosmetic chemist Kelly Dobos says, “Liquid foundations can have a higher degree of coverage and contain ingredients that help pigments spread more easily on the skin. They also contain humectants and emollients that help hydrate and soften skin.”

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While liquids are great for blending and hydrating, the same emollients that make them more pliable and easy to work with also make them more prone to crease, melt or move off of your face. New powder formulas are making it easier to get the same benefits of a liquid base without these issues of movement and durability. “Today's powder formulations can be quite sophisticated. The development of surface-treated pigments brought some of the properties of liquid foundations to powders. Surface-treated pigments are enhanced by a layer of silicone or other materials that improve application, how they feel on the skin and add long-wear properties,” says Dobos.

How To Layer Products
Layering powders and creams can seem confusing, but a simple trick to remember is that powders go on better over liquids and not the other way around. Even if your preferred base is a powder, the pros recommend applying it after you’ve applied your creams or liquids. “A good rule of thumb to remember is to use creams or liquids first and then powder on top. If you love a cream blush, contour or highlighter, apply it first and then your powder foundation on top,” recommends Selby. But, there are exceptions. “It really depends on the products, but products that contain talc are harder to blend into each other as talc is drying. Because all Cover FX products are talc free, you can actually apply cream or liquid products on top of powder,” he adds.

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Layering powder over liquids isn’t without its own set of drawbacks. “Some polymeric ingredients in liquid foundations that can be incompatible with ingredients in other gel, creams or liquids and can cause the products to form little clusters on the skin. This occasionally happens with some primers as well,” says Dobos. “When layering any other type of makeup over liquid products, be sure to give your foundation adequate time to dry otherwise it can streak and become uneven. Your best bet is to test the products you want to use together on your inner arm before applying them to your face to check for compatibility.”