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What is Pressed Powder?

By G. Melanson
Updated May 21, 2024
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Pressed powder is a cosmetic that is applied to the face for the purpose of absorbing excess oil and creating a smooth matte finish. It typically comes in a compact which also includes a mirror and applicator, and retails for around $5 US dollars (USD). This type of powder gives the skin a polished, “set” base, and is usually applied to the skin after cover up and foundation have already been applied. This product comes in translucent or sheer as well as flesh tones ranging from light beige to dark brown.

The main ingredient in compact powder is talc or talcum powder, and some brands additionally contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are natural sunscreens. Pressed powder is also included amongst certain brands of natural mineral makeup; however, the foundations and powders from such cosmetic lines tend to have a caked texture compared to regular makeup. In addition to coming in compact form, there is also a paper variation of press powder. Oil blotting pads are mini booklets of powdered sheets, which can be ripped out as required and dabbed onto the skin to absorb excess oil and leave behind a powdery finish. Another product that provides a similar effect to compact powder is liquid powder makeup, which has a creamy texture when applied but then transforms into a powder finish.

Makeup artists often choose pressed powder when creating a retro-themed face, along with black liquid eyeliner and red lipstick. For a more natural look, loose powder is best used in lieu of the pressed type, as it’s swept over the face lightly with a brush rather than patted in place. Due to the matte finish it gives the skin, pressed powder is ideal for theater makeup, which usually requires oil-absorbent cosmetics that require minimal touch-ups under hot stage lights. This powder is also effective at camouflaging blemishes when applied on top of concealer or cover up. Although pressed powder can provide a long-lasting cover for blemishes, it’s not recommended for covering fine lines and wrinkles, as its dry texture can settle in the skin’s creases and emphasize these areas rather than minimizing them.

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Discussion Comments

By Wisedly33 — On Feb 10, 2015

I used to use loose powder all the time, but I think I get better coverage from pressed powder, and it also seems to last a lot longer than the loose kind. Maybe that's because it doesn't fly everywhere every time I take the lid off.

I've found pressed powder in a lot of different shades, and I generally prefer either the matte shades or a translucent that doesn't have much specific color at all. I've been using the Rimmel brand, and I can usually pick it up at the drugstore for about four or five dollars, and it lasts a while, so it's a good bargain.

By Scrbblchick — On Feb 09, 2015

I generally use pressed powder because it isn't as messy as loose powder can be. I apply it with a cosmetic sponge and it works just fine for me.

I also like pressed powder blush, preferably the kind that has the varied colors in one pot. That gives your cheeks a much more natural blush, in my opinion. I apply it with a large blush brush. I've used loose powder blush, but like loose powder, it can make a real mess if you're not very careful, and makeup is too expensive to lose to an accident where it's dropped or jostled.

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