This Sweat-Friendly Makeup Staple Is a Warm-Weather Must

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I came of makeup age in the era of BareMinerals, a brand that popularized the idea of loose powder foundation for a large swath of mall-going millennials. Try as I might—I never quite took to the lighter-than-air formulas or how they dusted onto my skin. But after a makeup artist suggested I look into powder for my combination skin type, I set out to find the best powder foundation—one that masters the art of the barely-there look while still offering ample coverage.

Internet research regularly points to the same brands (you’ll see your Diors, Chanels, Urban Decays, and MACs), so I did what any red-blooded, mall-going millennial would do—went to my local Sephora to ask what their top-selling powder foundations are. The good people with headsets swiftly led me to the aisles for Laura Mercier (a classic) and Make Up For Ever (a MUA fave). “It’s what most professional makeup artists use on photoshoots,” I was told of the latter.

I’ve been using my color-matched compacts for the past few weeks, and while they’re both fantastic options, I have thoughts on both (and a clear winner). But before I touch on that…

The Benefits of Powder Foundation

Unlike cream or liquid foundation, powder foundation doesn’t contain any water. Comprised mostly of finely milled pigments, emollients, and often talc, powder foundations are great for normal, combination, and oily skin types, especially ones that have oil-controlling ingredients. (Dry or mature complexions can blend powder foundation with a liquid primer to lock in a bit of hydration.)  

If you’re looking for light coverage or a way to control shine, powder foundation is a fantastic option, especially during the hot summer months.

Of course, too much can lead to an overly matte finish (or the dreaded cakey look) and can leave skin feeling completely dried out. So the product you use (and how you apply it) makes a world of difference.

Below are my thoughts on Sephora’s most popular powder foundations (at least at the Dallas location) along with a few other hits that offer lighter-than-air coverage for every budget.  

Laura Mercier Smooth Finish Foundation Powder

This is the stuff. It completely obliterated all my iffy feelings about powder foundations. Well, almost. As my Sephora friends mentioned, this lovely matte finish can be drying, even for combination skin. But a nice liquid primer or a few drops of your favorite face oil should help balance things out.

The coverage is beautifully buildable, and my skin (when properly moisturized before application) felt like silk. The super fine particles create a lovely blurring effect but still leave room for things like freckles to shine. This one did require a bit more work to ensure the powder was evenly dispersed compared to Make Up For Ever.

What’s to Love: The silky feel and no-makeup finish.

What’s Not to Love: The price. But the quality (even of the compact and included sponge) is worth it.

caitlin clark no makeup
caitlin clark wearing foundation

I was a little less familiar with Make Up For Ever, but if it’s good enough for the fine folks on BeautyTok, it’s certainly good enough for me. While I didn’t love it quite as much as Laura Mercier’s powder foundation, I was impressed with how smoothly the powder went on, especially considering how fine the particles are. (Also, kudos to the physical compact, which survived my butter fingers dropping it on the cold hard floor.)

Make Up For Ever’s powder felt more hydrating than Laura Mercier, though both foundations will eventually leave skin feeling dry if you don’t apply a liquid primer.

What’s to Love: It’s almost impossible to mess up a Make Up For Ever application, which swipes on ridiculously smooth.

What’s Not to Love: While it had a lighter touch than Laura Mercier, it also wasn’t quite as blurring. (I like my coverage to, well, cover.) It also didn’t leave my skin feeling as silky.

caitlin clark wearing no make_best powder foundation
caitlin clark wearing makeup for ever foundation
isabelle no makeup_best powder foundations
isabelle wearing powder foundation

This foundation has me shook. As a forever fan of the dewy look, I hesitated to try something that would leave me with a more matte, poreless complexion. But after a few breakouts and even bug bites on my décolletage, I decided to dive in.

This product wears like a second skin. The foundation covers up breakouts and red spots while also evening out my complexion. And with areas that see a little more shine like my T-zone, I’m happy to have a go-to for absorbing oil. Final note: Being someone whose skin sees a lot during my daytime hours (between workouts, screen-heavy meetings, and the like), I’m glad to have something I can rely on and reapply throughout the day for customizable coverage when I need it. — Isabelle, Managing Editor

What’s to Love: This foundation comes in 12 shades, offering a premium color match that’s more accurate than its competitors. I also love the Rubicell applicator, which makes for easy subsequent applications and even makes it simple to pair the foundation with my tinted liquid moisturizer.

What’s Not to Love: While I love the lightweight formulation, I wore this during one particularly sticky beginning-of-June wedding. After an hour out in the relentless humidity, suffice it to say, this did not hold up. (But honestly, what could?)

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