The Best Powder For Setting Your Makeup (and How To Use It)

Last week, I talked (and talked and talked) about RMS “Un” Cover-Up, the all-natural concealer/foundation that goes on my face almost every single day. 

But here's the thing. Unless you have dry, pore-less, non-oil-producing skin, I cannot in good faith recommend you purchase “Un” Cover-Up without also investing in “Un” Powder (or similar). If you want to wear “Un” Cover-Up as a foundation, I think the powder is a must. 

Heck, even if you're not on the “Un” Cover-Up train (though I can't imagine why, hehe), I would still encourage you to try “Un” Powder or Tinted “Un” Powder on top of your makeup, if you're in the market for a new mattifying/setting powder. It's that good. 

Shockingly, however… I wasn't so sure about this product when I first bought it! The application method IS a bit different, so it took me a few tries to get the hang of it. I'm going to show you that today, plus all the reasons why I now looooove it. (So much so that I now own both the original “Un” Powder AND the newer Tinted “Un” Powder, which came out in 2015. Why yes, I am Rose-Marie Swift's number one fan.)

Why Use a Silica Powder

It sets and mattifies “Un” Cover-Up. My fellow RMS groupies, if you've ever tried “Un” Cover-Up, then you know how it can look, well, greasy, when you apply it over your entire face. A little dew is great on the cheeks, but it's not so cool when your forehead and upper lip are shiny, am I right? Enter “Un” Powder. A little dab here, a little dab there, and it takes the oily look away while keeping the coverage. Magic! So don't be daunted by the coconut oil in “Un” Cover-Up… by setting with a little “Un” Powder, you CAN make it work as a foundation. (And this is coming from someone with combo skin, not dry!)

It contains 100 percent silica—no talc. There's just one ingredient in “Un” Powder: silica. Tinted “Un” Powder has silica plus iron oxides, which give it the tints. You might be familiar with silica already if you've tried Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder, which was my first silica powder love going way back (more on the difference between the two in a sec). Silica is a mineral and, as far as I'm concerned, the BEST ingredient you can have in a face powder because it sops up oil and never looks cakey. Compare and contrast with talc, a more common powder ingredient that settles in lines, accentuates dryness, and can be harmful if inhaled. Say no to talc!

Ingredients (“Un” Powder): Silica

Ingredients (Tinted “Un” Powder): Silica, Iron Oxides: CI 77492, CI 77491, CI 77499 

It absorbs oil and helps makeup last longer. Probably the most amazing thing about silica, and therefore “Un” Powder, is that it's got the ability to absorb many times its weight in oil. So if you've got a complexion that is on the oilier side, it probably needs to be in your life! Personally, I've never found anything more effective at halting the dreaded mid-afternoon T-zone shine—whether I'm wearing “Un” Cover-Up or my other fave, Sappho Organics Foundation. A light application will give your makeup a lot more mileage and help prevent it from sliding around or wearing off as you go through your day.

It won't leave visible texture. If you do find yourself needing a repeat “Un” Powder application to tame shine later on, no worries. Silica has such a silky, ultra-fine texture that you can easily add another layer without your makeup going cakey. (This is a BIG gripe makeup artists have with non-finely-milled, talc-type powders. People carry them in their handbags and powder throughout the day; then, they end up with a heavy, dry, caked-on look. Most powders are simply not meant for repeat applications.)

It diffuses imperfections. But wait, there's more! Silica, because it is a mineral, also has the ability to scatter the light for a soft-focus, blurred effect on your features. This is even using the tiniest amount—it subtly minimizes the look of your pores, fine lines and wrinkles. 

The Difference Between “Un” Powder and Tinted “Un” Powder

“Un” Powder suits ALL skin tones. Even though it looks white in the pot, it is completely translucent on the skin and will not leave any white residue. This product is going to give you all the benefits I just mentioned—oil absorption, makeup-setting, blurred imperfections—but no extra coverage. 

Tinted “Un” Powder, on the other hand, does give you some additional subtle coverage. You get all the benefits of the silica, plus a hint of colour that works synergistically with “Un” Cover-Up for a “second-skin” effect. These are the shades (alas, they don't have a powder yet to match the darkest shade, 55): 

  • 0-1: Works with “Un” Cover-Up shades 00 and 11
  • 2-3: Works with “Un” Cover-Up shades 22 and 33
  • 3-4: Works with “Un” Cover-Up shades 33 and 44

Which one do I prefer? I like 'em both, but find myself reaching for plain old “Un” Powder the most often. But keep in mind, I am SUPER-minimalist with my skin and like to look like I'm not wearing anything (probably I should wear more). When I do want a more perfected, “formal face,” I use the Tinted “Un” Powder in 0-1. Whereas the translucent powder is completely undetectable, I find I can see the tinted one a teensy bit on my skin; it also requires a more careful application. But, it is a great option if you want the extra coverage.

How To Use RMS “Un” Powder

1. Apply “Un” Cover-Up or other foundation. Of course, RMS Beauty prodz are designed to work best together, but I've had good results using “Un” Powder over Sappho Foundation as well. (It's silicone-free, so perhaps that makes a difference!)

2. Grab your powder puff. Oh yes! Each RMS powder comes with a washable, re-useable powder puff. This is Rose-Marie's preferred method of application because it gives you more control and deposits less powder onto the skin than a brush. There's also less risk of inhaling the silica particles.

Don't be tempted to use a giant fluffy brush. I actually haven't been advocating for oversized powder brushes since I wrote this in 2010. Instead, for many years, I was using a domed eyeshadow brush to strategically apply my powder. No bueno with RMS “Un” Powder. I found even that deposits too much! This was why I didn't love the product at first; I had to get used to the puff. Now I can't see myself using brushes for powder ever again. 

3. Dip the puff into the powder. The puff will fit perfectly into the top of the jar, so you can shake the powder to get an even layer before you pop in the puff. Wiggle it around to get a good amount on there. You can fold the puff back and forth so that you work the powder into the puff. Tap off any excess.

4. Grip the puff with your index and middle finger. There is a ribbon strap on one side that fits two fingers perfectly.

5. Test the powder on your hand. If you're just getting started with this product and application method, it's a good idea to dab the powder on your hand before dabbing it on your face. You'll be able to see how much you're putting on.

6. Press and roll to deposit the powder on your face. The pressing motion is the key! This is how you get the most natural effect, by dabbing the powder on (instead of swishing it vigorously with a brush, which would deposit a ton of product). With the pressing and rolling, you're using less powder, and it's much less likely to cling to baby hairs and/or dry patches. It's also gentle enough not to disturb all the work you just did perfecting your foundation and concealer.

7. Only powder where you need it. Even though “Un” Powder looks extremely natural, you still don't want to over-powder. It's nice to keep a little dewiness and freshness to your skin, so be strategic about where you put it. I don't powder my cheeks at all, just my forehead, chin and around the nose, where I need extra concealer for redness. Also keep in mind that silica powders can show up white in photographs—another reason to keep your application light.

8. Prevent creasing.“Un” Powder is very handy if you get creasing with your under-eye concealer. The smallest sweep does the trick, and doesn't turn that area crepey. It's also useful with cream eyeshadows. You can powder your lids as a base to give the colour “grip,” and/or powder on top of the eyeshadow to set. 

9. Keep pimples covered. One of my favourite uses for Tinted “Un” Powder is to set concealer on blemishes. First, I apply either “Un” Cover-Up or the more budge-proof Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer. Then, I take a tiny brush and apply Tinted “Un” Powder to the blemish only. It helps the concealer stay put and gives me a little extra camouflage.

10. Thicken your lashes. Here's an unconventional use for “Un” Powder! You can actually use it to get more volume from your mascara. Apply one coat of mascara, and then dust your lashes with “Un” Powder using a Q-tip. Apply the mascara again to lock the thickness in place.

11. Keep your puff clean. As with any makeup brushes, regular washes with gentle shampoo will keep your powder puff sanitized.

Here, you can see the difference it makes—”Un” Cover-Up alone on the left. On the right, “Un” Cover-Up plus Tinted “Un” Powder (and a lil' more makeup):

You can see how well it kills the unwanted shine, and it does give me a little more coverage/colour (although the camera is picking up that I wasn't perfect with my application, oh well).

The Difference Between RMS “Un” Powder and Other Silica Powders

So, “Un” Powder isn't the only 100 percent silica powder game in town. There's also Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder (the most famous one), and NYX Studio Finishing Powder, that I know of.

I've only tried Make Up For Ever's, which some of you may recall I've talked about for years on this blog. I read some speculation here and here that the RMS is actually higher quality because “Un” Powder is made of “spherical-cut” silica, whereas Make Up For Ever is made from “sharp-cut” silica. I have no idea if that's true—I'm checking with the PR and will update when I hear. Honestly, even though I am a diehard RMS lover, I can't really tell the difference between the two products. BUT… 

The tie-breaker is the puff! 

This new method of application has been a total game-changer for me. Since both products are the same price, for the same amount of product, but the RMS “Un” Powder comes with its own powder puff, I say go for the puff! If you're into a seamless skin finish, I can't recommend it enough.

The other consideration is if you do want a little more colour/coverage. Other than the Tinted “Un” Powder, I don't know of any other pure, silica-based powders that come in a tint. RMS FTW!


So now you know why I love not just “Un” Cover-Up (as per novel here) but also “Un” Powder! This is why Rose-Marie Swift gets a lot of my disposable income—when it comes to skin, she understands me.

I actually think the powder is a great intro to the brand, as you don't have to be a natural ingredients junkie to appreciate it. I've tried sooo many powders over the years, and none performed as well as pure silica. Who woulda thought?

I also hope you'll give the powder puff application a go. It's one of those things where you don't realize how much better it looks until you try it!

Where to buy:

  • Net-a-Porter
  • The Detox Market
  • Spirit Beauty Lounge
  • Birchbox
  • Cult Beauty
  • SkinStore

Have you tried “Un” Powder or Tinted “Un” Powder?
Which one do you like best?
What's your method for applying it? (Ever tried the puff?)