Should You Use Liquid, Cream, Or Powder Makeup?

by Alexa Tucker

There are endless options out there when it comes to beauty products, and while that does keep things fun and interesting, the array of choices can also feel pretty overwhelming. Not only are we talking about different types of products, from concealer to blush to mascara, but each category also encompasses literally thousands of brands, colors, and formulas to choose from. One of the trickiest dilemmas: Should you use liquid, cream, or powder face makeup?

Celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose, who's worked with the likes of Lupita Nyong'o, Priyanka Chopra, and Rachel Weisz, is here to share some of his expert advice on the matter. And like most beauty "guidelines," the bottom line is that it comes down to the individual. Personal preference plays a big role, as well as your skin type and the look you're going for. While some people prefer the dewier finish of a cream product, others like the mattifying power of powder.

Old-school makeup 101 says that you should always stick to one type (for example, if you're going to use one liquid product on your skin, use all liquids), but Barose says that's actually not always true, so there's no need to commit to only one kind of formula in some cases. If you are on the fence though or you just aren't sure how to use different types of products together, here's his advice for choosing between liquids, creams, and powders.

Use your skin type as a guide, as well as the look you're after.

"Liquid [foundation] generally looks more sheer and some dry and set to powdery finishes, so it's great if you're oily and want that fresh look without too much shine," says Barose. "Cream tends to stay shiny, which is great if you have dry or mature skin," he adds. Creams tend to give off a glow-y look that doesn't dry up, he adds. (As someone with relatively dry skin, cream and mousse products are my personal fave.)

A third option is good old powder. "Powder is just the 101 in general," he says. "You can blend, layer it on top of other powders, and it is the easiest to manipulate," he adds. A word of caution, though: Too many powders can end up looking cake-y or setting into fine lines, so don't use more than you need.

You can use powder formulas on top of liquids and creams to set them in place — but try to avoid using liquids and creams over powder.

Using powder on top of liquid or cream formulas is A-OK — but make sure you let the liquid set first and blot away excess product before you go in with powder, says Barose. He likes Lancôme Translucence Mattifying Silky Pressed Powder. "It's sheer and tones down shine without covering the makeup color. I always put it in my clients’ touch up kits to stay polished," he says.

Lancome Translucence Mattifying Silk Pressed Powder, $32, Nordstrom

He also reccomends only using it on your T-zone and a bit under the eyes. "Use a small brush to apply a light kiss of powder so it sets the rest of the cream makeup so you won't look sloppy or shiny in the wrong places," he says.

However, things get tricky when you try to apply liquid or cream formulas on top of powder, he says, so going the opposite direction is risky. (That's when things are more likely to get cake-y or clumpy).

Like every rule though, there are exceptions to this — here are some guidelines for using liquid over powder if you must.

"If it's in small areas that are not wide, like the eyelids or thin areas of highlighter, you might be able to get away with dabbing cream or liquid on top of face powder," says Barose. (For the record, as far as liquid highlighters go, he's a fan of Lancôme Click and Glow Liquid Highlighter.)

Lancome Click & Glow Highlighting Skin Fluid, $23, Sephora

However, this requires two things: good blending skills and a trusty Beautyblender. "Definitely always dampen your Beautyblender first if you need to blend cream or liquid on top of powder," says Barose.

BeautyBlender, $20, Amazon

"Sometimes I take soft makeup remover pads (like my favorite, Neutrogena) and gently pat it over the area to moisten and pick up excess powder before applying cream or liquid on top. It looks fresher that way," he says. "The key is to gently tap, not drag, and not to use too much product."

Ultimately, it's about finding what works for your skin type.

There's no hard-and-fast rule about what type of products look best on skin in general. Maybe you love just a dusting of powder, or you find it doesn't give you the coverage you're looking for as much as, say, a liquid product. Or maybe you just prefer working with cream products. In any case, that's where the fun part comes in — it's an excellent excuse to try different formulas, brands, and types of products to figure out what you love.