Difference Between Loose Powder, Pressed Powder and Two Way Cake

Ever wondered the differences between loose powders, pressed powders and two way cakes? Here are the answers!

Just as its name suggests, Loose Powders are powders that come in loose form. They usually come in a sifting pot and are used to set liquid foundation. Their coverage tends to range from sheer to medium. Available colors include translucent, flesh tones and correctors. Loose powders are also suitable for all types of skin.

How To Apply Loose Powder: I personally like to use a huge powder puff. Dip the puff directly into the loose powder, squeeze out excess by rubbing the two sides towards each other then apply onto the face in a light, patting motion. Another way to apply loose powder is with a big, fluffy brush.

Pressed Powders, on the other hand, come in a compact with a built-in mirror. They offer great portability and are perfect for touch-ups. They also provide heavier coverage and usually give a matte finish. Again, they come in translucent, flesh-toned and correcting colors. Pressed powders are more suitable for normal to oily skin.

How To Apply Pressed Powder: Pressed powders too can be applied with a brush or a powder puff. I myself prefer using a brush for a more natural look. Simply swirl your brush over the powder, tap off excess then buff into the skin using a circular motion.

Similar to pressed powders, Two Way Cakes, also known as Wet/Dry Powder Foundations, come in a compact and are the most versatile. They can be used wet or dry as a foundation or for touch-ups. Applying them wet will give heavier coverage but you can apply them dry for a sheerer effect. Two-way cakes only come in flesh-toned colors to match your skintone. They are also most popular in Asia and are more suitable for those with normal to oily skin.

How To Apply Two Way Cakes: To apply a two way cake wet, dampen a sponge and squeeze out the excess water. Dip the sponge directly into the product then pat directly over the skin. To use it dry, run a big powder brush over the product then buff into the skin.

Phyllis Li is the Founder and Editor-in-chief of Makeup For Life, one of the top 50 beauty blogs that focuses on celebrity makeup breakdowns, product reviews, makeup tutorials and all things beauty. Having lived and traveled in North America, Europe and Asia, she was exposed to different techniques and products at an early age and hopes to put a global perspective towards beauty. Phyllis won the Best Content Award by Total Beauty in 2008 and has been featured in various publications and websites including ELLE, Glamour.com, Yahoo Shine!, AOL Stylelist, Nylon Korea, VOGUE China, Ming Pao Daily (Canada) and Shanghai Weekly. In 2010, she was appointed one of the nine Real Women Ambassadors in the United States to take part in the Latisse® Wishes Challenge, working with Hollywood celebrity Kathy Ireland and raised over $400,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant wishes for approximately 54 children. In 2012, she teamed up with luxury skincare brand TATCHA and released a limited-edition 3-Piece Set of her favorite beauty products. Phyllis currently lives in Chicago, US. She is a regular contributor to Shanghai Daily's StyleHai Magazine and a member of the Glam Beauty Network.


  1. you said you like mac sheer select powder, does that still give med/good coverage or is it too sheer to use alone as foundation?

  2. The MAC Select Sheer powder is *not* a powder foundation. It is too sheer for that and I just use it for touchups. If you want something with more coverage, go for the Studio Fix.

  3. My personal favorite powder is the Shu Uemura loose powder. Come check out my blog grayburn.blogspot.com :)

    Thanks for your great articles!

  4. My personal favorite powder is the Shu Uemura loose powder. Come check out my blog grayburn.blogspot.com :)

    Thanks for your great articles!

  5. Hey Phylz,

    I am wondering if you use falsies everyday? I am looking for some natural style but yet have a little oomph… Like a tone down version of Ardell 106? I had Ardell 106 but they look a little too dramatic… lol

  6. hello..i just want to know, can two way cakes can be used as a pressed powder too? or the purpose of this two way cakes is for foundation only? thanks for answering.. im soooo virgin in this make up stuff… :)

Leave a Reply