Mystery Solved: Why All the White Powder on Celebrity Faces

by Janine on 7 April 2011 · 33 comments

Miley Cyrus white powder faceIt’s a common question these days: what’s with all the white powder on celebrity faces? It seems today’s best pre-red-carpet advice should be have someone take a digi-flash photo of your face so you can see what the light bounce-back reveals. Your makeup could look gorgeous in person, in natural light, but when a flash hits it, you could be faced with the same state of powder affairs as a host of unfortunate stars such as Miley Cyrus, Ashley Judd and Nicole Kidman. Wanna see it in action?

why all the white powder on celebrity faces?

It’s a makeup-mishap epidemic, that white powder on celebrity faces. How is it happening? Why isn’t it fixed before the flashes go off? (Update 13 May 2014: the latest mega-star dust-up? Angelina Jolie.)

The culprit is loose silica powder, which a number of makeup brands now offer as part of their lineup. Silica powder has excellent oil-absorbing properties. Its weightless, ultra-fine texture doesn’t build up and get cakey, so it’s ideal for controlling shine. It looks flawless in natural light and on HD, and it can look flawless in flash photography too. It’s only when it’s applied too generously and not properly blended that it bounces enough light from a flash to show up in photos. The problem is that you can’t tell it’s too much and not properly blended until a flash hits it.

Makeup artist and YouTube how-to blogger Wayne Goss demonstrates the invisible-until-too-late makeup faux pas. (Thanks, Tracy, for the link!), As you’ll see, Goss doesn’t use much powder at all, and he blends quite thoroughly. And yet….

I’ve since tried Make Up For Ever High Definition Powder — the tiniest amount, just enough to temper my shiny t-zone — and am happy to report that a self-photo avec flash revealed none of it on my skin. The secret to this stuff is clearly Use. It. Sparingly, NOT as setting powder. That white powder on celebrity faces faux pas won’t happen to me. *crosses fingers*

Update: Miley Cyrus became a silica powder victim in May 2013 — it’s still happening!

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one } 7 April 2011 at 10:11 am

WOW! Glad you shared this, Janine.


Janine 7 April 2011 at 10:16 am

Thanks, Ellen! I have to thank Tracy of, who told me about this in her comment on the initial post I did yesterday! And yay Wayne Goss for demonstrating exactly how this can happen — oh dear.


Tracy 7 April 2011 at 3:47 pm

:D Thanks Janine!! *hug*


Janine 7 April 2011 at 3:50 pm

Thank YOU! Now no more puzzling over how a makeup artist could miss such a thing or whether the celebrity herself is so mean that no-one told her about her makeup fail! Instead, a new geeky detail about what makeup is best for certain circumstances! Whee!


Rasilla 7 April 2011 at 10:15 am

It’s funny cause MUFE tweeted several weeks back that it wasn’t their fault and that it was just rumours that their Product was the cause of these issues XD


Janine 7 April 2011 at 10:26 am

It isn’t fair to blame MUFE, but if it is their powder, it doesn’t mean it’s bad, just that it’s not right for this medium. The texture of that powder is super tricky. It’s so sheer that it appears to disappear quickly, but has a superfine chalky texture that sticks around to soak up oil on the skin. Great for HD filming, but when it comes to snapshots, a flash bounces light off that superfine pigment. Oops.

It’s possible none of the makeup artists used MUFE, but it’s what Wayne Goss uses in his demo, and… well.


Anya 7 April 2011 at 5:09 pm

Doesn’t the illuminator do the same thing?


Janine 7 April 2011 at 8:42 pm

You mean create highlights? I don’t think the purpose of the powder is to highlight in this case as much as it is to set the makeup. Creating a highlight by letting it sit before lightly brushing it away is a side effect, usually a good one with loose or standard transluscent powder. It’s just this powder needs more blending than is obvious from just looking — which makes it perfect for high-def filming, anyway.


Justine 8 April 2011 at 12:25 am

wayne is genius, I’ve been watching his videos for a long time, and take what he says seriously, he is honest and concise. Ya the HD powder is said to be the culprit, wearing anything with SPF can cause that white glare too though.


Annabelle 8 April 2011 at 8:18 am

How “illuminating!” Thanks for posting this – I’ve never used the HD powder but I’ve always wanted to try it. Now I know it comes with a caveat.


Janine 8 April 2011 at 8:24 am

Love that you’re not discounting HD Powder because of these incidents! It’s a great powder and deserves attention for what it does well!


Naveen 11 April 2011 at 3:19 pm

Thanks for this post – I had no idea this could happen. All I’ve ever seen is the “ghost face” effect when powder isn’t blended in to the neck for a flawless face-neck appearance.


Janine 27 April 2011 at 7:33 pm

It’s one of those sneaky makeup fails — unless someone checks by taking a precautionary digital flash photo, it’s invisible!


Rhenicia 27 April 2011 at 10:06 am

omg… very embarrassing! i just did a post on this as well! it was on the wendy williams show! hopefully these celeb mua will use sparingly next time like you said :)

great post!



Rhenicia 27 April 2011 at 10:36 am

I’ve added this video to my post! I liked the comparison with the photos!


Janine 27 April 2011 at 7:35 pm

It’s a good video, isn’t it? Wayne Goss does well with all his videos; this one is awesome for solving The Great White Powder Mystery!


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