Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Powder for the Pasty: Review of e.l.f. Tone Correcting Powder in Cool (and a comparison with Nars Light Reflecting Pressed Powder)

Disclosure: This post contains an Amazon affiliate link.
I'm going to discuss an e.l.f. product that I know a lot of people hate right now, and I'm going to give it a favorable review. I came to my conclusions about this stuff before I posted a review of some stupid sparkly e.l.f. shit and people commented how much they also disliked this non-sparkly e.l.f. powder. So I decided to take a little more time to test it and to think about it, and ultimately I ended up in the same place I started. I like it. But as with all personal reviews of cosmetics (and other things), you'll have to consider how much you have in common with me when you try to decide whether or not e.l.f. Tone Correcting Powder in Cool ($3) will work for you. In particular, I think this is a product that will work best for people with very pale, cool- or neutral-toned, combination or oily skin. Like me.

e.l.f. Tone Correcting Powder in Cool
e.l.f. Tone Correcting Powder in Cool
As you can see, I've already used up quite a bit of this stuff, so the embossed e.l.f. logo on the bottom right is starting to fade away. I find it useful and wear it regularly.

This is one of those multi-colored products that promises to correct whatever skin-tone problems you have. At first I was really skeptical, because when you mix the colors together, won't they just cancel each other out? Like if green is supposed to cancel redness, and you mix it with pink . . . yes, yes they will. The more I thought about it, though, I realized that the point is to create a neutrally-colored powder to cancel whatever you've got going on. In this case, as the shade name suggests, the powder will end up a bit cool toned, because it has more blue than any other color in it (because it has both blue and green). If they mixed all the colors together in advance, you'd have a palette full of an ugly greyish powder. So they give you pretty pastels and let you do it yourself.

Unlike other multi-colored neutralizers, like the Stila One Step Correct Primer, with this powder you have the option (in theory) to just use one shade at a time to counteract a particular skin issue (green for redness, blue or blue+pink for sallowness, yellow for makeup that is too cool or for purple undereye circles, pink+yellow for bluish undereye circles, etc.). Of course, the effectiveness of this technique will depend how pigmented or opaque the powder is. I decided to swatch each color over black (Urban Decay eyeliner in Zero), because if I just swatched them on my pale-ass arm, you would be looking at photos of nothing right now. Swatching over black makes the pigmentation/color of each part of the powder easier to detect and can also provide an idea of how sheer this stuff is.

e.l.f. Tone Correcting Powder in Cool: swatches (from left to right) of yellow, blue, green, pink, and four colors combined
e.l.f. Tone Correcting Powder in Cool: heavy swatches (from left to right) of yellow, blue, green, pink, and all four colors combined.
When the individual colors are heavily swatched over black, it's clear that the blue powder is the least opaque. The green has least tint, showing up as nearly white here. When all four colors are combined, you get, as expected, a greyish white. A cool neutral. (This post is a long one with some large photos, so click through to see the rest.)

e.l.f. Tone Correcting Powder in Cool on left side; no powder on right.
e.l.f. Tone Correcting Powder in Cool on left side; no powder on right.
Since those swatches are very heavy, I created another swatch over black to demonstrate how opaque/sheer this stuff is. Here I swirled all the colors together and brushed it lightly over just the left half of the rectangle with a fairly fluffy powder brush, just as I would do when applying it to my face. Can you see it? It's pretty sheer, but just visible enough that I think it might appear powdery on darker or warmer-toned skin. Maybe? What is more obvious in this photo is that the left side of the black rectangle is more matte.

For individual color correcting, the yellow is the most useful of the four colors. I've found that when using concealers that are a little too pinkish/peachy-grey for me (as is often the case with drugstore concealers), I can set them with just the yellow powder and they will blend in with my fairly neutral skin much better. The green is basically useless for correcting redness, however, as you might expect from the swatch above, which is not really green at all.

What I like to use this powder for most is as an all-over finishing powder, with all the colors mixed together. It mattifies really well on my skin while still looking natural. It's possible that it makes my skin look a little paler, though it's hard to tell, because I'm already so fucking pasty. I do like the effect on my face, though. In addition, this shit has proven really long-lasting on my combination-oily skin. I can go pretty much all day without any shininess, which is rare for me.

Since I was fascinated by the comparison between Wet N Wild Take on the Day Mattifying Powder and Nars Light Reflecting Pressed Powder, I thought I'd end by comparing this e.l.f. powder to the Nars, especially because I use them both for essentially the same purpose: finishing. In the photo below, I have applied the e.l.f. powder to the right side of my face and the Nars powder to the left side of my face. Can you tell the difference? Maybe? Maybe not?

The Nars powder is not intended to mattify or color-correct like the e.l.f. stuff - instead, it's marketed as being able to reflect light to disguise pores, lines, etc. It's also supposed to be completely translucent, which a tone-correcting powder like the e.l.f. one, in contrast, obviously should not be.


e.l.f. Tone Correcting Powder
Nars Light Reflecting Pressed Powder
Honestly, I've stared at these photos for longer than is reasonable (and I stared at my face in the mirror for a similarly embarrassing amount of time the day I took them), I don't really see a damned difference. Pores, pores, everywhere. Fine lines on forehead. Whatever. Those are things that exist. I originally bought the Nars Light Reflecting Powder a few months before I got the e.l.f. powder, because I'd won an Amazon gift card and I wanted to spend it on something different from anything else I already owned. I didn't have any finishing powders, and Amazon had this Nars one selling for $32, so I decided to go for it (it's sometimes more than that on Amazon, but the price fluctuates wildly and constantly). I'd seen some impressive reviews of it on other blogs, and I did feel like it was doing something nice to my skin when I brushed it on lightly after applying my makeup. Now after getting my hands on the e.l.f. powder and seeing reviews of the Wet N Wild version, I kind of feel like I should have gone for an Hourglass or Guerlain finishing powder instead, when I was treating myself.

The Nars is a nice light-diffusing silica powder, but it costs more than 10 times as much as the e.l.f. tone correcting powder, and it is not 10 times as good. It might be preferable for people with darker or warmer skin tones than mine, though, since it is more translucent. It does not have great mattifying properties, however, so I prefer the e.l.f. powder, personally, since it is more multi-functional (and a whole lot fucking cheaper).


  1. I appreciate your swatch test. I have this powder and have never quite been able to detect whether or not it actually has color-correcting abilities, but it seems fine just as a regular cheap powder. Why do people hate it so much?

    1. I'm glad that was useful. Some people have found it "chalky" and "powdery" looking. That's what makes me things that it probably works best if you are already really pale like me and if you don't have dry skin, because it doesn't have that effect on my face.


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