Banana powder, setting powder, highlight powder, baking powder—the world of makeup powder has certainly expanded over the years, and now, there are categories and options available to suit each and every beauty need. Whether you’re looking for a powder to brighten parts of your complexion or you’re looking for a powder to keep your makeup in place, keep reading as I walk you through the history of banana powder, how to use it, and my favorite recommendations.
The Differences Between Banana Powder, Highlight Powder, Setting Powder, and Baking Powder
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been confused by all of the terms used to describe banana powder. Is banana powder a loose powder? A highlight powder? A setting powder? Is it all of the things? I’ve been there, friend. In all its meanings and interpretations, banana powder is actually a very specific term, coined to describe powder with a yellow hue that typically resides with the loose powder family. Loose powders are a type of powder that can be used to set makeup, highlight high points of the face, and more.
The difference between loose and pressed powders, though, is that loose powders tend to be much lighter in texture and are more finely milled, giving you this beautiful, fine powder that blurs imperfections, controls oil, and smooths over texture. This is what makes them such a beloved product amongst artists and beauty lovers; they can heighten a makeup application without a thick, cakey finish. Banana powders, then, are typically loose powders that take on a yellow hue, and are frequently used for highlighting, baking, and setting areas of the face.
The History of Banana Powder
Banana powder, and the concept of a highlighting powder, was originally used and popularized by film and theater actors. The first banana powder was created by Ben Nye, a wildly successful artist and makeup director for 20th Century Fox who oversaw makeup for the likes of The Sound of Music and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Nye founded his eponymous cosmetics line for professional artists and actors in 1967 after noticing a whitespace in the beauty industry at the time. With the creation of his world-renowned Ben Nye Banana Luxury Powder, Nye brought his backstage makeup secret to the masses. Although this product was on the market for years, banana powder and the techniques that accompanied it were still exclusive and mysterious for those first few years.
As time progressed, banana powder trickled over from film sets and theatre stages to the stages in nightclubs where drag queens performed; think RuPaul at the height of his popularity as a performer in the ’90s. These artists were using banana powder to highlight and contour themselves into their characters. Baking their makeup with banana powder helped their makeup stay put during long work nights, outlast sweat, and defined their features under stage lights.
Makeup greats of the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s like Kevyn Aucoin and Reggie Wells used lighter, loose powder in certain areas of their clients’ faces to give them elevated, flawless makeup applications. Aucoin specifically was known for creating a sculpted look on celebrities back in the day; his use of loose powders was an unseen technique that intensified his popularity and certified his status in the beauty world as legendary. He even educated the masses on this technique in acclaimed books like Face Forward and Making Faces, but there was still an element of elusiveness to this technique at the time; this still wasn’t a makeup application method your everyday makeup wearer was using on a consistent basis. Not in my world, at least.
To some, the use of banana powder still seemed like a celebrity’s best-kept beauty secret. Enter: Kim Kardashian and her makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic who started sharing information about their makeup application process in the 2010s: these two can be credited as single-handedly changing the face and game of banana powder, making it the mainstream beauty sensation we know and love today. Kardashian and Dedivanovic’s willingness to share details made this method seem accessible and within reach for just about everyone, and, well, this technique took off like the linchpin and phenom that it is.
How To Use Banana Powder
Since banana powder is lighter in color and generally used to pronounce specific areas of the face, you can use this to set your makeup and highlight your under eyes, your nose, forehead, chin area, and under your contour. Banana powder is not typically used to set your makeup all over your face.
If you’re at the highlight and contour stage of your makeup application and want to bake, you can take your banana powder and apply it to your highlight with a fluffy brush or sponge. With the baking technique, you’re using a heavier amount of powder on your highlighted areas to help accentuate the color and sculpt your face. In order for this method to work its magic, you leave the banana powder on your face for a few minutes; the extra time locks in your product, absorbs any excess oils, and settles in to reflect light. After a few minutes have passed, sweep off any powder that remains with a fluffy brush. If you’d like to take a softer approach to using banana powder, pressing a small amount of the product into your concealer with a blending brush will naturally brighten those areas and set your application; just make sure you blend the product in with the rest of your complexion products in that area to prevent patchiness.
Best Banana Powders
Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder ($39)
Laura Mercier’s range of translucent setting powders are one of my favorite products to work with on myself and clients. This powder is incredibly lightweight, thin, and translucent, making for an ideal powder you can use to set your highlight in certain areas of your face. Mercier provides three options for you to choose from: a translucent option, a tinted yellow shade, and a tinted brown shade, which is perfect for deeper skin tones.
Sacha Buttercup Setting Powder ($22)
This powder is fantastic for Black women and women of color who have medium to deep complexions. Controlling oil, smoothing over texture, and chiseling the face, this product is amazing because of its thin finish and ability to reflect light. Coming in two tinted yellow shades, the Buttercup Setting Powder will illuminate the areas you’d like to pronounce without the flashback.
Ben Nye Banana Luxury Powder ($14))
This classic product still has a role to play in the banana powder game. In addition to their iconic Banana Luxury Powder, Ben Nye has maintained their foothold in the setting powder category with their range of products. If you are deeper in complexion and are looking for a loose powder with a yellow tint, I recommend other products from Nye’s Luxury Powder line or the products above. Fair, olive, and medium complexions fare better with this shade; deeper tones can experience ashiness or severe flashback in photos.
NYX Cosmetics Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Setting Powder ($12)
If you’re looking for a drugstore, budget-friendly option for a banana powder, NYX Cosmetics’ line of loose setting powders is a great place to start. Finely milled, vegan, and long-lasting, this product provides an illuminating look with a matte finish.