Know your powders and take a few minutes to test them for yourself.
It is a common misconception that HD powders are great for all kinds of photography. That is sadly untrue. HD powders (and makeup) were designed for HD video cameras, not flash photography. They look gorgeous in video and in person, so it's hard not to want to use them for everything.
If you love your HD powder, and don't want a second powder for photos, use your powder very sparingly and blend it well. I don't use HD powders for setting the whole face, just where I want to control shine or brighten and smooth the skin.
For social dancers, I strongly recommend colorless powders for setting long-wear make-up when transfer-resistance is essential. There are colorless powders that set long-wear make-up very well and make skin look beautiful. That's why it's so important to check how your own powders perform.
So how can you tell if your powder is going to flash white in flash photos?
First step, don't panic. If your favorite powder has the potential to flash white, due to high titanium dioxide or silica content for example, sparing use and thorough blending will minimize the effect. For better control, I use smaller brushes (blush or contour brushes, or even eye shadow brushes for powder under the eyes) rather than the large, fluffy kabuki-style brushes.
Second step, check your powders. On your bathroom counter, line up your powders. For loose powder in jars, make sure there is a fair amount of powder above the screen to show up in the picture. Then, turn off the light and take a picture with your phone, making sure that the flash feature is on.
This was my group:
As you can see, the tinted powders were fine under the flash, and most tinted powders are great in flash photos. High titanium dioxide content can cause it too lighten up quite a bit, so blend well if you're not sure - and take a test shot.
With the colorless powders, judging flashback is a little more tricky. The top 6 powders are white, so of course they're going to photography white. What I was looking for was a more telltale "glow". I was looking for bright, not just white.
The pressed NYX HD setting powder (top far left) is bright, but less so than the tarte powder next to it. There isn't a halo and it doesn't look so much like it's shining. Chances are that it will still flash white if applied very heavily, so a light hand and good blending are key.
The pressed tarte smooth operator to the right of NYX is definitely "glowing" white. This one is better for 'out and about' make-up, and on film/video etc., but not appropriate for flash photography.
The top two pots in the group of four (right side), are a bit of a mixed bag. The top cream-colored powder is the IT Cosmetics Bye-Bye Pores loose powder and it didn't flash white at all. Next to that is the MAC Prep+Prime transparent finishing powder which, while white, dos not appear to flash or glow much compared to the others.
Below the other two, is Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Under-Eye Powder #1 (left) which glows mostly because of the slight shimmer in the powder. Next, the loose tarte smooth operator (right) which glows bright just as much as the pressed variety (pressed and loose powders have different formulations, even if they have the same name.)
Testing on Skin
NOTE: The stripes were applied to bare skin. In hindsight, I should have applied primer and foundation first. With make-up applied first, the powder has more to "stick" to and the effect would be a bit stronger. The results and advice are the same, however - flash-test your powders, apply them sparingly, and blend very well.
I decided to check the 4 worst offenders, from the photo above, on my skin to see how bad it really looked. Here are four stripes, applied heavily and unblended. The picture is in a darkened room with a flash.
From left to right:
NYX HD Pressed Powder, tarte smooth operator pressed, Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder #1, and last on the far right, tarte smooth operator loose powder.
From this picture it looks like a little blending out might take care of much of the problem.
The second picture below shows the powders blended out to a level I would normally apply (to myself or to someone else.) The tarte smooth operator pressed powder and the Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder blend down quite well. Mercier's powder shows up mostly as shimmer at this point, so a light application is essential. NYX and tarte's smooth operator stayed looking brighter even when well blended.
One last note, for BB creams, foundations, contour creams and powders etc., especially those products with high SPF, it might be worth going through the same process as I showed above. Just take a few minutes to photograph swatches on your skin with a flash to make sure you won't get any surprises later.
NYX High Definition Finishing Powder (Pressed): Talc, Dimethicone, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Octyldodecyl Stearoyl Stearate, Magnesium Stearate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol. MAY CONTAIN (+/-): Mica, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, 77492), Blue 1 Lake (CI 42090).
tarte smooth operator pressed powder: Mica, synthetic fluorphlogopite, silica, polymethyl methacrylate, glycerin, kaolin, carrageenan, xanthan gum, 1,2-Hexanediol, caprylyl glycol, hexylene glycol, phenoxyethanol.
IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Poreless Finish HD Micropowder: Silica, Soluble Collagen, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopherol, magnesium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Phytonadione, Collagen Amino Acids, Hydrolyzed Silk. May Contain: Iron Oxides (CI 77492).
MAC Prep+Prime Finishing Powder: Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Silica, Mica, Zinc Stearate, Caprylyl Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol
Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder #1: Talc, Silica, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethicone, Ethylene/Methacrylate Copolymer, Zeolite, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Sorbic Acid, Methylparaben Phenoxyethanol, Propylparaben Tetrasodium EDTA, Butylparaben, Orchis Maculata Flower Extract, BHT. +/- [May Contain]: MICA (CI 77019), Titanium dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Ferric Ferrocyanide (CI 77510), Carmine (CI 75470), Ultramarines (CI 77007), Red 7 Lake (CI 15850), Red 6 (CI 15850), Red 30 (CI 73360), Yellow 5 Lake (CI 19140), Yellow 6 Lake (CI 15985).
tarte smooth operator loose setting powder: Silica, talc, polymethylsilsesquioxane, phenoxyethanol, dimethicone, lysophosphatidic acid, lecithin, lysolecithin, kaolin.
Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Powder Makeup (Ecru): Talc, Isostearyl Palmitate, Silica, Calcium Silicate, Methicone, Phenyl Trimethicone, Caprylyl Glycol, Hexylene Glycol, Trimethylsiloxysilicate, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Boron Nitride, Methyl Methacrylate, Crosspolymer, Polypropylene, Phenoxyethanol, Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Bismuth Oxychloride, Carmine, Chromium Hydroxide Green
MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Powder (Light Plus): Active Ingredients: Octinoxate 7.50% Inactive Ingredients: Water, Butylene Glycol, Triethylhexanoin, Squalane, Propylene Glycol Stearate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Stearic Acid, Glycerin, Kaolin, Beta Vulgaris Root Extract, Haberlea Rhodopensis Leaf Extract, Tamarindus Indica Seed Gum, Yeast Extract, Magnesium Chloride, Sodium Chloride, Zinc Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Lysine, Tocopherol , Panthenol, Polysorbate 20, Lecithin, Tromethamine, Xanthan Gum, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Retinyl Palmitate, Caprylyl Glycol, Simethicone, Cetyl Alcohol, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Isostearic Acid, Hexylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol. May Contain: Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides, Chromium Oxide Greens
Estée Lauder Lucidity Translucent Pressed Powder: Talc, Polyethlene, Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate, Magnesium Myristate, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Octyldodecyl Stearoyl stearate, glycine soja (soybean) Phospholipid, Lecithin, Phytosqualane, Tocopherol, Phytosterols, Linoleic Acid, Retinyl Palmitate, Fusanus Spicatus Wood Oil, bis-diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, C9-15 Fluoroalcohol Phosphate, Fragrance (Parfum), Phenoxy-Ethanol, Mica, Iron oxide, Bismuth Oxychloride, Titanium oxide
Jane Iredale PurePressed Base SPF 20 Mineral Foundation (Radiant): Active Ingredients: Titanium Dioxide 14%, Zinc Oxide 3%. Ingredients: Mica, Boron Nitride, Dimethicone, Stearic Acid, Plankton Extract, Algae Extract, Pinus Strobus (Pine) Bark Extract, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract. [+/- (May Contain) Iron Oxides (Ci 77489, Ci 77491, Ci 77492, Ci 77499), Ultramarines (Ci 77007)]
Smashbox Halo Hydrating Perfecting Powder (Light): Mica, Coco-Caprylate/Caprate, Isopropyl Linoleate, Synthetic Wax, Polymethyl-silsesquioxane, Water, Zinc Stearate, HDI/Trimethylol Hexyllactone Crosspolymer, Silica, Caprylyl Glycol, Butylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Barium Sulfate, Dimethylacrylamide/Acrylic Acid/Polystyrene Ethyl Methacrylate Copolymer, Ethoxydiglycol, Sodium Dehydroaceatate, Lycium Barbarum Fruit Extract (Goji Berry), Trisodium Edta, Peat Extract, Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein, Palmitoyl Hexapeptide-14, Dimethicone, Gold. May Contain: Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides
NOTE REGARDING INGREDIENT LISTS: Product ingredient lists are subject to change without notice. Please check packaging for most up-to-date ingredients.