Banana powder is one of those fairly random makeup products that you’ve likely seen, maybe tried, or perhaps have no clue what it is and how to use it. Fall down a YouTube rabbit hole, and you’ll find plenty of pros pounding it into their faces. What it actually does, how to use it, and whether or not your skin tone matters at all are all valid questions that makeup artist Andrew Sotomayor happily answered for us.
“Banana powder is another name for the pale yellow face powder used to set face makeup and concealer by absorbing excess oil,” Sotomayor explains.
It was introduced back in the day when makeup was made with a mineral oil base and was considered a necessary step to help keep shine to a minimum. “Nowadays, most face powders don’t need to be quite as absorbent because oil-free, silicone-based, and matte formulas exist,” says Sotomayor.
But for the purposes of understanding how banana powders work, know that it’s essentially a hybrid of a pressed and translucent powder that you apply after your base to both make it last and take away excess shine. You apply your base, then banana, let sit, and then finish your makeup. If these steps sound oddly familiar, it’s because the process is basically what we now call baking.
The color of it serves another purpose—and banana is just one shade. The idea is that the yellow tint helps brighten and cover dark circles or discoloration under eyes—but it’s not really one shade fits all. Banana setters are most useful on medium to deep complexions with olive, golden, or yellow undertones. “I don’t use it on ivory skin tones because it would turn your neutral or white undertone yellow,” says Sotomayor.
He also doesn’t use it on rosy complexions. Although a number of yellow-tinted and banana-colored products are said to help neutralize redness, Sotomayor argues that the idea goes against basic color theory. “Yellow plus red just makes orange,” he adds. So it won’t actually neutralize anything.
If you’re on either the lighter or darker end of the skin-tone wheel, look for a setter that will complement your undertones and help neutralize the type of discoloration that you want to conceal. For fair skin, stick with a truly translucent powder such as RCMA No-Color Powder.
“Women with dark skin tones are usually better off using an orange-tinted powder, and women with the deepest ebony skin tones are usually best with terra-cotta, brown, or sheer red power,” Sotomayor concludes. You can also use a powder that’s one shade lighter than your foundation.
Click through to find the right setter for your skin tone.