Wowder vs. Powder: Breaking down the Difference

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A few things: 

1. I don't wear face powder. I have, quite publicly, eschewed the product in hopes of "saving" my money for other things (like moisturizer, groceries, text books...in that order?) and embracing my greasy-as-dewy look. Frankly, I love the look of a borderline sweaty glow. I'm a fan of letting my skin do what it does once I leave my home, because let's be frank - we're in our mid-twenties (or not, whatever) and trying to exist in Trump's America. A woman's gonna sweat. 

2. I am skeptical of everything, but most of all, beauty marketing. As young women especially, we are so perfectly programmed to play into the assumptions that our faces aren't inherently good enough - to advertisers, this essentially makes us pre-opened books, remarkably easy locks to pick with a few detrimental adjectives. So, just keep that in mind when looking at new products. We do. 

3. Before writing this article, I wasn't really sure what made powder...great. I'd grown familiar with the oil-absorbing, skin softening properties of silica and knew that a pressed powder had larger particles (and more oil) than loose, but if I were you, I wouldn't have trusted my opinion in an article that literally advises people on what to buy. 

So, I had to get to work. Scientifically, I felt like a great place to start in understanding a powder would be at ground zero - the ingredients. The first product to get me out of my no-powder-whatsoever phase was (obviously) Glossier's wowder - its marketing materials hyped just enough dew and promoted a girl's right to choose how much shine blew back in a flash photo. 

Wowder’s Ingredient List:
Mica, Silica, Boron Nitride, Kaolin, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Diamond Powder, Chlorphenesin, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Dimethicone. May Contain/Peut Contenir (±): CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499 (Iron Oxides)
— glossier.com

From what I could observe, Wowder touted three key ingredients as essential to supporting its revolutionary claims: diamond powder, kaolin clay and vitamin E. Diamond powder - something not typically seen in skin finishers - was a nice touch; it maintained the believable, effortless finish on my skin without looking like I tried too hard (I didn't). Kaolin clay I found to be particularly brilliant; also found in Tarte's latest offering (they literally put "amazonian clay" in the name), the ingredient has been amassing quite the hype. Most commonly found in face masks, kaolin clay has been used to combat acne, blackheads and pimples, as it cleans the pores and removes oil. It also may be the cause of what some testers have called the "cooling effect" of wowder - a big bonus on a hot day.

What else? First, wowder quite publicly bans talc from this formulation - an ingredient of controversy for a long while. Known to cause caking, clogged pores and a general not-ideal feel, it seems that mica and silica operate as skin-approved alternatives, smoothing over the face while allowing it to breathe. In terms of wearability - Glossier got it right. The dark/deep variation does not read ashy on dark skin (it is recommended you buy the same shade as your skin tint), and the burring effect is almost immediate without making you look like you've freshly powdered your face. It is not long-wear (we've found it lasts a good five hours), but plays well with other products and fits your skin without creasing. Another thing - you don't HAVE to buy the brush. It's cute, but existing powder brushes will do the trick just as well. 

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To contrast, we decided to compare ingredients in Wowder to some of the Industry's top-selling powders. By far, the biggest competitor in both price point and efficacy revealed itself to be Chanel's poudre universelle libre. The universal loose powder glides on smoothly, is very long-lasting, sets all of your makeup and works wonderfully on sensitive skin. Laura Mercier, however, is a true translucent product and provides great results with zero white cast. (bonus - the brand now offers a medium-deep translucent tint, which does not show up ashy on dark skin). 

Chanel:
Talc, Nylon-12, Silica, Lauroyl lysine, Magnesium Myristate, Boron nitride, Phenyl Trimethicone, Aluminum hydroxide, Potassium Sorbate, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Parfum, CI 77007, CI 77491, CI 77499, CI 77891, Mica

Laura Mercier Transluscent:
Talc, Magnesium Myristate, Nylon-12, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Methylparaben, Lauroyl Lysine, Propylparaben, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Butylparaben, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Tocopherol, Methicone- May Contain/Peut Contenir (+/-): CI 77007 (Ultramarines), CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499 (Iron Oxides).

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In the realm of organic finishing powders, both RMS beauty and W3LL people provide skin-soothing, universally-flattering options. RMS' choice to create a product using just one ingredient lends itself to sourcing the highest-quality silica we've seen, leaving you with softer skin that actually improves with wear. 

W3LL PEOPLE Finishing Powder:
Mica, Silica, Iron Oxides (CI 77491), Pearl Powder, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf* *USDA Organic. **QAI

RMS Beauty Un-Powder:
Silica

Additionally, the powder with the most diversity in shades and the most similar ingredients to wowder seems to be Tarte's amazonian clay offering. Though not made to be a finishing powder, this product is talc-free, moisture rich and infused with gemstones for a light-reflecting effect. Instead of diamond powder, Tarte opts to go with ruby, quartz and tourmaline. This powder is also waterproof, tested for 12-hour wear, vegan, and made without gluten products (often used as a binder, or moisture-preserving agent). Though not as "chill" as glossier, it is more reliable and definitely does the job.

Tarte Amazonian clay airbrush foundation: 
Mica, camellia sinensis leaf extract, caffeine, pearl powder, kaolin, quartz, ruby powder, sea salt/maris sal/sel marin, tourmaline, smithsonite extract. (+/-): Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), iron oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), titanium dioxide (CI 77891), zinc oxide (CI 77947).

The powder that YOU end up choosing from this Su-approved list ultimately depends upon your specific needs and oil levels. However, what we've done here is tried to provide a paired-down list of quality, universally flattering, non-cakey formulas that have done our skin well. Should you also be debating between wowder and re-purchasing an older formula - think about what your needs are with respect to coverage, staying power and durability. 

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