Makeup can be a funny thing. When we want to look *especially* good, we may be tempted to layer it on thick. But heavy makeup can look conspicuous, unnatural, and (worst of all) cakey. Cakey makeup can undermine the very look you are going for. Read on for reasons why you might be having a cakey makeup issue, and discover plenty of tips for avoiding cakey-looking makeup.
What Even Is “Cakey Makeup”?
Makeup is meant to enhance your natural beauty, not steal the show. When your foundation looks thick, heavy, or really noticeable, it might be called “cakey.” This term is used to describe everything from splotchy, uneven foundation to makeup that is creased, flaking, sliding, or amplifying pores in an unflattering way.1
Suffice to say, you probably don’t want your makeup to look “cakey” even if you’re going for a full-coverage foundation look.
Here’s Why Your Makeup Might Be Cakey
Because “cakey” can describe so many makeup issues, there are a lot of potential culprits. Here are some of the most popular causes of cakey makeup.
Your Skin Is Dry
If you tend to have dry skin, this may set the stage for a cakey makeup issue. With dehydrated skin, foundation can cling to dry patches and settle unevenly on your face.2
Your Skin Is Oily
Oily skin can lead to a cakey-looking foundation, too. If you have oil on the surface of your skin, the foundation you layer on might slide around and settle into creases. This can cause your makeup to look cakey.
In some cases, skin oil can cause your foundation to oxidize. This is a chemical reaction that can result in color and consistency changes in your makeup. Oxidation can give your foundation an orange tint, leading to an unnatural look.3
Your Skin’s Texture Is Causing Caking Issues
If you have blemishes, spots with broken skin, dry patches, or marks on your face, you may be tempted to pile on makeup to cover them up. But thick face makeup often only draws attention to the issue and ends up looking cakey.
With blemishes, a good bet is to lightly cover the spot in question, rather than coat your entire face in foundation. Blend your concealer well, and use blotting sheets, rather than pressed powder, for touch ups.4
Your Makeup Isn’t Set Correctly
If you’re wearing a full face of makeup – foundation, concealer, contour powder, bronzer, highlighter – it could end up looking cakey by the time everything has been applied. Some beauty experts recommend setting makeup with a setting spray or a translucent powder, depending on how dry your skin is. This helps press everything into the skin so it looks more natural.5
Your Foundation Is The Wrong Color
A big reason why foundation ends up looking cakey can be the color. If the shade is too light or too dark, it becomes more visible and obvious on your skin. Make sure you test your foundation on your jawline in natural light to ensure a color match.6
Your Makeup Is On Too Thick
If your foundation looks like it’s sitting on top of your face, you may be wearing too much. Heavy foundation can provide a lot of coverage, which might look flawless in a photoshoot or from far away, but it may not look great up close.7
Here’s How To Avoid Cakey Makeup
If you’ve realized that yes, sometimes your makeup looks cakey, the battle is halfway over. To avoid cakey makeup down the road, follow these skin and makeup routine tips.
Nail Down A Proper Skincare Routine
To ensure a flawless look, you’ll want to do everything you can to prep your skin before you apply any makeup at all. Prep your skin for foundation with a regular routine that focuses on cleansing, exfoliation, and hydration. Don’t have a skincare routine that you love? Here’s a simple one you can follow that will give you a clean slate for makeup:
- Wash your face with a gentle cleanser to remove dirt and surface buildup.
- Tone with a product that helps exfoliate.
- Apply a serum to give your skin an extra hydration boost.
- Moisturize with a high-quality moisturizer.
- Apply sunscreen if it’s the start of the day.8
Doing all of these skincare steps first will help you create the best possible canvas for your makeup.
Moisturize Before You Apply Foundation
Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize. Yes, moisturizing is already a step in your skincare routine, but it bears repeating. If your skin is dehydrated, you’ve got to layer on that moisture. If your skin is particularly dry, you can even mix a small amount of moisturizer in with your foundation.
Apply A Primer Under Your Foundation
A makeup primer can act as a great bridge between your skincare and your makeup. The right primer may act as a “wrinkle eraser” that can help fill in fine lines and wrinkles, creating a smoother facial appearance. Many primers also promise to help make skin appear more glowy. This may help prevent the look of dry, caked-on makeup.
When choosing your primer, keep your unique skin needs in mind. If fine lines are a concern, look for a primer that positions itself as a “wrinkle eraser.” If you occasionally deal with oil on your skin, seek out a primer that is made to control oil. If your skin sometimes feels dry, try a hydrating primer.9
Be Sure To Match Your Foundation Color
If your foundation isn’t the right color, it may look caked on. To match the perfect foundation color for you, you’ll want to consider your undertones, look at photo references, and test the formula on multiple areas of your face.10
Consider A Light To Medium Coverage Foundation
If you regularly experience “cake face,” you may want to try a foundation with a more natural finish. Heavier foundations contain a lot of pigment – which can provide coverage, but may also lead to a caked-on look. Liquid foundations with light-to-medium coverage are more likely to melt into the face and look natural. If you want more coverage, you can always add layers or use concealer on specific areas.11
Use The Right Foundation Formula
Heavy creams and heavy powders can be a big ol’ recipe for cakey foundation. These formulas tend to build up and create creases and texture on your skin. Find a formula that matches your skin concerns, and when in doubt, go with a sheer liquid formula.12,13
If you’re using a primer, you’ll want to make sure your foundation matches the primer type. This means that you’ll want to pair water-based formulas together and silicone-based formulas together. This helps prevent makeup that slips and slides over your face.14
Apply Your Foundation In Layers
If you’re after a high-coverage look and thinking about applying a thick coat of foundation, stop right there. Rather than slathering on a heavy amount of foundation all at once, you may be better off if you apply it in thin layers to build up coverage. If there’s a specific area you want to cover, apply concealer just to that one spot instead of layering it over your whole face.15
Blend, Blend, Blend
Blending your foundation may really help give you a natural (not caked-on) look. Once you’ve applied your makeup, use a dampened beauty sponge to lightly pat it into your skin. You want the makeup to lightly “melt” into your skin for a natural finish. This may also pick up excess product that would otherwise sit on top of your face.16
Try A Facial Oil
If you experience dry skin, it’s a great idea to look for all of the ways to hydrate your skin that you can. A facial oil can be a great product for this. If your foundation is settling into a dry patch, lightly dab on some facial oil with a makeup sponge. This can help blend your foundation into your skin.17
Let Your Concealer Set For A Few Minutes
If you find that your makeup creases in areas where you’ve applied concealer – like around your eyes or nose – pause and let the concealer set for a few minutes after you apply it. Simply apply the concealer and move on to focus on other areas, like your eye makeup. After a few minutes, lightly set the concealer with setting powder.18
Pay Special Attention To Your Under-Eye Area
One particularly annoying form of cakey makeup is the under-eye crepey, chalky look. (If you know what this is, you know. If you don’t, then lucky you.)
If you suffer from this, you may want to add extra hydration to that area after you’ve applied your makeup. Dab a hydrating mist, eye cream, or toner onto a clean makeup sponge and lightly press it into your concealer under your eyes.19
Finish With A Lightweight Setting Powder Or A Setting Spray
Once you’ve applied all of your makeup, your last step is to set it with a powder or spray. Setting your makeup helps prevent the dreaded sliding or melting look. Powder will typically give you a matte finish and is recommended if your makeup tends to bleed or slip. Setting spray may give you a more dewy finish and is typically recommended if you have dry skin.20
For Touch Ups, Use A Blotting Paper Instead Of Pressed Powder
If you plan to touch up your makeup throughout the day, resist the urge to layer on more makeup to cover up a cakey look. Rather than powdering your nose throughout the day, carry blotting papers and a blending sponge. Blotting papers can help absorb excess oil. A blending sponge can help re-blend cakey makeup.21
Clean Your Makeup Tools Often
If you use brushes and beauty sponges to apply your makeup, you’ll want to clean them regularly. This prevents buildup and residue from being added to your face when you use them. It’s also the sanitary thing to do – cleaning brushes and tools helps prevent bacteria buildup that could be spread to your face.22
To clean your brushes, use water and gentle soap on them a few times a month (more if they’re getting heavy use). After washing, squeeze out the excess moisture, and let them hang to dry.
Cake, Be Gone
The glowy, “natural” makeup look is becoming more and more popular these days. But sometimes you want to wear a full face of makeup and, you know, not look like you’re wearing a full face of makeup. With the right technique, you can still wear foundation and cover blemishes — all while cakey-looking makeup becomes a thing of the past.