Why Does My Foundation Look Cakey?

Cakey foundation looks stiff and unnatural and can make some skin problems, like textured or dry skin, look worse than wearing no makeup at all. Whether you have caking and flaking just in certain areas, or have an issue with cakey makeup all over, here are the best ways to avoid it and how to fix it after you’ve applied your makeup. If you’re asking why does my foundation look cakey, then read on as we cover this in more detail.

Reasons for Cakey Foundation

Poor Hydration

Dry skin has more fine lines and creases, giving your foundation more places to settle and cake. Before you apply foundation, make sure you cleanse and hydrate your skin, and then allow 5-15 minutes for the moisturizer to penetrate and hydrate your skin.

You’re Using the Wrong Foundation

Lightweight, water-based, liquid foundations are the best formulas to prevent drying and caking. However, if you have oily skin, consider a mineral foundation instead, which absorbs excess oil and doesn’t irritate skin or block pores.

Choose the right foundation for your skin type, and choose a lighter formula with buildable, blendable coverage instead of a full-coverage formula.

You’re Using Too Much Foundation

A common cause of cakey foundation is that people apply more full-face makeup than they need. Thick foundations tend to settle into fine lines and can create a heavy, mask-like finish. To avoid a cakey look, combine a lighter-coverage foundation with targeted concealers or spot building to cover targeted problem areas, rather than layering on more makeup.

Incorrect Layering of Powders

Some people with oily skin will have noticed beauty experts who use a powder beneath a liquid foundation to absorb excess oils and ‘set’ foundation early. However, alternating layers of liquids and creams with layers of powder are almost guaranteed to create a cakey foundation finish prone to creasing and cracking.

Therefore, powder (powder foundation, setting or translucent powders, eye shadow, etc.) should all be used on top of any creams and liquids and not beneath them. If you use a powder foundation, use a powder concealer and a setting powder. This will prevent caking and cracking.

Not Enough Blending

Using your fingertips or a damp sponge can be a great way to lightly press or pat foundation into the skin, ensuring that you get the coverage you need without sweeping foundation all over your face.

In addition, dirty brushes can also cause a streaky, uneven application that can use more makeup than necessary.

Most of the time, cakey makeup can be prevented by using a beauty sponge or blender to blend makeup evenly and remove excess. For example, if you accidentally apply too much foundation, use a sponge to blot and blend until you have smooth, sheer coverage.

To Prevent Cakey Foundation

Use a Primer

Using a good makeup primer is a great way to prevent cakey foundation. Makeup primer creates a protective layer between the surface texture of your skin and your foundation, preventing foundation from clogging into pores and helping makeup glide evenly over the skin surface.

Primers can also enhance the look of your foundation by helping to create a dewy or matte finish, providing light color correction, and helping your foundation stay in place all day.

When using a primer, make sure that it is compatible with your foundation. Most of the top-rated primers are silicone-based, so they work best with a silicone-based or oil-based foundation.

Water-based primers work with any kind of foundation but have less smoothing and staying power. Choosing the right primer for your foundation ensures that they will work together, last longer, and prevent caking and streaking.

Protect Your Creases

Whether you have lines and creases around your eyes, around your mouth, or in your forehead, they can be a problem area for foundation to build up and look cakey. To prevent foundation from settling into your creases and causing a cakey look, follow these steps:

  1. Use your fingertips or a sponge to press makeup into your face. Gently patting, stippling, or pressing makeup into your face helps create more even coverage than sweeping motions that can go over the top of lines and creases. Continue to pat and press creased areas without rubbing or brushing them.
  2. Allow your foundation to rest for a few minutes. After applying foundation, move on to your eye makeup or something else for a few minutes. This will allow foundation to move with your face, potentially getting into fine lines and creases.
  3. Sweep away excess makeup. Using a cotton swab or fine brush, sweep away any excess foundation that has gathered in the lines of your face.
  4. Blend with a sponge again. After removing the excess foundation from fine lines, use a clean, damp sponge or beauty blender to pat over the area again, removing excess makeup and smoothing out the coverage.
  5. Set with a spray. Using a setting powder can exaggerate the appearance of fine lines and creases and contribute to a cakey look. Instead, set makeup with a setting spray to keep it in place.

Finish with a Spray

If your makeup is especially prone to creasing and caking, finish it with a setting spray instead of a powder. Setting sprays create a dewy, hydrated finish while protecting your foundation and locking it in place.

For mid-day touchups, use blotting paper instead of translucent powder. Keeping the outer layer of your makeup moist and hydrated with a spray is a great way to prevent caking and create a more natural, longer-lasting finish.


All these factors can contribute to why you have a thick, cakey-looking foundation. Fortunately, foundation caking is easy to understand and prevent if you follow these steps, take your time, and blend.