8 Reasons Why Your Makeup Looks Cakey

Cakey makeup happens for all kinds of reasons. It’s also one of the most common issues that makeup wearers come across. And no, we’re not talking about an adorable little “you have cake on your face” at a birthday party moment. This kind of cake face is the piled on, dry, creasing foundation and powder combo that screams hot mess.

But don’t worry; there are plenty of ways to address the cakey makeup issue. The goal is to enhance your skin’s overall appearance to create a flawless makeup look, so avoiding cakey makeup is essential. It’s literally the foundation of your look. For eight reasons why your makeup looks cakey and easy fixes, stick around and keep reading.

Your Skin is Too Dry

There are many things that a full coverage foundation can cover, but dry skin just isn’t one of them. Packing product onto dry, crusty skin won’t cover anything. Instead, it will draw attention to the fact that your skin is in desperate need of a drink. And, even worse, the longer your makeup sits on dry skin, the worse the issue becomes.

By the end of the day, foundation and powder will seep into dry skin, leaving an even worse case of cakey makeup but also causing further dryness.

Easy Fixes

The dry skin kind of cakey makeup is one of the easiest ones to fix. You just have to stay hydrated. Of course, drinking lots of water is vital for keeping your body and skin healthy. But using a daily moisturizer will fix this situation.

Here are a few daily moisturizers that will help keep your skin hydrated without making it look or feel greasy:

Depending on how dry your skin is, moisturizer might not be enough. A hydrating foundation might be necessary to boost the hydration level. And, if your skin is uber-dry, a moisturizing primer is also a must. Avoid cream foundations when your skin is this dry, and stick to liquids instead. Here are some excellent options for hydrating primers and foundations:

Hydrating Primers Hydrating Foundations
NYX Professional Makeup Hydra Touch Primer Maybelline Fit Me Dewy + Smooth Foundation
Benefit the Pore-Fessional Hydrate Primer IT Cosmetics Your Skin Only Better CC Cream
Tarte Quench Hydrating Primer Too Faced Born This Way Foundation

Your Skin is Too Oily

Before you go slathering moisturizer on your face morning, noon, and night, know that there’s a happy medium between skins that are too dry and skin that’s oily. If your skin is over-moisturized, it can become slick, and the foundation will slide around, becoming cakey.

Another oil-induced issue is the forced oxidation of certain products. When skin oils mix with some chemicals, the color of the product changes. When the products oxidize and the color changes, it no longer matches your skin tone, causing that “lovely” cakey appearance.

Easy Fixes

Finding the right skincare balance is naturally the first level of defense against oily skin. Moisturizing the skin should still be part of your daily skincare regimen, but there are certain things to avoid when choosing the perfect cocktail of products.

Carefully read labels before committing to a product and try to stay away from any of the following:

  • Heavy and thick creams
  • Any and all oils
  • Silicones
  • Alcohol

Your Foundation Isn’t Properly Set

One of the first rules of makeup application is to always, always follow a cream or liquid with a powder. Setting powder is meant to absorb oils and keep foundation in place, giving you that flawless, airbrushed finish you’re looking for.

Easy Fixes

The best kind of setting powder to avoid cakey makeup is a lightweight, loosely translucent powder. For the under-eye area, a banana powder is a great way to set the foundation and add a little brightness.

Before you set your foundation, if you’re going to do any cream contour or add concealer, it must be applied before setting your face. Liquids and creams always have to come before powder. So once you have all of your cream or liquid base products applied, you can go in and set your face.

After you’ve applied foundation and/or concealer, you’re ready to set your face. Follow these steps to make sure you’re correctly setting your face for a velvety smooth look without any cake:

  1. Pour some translucent powder into the lid of the container. Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder is a go-to. It’s great for setting and does a fabulous job of giving a smooth appearance to the skin.
  2. Take a dampened beauty sponge or a flat, dense foundation brush and gently press it into the powder. Gently tap the brush or sponge into the skin, getting more product as needed.
  3. Once the entire face has been set with translucent powder, use a big fluffy brush to sweep away any leftovers that might be lingering on the surface.
  4. If you want to add extra brightness to the undereye area, use banana powder. Ben Nye Luxury Powders in shade Banana works like a charm. Use the same sponge or brush, along with the pressing technique, to apply the yellowish-hued powder under the eyes.
  5. Finish with a setting spray, like Wet N’ Wild Photo Focus Primer Water. This product is an affordable option that doubles as a primer, too. Bonus!
  6. To avoid any spotting from the spray, use your beauty sponge’s clean side to carefully dab and blend the entire face.

The Color of Your Base Products Are All Wrong

The color of your foundation and powder can directly lead you down the cakey makeup path if they’re not just right. If you’re using a lighter coverage foundation or a BB cream, there’s a little more room for error. But if you’re a full coverage queen, then an exact match is a must.

Easy Fix

Of course, choosing the right foundation color is the best way to avoid this scenario. But we all know that doesn’t always happen. If you know a color isn’t going to be quite right before you apply, you can always mix another shade of foundation, or even a little concealer, to help adjust the color.

Get Professional Help

Visit your local makeup counter or specialty store to have your skin tone matched perfectly. Some stores have the technology to take a picture of your skin up close and help you choose the best match from there. They can also help you narrow down the choices based on skin concerns too.

Match to Your Neck

Facial skin exfoliates much faster than the rest of the body. For most people, the face is a shade or two lighter than other skin. Careful blending into the neck is also imperative for making a smooth transition and avoiding cakey makeup.

But, if you don’t make the discovery until after you’ve already applied the foundation, you can correct it with powder. Keeping a pressed powder in your makeup arsenal that matches your skin tone closely can help even out a mismatched foundation before you reach the point of no return.

You’re Using the Wrong Tools to Apply Your Makeup

Tools are everything when it comes to applying makeup. Once upon a time, it might have been okay to use your hands. For lighter base produce applications like tinted moisturizers and even BB creams, it’s acceptable to use your hands. Just be sure to wash first, or else you’re rubbing bacteria into your face.


But for a smooth finish, using a brush or dampened beauty sponge is the way to go. The other element to this two-part equation is taking your time. Once you’ve got the right tools, you still have to be meticulous and pay attention to what you’re doing. It’s the only way to avoid a caked-on-makeup face.

It’s also important to note that clean tools are necessary here. Be sure to clean your brushes frequently. Otherwise, caked-on makeup is inevitable.

Easy Fixes

Applying your foundation with a beauty sponge or brush is the best way to go. Just drop a little bit on each of the cheeks, the forehead, and the chin, and start blending. If you’re using a brush, work in small circular motions, and then tap the product into the skin. With a sponge, tapping with a little more pressure should do the trick.

But, if you’re going for a full glam, contoured, and highlighted look, try following this technique to avoid getting cake on your face (and not the yummy red velvet kind of cake):

  1. Pour a few drops of foundation onto a clean tray or the back of your hand. If you need to mix concealer or add moisturizer to make sure it matches your skin tone, now’s the time to do it.
  2. Use a flat-topped foundation brush, like a kabuki, to pick up a little of the foundation. Gently stipple the foundation into the skin, working over the entire face. Don’t forget to go under the chin and onto the neck.
  3. Don’t freak out. This is going to look weird, but you’re not going to leave it like this. Promise.
  4. Once the entire face has been stippled, take a dampened beauty sponge and start blending. Quickly work around your entire face, pressing and blending the makeup into the skin, using short dabbing strokes.
  5. Continue until the entire surface has been blended. If you want more coverage, pick up some additional foundation on the beauty sponge and pack it into the skin where you need it most.
  6. Finish with applying setting powder and spray, as we already mentioned above.

There’s Already Texture on Your Skin

Some folks are blessed with naturally smooth skin. The majority of real people are not. And, we can’t constantly photoshop or airbrush our makeup to look flawless. Makeup can help reduce the appearance of texture, but if it’s not done right, it ends up looking, you guessed it, cakey.

Easy Fixes

It might seem like a thicker consistency foundation, or even a cream or stick foundation would be the best option for covering blemishes, lines, and other textures. But this approach is wrong, wrong, and more wrong. The result will never be smooth, and it will be cake-central.

Work in Layers

Using a thinner consistency, full coverage foundation is your best bet. As long as the label says the coverage is buildable, then you’ll be able to work your way up to maximum coverage, giving yourself a smooth palette without adding more texture, i.e., caking it on.

Use the stippling technique described above, do one complete pass over the face. Allow it to air dry thoroughly, then repeat. Don’t use a fan to dry. This will cause over-drying and will eventually crease and cake. Follow up with your setting routine.

Product is also crucial here. A full-coverage foundation is a must, but it also has to be just right for your skin. Products that are overly drying can suck all the moisture out of your skin, resulting in a caked-on appearance. But oily skin with an overly moisturizing foundation will also lead to cakey makeup. Balance is key.

Here are some full coverage foundations that are meant for buildable wear. Just be sure to choose one according to your skin type:


One of the best ways to eliminate texture is to take care of your skin properly. Of course, some skin issues are just always going to be there. But adding exfoliator to your routine can help eliminate texture.

Added Texture from Product Overload

It’s possible to create your own texture by piling on the product. This doesn’t always happen right away, either. Texture can start to appear as you wear your makeup, giving you a caked-on look after you’ve left the house when there’s nothing you can do about it.

Easy Fixes

Obviously, piling on the product will result in texture and overload. The first step is prevention. Remember, liquid and creams need to be set with powder. But creams and liquids should never go on top of powders. That’s a fast track to cake face, for sure.

Resist the Urge to Add More

It’s tempting to add more products to counteract the caking. Don’t. Instead of carrying extra makeup for retouching, bring a blending sponge wherever you go. Re-blending will help even out cakey makeup, where adding more will just compound the problem. Using a quick spritz of setting spray on the sponge, or just dampening with water, will also help.

Carry Oil Blotting Papers

Oil blotters are also a great way to keep products from building up as you wear makeup. Taking the time to soak up some of those oils before contributing to cakey makeup will do wonders. If you don’t have any papers and you’re feeling cakey, those otherwise useless brown paper towels in public restrooms are a decent substitute. Just remember to blot, never rub.

Life Happens

Let’s face it, cakey makeup happens. There are days when you can do all the right things, but your makeup just ends up cakey. If you look in the mirror and find your makeup looking patchy, while other areas are creasing and there’s buildup in spots, you’ve been caked. And a retouch is necessary.

Easy Fixes

In times like these, you’ll be happy to have your entire makeup arsenal in tow. If you’re not feeling great about your makeup, keep your foundation, sponge, and powder close by. But the retouch technique is crucial. Careful is key, and one slip up could end in disaster.

To avoid an even bigger catastrophe, beyond cakey makeup, keep these tips in mind during a retouch:

  • When in doubt, blend it out. Before adding any more makeup to your face, use a blending sponge to tap the existing makeup into the skin. This will help spread the existing makeup around and soak up any extra that doesn’t need to be there.
  • Work in small sections. Once the caked-on makeup has been dispersed, you’ll be left with bare spots. Instead of using the sponge to add more, use your finger. Just be sure to wash and dry your hands first thoroughly. Use the same tapping motions to add foundation, then gently tap it in with the sponge.
  • Bake your setting powder for extra anti-cake protection. Use the blending sponge to tap the loose setting powder onto the retouched areas. Instead of wiping away the excess powder right away, let it sit on the skin for a minute or two. Then sweep away the leftovers.
  • Skip the pressed powder retouch. You often see people open their fancy little compacts, using the tiny circle sponges to smear pressed powder on their faces. This might work for a select few, but it’s definitely not the cure for everyone’s cakey makeup. This usually leads to more cake.

Final Thoughts

Cakey makeup can be avoided as long as you have the right tools, products, and techniques to apply your foundation and powder properly. Skincare is another critical component to preventing cakey makeup, although sometimes it’s just inevitable. When cakey makeup happens, the easy fixes above will help remedy the situation without starting your makeup all over again.