How To Avoid "Cake Face" And Other Makeup Mishaps

New to makeup? We can help. Use our tips and tricks to avoid makeup mishaps

Prevent makeup mishaps with our tips

We've all been there. Expertly applied foundation, gorgeous eyeshadow, a next-level cat-eye—only to catch a glimpse of ourselves in different lighting to realize our makeup's gone cakey.

This horror story is familiar to anyone who's gone through the trial and error associated with finding the perfect foundation, concealer, and makeup primer for their skin tone. The dreaded "cake face" can put a damper on a night-out look you've been perfecting for weeks. Luckily, there are ways to fix cakey makeup without having to start over—and ways to avoid it in the first place before you ever open a bottle.

What causes "cake face"?

Cake face is usually caused by wearing too much makeup. We call it "cake face" because it looks "caked on"—we've applied so many layers that they start to crack instead of blending, giving a flaky, crunchy look instead of the dewy, flawless glow we're going for.

One of the most common causes of cake face is putting too much foundation on every part of your face. Foundation is meant to be a base for the rest of your makeup, not a thick layer that separates your skin from the outside world. Unfortunately, it can be easy to slather on a little too much foundation, especially if you're new to the makeup arts or are worried about covering up blemishes.

Dry powders are another common culprit. Especially when it's applied in multiple layers, powder foundation can stick to itself in clumpy spots. Unless I'm headed to a really specific costume party, my goal isn't to look like I've got flour on my face.

Luckily, with a bit of practice and a couple of go-to strategies, cake face is easy to avoid!

So how do you avoid cakey makeup?

The cardinal rule here is "don't wear too much makeup." However, there are other things to consider.

  • When in doubt, blend it out: Cake face is often the result of not blending enough. A light application of foundation, concealer, and toner is plenty of makeup for your whole night out—instead of adding more foundation, take an extra swipe with your blending sponge. You'll be surprised with the results!
  • Moisturizer: Your "going out" look will benefit just as much as your skin will from a regular skincare routine. If you aren't big on scrubs and serums, stick to a simple "wash and moisturize" system. Applying a small amount of moisturizer after you wash your face in the morning (and giving it time to dry before you start your makeup routine) will help foundation and concealer stick to the skin in a more natural way. Plus, moisturized skin has that dewy look all on its own!
  • Dry sponges and applicators: A common newbie mistake is to apply foundation with a dry sponge or dirty fingers. A damp sponge or a good foundation brush is your best bet for foundation: while you're blending, a damp sponge will soak up excess product and blend in a more natural way. A dry one will just slather on more foundation.
  • Heavy, cream-based formulas: Sometimes, you can still get "cakey" even if you're only using a little bit of foundation. Often, the culprit here is the foundation itself. Thick, cream-based formulas tend to "cake" more than lightweight or powder-based alternatives.
  • Expired makeup: Age also plays a role in cakey makeup. Products that are past their expiration date tend to "cake" more.
  • Finishing spray: Setting spray is a good way to lock in your look. You can add some moisture to your makeup and skin with a setting spray that's meant for hydration (like a mister or a nourishing treatment). Just apply a quick spritz before you head out!

Oh, no! How do I fix "cake face" without starting completely over?

Fret not! Most makeup products are designed to blend rather than smudge. If your foundation has turned cakey, you can save the look with a couple of small tricks. Above all else, don't add any more foundation. This may make the cake look much more pronounced. Instead, blot away any excess makeup and oil with clean towels or blotting sheets.

If dabbing wasn't enough, dampen a makeup sponge and gently press it anywhere your makeup looks too cakey. This adds in some much-needed moisture. You can also blend more with the damp sponge, which will help to remove excess makeup and provide a more natural look at the same time.

Finally, you can save face (literally) with another application of that moisturizing mist. It feels amazing (and usually smells great, too!), and will give your skin the delightful moisture boost it deserves in the middle of your workday or night out. Say goodbye to cakey makeup, and hello to stunning skin quality!

Resources— L'Oreal Paris, The Zoe Report, LiveAbout