Why is your foundation separating on your face and how to fix it?

Why does my foundation look patchy and why does it break up on my face?

There are many reasons why your makeup can separate on your face. We’ve all experienced foundation that looks patchy which can be frustrating.

Applying foundation on dry or dehydrated skin, choosing the wrong foundation type or using the wrong makeup primer can all cause the makeup to break up on the skin.

When it comes to complexion makeup, achieving a flawless base is tricky to master. Here are some tips and tricks to prevent your foundation from separating!

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Skin Preparation

skin preparation

Dehydrated or dry skin can cause makeup to clump and cling into dry patches. Your face can look like it’s peeling when you put on foundation.

Oily skin can also cause makeup to split on the face.  Following an appropriate skin care routine and preparing your skin before makeup application is an essential step.

Start by cleansing your face with a non-abrasive cleanser.
This gentle skin cleanser is one of the best at the drugstore. It’s fragrance-free and it cleans the face well without drying out the skin or leaving any greasy residue.

Follow by skin exfoliation. Avoid using thick exfoliators or scrubs as they can be harsh on your face. Pick a gentle exfoliator that works properly to remove dead skin cells.

People with oily skin can use a product with BHA (beta hydroxy/salicylic acid) that cleans the pores. 

This genlte exfoliator is one of the best to exfoliate dead skin cells and unclog enlarged pores. It works great to improve skin texture and it gives the face a healthier look.

Products containing AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic acid) are better for dry skin. They help smoothing the skin by improving its texture.

This Exfoliator is one of the best that i’ve ever tried. It’s formulated with (AHA) and (BHA) to help brighten and smooth the skin.

These products remove way more dead cells than a regular toner, so you can’t use them as often.

If you have never used AHA before, start by choosing a product with low AHA percentage and see how it works for you.

During the day, you should wear sunscreen to protect your skin since AHAs make your skin more sensitive to the sun. AHA products can also be used at night only.

This Exfoliation Mini Kit is a great choice if you are unsure exfoliant is right for you. It has two gentle BHA and AHA exfoliators and it has a great value for the money.

For a quick exfoliation, you can use a glycolic acid pad products like the PIXI Glow Peel pads , the Nip+Fab Glycolic fix pads or the First Aid Beauty Facial radiance pads.

pixi glow pads
nip+fab glycolic pads
first aid beauty  pads

The third step is to hydrate the skin. For dry skin, I like the Cerave moisturizing cream.

It has a light formula that contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin. It wears beautifully under makeup too which is so important.

cerave moisturizing cream

For oily skin, the Neutrogena hydro boost face moisturizer is a nice option. It’s oil free and it doesn’t make the skin look greasy.

neutrogena hydro boost cream

Best Skin Preparation Value Sets

This Bestsellers Set includes a cleanser, mask, lotion, serum, and moisturizer. All of these prepare the skin for the makeup and help the foundation to go on smoothly.

Burt’s Bees Holiday Gift

burt's bees value set

Pacifica Beauty | Dreamy Stars Dewy Skin Set

pacifica beauty value set

Apply a Good Primer To Avoid Patchy Foundation

If you have no problem with your foundation after prepping your skin as mentioned in the previous step, you probably don’t need a primer.

Use a primer that has the same base ingredients as your foundation. Using the wrong primer can make your foundation look worse. It can make your makeup look dry and patchy.

If your makeup looks patchy, even with primer, it might be because the foundation and primer aren’t matched properly.

If you are using a silicone based primer, use a silicone based foundation. For water based primers, use water based foundations.

To know if a foundation is silicone based or not, look at the first ingredients. Usually, water is the first ingredient as it give the foundation this liquid formula.

If you have CYCLOPENTASILOXANE or DIMETHICONE among the first ingredients, then your foundation is silicone based.

Here is an example of the L’Oreal Infallible 24H fresh wear foundation. Dimethicone is the second ingredient which means that this foundation is silicone based.

If you are looking for a good foundation , check the best silicone based foundations for oily skin or the best full coverage drugstore foundations.

For oily skin, silicone based primers can stop the foundation from settling in the pores.

They can also keep the skin matte throughout the day.  The elf Matte Oil-Control Primer Lightweight Mattifying Formula and the L’Oréal Infallible Pro Matte-Lock Longwear Mattifying Face Primer are some of the best primers to keep foundation from separating and not sticking to the face.

For dry skin, hydrating and smoothing primers can help blurring the skin. The elf hydrating face primer and the laura geller primer are nice options.

elf primer
laura geller primer

If traditional primers are not working for you, you can try using a face oil as primer. It can help hydrate the skin while providing a smooth base for your makeup.

You can also layer face primers to target different skin needs.

Related: Primer Vs Concealer

Apply Less Foundation

apply less foundation

To make your foundation look more natural, apply less foundation. Start by applying a thin layer of foundation and build it up on the areas where you need more coverage.

Use a dense buffing brush or a damp makeup sponge to blend your foundation. Press gently and buff the foundation into the skin to avoid a patchy makeup look.

Foundation tends to separate around the mouth and nose so try to apply less product on these areas.

Applying too much foundation can also make you look older so it’s better to use it sparingly.

Check these tips and tricks on how to stop foundation separating on your nose and how to prevent foundation from creasing in fines lines.

If you have an even skin tone but you need to cover some blemishes, you can skip foundation.

Using concealer instead of foundation can still help you achieve a flawless look.

Is your concealer separating? Check these tricks to avoid patchy concealer under your eyes?

Choose The Right Foundation Type For Your Skin

There are many different formulas and textures for foundations and choosing the right one depends on your skin type.

For oily skin, try a matte or semi-matte foundation like the L’Oréal infallible pro matte foundation or the maybelline fit me matte and poreless foundation.

There are a lot of drugstore foundations that work well for big pores. You can also check this list of foundations for large pores.

l'oreal infallible pro matte foundation
maybelline fit me foundation

For dry skin, try the L’Oréal True Match Lumi Healthy Luminous Makeup or the Maybelline New York Fit Me Dewy + Smooth Foundation.

You can also check this list of foundations for large pores and dry skin.

l'oreal Lumi Healthy Luminous foundation
maybelline fit me dewy

For aging skin, avoid heavy foundations as they can settle into fines lines.

Pick a light foundation like the L‘Oreal Paris Makeup Infallible Up to 24HR Pro-Glow Foundation or a tinted moisturizer like the bareMinerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream.

If liquid formulas are not working well for your skintype, use a powder foundation instead.

Check out these powder foundations for mature skin if you have older skin.

Related: Powder vs Liquid foundations

Mix Your Moisturizer With Foundation

You can mix your foundation with your moisturizer to give it a natural and minimal look. You can also use face oil drops to add some glow to the skin.

Mixing your foundation with a face oil or moisturizer can help the foundation to blend easier on the skin. It can also add a beautiful flawless finish when you apply it on the face.

Try A Sample Before You Buy!

revlon foundations

Sometimes foundations just don’t work on our skin no matter what we do. Try testing the foundation by getting a sample from the store before buying it.

It’s hard to tell how a foundation will sit on your skin, so sampling is a nice option! If a foundation always break up on your face, it might be a good idea to change it and try another one.

Use The Right Tools And Clean Them Often Enough

makeup brushes

How to put foundation on and choosing the right tools can have a big impact on the way your makeup looks.

Sponges can help giving the skin a natural finish as they soak up any excess product. They are not the most hygienic tool though because they need to be washed after each makeup application.

Brushes can work well too but I like to go over and press the foundation with a damp sponge even after using a brush. This helps the makeup to melt into the skin.

No matter what tools you use, cleaning them often is so important. Makeup brushes can collect oil and dirt so they must be cleaned at least once a week to avoid makeup clumping on the skin. 

Read More: Sponge Vs Brush For Foundation

Set The Foundation

Apply a tiny amount of loose or compact setting powder to set the foundation into place. You can use a powder puff to press the powder into the skin.

Avoid heavy powders that can look cakey on the skin. I like the Maybelline fit me matte and poreless and the rimmel stay matte powder.

maybelline fit me powder

rimmel stay matte powder

For loose powders, the Maybelline fit me loose powder and the Coty Airspun Loose Face Powder are good options.

People with oily skin might need a mattifying powder that absorbs shine.

Setting the foundation have many benefits and it can prevent the makeup from looking patchy during the day.

Choose a setting powder color that matches your skin tone or has a slightly lighter shade.

Finish With A Setting Spray

catrice setting spray

I usually try to avoid using setting sprays on a daily basis. They contain alcohol which can cause skin dryness so I like to use them only on special occasions.

They help setting everything into place and they prolong the wear of makeup. I like the L’Oreal Paris Makeup Infallible Pro-Spray & Set Makeup Extender Setting Spray.

There are also many great setting sprays available on the market. You don’t need to spend much money to get a good one as some of the best setting sprays are available at the drugstore. For more suggestions, check this guide on the best and affordable setting sprays.

Read More: The Difference Between Setting Spray And Finishing Spray

Foundation Is Separating In The Bottle

In foundations, liquids like water and oil for example, are mixed together and stabilized by an ingredient. If a foundation starts to separate in its bottle, that means the process of separation of the two mixed liquids has started.

If you have an old foundation that is separating, that probably means it has EXPIRED.

Using expired makeup on your face can cause irritation so make sure to get rid of it.

 Liquid foundations generally last for 12 months so replace them if you notice any change in their smell or texture.

Final Thoughts on Why Does Foundation Look Patchy and Dry

These were all my tips and tricks to stop your foundation separating on your face!

If following all these steps didn’t prevent your foundation from breaking up, try to apply powder under your foundation.

I learned this amazing trick from Wayne Goss and it works for me!

After applying the primer, put on a light layer of powder. Pick a good quality powder that’s finely milled. After completing this step, you can apply your foundation and set it again with that same powder.

Is Your Foundation Separating ? Do you have any foundation tips or tricks? Share them in the comments below….


Why does your foundation always look bad? How to stop makeup separating on face?

Claire is a beauty enthusiast and lover of all things makeup. Her blog is a resource for makeup tips and tricks, product reviews and beauty tutorials.

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