Undetectable Makeup: How To Avoid Cake Face

Nothing cakey about this makeup! Photo: East Passage Photography Makeup: Allison Barbera

There have been a lot of makeup trends over the years, but there’s one we’ve never seen and probably never will: cakey makeup. I’m talking visible foundation and/or powder that looks like it’s an inch off the skin, with product settling into lines, pores and other textured parts of the skin.

There are different choices that lead to caked up makeup, and I’m here to help you not make those mistakes.

Shed The Dead (Skin). It all starts with skincare. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells that haven’t shed themselves from the surface of the skin. If you’ve got too many dermis corpses hanging out on your skin, foundation will cling to those, which will cause your makeup to look caked on. A regular exfoliation routine (unless you’re using something that’s contraindicated with exfoliation) will help eradicate this issue.

Moisture Matters. Foundation applies much more smoothly on a moisturized skin, so make sure you’re not forgetting this important step. Just let it fully absorb before applying any face makeup.

Hydration Nation. Dehydrated skin causes fine lines to show more prominently, and when makeup settles into those fine lines, instant caking. To help keep skin hydrated–which is different than moisturized–I recommend regularly using hylaluronic acid after you shower or wash your face (it needs to be applied to damp skin).

I Got You Covered. Foundations can generally be categorized as Sheer/Light Coverage, Medium Coverage and Full Coverage. For liquid foundations, the more coverage they have, the thicker they tend to be. Powder foundation coverage is partially due to the pigments and ingredients in the products, and partially due to how you apply it (which I’ll get to). The important thing to know is that the fuller coverage you use, the higher the chances that your makeup will get cakey wit it. And if I may give my two cents on full coverage foundation, I don’t think it’s necessary unless your entire face is covered in acne (and even then, I have some other ideas). If you have generally clear skin with only a few blemishes or some minor discoloration that you’d like to minimize, you’re better off using a sheer foundation all over and concealer and/or color corrector where needed.

Everything in Moderation. A good pro makeup artist will tell you they use the minimal amount of foundation needed for each. They don’t use eight pumps worth of foundation on one face, like I’ve seen many a YouTuber do. Listen here, my friend–the skin will NEVER absorb that much foundation. And if it can’t be absorbed, it’s going to sit on the skin and be noticeable (and probably distracting) to anyone you have a conversation with. Cake City, USA, baby!

I didn’t even use a quarter-sized amount of foundation, which is why my skin looked like skin.

A Layered Story. Much like foundations, concealers come in different coverage types. The best way to avoid caking is to start with less concealer than you think you need. Apply it in thin layers to build up your coverage, as there’s no coming back from thick layers without removing them. If you start with a too thick concealer or use too much at once, your skin won’t absorb and it will sit on the skin, lookin’ all obvious and shit.

Minimize Your Risk. When makeup settles into lines and pores, it looks cakey. If you fill in those lines and pores before you apply your foundation, though…well, we’ve solved that problem, haven’t we? Just make sure to give the pore minimizer a minute to absorb before applying your beautifully thin layers of foundation and concealer.

A No Bake Makeup. Powder is often a culprit in the ol’ cake face dilemma, so beware. It’s not that you can’t use powder, but do so with a light hand. Don’t bake your powder (putting a bunch on the skin then letting it sit there for a while before brushing it off.) Baking leads to caking, darling. Start with less powder than you think you need, then add more if you still see shine. A thin layer is all you really need to set your foundation, so there’s no reason to go overboard.

I said USE SPARINGLY.

The Right Tools. When I use foundation on clients, I apply it with a flat foundation brush then I blend it in with a buffing brush, using circular motions. In this case, the flat foundation brush is the vehicle but the buffing brush does the driving. When I apply it on my own face, I use my hands then blend it in with a circular motion using a buffing brush. I think these two techniques allow for the most natural finish. Using a Beautyblender type sponge to stipple on foundation can give you fuller coverage, and that can lead to caking if you haven’t prepped your skin well or are using a heavy foundation.  Using a buffing brush to blend, blend, blend tends to give the most natural finish.

Set It Off. Occasionally, even though I’ve done everything right with the makeup, I’ll notice some low level caking on a client’s face due to lack of exfoliation or hydration. But once I apply setting spray, the minor caking goes away. I’m not suggesting you ignore skincare, layer on full coverage products, bake your powder and think you can you fix that all with some setting spray, but if you have a tiny bit of caking–I’m talking a 1 out of 10–a spritz or two of setting spray may take care of your problem.

Cake face doesn’t have to happen to you. With the right choices and precautions, your foundation, concealer and powder will absorb nicely and look seamless. And don’t we both want that for you?

Have a beautiful day 🙂

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