The Science Behind Cakeface, And How To Prevent It

We’ve all been there – a midday glance in the mirror that reveals fading and cakiness – a far cry from the flawless glowing skin we’re so used to seeing on Instagram. The thing is, we can’t use PhotoShop to smooth away flaws IRL, so how to prevent makeup from going cakey?

How to prevent cakey makeup

Follow these tips to achieve a natural, dewy finish, and avoid the dreaded ‘cakeface’… 

Step 1. Prep skin by smoothing texture

Foundation is great because it covers all manner of imperfections, but one thing it doesn’t conceal (in fact, it actually accentuates)? Skin texture – if you suffer from rough, bumpy skin, your foundation will appear cakey as soon as it’s applied. Blame a mixture of dead skin cells and makeup debris – easily swept away with bi-weekly chemical exfoliation.

Beauty editor approved: Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid

Step 2. Keep skin well hydrated

Skincare should always be the cornerstone of your makeup handiwork, and hydration is crucial to a flawless base. Prepping skin with a moisturiser will create a smooth, soft canvas for the makeup you’re about to apply, and will diminish dry patches, reduce fine lines, and prevent skin from over-producing oil – all major culprits in the case of cakeface.

Beauty editor approved: NIOD Hydration Vaccine

Step 3. Prevent oil from breaking through by priming

If you’d class your skin as oily then this is a step you’re definitely want to pay attention to because oil is one of the biggest culprits of ‘cakeface’. Priming voids the issue in one single step, creating a layer between skin and makeup that prevents oil from breaking through. Not only will your makeup remain cake-free, but you’ll also avoid the dreaded 3pm shine. Win, win.

Beauty editor approved: PUR No Filter Blurring Photography Primer


Step 4. Don’t mix oil and water

It’s high school chemistry class level science, but oil and water don’t mix, ever. Layering water-based products with oil-based products is what results not only in cakey makeup, but also peeling foundation, and ‘pilling’ – when product balls up as it’s applied. Unsure where you stand? Check the ingredients list – if ‘Aqua’ is listed in the first few ingredients then it’s water-based.

Beauty editor approved: PUR Bare It All 4-in-1 Skin Perfecting Foundation 

Step 5. Use a setting spray

It might seem counterintuitive to spritz moisture over your skin post-makeup application, but step backstage at fashion week or behind the scenes of a photoshoot and you’ll notice this is as a crucial step as skin prep. Setting sprays are cleverly designed to create a thin, weightless shield over skin, which prevents the elements from causing the reactions that turn makeup cakey. 

Beauty editor approved: Gerard Cosmetics Slay All Day Spray