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How to stop foundation separating on your skin

Imagine stepping out of the house feeling flawless only to catch a glimpse of yourself a few hours later looking like you’ve been engulfed by an oil slick. Not a pretty sight and guaranteed to insert more than a pang of mortification into your day. There's nothing more frustrating than putting in the effort to achieve a flawless foundation finish, only to see it separate and streak throughout the day. Ever find your foundation separating? Let’s discuss some tried and trusted techniques that will ensure you achieve a long-lasting, unified makeup base.

Use these tips to perfect your application method so that foundation separation is a never event in your life. Using professional techniques will give you confidence and prevent makeup errors from denting your self-esteem.

A woman looking in a mirror to check for foundation separation

Why is my foundation separating?

Good question! Foundation separation generally happens when the water and oil-based properties in your foundation fail to bind properly on your skin. There is more than one culprit at play here and below I will outline some of the potential causes:

  • Skincare mismatch: Using a moisturiser that's too heavy or incompatible with your foundation type can disrupt its ability to stick to the skin. Always use a lightweight moisturiser under makeup or invest in a good quality primer.

  • Lack of exfoliation: Dead skin cells create a bumpy, uneve surface, preventing foundation from gripping evenly. Exfoliate at least once a week but no more than twice a week.

  • Incorrect application order: Applying creams over powders is known to disrupt the smooth canvas needed for foundation. Always apply foundation over moisturised skin and set with a powder. 

  • Over-application: Piling on too much product overwhelms the skin and increases the chance of separation. Build foundation gradually instead of applying too much straight off.

  • Wrong foundation formula: Choosing a foundation that doesn't suit your skin type (e.g., oil-free for oily skin) can lead to imbalance. Experiment until you discover the one that’s right for you.

  • Humidity and climate: Hot, humid weather can cause foundation to melt, while dry environments can make it patchy. Both of these issues can be tackled with the correct application and setting process for your skin type. 

Foundation on a makeup brush

Preparing your canvas for lasting perfection 

Skincare plays an important role in how makeup sits on the face, believe it or not. A good cleanse and tone routine will ensure you start with a clean, oil-free base. Use a gentle cleanser suitable for your skin type. Follow up with a toner. It will help to balance your skin's pH and remove any lingering residue of grease and grime. For additional benefits, choose a product that will target any concerns, such as dark spots, dullness or breakouts.


Exfoliate regularly to remove dead skin cells and create a smooth surface for foundation to adhere to. Opt for gentle exfoliating products or methods to avoid irritation. If you have sensitive skin, a simple face cloth can do the trick. 

Consider moisturiser your best friend. It is crucial for all skin types! Choose a moisturiser based on your needs: lightweight and oil-free for oily skin, hydrating for dry skin and balancing for combination skin. Apply a thin layer and allow it to fully absorb before applying makeup.

A primer creates a barrier between your skin and makeup, allowing for smoother application and extended wear. Choose a primer that addresses your specific concerns: mattifying for oily skin, pore-minimising for enlarged pores or illuminating for a radiant finish. Always apply a primer after using a moisturiser. 

Use a magnifying mirror to zoom in on the troublesome areas of your face. Correct any issues before you set your look with a powder and/or spray.

Application methods that counter foundation separation

Less is more, always. Start with a small amount of foundation and build coverage gradually. Use a damp beauty blender or stippling brush to press the product into your skin for a natural, flawless finish. You can go in with a second application to cover problem areas that require more camouflaging.

Adopt a strategic application mentality from the start. Focus foundation on areas that need the most coverage, blending outwards towards the hairline and jawline.

Setting powder really is key for locking in your foundation and preventing shine. Use a translucent powder and focus on areas prone to oiliness, like the T-zone. Apply with a light touch to avoid a cakey look. This is especially important when it comes to skin under the eyes and around the nose. 

You can also prevent foundation from separating by considering remedies for the following skin concerns:

  • Oily T-zone: Use a mattifying primer and oil-control setting powder in this area.

  • Dry patches: Apply a hydrating moisturiser and avoid using too much powder, which can accentuate dryness.

  • Fine lines and wrinkles: Opt for a lightweight, hydrating foundation and apply it with a damp beauty blender to avoid settling into wrinkles.

A woman using setting spray to prevent foundation from separating on her skin

Weatherproofing your makeup for all-day flawless

Hot and humid outside? Likely to find yourself in a sticky environment, such as a busy office, overcrowded public transport or a nightclub? Use a mattifying primer, water-based foundation and a setting spray formulated for humidity control.

What if it’s dry and cold? Opt for a hydrating primer and foundation. Avoid using excess powder, which can be incredibly ageing and also make your skin look dry.

Other tips to consider include:

Blot throughout the day. Use oil-absorbing blotting papers to remove excess oil without disturbing your makeup.

Are you setting spray savvy? Setting spray is your final line of defence. Choose a long-lasting formula and hold the bottle at arm's length while misting your face in a T-shape motion.

Touch-ups with a light hand. If your foundation starts to separate, use a damp beauty blender with a minimal amount of foundation to touch up specific areas.

Choosing the right foundation to avoid separation

Finding the perfect foundation is key to preventing separation. Consider these factors:

  • Skin type: Opt for oil-free formulas for oily skin, hydrating formulas for dry skin and a balance of both for combination skin.

  • Coverage: Choose a foundation that offers the level of coverage you need, from sheer to full.

  • Finish: Decide between a matte, dewy or satin finish based on your desired look and skin type.

Don't be afraid to experiment with different primers, foundations and application techniques to find what works best for your skin. Remember, your makeup routine should be tailored to your unique needs and preferences. Get it right and foundation separating issues will be a thing of the past.

Here’s to all-day flawless, every day!

Woman holding an article about why some people are no longer using concealer


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