How to Avoid a Cakey Face



You know we’ve all at one time or another applied too much foundation or concealer and ended up with what I like to call “Cakey Face”.  This is a common dilemma when it comes to makeup, so here’s my easy steps in how to get more natural looking skin!

1.   Apply a face primer

This step helps prime your skin just as paint primer preps your walls before applying paint:; it smooths out the surface, filling in pores and makes your skin smoother for the foundation.  Primers have just recently become a standard in makeup products- one of the first ones was the Smashbox Photofinish.  This works well if you have dry skin, but I find it too oily looking on combination to oily skin.  (check out my article from awhile back on “Choosing your Best Face Primer“)  Here are my current favorites:

Benefit the POREfessional

MAC Matte Cream

Clinique Pore Minimizer Instant Perfector

2.  Don’t apply too much foundation

Now I realize that if you want full coverage or have many blemishes you’d like to cover, the first thing you think is to apply a fair amount of foundation.  This will cover the blemishes BUT will also risk the chance of your foundation piling up and looking very mask-like.  The better option is to apply a thin layer of foundation to even out your overall skin, then go over any blemishes with a concealer. On my clients I really like using the Beauty Blender (see my video on how to use it here:  Beauty Blender Review) because it applies a thin layer of foundation and makes it easier to blend it into the skin.  The Beauty Blender is best used damp, as the wet sponge thins the foundation slightly.

Favorite tool:   Beauty Blender

Favorite dewy looking foundation:  Neutrogena Healthy Skin

3.   Apply powder only to oily areas

This is the key step!  ONLY apply powder to the areas on your face that tend to get oily- usually the “T zone”.   If you have dry skin, you may even be able to skip powder altogether.  The trick is to also apply powder in a thin layer- I find the best way to do this is to use a thin, flat sponge.

My favorite sponge:   NYX Medium Powder Puff

4.   Mist setting spray

This step is optional- I just do this step if my skin looks a bit dry after applying powder.  My absolutely favorite product of all time is MAC’s Fix Plus spray- simply mist it all over your face after your makeup is done.  It will give a subtle glow to the skin and help “melt” the powder into your foundation.   If your skin is oily, I would skip this step as it can make it look more oily at the end of the day…

MAC Fix +


ALWAYS remember to apply makeup in thin layers at a time- you can always add more, but it’s very difficult to take away.   I really hope this helps you all in your quest of getting flawless looking skin!

Stay happy and healthy!

much love,






Comments are now closed on this article.

Hi Marlena

I do have this problem most of the time, The “cakey” happends due to the skin too oily or too dry? I have a combination skin oily on T-Zone and some pigments on my cheek. I have problems of choosing a foundation. If I use with less SPF it will turn dry, If I add more moisturiser or use higher spf, it turns oily with the laughter line obviously visible. Please help…..

From: Malaysia

I had that problem aswell. But what I found really helped was using tinted moisturiser. With your laughter line … Try and find a Foundation that go with your skin tone and doesnt react badly with oily skin. I found it really hard to find one that worked for me, but there are soooo many foundations out-there … By trying a whole bunch of different foundations I finally found the right one and it works the best for me. Try Maybelline foundations they are amazing!!!! Hope I helped :)

@Diana I feel ur pain girl, I am the same and it drives me mad. There isn’t a foundation or product that haven’t tried, including the ones Marlena suggested and I still get that caky oily looking looking skin . It all looks great for the first 1-2 hours, after that I might aswell wash it all off and start again… its depressing… :(


hi i m from morocco and mac is not available
there is a product like Mac fix in Other marks like l oreal or maybelline or avon

Hi Mouna,

Urban Decay and Model In A Bottle make something similar to Fix+. Hopefully they will be available in your area. Also, Model In A Bottle is online and they ship internationally, so they may ship to Morocco if you check!

hi marlena
i m from morocco and mac is not available
there is a product like Mac fix in Other marks like l oreal or maybelline or avon

I’m confused…I thought powder was supposed to set the foundation so that it doesn’t come off? I also like to feel completely matte because I am so oily, but when I do the steps that you just beautifully layed out for me I am not matte enough…I can still feel my foundation and my oiliness coming to the surface. What do you think? Are there exceptions to this using as little powder as possible rule?

I have unbelievably oily skin, so I know how you feel. I finally found a system that works for me, I used to have SUPER slick skin by lunchtime before I did this(it was so embarrassing!), and now I am good til 8 pm (and I start work at 7). I wash my face and moisturize (I used Cetaphil for OIly Skin face wash and Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel), then spray my face four times with Urban Decay De-Slick. Let it dry (it only takes 30 seconds or so). Then I put on primer and all my makeup, except my setting powder. When my makeup (minus setting powder) is all done, I spray my face again with De-Slick four times. When it’s dry, I powder very lightly with setting powder (I use Makeup Forever HD Setting Powder – Transparent) and then I hilight and I am done! And I have really sensitive skin and none of this breaks me out.

I found these steps give me a matte finish (with glowy-ness only where I hilight!) and keeps me oil-free and non-cakey all day! It took me a good 2 years to find my perfect routine, so I hope this helps you!

I’m just the opposite of danielle. I have very dry skin. I also thought that powder is supposed to set the foundation. However, if I use powder my skin looks very dry. Can someone with dry skin set their foundation with Mac fix+ instead of using powder?

Thank for the great videos ~ I love them!!!

If you have dry skin you may not even need to set your foundation. Yo can just spray your face with fix plus.

Hi,Marlena. I love your tutorials.I need your help:

1. Can you tell me your opinion on MAC Prolong wear concealer?

2.what is your favourite highlighter?

Thank you

Now I know I’m not marlena, but……

I dont like Mac pro long wear concealer, it didn’t cover very well.
My favorite highlighters are Mac cream color base In pearl and Giorgio armani fluid sheer.

Hi Marlena, I absolutely adore your website and have learned so much from your tutorials and as a result, have given me a lot more confidence when I step out as I too, have struggled (well, still do! :) ) with being overweight. QUESTION: I LOVE Model in a Bottle setting spray (Urban Decay is good, but nothing is as good as Model in a Bottle), however I also have MAC Fix+ spray as well; do I use the Model in a Bottle OVER the MAC Fix+ spray? Is the MAC spray also intended as something to keep your makeup in tact? A little confused as to whether Fix+ is intended to keep makeup from moving; esp with summer fast-approaching (I sweat VERY easily so this is an imperative step for me). Thanks and much love and best wishes to you!

Oh Marlena you are so beautiful, I love your tutorials and I have learned a lot from you :)
Thank you so much :) :)

how if I have to use a sunscreen/sunblock from my dermatology? should I using the sunblock, primer, foundation and face powder as well? are not look too thick?
oya, I have a problem. I just bought a concealer online, and unfortunately, the color doesn’t match to my skin (not covering well, especially to cover the dark area under my eyes). is there any way to make it suitable for my skin color?
thanks :)

You can purchase a primer that has an SPF in it. Mac has one and Cliniques moisturizer has SPF also. If your sunblock is prescription from your Dr. than just use that as your moisturizer and apply your primer on top and then your foundation. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.
As far as the foundation, is it too light or dark? Hope This helps.

Is the MAC Matte Cream the same as the Matte-fying Gel you’ve used before? Or did it replace the other product? I couldn’t find the gel on their website, and was planning to try it out when I run out of the Clinique Instant Perfector!

You are so gorgeous, Marlena!! Thanks for the tips! Have you used any Lorac foundations before? I have been on the search for my perfect foundation and I’m not having much luck. I had tried the Lorac Breakthrough Performance foundation before, but I returned it because it made my face very matte, however the color matched me perfectly and it didn’t break me out. I tried some of your top 10 foundation options but they were a bit dark for me (I have the fairest skin in the world haha). I also worry if any will break me out. I tried the Lancome Teint Idole today and so far I like it, but I noticed that it has a strong scent. Do you think that will make me break out? I have dry, sensitive, skin that is hard to work with. Do you think I should go back to the Lorac one? Any other foundation recommendations?

Thanks in advance! Hope to hear from you!

You are so gorgeous Marlena!! Thanks for the tips! Have you tried any Lorac foundations? I have been on the search for my perfect foundation for a long time but I just can’t seem to find the one. (It’s like men! LOL) I had tried the Lorac Breakthrough Performance foundation and loved it because it matched my extremely pale skin perfectly and didn’t break me out (I have very dry, sensitive skin) however, it was a bit too matte for me. So I returned it to try some others, including ones from your top 10 list, and they didn’t match me or the broke me out. I used Lancome Teint Idole today and so far I like it but it has a strong scent. Will that make me break out? Should I go back to my Lorac foundation? Or do you have any other recommendations?

Thanks in advance! Hope to hear from you!!

Hi Jessica!

I also have really sensitive skin and I break out really easy. I tried the Porefessional that Marlena recommended, and while it is AWESOME and really evens out the skin (I have massive pores), it broke me out. But a foundation that i love, and I think it would be good for your skin, is Nars Sheer Glow. It’s great for dry skin and didn’t break me out, which is rare! For my colour, I am an NC15 in mac (so super light), and the perfect colour for me in Sheer Glow is Deauville. Hope that helps!

Sorry, the comment didn’t show up so I thought I to write it again but it told me it’s a duplicate. I guess I have two comments! *Embarrassed* Lol

I really want to try that Benefit Primer but so far my favourites are (for dry skin) BECCA Mineral Primer and Illamasqua Satin Primer. By the way, I actually got MAC Fix+ because you was raving about it all the time and I LOVE it, it gives such a beautiful finish.

Hi, Marlena :) Thanks so much for this video! I have had this problem in the past….but one question, when i have eyeliner in the waterline on the lower part of my eye area (don’t know the word for it lol!) i allways get this weird black goop in the inner corner of my eye…do you have any tips on how to…well..not get a creepy goop in the inner part of your eyes?

lots o’ love from Iceland!! :D

I feel your pain. I don’t know if it is worse for contact wearers or what. I’ve found that if you gently run a Qtip over your waterline and gently into the tear duct on the inside corner of your eye before applying eyeliner/gel liner to your waterline, it really helps prevent the goop.

Hi, a quick question on primers, I was wondering if you have tried Too Faced Primed & Poreless Skin Smoothing primer. If so, how do you like it. Tying to decide whether to get Benefit or Too Faced.

Hi, I have oily skin and I just bought the Too Faced Primer 1 week ago and I LOVE it! If you put a little on the back of your hand and then squeeze some concealed on top and mix it together it will make like this awesome tinted mousse cream. I always do it when I’m in a rush. The primer goes a long way! The Benefit one is good but not for my oily skin.

HI Marlena, I just had a quick question about primers. I was wondering if you have tried Too Faced Primed & Poreless Skin Smoothing Face Primer, if so which one do you like better Benefit or Too Faced.

marlena baby amazing as always! and THANKYOU for fixing the lighting <3 so much better! xoxo

OMG OMG OMG OMG “I’m soooooo happy!””
That so totally made my night way better!!!!!! Thanks for the laugh, and the very informative video!!

Hi! this has been my dilemma.Thanks for giving me it necessary to put a powder or foundation on your neck so it wouldn’t look like a mask?

Hi Marlena,

In this video you started with a primer, but do you use a moisturizer/sunscreen first? I’ve always wondered if I’m supposed to skip moisturizer or sunscreen if I use primer. Thanks!

Oh~ Marlena~ You are really gorgeous! I’ve so much from you!! The cakey face is one of the problem I’m facing now~ Your video really help a lot~ I just don’t know how to express my appreciation to you~ By learning from your video really give me a very big confidence on make up now~ thx so much~ hoping for more tips from you~ full of loves and best wishes to you~ ^^

I think we disabled it when we were troubleshooting some security issues. We should probably be enabling it again within a week.
Thanks for your patience!

Holy cow! It looks like my six year old son did Pamela Anderson’s make-up. I’ve found that as I age, I can no longer wear as much make-up as I once did…black eyeliner just looks weird on me.

Hi Marlena
I’m just wondering if I use both Mac Fix+ spray to get rid of that powdery look and model in a bottle to make my makeup last and waterproof, is that a bit too much?
Thanks and Take Care

marlena, we can see the hapiness in your beauty because you look amazing recently! love from brazil!

HI Marlena.

I went to MAC PRO store in Orlando and they said that they don’t have that matte cream. They don’t have it also at the Mac store in my country. Do you know if they should sell it everywhere or what’sgoing on?

Lots of love, as always…


It may be called “Matte Gel”- if you do a search on MAC”s site for “Matte” it will appear :)

Hi marlena I just wanted to say thank u for making videos about makeup I would be lost with out u!

Hi marlena!! Thank you for all your awesome make up tips!!! I admire you as person and as the wonderfull artist that you are!!! a favor, could you tell what kind of foundation isbetter for a hispanic girl with normal/dry skin type…thanks……

Love the video! I was wondering what you think about Urban Decays setting spray “Dew Me” they say it sets makeup to last and gives you a fresh look

Video is awesome, but what’s a pity — there’s no such primer (I’m talking about Benefit) in Russia :(

Marlena, BIG FAN BTW!!! Should the concealer be darker or lighter than your skin color? Oh and I just purchased the Benefit Pore, and its amazing!!!!!! Thanks Marlena, your gorgeous! E>

How come you havent done a review or haul on the NYX HD Foundations or NYX HD line? You got me hooked on their eyeshadows and I heard they made this foundation but I can only find it online and I was wondering if it was any good

Nice work, Marlena! I’ve found over many years, that a slightly damp sponge pressed gently over the face does something similar to what your mist does. That might help those who are unable to afford a lot of products. :)

Keep up the good work! :)

I bought the Mac Fix + because I thought it would be great for making my makeup last longer, but as it wasn’t working for me, I went to the Mac counter at Nordstroms and asked them about it. They said it was not for that! So surprised! They said you’re supposed to use it before your makeup for keeping your face hydrated and calm, but not for making your makeup last longer. Has anyone else had this experience? Or does it work for you?


Can you do a makeup tutorial for someone with >>> A LOT OF FRECKLES <<<

I am a brunette, medium skin tone, with lot's of brown freckles (I can send you a pic.) and it's hard for me to find the right kind of face make up. I feal like there is already a lot going on in my face with the dots I have.


Hi there I would love to put eye shadow on BUT when I do it becomes very greasy after a couple of hours and falls off. What should I do. Cause I would love to wear color on my face. Other than my cheeks and lips. Than you

HI Marlena…PLEASE HELP! Do you know of any good products for oil control? I have very oily & also sensitive skin. What would be the best primer and foundation to use for my skin type? Also, any other products that might help? I have tried so many products lately and nothing seems to do any good. Mac Pro Longwear and Estee Lauder DW Light both made me break out in a rash and Lancome Teint Idole made me very oily, I have also tried Bare minerals but I did not like the coverage. I also use Smashbox light primer but it does not do much for oil control. Any suggestions? Thanks so much!

Thank you so much for this article! I was trying to figure out how to help my face when I get a makeup meltdown. I have combo-oily skin and the heat makes it one big cakey mess. I have a good primer and I love my powder foundation but when summer hits everything becomes a problem. I bought MAC fix+ and it worked perfectly. I walked around all day in the heat and nothing budged and it looked very natural.

I know the article was for cakey makeup mess in general but mine is always from my makeup melt down lol So thanks for giving me the idea to make my purchase.

hi marlena.. i have a quick question…i use the dior airflash spray foundation and i love it i love how it makes my skin look it gives me great coverage..the only thing is that is soo pricy and it doesnt last very long…do you know a regular foundation comparable to the dior spray foundation?

This totally helps me…like soo much! I typically wont even try to apply foundation or powder or anything to my face because it always ends up looking cakey, and its the most self conscious thing about my makeup. So this totally helps! Right now i just have Covergirl foundation, I’m aiming for purchasing a MAC foundation or just generally a more high quality foundation. My skin is super dry, but i apply moisturizer that works for me, so help reduce the dryness. I will definitely try this with the foundation and powder i already own. :) THANKS!

awesome. i’m 31yo and only bought my first foundation less than 2 years ago lol. i’m still learning the ropes here and you really brought some hope to me :D

after the mac fix spray my mascera get’s dirty on my eye..:s how you use this after the makeup??!
can i spray it after the face cream,and before the makeup??? does it work??

Do you have a tutorial demonstrating the makeup you’re wearing in this video? It looks very natural and fresh. Thank you!

Hi Marlena
Just have a wee question… chances are you have covered it before but I have just begun following you on youtube and think your videos and tutes are amazing and super helpful!
Anyway, when it comes to applying foundation, what difference does using a makeup brush make as opposed to just using fingers??
Any help would be amazing! :)

Hi Marlena
I love your tutorials! Your very beautiful and talented. I am a young aspiring model and I have a modelling audition Wednesday, but I need your help. I have done everything you have insturcted in this video but my chin always looks cakey. I use clinique foundation, I was hoping you might have some suggestions to help me, it would help me a lot!
Thanks :)

Hiii Marlena,

which Foundation did u use in this video???
Please answer, cause your skin here looks soooo amazing :D:D:D:D:D