why is my foundation patchy

Why is My Foundation Patchy And What Can You Do About It?

I’ve been wearing makeup constantly ever since I was around 12 years old, and foundation patchiness was a huge struggle for me.

Now that I’m far more experienced with makeup and skincare, I shouldn’t be surprised. I have dry skin and struggled with acne when I was younger. My acne breakouts resulted in acne scars, and I didn’t know how to properly treat them. I also wasn’t prepping my skin properly for foundation and wasn’t using the right formula products. All these issues are a recipe for foundation patchiness.

So, do you ask yourself, why is my foundation patchy? There are many reasons why, and they boil down to your skin type, how you care for and prep your skin, and the foundation you’re using. Here are common reasons why your foundation is patchy and what you can do about them.

foundation patchy

Bottom Line Up Front

Skincare is the best solution for patchy foundation. Cleanse and moisturize your skin daily, and use an exfoliator once or twice a week. Use a primer that targets your skincare concerns, and opt for a medium-coverage foundation that’s buildable. I also suggest using a foundation with a natural finish.

Why Is My Foundation Patchy?

First, what is patchy foundation? This is when your foundation creases, gathers, or clings to the skin. It’s usually due to skin being dry and flaky, though texture issues, such as wrinkles, can also exacerbate these issues.

Patchy foundation is usually due to one of the following reasons:

  • Texture problems
  • Dryness
  • Acne
  • Improper skincare routine (or lack of one)
  • Lack of prepping
  • Not using the right foundation for your skin

These are all complex issues, so I will go more in-depth into the most common reasons below.

Keep in mind that you may see texture issues under your foundation, such as your pores and acne scars. This is normal and doesn’t mean your foundation is patchy. Remember, you can’t cover skin texture issues, so don’t pack more product on these imperfections.

No one has perfect skin, so don’t stress out about ensuring your foundation looks smooth. That’s why I emphasize keeping skin healthy instead of covering up imperfections. Plus, I will also explain how to choose the right foundation to prevent patchiness later in the article.

Not Caring for Your Skin

This was the main reason why my foundation looked patchy. While I was always good about washing my face, I never followed up with a moisturizer. My skin got drier as I got older, and I started suffering from eczema in my 20s. But my dermatologist told me I always had dry skin, and I needed to moisturize every day.

I will cover the ideal skincare routine in the next section, but you should use a face cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen every day. I also use eye cream, which I suggest if you notice your undereye concealer also looks patchy.

Not Using Primer

Another thing I was doing was not using a foundation primer! Now, I want to slap myself in the head for making such a silly mistake!
 
Why do you need a primer? Foundation primer creates a barrier between your skin and the product, so it lasts longer. Primers also help the foundation glide over your skin, and the product will blend better. There are also foundation primers that treat common skincare problems, and they will help prevent your foundation from looking patchy even more.
 
For example, if you suspect your foundation is patchy because you have dry skin, I suggest using a hydrating primer. Or, if your foundation is creasing into your skin texture, such as your pores, you can use a pore-minimizing primer.
female applying foundation

How to Stop Foundation from Looking Patchy

The best way to prevent patchy foundation is by caring for and prepping your skin before applying your foundation. This is what I did, and my foundation has never looked better! There are also best practices to follow when applying your foundation for seamless application.

Cleanse Twice a Day

Cleansing is the first step in any skincare routine. Everyone should use a cleanser, even if they have dry or sensitive skin. Oil and sebum get clogged in your pores, and cleansing that gunk out will prevent breakouts that make your foundation look patchy.

Which cleanser should you use? The cleanser you use depends on your skin type. If you’re unsure of the right cleanser for you, be safe and choose a gentle cleanser.

I have dry and sensitive skin, and one of my favorite cleansers is the Yes To Watermelon Light Hydration Super Fresh Cleanser. It’s extremely gentle on the skin, and your skin doesn’t feel stripped of moisture. That, and it smells like watermelon! I always grab this cleanser because it’s affordable (less than $10), and you can buy it on Amazon.

yes to watermelon light hydration super fresh cleanser

If you want a cleanser for mature skin, I suggest choosing the Andalou Age Defying Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk. I love milk and creamy cleansers for my dry skin. This one is especially great since it won’t leave your skin feeling greasy. Plus, the probiotics balance your skin flora, keeping your complexion healthy.

andalou age defying apricot probiotic cleansing milk

If you want a cleanser from a prestigious brand, the Youth to the People Superfood Cleanser is perfect for all skin types and doesn’t irritate sensitive skin.

youth to the people superfood cleanser

Use an Exfoliator Every Week

First, tread with caution before using exfoliating advice from others. Some people say to exfoliate daily or every other day. There are also exfoliators on the market that say they’re gentle enough for everyday use. I suggest only exfoliating as often as you need to or gauging your skin type.

For example, I have very sensitive skin. My dermatologist doesn’t even recommend I exfoliate. I only exfoliate once a week at the most.

That said, exfoliating does offer numerous benefits, which is why I still exfoliate. First, let’s cover what exfoliating actually does. It removes the dead cells on the outer layer of your skin. This is why exfoliating offers specific benefits, such as evening-out skin tone and texture. Some exfoliators have deep cleansing benefits, so they unclog pores and prevent acne breakouts.

I also think exfoliating also makes foundation look better. At least when I exfoliate, my skin feels much smoother, and my foundation blends so much easier on my skin.

There are two types of exfoliators: physical and chemical exfoliators. Physical exfoliators are the most famous example. Think of sugar scrubs–these products have coarse ingredients, such as sugar, salt, and even nuts, to slough off the dead skin cells.

My dermatologist doesn’t recommend I use a physical exfoliator, but I found some gentle ones. Dermatologica’s Daily Microfoliant is the first one that comes to mind. This product is a powder that you mix with water. It creates a paste that feels comfortable on the skin. My face always looks so luminous after using it.

dermatologica's daily microfoliant

One of my favorite affordable physical exfoliators is the Hempz CBD Face Off Gentle Exfoliating Scrub. I use hemp products all the time; hemp nourishes and rejuvenates the skin, and is perfect for dry skin types.

Hempz is also one of the premier CBD and hemp personal care companies, and I’ve been using their products for years. This is a gentle exfoliator, perfect for various skin types. Hempz said you can use this daily, but I would still keep this to once a week if you have sensitive skin like me.

hempz cbd face off gentle exfoliating scrub

Chemical exfoliators use acids to get rid of dead skin cells and increase the production of new skin cells. While most chemical exfoliants are harsh, there are some gentler ones on the market that even I can use. Ole Henriksen’s Phat Glow Facial is the perfect example.

This mask uses PHAs (polyhydroxy acids) instead of AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids), which are gentler. Even with my sensitive skin, my face feels so soft every time I use it.

ole henriksen's phat glow facial

If you want something more affordable, The Inkey List is becoming one of my favorite skincare brands. Their Glycolic Acid Exfoliating Toner targets many issues that can lead to patchy foundation, such as breakouts and scarring.

glycolic acid exfoliating toner

Moisturize

Since dryness is a big cause of patchy foundation, moisturizing is one of the best solutions. But in my experience working in the beauty industry, I quickly learned not enough people moisturize.

A big misunderstanding is you don’t need a moisturizer if you have oily/combination skin. I argue that those with that skin type need to moisturize more since their excessive oil production is the skin’s response to a lack of moisture. The key is to use the right moisturizer for your skin type.

For all skin types, I recommend Sukin’s Sensitive Skin Face Moisturizer. As the name suggests, it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin. The texture is very thin, so I would recommend it for oily skin types. It still provides great hydration for my dry skin.

sukin's sensitive skin face moisturizer

If you have really dry skin, I suggest using FaceTheory’s CeraQuench Renewal Cream. It’s infused with ceramides and coenzyme Q10, so it’s perfect for those with mature skin. For me, it’s very nourishing. However, the texture is extremely rich, so I only wear this moisturizer at night.

facetheory's ceraquench renewal cream

Use a Primer

As I said, a big mistake I made was not wearing primer under foundation. If dryness is causing your patchy foundation, I suggest using a hydrating primer, such as this one from e.l.f. It not only keeps skin moisturized but prevents patchiness and creasing. Just make sure you shake it before using it–otherwise, it will have an oily texture.

elf hydrating face primer large

If your skin is really dry and you want more coverage, you can also try a BB cream. I often wear BB creams under my foundation, and they work perfectly as a primer. I use the 5-in-1 Miracle Perfector BB Cream by Garnier. It’s not only super moisturizing but also had great coverage. It also has broad spectrum SPF 20 to protect your skin even more.

5-in-1 Miracle Perfector BB Cream Oil-Free

Use a Makeup Sponge

I only recommend following this tip if you tried the above advice and it hasn’t helped. I’m including this because I know many MUAs who use makeup sponges, such as Beauty Blenders. Instead of brushing the product into the skin, these sponges push and press the foundation. This makes texture issues less noticeable and has a seamless finish.

But there’s a reason why I suggest trying the other tips first. Beauty Blender sponges have gone under fire since many reported their sponges became moldy! Instead of using one expensive sponge, I suggest getting cheaper varieties and replacing them. If you buy a Beauty Blender, wash it every day with a gentle soap, such as Dove Bar Soap or any brand of baby soap, and let it air dry.

That said, I use a brush to apply my foundation. While many MUAs say brushes make texture problems noticeable, I disagree. I love how foundation brushes easily blend the product into my skin and give me a seamless finish.

I do recommend using a specific type of brush. Avoid flat brushes and use a rounded brush. These brushes create more of an air-brushed finish and the soft bristles grab onto the product really well. There are many foundation brushes on the market, though I use the Sephora Collection foundation brushes. They have many, though I feel the Pro Foundation Brush#64 leaves foundation looking flawless every time.

pro foundation brush#64

At $30, that brush is expensive. If you want something cheaper, I love the e.l.f. Concealer & Foundation Complexion Duo Brush. Though the brush is $8, it blends really well. Plus, the extra concealer brush is a big plus!

e.l.f. concealer & foundation complexion duo brush

Choosing a Foundation to Prevent Patchiness

Have you tried the previous advice and your foundation is still patchy? It may be the foundation you’re using. Here are some tips to find the best foundation.

Light-to-Medium Coverage

I’ve gone back and forth between full-coverage and medium/buildable coverage foundations for years. Honestly, I always go back to medium coverage. First, they feel more comfortable. I love how they feel light on my skin, and it’s still breathable for all-day wear.

And light-to-medium coverage foundations are better for dry skin. Full and heavy coverage foundations sit on top of the skin, making it more likely that they will cause patchiness and flakiness. If you need to cover more areas, you can wear concealer on top of the foundation. Or, choose a buildable coverage foundation and apply more product to the areas that need it.

Laura Mercier’s Real Flawless Weightless Perfecting Foundation is the perfect example. It has medium and buildable coverage, feels lightweight on the skin, and blurs imperfections rather than covering them.

laura mercier's real flawless weightless perfecting foundation

If you want something cheaper, I suggest choosing the NYX Born to Glow Naturally Radiant Foundation. It has a glow finish, which is better than a matte finish (I will discuss that more in the next section). It has medium coverage and looks very natural. It also feels nice on the skin.

nyx born to glow naturally radiant foundation

Avoid a Matte Finish

Even though I have dry skin, I’m not a fan of glowing finishes. I made the mistake of getting a foundation with a matte finish when I should have known better. My skin looked so patchy! Matte formulas cling to dry patches and accentuate texture issues. Plus, I think they will really heavy. That’s why I suggest avoiding the matte finish at all costs.

Which finish should you choose? The natural finish is my go-to. And the best example is the Sephora Collection Best Skin Ever Liquid Foundation. It’s very natural looking and contains hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, preventing any patchiness and flakiness.

sephora collection best skin ever liquid foundation

Use a Liquid Formula

I experienced most of my patchy foundation problems when I was a teenager. I remember wearing a full-coverage foundation under a powder foundation (facepalm). I thought switching to a full-coverage powder foundation was the solution, but I quickly realized it wasn’t.

Remember when Bare Minerals emerged, and everyone flocked to those powders? I was one of them. And man, never again. My skin was so patchy and flaky. I didn’t understand why until I got to know my skin better. Powder foundation doesn’t work well with dry skin and anyone with texture issues.

Instead, always use a liquid! Since the formula is lightweight and hydrating, it’s best for dry skin types. I’m using a cream formula now and like it because my foundation also acts as a concealer. But I still say liquid is the better choice, and I will be switching back to liquid when I’m done with the products I’m using now.

hd skin foundation

Make Up For Ever has long been my go-to foundation, specifically their HD line. The foundation has a smooth texture and is easy to blend. This foundation feels hydrating on the skin, but not greasy. It blurs rather than covers, thanks to the HD technology. Make Up For Ever also has several shade options, and I was always able to match clients of all skin colors to MUFE products.

This foundation is expensive, and Covergirl is a better brand for those who want a high-quality yet affordable foundation. The Smoothers All Day Hydrating Foundation is lightweight yet made of soothing ingredients, such as chamomile extract.

Smoothers All Day Hydrating Foundation

FAQs

Question: My foundation doesn’t look patchy, but it separates! What do I do?

Answer: While foundation separating is different than patchiness, both problems have the same root issue: skin texture issues. If you have too many dead cells on the outermost layer of your skin, your foundation won’t apply evenly and will look like it’s separating. The above advice applies here. Use an exfoliator once a week. Physical and chemical exfoliators are fine, and the one you use depends on the one that works best for your skin.

Question: My foundation doesn’t look patchy, but I have problems with blending! What do I do?

Answer: If you’re struggling to blend your foundation, it could be the combination of primer and foundation you’re using. If you’re using one oil-based product and another water-based one, the products won’t mix together well. Even if you’re using two oil-based or water-based products, some primer and foundation combinations don’t work well together.

I’ve used many blurring primers, which have thicker formulas, and they don’t work with very creamy foundations. If you’re using a thick primer or foundation, make sure the other product has a lighter formula.

Question: I want my foundation to look flawless. How do I do that?

Answer: Skincare is the secret to flawless foundation. Cleanse and moisturize your skin every day, and exfoliate once or twice a week. Use a primer that targets specific skin concerns.

Buildable foundations are the secret to flawless foundation. Full-coverage foundations can pack more product in unnecessary areas, such as the nose, and the finish looks weird. Stick to medium-coverage foundations and build more product in the areas that need them.

I start my foundation application by applying a little bit on the bridge of my nose, cheeks, chin, and forehead. Then, I blend that bit out, adding more when necessary.

Add more foundation to the areas that need it after you’re done. Press the foundation into your skin, which will prevent streakiness. Buff any harsh lines in a circular motion to blend them better. Finish with concealer where needed and set it with powder.

Why Is My Foundation Patchy: Bottom Line

makeup for smiling woman

I used to struggle with patchy foundation, and I realized that was due to several issues. First, I have dry skin and texture issues. I also wasn’t using a primer and was choosing full-coverage foundations that were heavy on top of my skin. Even though I was always good about cleansing my skin, I wasn’t moisturizing and exfoliating as much as I needed to.

Always prep your skin by cleansing and moisturizing it every day. Use an exfoliator once or twice a week. Be wary about the skincare advice you hear from others, such as exfoliating daily. Use the skincare routine that works best for your skin.

Before applying your foundation, use a primer that will keep your skin hydrated and minimize the appearance of texture issues. Choose a medium-coverage and buildable foundation with a natural finish. When you add these steps to your beauty routine, you can kiss your patchy foundation problems goodbye!

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