Why Is My Makeup Separating On My Face? | 6 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Imagine carefully crafting the perfect makeup look, spending several minutes on it, only to have it start pilling and separating. It can be incredibly frustrating and leave you wondering, “Why is my makeup separating on my face?” I recently faced a similar issue and had to scour the internet for tips and tricks to salvage my makeup.

Why Is My Makeup Separating On My Face

After some trial and error, I finally identified the root causes of the problem. If you’re going through a similar situation, you probably don’t want to go through all the exploration and experimentation I did. So, I’m here to pinpoint some common mistakes that could be causing your makeup to separate and look uneven. Let’s uncover the culprits preventing you from achieving your best look.

Why Is My Makeup Separating On My Face? | Getting into the Nitty-Gritty! 

No matter how much Snapchat and Instagram filters convince you that makeup should be flawless, with not even a single dry patch, crease, or dark spot in sight, the reality is quite different. Our skin has pores, lines, texture, and hair, all of which contribute to the varied appearance of makeup in real life. While it is normal for makeup to crease, shine, and settle into deep lines, excessive pilling and separating is not.

filter vs real skin

The art of makeup is more complex than it may seem. Encountering challenges while learning and experimenting with makeup, especially for beginners, is normal. Problems like makeup separation can be frustrating, but don’t let them dampen your spirits. I’ll investigate the reasons behind makeup separation and also provide solutions. However, let’s start by identifying some common signs of it so that you can recognize and address them effectively.

How Do You Know If Your Makeup Is Separating? 

Here are some indicators that your makeup is separating.

  • Makeup forms clumps or balls on the skin’s surface.
  • It struggles to adhere to the skin and seems to slide off.
  • Products settle into fine lines, pores, and texture, resulting in a patchy and grainy appearance.
makeup seperation
  • You might observe flaking or peeling, creating random dry patches on the skin.
  • Makeup transfers to your clothes, hands, or other surfaces.
  • Uneven coverage can also hint at makeup separation, with some areas of your skin having more product than others.

How To Fix Separated Makeup On Face? | Reasons and Solutions 

Inadequate Skincare

Think about not sanding your walls before painting them. As a result, the walls will be patchy, textured, and uneven, with the paint clinging to them for dear life. Similarly, failing to care for your skin correctly can cause your makeup to appear cakey and separated. Addressing and treating your skin concerns is essential for naturally achieving a smooth and even skin surface that allows makeup to glide and adhere to it. 



  • Build a skincare routine based on your skin type, concerns, and goals, and follow it consistently. 
  • Integrate exfoliation into your beauty routine to eliminate dead skin cells, dirt, and other impurities, promoting soft, smooth, and supple skin.
  • Hair removal can also enhance makeup application. Threading, waxing, and shaving are the most popular methods for effectively removing facial hair. 

Poor Skin Prep 

Would you believe I thought skin prep was unnecessary when I first started wearing makeup? No wonder my makeup would appear patchy, making me look worse when I hoped it would make me look better. If you’ve been making the same mistake as me, it’s time to start taking skin prep seriously because it will undoubtedly improve your makeup. 

While following a proper skincare routine before applying makeup is essential, it is also important not to skip primers because they are specially curated to enhance makeup application and avoid mishaps such as makeup separation. 

skin prep


  • Start by cleansing your face thoroughly with a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser before applying makeup.
  • Follow up with appropriate toners, serums, and moisturizers to hydrate and prepare your skin for makeup.
  • Consider investing in a quality primer and apply it generously before your makeup. People with dry skin can use moisturizing primers to achieve a dewy glow. On the other hand, people with oily skin should use primers that combat oil and shine while leaving a matte finish. 

Oily Skin 

Oily skin is distinguished by increased sebum production, which results in a shiny and greasy appearance. This skin type is also prone to acne and has larger pores. These factors can make makeup application difficult because it can easily slide off the skin. As a result, your makeup separates easily, particularly in T-zone areas such as the forehead, nose, and chin. 

Additionally, using makeup products incompatible with this skin type, such as an oil-based foundation, can exacerbate oil production, increasing the likelihood of makeup pilling and separation. Humidity and heat can also cause oil production and sweating, which can cause makeup to fall off. 

oily skin


  • Incorporate ingredients that regulate sebum and oil production, such as Niacinamide and Salicylic Acid, into your skincare routine. 
  • Choose silicone-based primers that control oil production and leave your skin less shiny and greasy. As a result, your makeup will stay put for longer. 
  • Use a foundation that caters to oily skin. They typically leave a matte finish and adhere well to the skin. 
  • Set your makeup with powder and setting spray to make it last longer. 
  • Use blotting papers and tissues on the go to control the oil and shine on your skin. 

Conflicting Formulas 

Recall our science class lesson on how oil and water don’t mix. There is no need to delve into the nitty-gritty of the science behind it; I’m just using this example to highlight that the chemistry of your makeup products is vital in understanding where they can lead to clumping and separation.

Simply put, using both oil-based and water-based products simultaneously can make your makeup struggle to adhere to your skin. Additionally, products with different textures can lead to pilling. Let’s explore some solutions to address these issues more effectively.

makeup products


  • Make sure your makeup products have compatible formulations and textures.
  • If you have dry skin, go for products with hydrating ingredients and oils. You can also use products with thicker consistencies.
  • If you have oily skin, choose water-based and lightweight products that adhere well to your skin.
  • Give your products a few seconds or minutes to set and absorb before applying additional layers.

Incorrect Makeup Application 

There are several ways you could be applying your makeup incorrectly, resulting in problems such as separation. The first cause of your makeup woes could be improper layering. Numerous trends these days suggest using makeup products in unconventional ways. Many people recommend using a setting powder before applying primer or foundation. If you’ve tried some of these tips, your makeup may break. 

makeup order

If you’ve been struggling to make your makeup last longer, using the wrong makeup tools may be a factor to consider. While you should be able to apply makeup with any tool, the truth is that some products work better with brushes than sponges and vice versa. Using your fingers to blend the products may also cause uneven distribution, flaking, and textured patches. 

Finally, not cleaning your makeup tools is a neglected cause of makeup separation. Using old and dirty makeup tools can cause your makeup to look patchy, and the residue from previous applications may adhere to your skin, giving it a cakey appearance. Dry beauty blenders can also fail to distribute products evenly, resulting in a separated-makeup appearance. 


  • For seamless makeup application, follow a specific order based on the formulation and consistency of your products. Generally, it is recommended to begin with skincare, followed by a primer, liquid products, cream products, and powder products. 
  • Choose the right tools for applying your makeup. Many brands sell tools specifically designed to be used with their products, which you could try. 
  • Examine online reviews and tutorials to determine the best makeup application techniques and tools. 
  • Clean your makeup tools thoroughly every 7-10 days and replace your makeup tools every 1-3 years. 

Not Setting Your Makeup 

Setting your makeup is essential for ensuring all your products blend well and stay in place for long periods. The first method for locking your makeup is to use a setting powder. These powders are typically used on top of liquid or cream products. Setting powders are classified into three types: milled, loose, and pressed. Milled powders are ideal for blurring texture and fine lines. Loose powder is best for baking, while pressed powders control shine. 

Translucent and colored powders are also used to set base makeup. Translucent powders are simply white (no white caste is left behind), whereas colored powders help to add a little coverage to the makeup. 

setting makeup

Using setting sprays and mists is another effective way to seal makeup. Numerous options on the market cater to various skin types, concerns, and goals. Setting sprays can make your makeup last for 8-12 hours, depending on the formulation and potency of the product. They also aid in controlling shine and protect environmental factors such as humidity and heat. 


  • Use setting powders best suited to your skin’s concerns and needs. 
  • Apply setting powders to oily areas, particularly the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin). 
  • Use a few coats of a strong setting spray to seal in your makeup. You can also lightly dab your makeup with a sponge to ensure all the products blend well. 

Frequently Asked Questions | Why Is My Makeup Separating On My Face?

Does old makeup separate? 

Old makeup or products past their expiration date are more likely to separate. It simply means the product’s components have separated, resulting in an odd appearance and consistency. Furthermore, the color and odor of these products can change, and they may harbor bacteria. 

Which is the best primer to stop foundation separating?

There is no single best primer to stop foundation separation. Choosing the best primer depends on various factors, such as skin type, concerns, and goals. Nevertheless, select primers that leave a slightly sticky and tacky finish to avoid makeup separation—for instance, the e.l.f. Power Grip Primer is a low-cost yet effective primer that can help lock in your makeup for several hours. 

cakey to flawless makeup

Why is my foundation separating on my nose?

The skin around our nose has the most sebaceous glands, so it is more prone to becoming oily and greasy. As a result, it is common for foundations to separate on the nose. You can avoid this using the methods outlined above or watch this video for more information. 

Why does my makeup come off even with setting spray? 

Setting sprays help seal makeup in place for longer periods, so if your makeup comes off even after using one, it’s understandable why you’d feel distressed. While there could be several reasons, one common cause is that you’re applying too much makeup or setting spray, causing it all to fall off. So, use a limited number of products to ensure nothing breaks or separates. 

Why does my makeup come off when I touch my face? 

If your makeup comes off when you touch your face, it’s probably because your foundation, concealer, or other cream products transfer easily. Such issues are caused by poor formulation. While you can save your look in some cases by setting it with powder, if the problem persists, you may want to replace your product. 


Makeup is fun, and some even claim that it is therapeutic. So, problems like makeup separation can be upsetting, lowering your mood. It may also reduce your confidence or cause insecurity at times. I identify with all of these emotions, so when I had problems with my makeup, I knew I had to help others fix theirs as well. 

In my case, a lack of exfoliation and excessive oil caused my new foundation to pill, prompting me to scream, “Why is my makeup separating on my face?” I hope the above guide helps you figure out what’s wrong in your situation. If you do, please share them in the comments section below, along with what you did to address those issues. 

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