How to Stop Your Foundation From Oxidizing, According to a Cosmetic Dermatologist

@tylauren | Design by Zackary Angeline.

Ever go to take another bite of an apple, and notice how it's started to brown just a few minutes after the first bite? Or, how about the annoying fact that avocados will turn brownish-black in what feels like just seconds after you've sliced them? That's all due to a fun little chemical reaction called oxidation, and it doesn't only apply to food—it can happen to your foundation, too.

Chemically, oxidation occurs when a chemical reacts with another molecule and then loses some of its electrons, increasing its oxidation state or oxidation number. In cosmetics, this can result in color and consistency changes. So, you know how your foundation looked perfectly matched and natural when you ran out the door, but a quick middle-of-the-day mirror glance left you looking a little orange? Well, oxidation might be to blame.

Many contributing factors may cause your foundation to oxidize—skin texture, cleanliness, natural oils, and even the way a foundation appears once it is applied, dries, and is mixed with oxygen. Luckily, there are things you can do to prevent this.

Ahead, read our expert tips to prevent your foundation from oxidizing.

Meet the Expert

  • Joshua Zeichner, MD, is the Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
  • Jamie Greenberg is a celebrity makeup artist and Marshalls Beauty Expert.
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Create a Clean Canvas by Washing Your Face

This may seem like a no-brainer, but clean skin is healthy skin, and healthy skin is happy skin. Don't even think about applying foundation on an unwashed face (or worse—over yesterday's makeup!). That's just asking for mismatched tones and a host of other problems. Be sure to cleanse your face each morning, before applying any product or makeup.

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Don't Skip Toner

Before you apply moisturizer, don't skip this important skin care tip. Swiping on a facial toner will help to balance the pH of your skin while also absorbing excess oil your cleanser may have left behind. Zeichner explains that foundation oxidation "occurs more commonly in people who have oily skin," so eliminating excess oil as much as you can prior to application is an important first step to preserve the integrity of the color.

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Apply a Primer to Grip Your Foundation

Zeichner says that properly applying a primer to your skin pre-foundation, may help absorb excess oil while also creating a neutralized base layer for your foundation to bind to.

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Opt for Water-Based Skincare Formulas

Greenberg recommends opting for water-based or more naturally composed skincare formulas that are light on the oil while still being effective and hydrating. The more you can avoid oil-based products, the less of a risk you'll run of having your foundation changing things up on you.

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Choose the Right Foundation

All this talk about how foundation oxidizes, but the battle begins with the foundation itself, and finding the right foundation for you is key. Greenberg explains that not all foundations oxidize—and it's a matter of trial and error to find the right one for you and your skin in the first place.

She advises, "if you fall in love with a brand that oxidizes, you’d want to get that foundation in a shade lighter than what you would normally wear." This will help to balance the color change and make sure you're well matched.

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Use a Jade Roller

Woman using jade roller on face

Caroline Tompkins / Refinery29 for Getty Images

Applying your skincare is only half the battle. Ensuring it is properly absorbed and not just sitting on your skin's surface is important to not only ensure it's effective but also to make sure your face is as clean as possible before applying foundation. So, Greenberg recommends utilizing a jade roller, like the Vivitar Jade Double-Sided Roller ($4) so that the product properly penetrates. It also feels amazing.

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Use an Applicator, Not Your Fingers

Because the oils (and other contaminants) from your hands can cause reactions within your foundation bottle, it's important to use an applicator sponge or foundation brush and never your fingers or hands. Doing so will not only result in a smoother and more flawless application but, Zeichner says, will also preserve the integrity of your foundation and prevent oxidation.

If you're using a beautyblender, be sure to dampen it prior to makeup application for the most natural results.

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Blot Away Excess Oil

Blotting away excess oil from your face is important both before and after foundation application. If your face accumulates oils or begins to appear greasy throughout the day, carrying blotting tissues will help you to absorb the oil, as opposed to letting it sit on the skin's surface which may affect the overall appearance and tone of your foundation.

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Use a Setting Spray or Powder

Spritzing on a setting spray or powder, Zeichner says, will help minimize oxidation, too. "It helps absorb excess oil to lower the risk of reaction with the pigment in the makeup."

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Be Mindful of Shelf Life

Picture of foundations on vanity

Karly Jones / Unsplash

Zeichner advises that the average shelf life of a foundation is around 12-18 months. So if you don't use it daily, it's important to be mindful of how long it's been sitting on your shelf. If you use your foundation after the expiration date, it may appear dry and clumpy in texture, and may also be more likely to oxidize due to oils separating and rising to the top.

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Clean Your Brushes

Take care of your trusty makeup brushes, and they'll take care of you. It's so important to keep your brushes clean and sanitary to ensure they're performing at their best, and are maintaining the integrity of your products. Excess oils left behind on brushes can lead to your foundation oxidizing, so prevent it by properly cleansing your brushes and sponges weekly or biweekly.

  • How do I know if my foundation will oxidize?

    Foundations that are made with oil or oil-based are more likely to cause your foundation to oxidize. Look for foundations that are water-based formulations, as these are less likely to oxidize.

  • What causes foundation to oxidize?

    Most of the time, foundation oxidizes because your makeup combines with the oils in your skin, causing your foundation to oxidize or deepen in color.

  • How can I stop my foundation from oxidizing?

    If you find your brand new foundation is oxidizing, you'll want to try and use oil-free products on and set your face with powder to start. If your foundation is looking a bit old and the oil and color have started to separate, it's best to toss it out.

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