6 Reasons Your Makeup Is Separating—and What You Can Do About It

The actor Anya Taylor-Joy with smooth and set makeup


If you've ever sat and wondered how to get your makeup to look like the beauty filter IRL, you're not alone. While texture is completely normal (and social media can be majorly deceiving), some techniques can help you achieve a flawless base.

But even after you've achieved what appears to be a perfect application, the real test comes with how the makeup wears—and if it stays put or separates over time. "Makeup separation is when the elements of your makeup products separate, resulting in a patchy or uneven application," explains makeup artist Elizabeth Seropian.

We tapped four professional makeup artists—Sofia Tilbury, Sabena Collier, and Kristen Fortier, alongside Seropian—to dig into the causes of makeup separation and methods for preventing it. Read on for what they had to say.

Meet the Expert

01 of 06

You Have Oily or Combination Skin

You can add makeup separation to the list of frustrations that can stem from having oily or combo skin. Pro tip: Find skincare that combats your oil, and prep your skin to get your base in the perfect place. "Using the wrong skincare formulas for your skin type can lead to a build-up of oil on the face, causing your foundation to split and shift," says Tilbury. "For very oily skin types, I always recommend Charlotte's Magic Cream Light ($100) for a lightweight veil of hydration that still primes and protects your skin without feeling too rich."

02 of 06

You Didn't Prep Your Skin

Regardless of skin type, skin prep is perhaps the most important step in perfecting your base.

This starts with skin texture, so Seropian says exfoliation is a strong place to start. "Sometimes all we need is a nice Hydrafacial" to send dead skin packing, she says. "Once a week, right after I get out of the shower, I [like to] grab a soft towel and gently scrub my skin. You'd be shocked at how much dead skin comes off. It's gross but also super satisfying."

Once your skin is clean and happy, Fortier emphasizes the importance of using a primer that works with your skin. "I recommend Crunchi's Smart Primer ($50) because it is high performing and formulated for all skin types," she says

"[Makeup can separate when] the skin is not properly prepped with a moisturizer and primer that works for the specific skin type," adds Collier. "My personal favorite 2-in-1 moisturizer and primer that works for all skin types is the Vitamin Enriched Face Base by Bobbi Brown ($99)."

03 of 06

You Put on Too Much Foundation...

Caked-on foundation = the enemy, and is often a cause of makeup separation. "One of the biggest culprits of makeup separation is using too much product," says Fortier. "A little can go a long way, so apply a little at a time and only use what you need." She adds that the thicker the makeup is, the more likely it is to separate throughout the day.

If you love a full coverage beat, you aren't alone. Still, Collier recommends starting small and building up. "Less is more," she emphasizes.

04 of 06

... Or You're Wearing the Wrong Foundation

According to TikTok, every foundation is the greatest of all time. But that doesn't mean it will work for your skin. "[Separation can happen if] the foundation does not match the skin type," says Collier. "For example, if someone has dry skin and opts for a matte foundation, it will settle into dry places and form dry areas that separate the makeup. If you're oily, opt for foundations that are oil-absorbing or matte. Oil-based foundations may move around as you naturally produce more oils throughout the day."

On that same note, Collier notes that pairing contrasting formulas together—like an oil-based product with a water-based product—can also lead to separation.

05 of 06

You Applied Your Powders Before Your Creams

The artists unanimously agree: Always apply your cream products before your powders unless the product explicitly instructs otherwise. "Incorrect makeup application, like applying liquid-based formulas over powders," can lead to separation, Tilbury shares. "Always apply your powder last and focus on the T-zone to avoid looking dry and flat." Collier concurs, calling this the "golden rule."

06 of 06

You Aren't Setting Your Makeup

Setting your creams with a powder is a crucial step for achieving a beautiful base, but the artists point out that setting spray is the real MVP for sealing the makeup in place. "Consider using a lock-in-place setting spray to prevent separation," advises Seropian. "It is also a moment for you to close your eyes and pretend you're on a magazine shoot with the wind blowing in your hair," she jokes.

And depending on where you live, setting spray can be an even more crucial step in your routine. "Those who live in hot and humid environments can experience this build-up too," says Tilbury. "The Airbrush Flawless Setting Spray ($38) is your best friend for locking your makeup look in place for up to 16 hours. And it can be reapplied on the go to refresh and revive your makeup, so it looks freshly applied all day."

When it comes to makeup separation, step one is identifying the cause. Whether it be oily skin, two products that don't agree, or simply a lack of skin prep, with the right solution, you can achieve your dreamiest base.

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