Reasons Your Foundation Isn’t Sticking

When getting a foundation, you have to shade match, make sure the product is suited for your skin type, look at the foundation’s finish, and a whole host of other things. So, imagine you do all that only for the foundation to slide right off your face before you even leave the house. Foundation not sticking to the face is actually a problem that lots of people face, but fear not, we are here to help!

There are different types of foundations that are best for certain skin types: color-correcting foundations for red skin, powder foundations for oily skin, foundations for acne-prone and textured skin, and the list goes on and on. Regardless of which one you use, makeup longevity can be a concern.

We are going to break down the top reasons why your foundation may not be staying in place and give you some helpful tips and tricks to avoid the slide!

What is Foundation Sliding

You might be a bit confused as to what I mean when I refer to foundation not sticking or sliding off your face! I don’t mean a literal slide. 

I am talking about when foundation doesn’t settle correctly on the skin and drifts away from where it was applied. This could mean the foundation settles into fine lines and creases, pills off with other products, or separates into patchy sections on your face. None of those options are great when the goal is seamless coverage!

Foundation can separate regardless of your skin type, but it can look different for everyone. If you tend to have oilier skin, your foundation is likely to settle into creases after it slides off the oily parts of your face. If you have dry skin, the foundation might cling onto drier patches on the skin leaving the rest of your face without coverage. With any skin type, you have the potential to sweat the foundation right off!


Reasons Your Foundation Isn’t Sticking

Here are some of the main causes for foundation separation:

Situation #1: Your Skin Prep is Off

Regardless of how often or little you wear makeup, getting your skin ready to wear makeup is crucial. In order to make sure your skin is prepped and ready for any product, you have to make sure your skin is clean. This is the single most important factor in the wearability of any skin product: makeup, skincare, sunscreen, or otherwise!

Putting products on dirty skin is a recipe for disaster. No product will be able to settle onto the skin and you could be trapping acne-causing bacteria in your pores. So not only are you guaranteeing that your foundation won’t stick, you might even gain an unnecessary pimple or two.

To properly clean your skin, wash it using your facial cleanser of choice. Gently wash your face for at least 30 seconds to really get a deep clean. In addition to twice daily cleansing, consider using an exfoliant once or twice a week. This exfoliant can be chemical (think AHAs and BHAs) or physical (small particle-based scrubs). Gentle but consistent exfoliation helps keep buildup from collecting on your skin and allows products to be more effective.

physical exfoliator

After your other skincare, it is also important to use a makeup primer to help everything stick. Primers provide an even base for your makeup to hold onto. Unsure of which primer to use? Here’s our favorite:

Situation #2: Your Skincare is Sabotaging You

I know that it seems kind of counterintuitive to focus on skincare when talking about a makeup product that ~covers~ your skin, but it’s important! Skincare products such as serums, creams, and moisturizers play a HUGE role in how your makeup wears throughout the day. When you know you will be using foundation, you should avoid using any super heavy skincare products that sit on top of the skin.

Not all moisturizers are created equal, and some will prevent your foundation from properly drying down onto your skin. It’ll be like trying to put paint over Vaseline! Your foundation will never settle properly, so as your face produces oil or sweats during the day, your makeup will slip and slide into the creases on your face. Not a good look!

To combat this, look for a more lightweight daily moisturizer that is oil-free. Another good tip is to let your skincare products soak in and settle for at least 20 minutes before you go about applying makeup. Skin prep is a big step in the overall wearability of your makeup, so be sure to give it the time and attention it deserves!

Situation #3: Your Sunscreen is Not Compatible

In addition to serums and moisturizers, sunscreen is another skincare step that could be messing with your foundation. Dermatologists recommend (and we agree) wearing some sort of SPF protection every day, rain or shine!

Whether you prefer physical or chemical sunscreen, you should always opt for an oil-free sunscreen. Putting on an oil-based product before foundation is a surefire way to ensure your foundation never even touches your skin to dry down.

Another common problem caused by sunscreen products is pilling. This is when your foundation latches onto other products — like sunscreen — on the face and creates tiny little lumps of product that sit on top of the skin. This is doubly bad because you don’t get the coverage from the foundation that you want AND your sunscreen isn’t effectively protecting your skin. While pilling can occur with both types of sunscreens, it is most common when using physical, mineral sunscreens that sit on top of the skin. If you can, try out a chemical sunscreen!

foundation pilling

Same as in Situation #1, give your products enough time to shine! Waiting 20-30 minutes in between skincare and makeup will almost always increase your wearability. Dry time is crucial in preventing the dreaded slide!

Situation #4: Your Foundation Isn’t Right for Your Skin Type

I know most people select their foundation based on which is made for their skin type, but sometimes it doesn’t work out on the first buy! The trial-and-error process is a big part of finding your perfect makeup routine products. Not all oily skin foundations are the same, just as not all normal or dry skin foundation are the same. Within each of those categories, there are light, medium, and heavy coverage foundations. And within each of THOSE categories are foundations with a natural, matte, or dewy finish.

There are powder foundations for oily skin, glass skin foundations for those who want maximum glow, and dewy foundations for dry skin. The list goes on and on!

There are so many factors to consider when picking the right foundation, and it can be hard to do it alone. If you are buying foundation from a department or beauty store (Sephora, Ulta, etc.), there will be beauty experts available to help. Don’t be afraid to ask, that’s what they’re there for! If you are looking for more affordable products at drugstores, we have a whole guide on the best drugstore foundations that breaks each skin category down and recommends a product.

The main tip here is to be open to trying new products! Your best foundation is out there somewhere. You might not find it on your first purchase or even your second, but through learning about your own skin and asking for help when you can, you can find it!

Situation #5: The Rest of Your Makeup is Not Sitting Well

Sometimes when foundation isn’t sticking to the face, the foundation isn’t even the issue! If you have other skin makeup products that are going on top of your foundation, those may be causing the issue.

Make sure your makeup is compatible! Above, I talked briefly about the different finishes of makeup: natural, matte, and dewy. When you select a finish for your foundation, you need to keep selecting that finish for all your other skin makeup products. For example, putting on a dewy finish foundation followed by a matte finish concealer is the equivalent of a one-way ticket to Slide City. If you’re using one of these matte foundations for oily skin, make sure the rest of your face products are matte. The products won’t blend well, and they will settle into the low points on your face.

We also have an article about the best drugstore concealers that will help you choose the right finish for your look.

Determine which finish best suits your makeup goals and stick with it, or your foundation might not stick with you!

Situation #6: You Aren’t Setting Your Makeup

The final main reason why your foundation isn’t sticking to your face is that you aren’t setting your makeup. You can set your makeup in a few different ways, but for staying power, it is important you do at least one.

The first way you can set your face makeup is using powder. Setting powders are sometimes tinted sometimes translucent, and they are pressed into face makeup such as foundation to help dry down the product and keep it where it was put.

setting powder

Another way to set makeup is by using setting spray! Setting spray is a liquid mist that you can spray over your makeup once it’s finished. It has a similar effect as setting powder but is often geared more towards natural or dewy finishes.

setting spray

Use one or both of these setting methods to make your makeup stay put!

Final Thoughts on Why Your Foundation Isn’t Sticking

Your foundation isn’t sticking because of any one of the reasons listed above, or it could be caused by a combination of those reasons. If you struggle with foundation separation, pilling, or sliding, give our suggestions a try!

Whether you’re going for a full beat using foundation or a no-makeup-makeup look using skin tint, sliding skin makeup is never the vibe. Keep your makeup intact and increase wearability for flawless face makeup that lasts all day long.