How to Apply Powder Foundation like a Pro (Without looking Dry or Cakey!)

how to apply powder foundation without looking dry powder or cakey

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If you’ve been worried about getting a cakey, powdery dry texture with your powder foundation, you are in the right place.

Powder foundation is a super versatile makeup product everyone could try and use because when properly applied,

it leaves a beautiful airbrushed smooth finish, but sometimes It can be tricky to apply powder foundation without looking dry or cakey.

Here’s how to solve this.

In this blog post, we will walk you through how to apply your powder foundation the right way with all the pro tips and trick.

At the end of this post, you’ll to be able to achieve a flawless look that will last all day!

This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may receive a small commission (at zero cost to you). Please see my full disclosure policy for details.

The Right Powder Foundation for you

The first step is to choose the right powder foundation.

Types of powder foundations

There are many different types of powder foundation on the market, so it’s important to find one that suits your skin type.

Cream to powder foundations

Cream to powder foundations is a great option for those who want a smooth liquid foundation-like finish and medium to full coverage.

They are easy to apply and give your skin a smooth, velvety finish.

One of my favorites cream to powder foundations is the Conceal + Perfect smooth finish by Milani

Mineral powder foundations

PUR minal powder foundation

Mineral powder foundations are another good choice, especially if you have sensitive skin.

They provide buildable coverage and won’t irritate your skin like some other powders.

Our absolute favorite mineral foundation is this 4-in-1 Pressed Mineral Powder Foundation, it’s a 4-in-1 Foundation, Concealer, Powder, and SPF. So definitely a must-try!

Loose powder foundations

BareMinerals powder foundation

Loose powder foundations are a great option if you want a light to medium coverage.

They are easy to apply and give your skin a natural, matte finish. Our favorite is this one from bare Minerals.

These are good for a first application and compact powder foundations are perfect for on-the-go touch-ups. They come in small, portable compacts and can be applied with a sponge or brush.

The powder foundation I’ll use for this tutorial is the Infallible 24hr fresh wear powder foundation. I’ll describe this as a cream-to-powder foundation without so much of the “cream,” depending on how to apply it. It’s waterproof, full coverage and with a soft matte finish.

I’ll explain more below, and I’ll also let you know if this foundation worked for me.

How to apply powder foundation for dry skin

If you have dry skin, look for a powder foundation that contains hyaluronic acid or glycerin. These ingredients will help to prevent your face makeup from looking dry throughout the day. This powder foundation is also HYDRATING. so it’s a good option if you have dry skin.

Another thing to try is to apply a hydrating mist (not setting spray) like this one after applying your powder foundation.

How to apply powder foundation for oily skin

If you have Oily skin, foundations that don’t have comedogenic ingredients will work best.

These products won’t clog your pores and will help to control shine.

Pro tip 1: You need to make sure that any skincare or skin prep products are well absorbed before adding your powder foundation on your skin.

Estee lauder mattifier primer

Pro tip 2: I also recommend using an oil-control mattifying primer like this one, and if it has niacinamide or maybe a niacinamide serum like the absolutely fantastic (and affordable) serum by The Ordinary, that would be great.

Pro tip 3: Apply a super lightweight layer of translucent powder with a loose powder brush to make sure everything is dry before you apply your powder foundation.

This trick is also phenomenal to do before applying your liquid foundation if you have problems with excess oily skin.

The Right Tools to apply Powder Foundation the Right Way

To apply your powder foundation, you’ll need a few tools.

The first one is a makeup sponge. This tool will help you to apply your powder foundation evenly. It can be ANY type of makeup sponge. I like the ones that come with the compact powders.

These are especially good for retouches.

The second one is a good quality powder brush. This will help you to achieve a more natural look.

Powder brushes come in all shapes and sizes, so find one that is medium to large and seek for a brush that is not too loose but dense.

A good option for light-to-medium is this one, the ultra plush powder brush by Real Techniques.

dense powder foundations

or this one here more dense one for medium to full coverage

And lastly, you’ll need a setting spray. This will help to keep your makeup in place and prevent it from looking cakey.

Step 1. Prep your skin for Makeup

The first step is to prep your skin for makeup.

Start by cleansing your face and neck with a gentle cleanser.

Follow up with a serum, and then apply a light layer of moisturizer.

Pro tip: Let your skin absorb the moisturizer for a few minutes before moving on to the next step.

(Don’t forget sunscreen)

Even if you do not plan to wear a full face of makeup and you are trying to wear only powder foundation, the skin prep routine before is an essential step to prevent your foundation from looking dry, cakey, or flaky.

After that, apply your primer.

Step 2. Apply your concealer

should you apply concealer when wearing powder foundation?

Should you apply concealer when wearing a powder foundation?

Yes! Even when you wear powder foundation, concealer is still an important step you should be doing if you want to cover skin imperfections like dark circles under the eyes, blemishes, and even out the skin tone.

The next step is concealer.

Choose a concealer that is slightly lighter than your skin tone and has good coverage.

If you have dark circles, choose a concealer that is one or two shades lighter than your skin tone.

Apply the concealer to any areas that you want to cover up before applying powder foundation because even if you are not using a liquid foundation, you might still want extra coverage with concealer, and it should be applied first.

Use a makeup sponge or your fingers to blend the concealer into your skin.

Make sure that you blend it out well so that there are no visible lines.

Let the concealer sit for a few minutes before moving on to the powder foundation.

TIP: Set your concealer with your translucent powder. You don’t want to apply your powder foundation (adding unnecessary layers of makeup) on your under-eye area because it might cause your concealer to crease or settle into fine lines.

Step 3. Use a Makeup Sponge

how to apply powder foundation with a sponge

Now that you have your concealer in place, it’s time to apply powder foundation.

Start by dipping your makeup sponge into the powder foundation.

Tap off any excess before applying the powder to your face.

Apply the powder to your face starting from the areas you want more coverage (it’s usually the center of your face) and working towards the areas you want less coverage.

For example, I have some pimples and acne marks on my cheeks that I want to cover up, so I start by applying my powder to those areas.

Use a patting motion to apply the powder rather than rubbing it in. This will help to prevent your foundation from looking cakey.

How to apply Powder Foundation with a Brush

Applying a powder foundation with a brush is a great way to get a more natural look.

The key is to find a good quality powder brush that is not too loose but dense.

This will help to buff the foundation into your skin and blend it better.

Start by applying the powder to your brush and then buffing it to your skin for several seconds. This will help to mix the powders with your natural oils and build a creamy finish.

If you find that you are not getting enough coverage, take more powder and repeat the process. Applying your powder foundation with a brush is different than a makeup sponge.

There are 3 ways to apply powder foundation:

  • Using only a makeup sponge
  • Using only a dense buffering brush
  • Using both.

My favorite option is the last one.

The way I do it is that I apply my powder foundation with my makeup sponge following the process below, build my coverage, and then I use a buffering brush to blend any harsh lines, that way, it prevents an excessive powdery finish and leaves a flawless airbrush finish on the skin.

How to apply powder foundation with a brush

Step 4. Build your coverage

Once you’ve applied powder foundation to the areas you want more coverage, it’s time to build up the coverage in the areas that are needed.

You can get light, medium, or full coverage with the same Powder foundation depending on the amount of product added.

We still need to apply it in layers and carefully to prevent it from looky heavy powdery, or too thick.

To build your coverage into a more full coverage foundation, start by dipping your makeup sponge into the powder foundation again.

And then apply the powder to your face in swirling buffing motions, but this time only on those areas you feel you need more coverage.

This will make the pigments melt into your skin smoothly.

Note: If you are using a brush, take some time to buffer the powder into the skin (gently) for several seconds to see the result before adding one more layer of product. Build your desired coverage with a makeup sponge.

The denser the brush, the more coverage you’ll get. And the looser the brush, the more sheer coverage. 

how to apply powder foundation with a brush

Using a wet sponge to apply powder foundation

Using a wet sponge is a great way to achieve full coverage, but it’s not my personal favorite way to do it. I think is easier to get patches.

The key is to build up the coverage gradually.

Start by wetting your sponge and then dipping it into the powder foundation. And apply it to your face in tapping motions.

You can start with just a small amount of product and apply it to the entire face, or you can use a wet sponge to add extra coverage to certain areas and then get back with a brush and apply the foundation to the rest of your face.

Should you apply a liquid foundation before a powder foundation?

This is a big no.

You are whether using liquid foundation or powder foundation.

If you mix both, you might get cakey during the day, or you might end up with a thick, heavy-looking makeup.

One of the most common reasons foundation creases and get cakey is because some use powder foundation to set their liquid foundation.

While you in fact, need to set your liquid foundation, you should use a no-color translucent powder, not a powder foundation.

The only way I recommend mixing liquid and powder foundation is by wearing liquid foundation and using your powder foundation for only the touch up hours later

Step 5. Rest of the Face Makeup

When applying powder foundation, we can fall into the myth of only using powders for the rest of the makeup. This can actually lead to our skin looking flat and powdery.

Try mixing up different formulas and textures, for example, a liquid or cream blush, liquid bronzer, stick highlighter, etc. This is totally okay to use on top of or with powder foundation.

If you want to know how I apply blush and bronzer to lift my face, you can check my facelift hack here. And then, come back to this post.

Step 6. Set Your Makeup

The last step is setting your makeup.

To do this, hold the setting spray about six inches away from your face and

spritz it evenly over your makeup.

Setting spray is a MUST when wearing powder foundation. This wet product at the end of your face makeup will turn any powdery finish into a smooth skin-like perfect foundation.

If your skin is more on the dryer skin, mist your face with a hydrating setting spray to really create a super nice skin-like texture to your powder foundation.

If your skin tends to get oily during the day, a mattifying setting spray like this one here is your best way to go.

Let your setting spray dry for a few seconds before applying the rest of your makeup.

Congratulations! You’ve just learned how to apply powder foundation without looking dry or cakey!

Here’s my final look:

woman wearing powder foundation

I really like how the skin is soft matte but still has that glow in those areas where I want them more dewy.

This is thanks to mixing up different formulas like liquid blush and highlighter with my powder foundation.

How to touch up your powder foundation

The best way to touch your powder foundation is by removing the excess oil from your skin with oil-removing blotting tissues and then applying your powder foundation in buffing motions with a CLEAN makeup sponge.

My all-time favorites are these Palladio blotting tissues with rice powder.

I like to carry my powder foundation in my handbag, and any time I need to refresh my makeup, I go with the makeup sponge included and retouch my makeup to get a fresh makeup look wherever I am.

Best tips to pick the right powder foundation for you

When it comes to choosing the right powder foundation, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Firstly, you need to make sure that the shade of the powder is close to your skin tone, if it’s lighter, the better.

If it is too dark or too light, it will not look natural (and nobody wants that)

Pick a shade that is slightly lighter than your skin tone because,

as the same when we are baking, powder ingredients get darker when mixing with wet ingredients,

and powder foundations tend to get slightly darker when it’s mixed with our natural oils. (this usually reflects after 15 minutes of application)

Even when I recommend going lighter, you need to stick with your undertone.

This is so important! Undertones can range from yellow, pink, and neutral.

In this Powder foundation tutorial, I’m trying the Infallible 24hr Fresh wear from Loreal, in this shade. It was super viral on tiktok so I had to try it, and now I love it so much! It is truly long-wear and feels so lightweight that it leaves me just the right coverage. I applied two layers.

Secondly, you need to consider your skin type. If you have oily skin, look for a powder foundation that is oil-free and mattifying.

If you have dry skin, choose one that is hydrating and contains ingredients to help your dry skin, and use a hydrating face mist on top for a soft smooth skin-like finish.

If you have oily skin, don’t forget to do the translucent powder trick I share above!

Another way to use powder foundation

You can also use your powder foundation as a shade of bronzer.

If you have been struggling to find your perfect bronzer, try wearing a powder foundation shade that is 3-4 tones darker than your skin but in the same undertone.

This usually applies to fair skin tones that struggle to find the right shade of bronzer.

Final thoughts on How to apply Powder Foundation

Here’s my before and after:

before and after powder foundation without looking cakey and dry

And here’s how it looks with natural light:

So now that you know all about powder foundation and the best way to apply it,

it’s time to put your new knowledge into practice.

With these tips, you should be able to apply your powder foundation like a pro.

Whether you’re looking for full coverage or a natural look, we’ve got you covered.

Be sure to mix up the textures and formulas of your other face makeup products to achieve the perfect airbrushed finish.

Experiment with different application tips and product formulas to see what works best for you.

And as always, have fun with it!

With a little bit of trial and error, you’ll be able to find the perfect powder foundation routine that makes you feel like your most beautiful self.

Thanks so much for reading, and I hope this article was helpful!

Bye bye,

Valeria H.

What’s Next? More posts about Foundation:

How to Apply Powder Foundation like a Pro (Without looking Dry or Cakey!)

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