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Why Does My Makeup Look Dry?

by Gabbi

When you have the perfect makeup look in mind, there’s nothing more aggravating than something putting a dent in your routine, whether it be being rushed, mascara smearing on your eyes, or your products don’t seem to be applying with the quality you’d like them to.

One of the most annoying things to deal with is your makeup looking dry and cracked, regardless of whether it happens during the initial application or throughout the day.

This problem can be caused by a multitude of reasons, so hunting down the root of the issue can take some time and research on your end. Luckily, we’re here to help you out!

So, why does your makeup look dry? Your makeup may look dry due to the lack of a hydrating skincare routine, using products incompatible with your skin type or that are generally drying to the skin, or because it wasn’t touched up throughout the day or night. 

Thankfully, every problem has a solution – or in this case, a handful of them! In this article, we’ll break down all the reasons why your cosmetics may be cracking throughout the day, and how you can go about remedying it!

Why Does My Makeup Look Dry And Cracked?

When your makeup starts looking like the Sahara Desert, you know something sketchy is up! Here are some of the main reasons why your makeup application is looking less than its best:

  • Lack Of Skin Prep
  • Lack Of Skincare
  • The Wrong Products
  • Wrong Wear Time
  • Dry Climate
  • No Touch-Ups

Lack Of Skin Prep

Do you remember in years past when primer and proper skin prep were just not a thing? Yes, you may have repressed those memories deep in the inner creases of your mind, but if there’s anything that we can take from those years of poor makeup application, it’s that skin prep is super important!

It creates a clean, even base that your makeup can lay on all day. Skipping it doesn’t just seriously reduce the longevity of your makeup, but it can also make all of your products apply drier than they would with normal prep.

Lack Of Skincare

Have you ever heard of people saying that your makeup only looks as good as the skin beneath it? That statement does hold a bit of truth!

This doesn’t mean that those with tough-to-treat skin conditions like acne and rosacea can’t wear fantastic-looking makeup, but it just means that you need to treat your face with some extra TLC to keep everything looking its best!

It goes without saying, but having a trustworthy skincare routine reduces texture and breakouts, while also regulating oil production. All of these things will keep your makeup from drying out throughout the day.

The Wrong Products

Using the wrong makeup products is one of the top reasons why your makeup might look dry. It’s important to choose the most compatible products with your skin type, as well as to avoid using too many drying agents in a singular look! We’ll talk more about the best choices for makeup products later on.

Wrong Wear Time

A makeup product will only look as good for as long as it’s meant to last. Using longer-wearing products, and makeup that moves with your skin rather than settling into your fine lines and creases will keep your face looking moisturized and healthy throughout the day. 

Dry Climate

If you aren’t already checking the weather before you do your makeup, take this as your sign to start! Not just the temperature will give you a peek into how long your makeup will last, but the humidity levels as well. 

As a general rule of thumb, hotter days call for more hydrating formulas, as do days of dry, chilly weather. Warmer, humid weather is more suitable for moisture-fighting makeup products. 

No Touch-Ups

Unless you’re going for a lazy makeup look, one with light wear and is generally low-fuss, you’re going to have to touch your makeup up a couple of times throughout the day. Even taking 2 minutes to refresh your cosmetics can increase your wear time and how dewy your face looks. 

Solving Dry And Cracked Looking Makeup

Once you’ve narrowed down the reason why your makeup is drying out, the next thing you have to do is find the best way to keep your skin looking fresh and hydrated throughout the day! Based on the causes we listed above, we’ll break down our ideal solutions:

Proper Skin Prep

Though getting your skin can ready for makeup can be as simple as rubbing a primer into your skin, there are other steps that you can take to ensure that your face looks fresh regardless of the weather and how long you’ll be wearing it!

  • Moisturize Your Skin You should never apply makeup on a dirty face, so after you’ve washed it, don’t skimp out on the moisturizer! We recommend something lightweight but replenishing and nourishing. Something with hyaluronic acid will give you that extra boost you need for plump, hydrated skin- that’s why we love the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel.
  • Waiting Game Once your moisturizer is on, make sure you allow it ample time to sink into the skin. Applying makeup directly on top of moisturizer will have your cosmetics sitting on the top of your skin, potentially compromising their wear time and drying them out faster. Though it may seem long, wait 15 minutes before continuing your routine.
  • Hydrating Primer To keep flakiness from showing up to begin with, double your moisturizing insurance by layering your moisturized skin with a nourishing primer! For an extra luxurious feel that’ll keep you looking dewy all day, we like the Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentré.


If you know that your skin is on the drier side, you may be no stranger to the fact that your makeup tends to cling onto any texture, potentially exaggerating the look of your dry skin or flakiness. 

The key to fighting those flakes is easy- exfoliate! However, it’s important to do so correctly, so that you don’t accidentally dry your skin out even more. Though physical exfoliants may seem more effective, they could strip your skin of its natural oils, making you even drier.

Our pick for a gentle exfoliator that doesn’t compromise your moisture barrier has to be using Paulas Choice 2% BHA Exfoliator 2x a week (to start). You can increase or decrease your use as needed, but over time, you’ll find that your skin will start to look and feel baby soft!

A great video that goes in-depth about treating thirsty skin is this one by skincare guru, Hyram:

Choosing Cream Products

Though the answer may be clear, it’s important to specify that cream-based products are going to be far more hydrating for the skin than powder-based products. Using a combination of both of them in your routine will keep your skin from looking too dry or too wet. 

If you have an oily skin type, powder-based products will keep your skin in check, whereas dry to normal skin may find that an abundance of powder products will have your makeup looking dusty, dry, and cracked.

Perhaps the main product you can blame your dry makeup on is your setting powder (if you use one). Setting powders are a tricky thing to master, and can easily be overused.

When applied in excess, powders can drown your face and leave you looking overly velvety, leading to cracking makeup once your skin gets oily or comes in contact with humidity. 

Long-Wearing Makeup

Makeup that’s worn longer than it should be tends to look bad, no matter how many touch-ups you do. Even if you use a long-wear primer and setting spray, the freshness of your makeup relies solely on the products in between those layers. 

Unfortunately, powder products tend to last longer than creams, which is why people gravitate towards them during long nights out, but that also means your skin could end up looking cracked and dry by the time you’re ready to head home!

Some cream makeup products that are known for their longevity are the L’Oreal Paris Infalliable Glow Foundation, the e.l.f. Camo Concealer, and by opting for cheek/lip stains rather than cream formulas that could easily smudge away. 

A Proper Refresh

Going to the bathroom to “powder your nose” may have been more popular of a saying back in the day, but it isn’t something we shouldn’t be taking seriously! Refreshing your makeup can take all of 2 minutes, and the products you need can easily be carried with you.

The only two things you need are a dewy refreshing mist, and something to blend your makeup with! We’re big fans of the Elf+ Glow Dewy Mist to bring some life to drying makeup. 

As for blending, we wouldn’t want you carrying around a beauty blender all day, so a great alternative are these round sponge applicators that you can use dry or wet depending on how dewy you want your look to be! 

Ideal Makeup Tips To Keep Skin Fresh All Day

Here’s a base routine that will look hydrated regardless of what life throws at you! You don’t need to follow every single step to a q. Play around to see which tips work best for you!

Use A Balm 

Though thick moisturizers are usually ideal for nighttime skincare routines, those who suffer from super dry skin, or are dealing with eczema or a damaged moisture barrier, can use one to ready their skin for makeup.

Simply apply a generous amount of skin balm (or a thick moisturizer) to the skin, focusing on the problem areas, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then wipe it away! 

Think of this as an ultra-nourishing moisturizing mask. The balm will soften any flakiness and texture, and nourish the skin deeply enough to keep it from drying out throughout the day. 

Keep It Light

While we love and appreciate a full beat, you should know that a thicker makeup application is more likely to dry out earlier into the wear time. For makeup that looks fresh and moves with your skin, try to use the least amount of products possible. 

Finding hybrid products, like a foundation/concealer duo, can reduce creasing and drying. For something with light coverage, we like the Clinique Beyond Perfecting Foundation, while we would opt for the M. Asam Magic Finish Make-Up for something a little bit heavier. 

The Benetint Lip & Cheek Stain is a fantastic, saturated product that lasts long and leaves you with a natural flush. Apply it in dots on your lips and the high points of your face, and watch in awe as it melts into your skin- leaving you with a gorgeous glow that lasts the whole day. 

Instead of using two separate products for your contour and blush, give your skin a sun-kissed finish and a snatched shadow with the aid of the e.l.f. Putty Bronzer, a long-wearing, creamy product that moves with your skin without showing texture or drying your face out.

To keep everything fresh, you wouldn’t want to walk out the door without setting your makeup with the assistance of a light-wear powder and a glowy setting spray. This setting powder from Becca Cosmetics keeps makeup in place, but mimics the look of mist on the skin, which means it doesn’t compromise your dewiness!

Of course, the best spray to finish off your makeup routine with would be a dewy one! The Dewy Set Setting Spray from ABH is water-based, melting all of your makeup together with just a single ‘X’ shaped misting and giving you an extra boost of hydration. You can use it throughout each layer of your routine for some serious nourishment, too!

Skip The Brushes

Though makeup brushes are fantastic choices for makeup application, they do tend to make products cling to dry skin- especially concealers and foundations. Drier skin types would benefit from using a beauty blender, or simply their fingers to work the product into the skin and give a more skin-like finish.

Bye-Bye, Baking!

Unless you’re going to be facing some serious humidity (or swimming!), baking isn’t going to do anything but make your skin look drier than it is! A lot of people think that baking helps makeup last longer, and though it does, there are other techniques you can try out that will give you that same wear without drying out your skin.

The best way to keep your makeup on all day without baking is by lightly setting the areas you would bake with the powder, spraying a setting mist to emulsify the powder, and then pressing powder into the same areas again to lock it in. The result? A blurred, lasting finish that will look natural the entire day. 

Final Thoughts

Dry, cracked makeup can be a serious confidence killer! Despite its annoyance, it’s also a common cosmetic problem that can be taken care of with some extra care, and the addition of helpful tips and tricks to your beauty routines can make all the difference with how your makeup wears throughout the day. 

The main ways to keep your makeup presenting dewy and nourished are with a hydrating skincare routine, so your cosmetics are sitting on the most hydrated base possible. Using hydrating, long-wear products, as well as taking the time to refresh your face throughout the day can also make a world of a difference. Say bye-bye to dry days for good!

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