What does “Cakey” mean to you?

I feel like there’s a revolution going on in beauty right now. Everyone wants to cream contour themselves (STOP.) and everyone wants something “that’s not cakey”. What the hell? What does that even mean?

Cake makeup was coined from the MAX FACTOR Pan-Cake makeup originally introduced in the 1950’s. Cake makeup is still sold for theatre today. It was called cake because it came in a round disc and resembled.. a cake! Cake makeup is a powder that can be applied wet for more coverage and has a truly disgusting finish in person. It looked good on the kind of film used back then.

Ad for Max Factor Pan-Cake makeup starring Judy Garland

Ad for Max Factor Pan-Cake makeup starring Judy Garland

Cakey does not mean what you think it means, I assure you. I have done a perfectly blended beautiful finish with TINTED MOISTURIZER on someone not used to makeup and was told “well it’s kind of cakey”. Powder was not even applied to the face. I can assure you, just because you can see you are wearing makeup does not mean that you have a cakey face.

I just spent the last 5 20 minutes on Google images and found one picture… ONE… that represents cakey makeup, and it’s a very drastic example. Behold…

Scary. That, my friends is cakey.

This also came up when I googled “cakey makeup”…

That is not cake, that’s getting your makeup done at a certain makeup counter when you can afford a professional artist that knows how to do makeup on women of color, and throwing a sh*t load of loose powder on without buffing it in. So unless you think cakey makeup is supposed to mean throwing flour on your face, you’re using the term wrong.

“Cakey Makeup” also drew these results:

All of those are beautiful makeup jobs that are not cakey. So this makes me curious… what does cakey even mean when you’re describing it? Is is the fact you can see that you were once not wearing makeup and now you are? Is it a full coverage, and if so what do you not like about it other than “it’s cakey” (wtf?? lol)?

As a professional makeup artist, I’ll let you know what “cakey” means to me. Cakey is something that happens after a liquid or cream product such as foundation or concealer is applied or touched up over the top of already set makeup. It kind of cracks the surface. Learning makeup technique over the years it has happened to all of us. I remember a time years ago when a client wanted extreme coverage under her eyes, and even though a minimal amount of corrector and concealer covered the darkness, she wanted more. I had already set the eyes and made the mistake of adding more concealer. It cracked the entire thing and became very tacky and thick and looked like total crap. I learned my lesson that day and starting all over was the only thing I could do. It was a humbling but necessary experience every makeup artist has learned.

The only other time I use the word cakey is when the makeup looks very dry and emphasizes pores, dry skin and wrinkles.

There is a new trend emerging because of a youtube blogger (Gossmakeupartist- whom I adore). He is out there telling everyone to put powder on their face and then foundation. O M G. I CANT. The video has 429,000 views at the time of this post. That means potentially 429,000 people are walking around like a hot mess if this isn’t done Exactly the way he is saying to do it (which is very likely). As someone who loves his videos and has learned lots of savvy tips from him, I’m disappointed as he should know better now that he has that much influence over viewers. That said.. I tried Goss’ tip and my makeup stayed well .. but was a bit cakey 😉

Let’s use the word “heavy” from now on when you think it’s too much coverage. Let’s use the word “dry” when you think it’s too dry looking. Let’s retire “cakey” and expand our beauty vocabularies together shall we?




  1. I loved this article! Thank you!! Do you have any recommendations for foundation for really dry skin? That’s what I thought cakey was too. I moved to AZ and no matter what I do — when my makeup wears off, it looks god awful. Cakey. Ugh. I would appreciate any advice you could give! Thank you – Autumn 🙂

    1. Hi Autumn! Well the best thing you can do is really combat that dry skin with skincare and then you don’t have to have such a limited choice of foundations. Some of my favorite hydrating formulas are MAC Face and Body, Make Up For Ever Face and Body, Nars Sheer Glow, Chanel Vita Lumiere Aqua, and any tinted moisturizer formula should be good. My friend Ashley swears by Glossier’s tinted moisturizer. Be careful of how much powder you use to set it, that could be an issue as well. Good luck!

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