The Weird Reason Your Foundation Sometimes Looks Orange-y and Unnatural

I definitely did not wake up like this.

Last week at work, I walked into the bathroom, caught my reflection, and promptly said, “what the actual f—k.” Because my entire chin and jaw were straight-up orange, like I was a 13-year-old playing with foundation for the first time. But shocker: I hadn’t done anything differently with my makeup that morning, so what gives? The only explanation: I had officially become a victim of foundation oxidation. Dun, dun, duuuun.


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(Image credit: Marie Claire)

Oxidation is a weird, commonly despised, yet not fully understood problem in the beauty world, because it seems to wholly depend on a person’s skin type, the foundation they’re using, and their skincare routine. A quick Google search turns up pages and pages of “why is this happening?!” Reddit threads, along with debates on its exact cause. But regardless of the reason, the result is the same: orange, WTF-worthy skin that’s a few shades darker (and a zillion times oranger) than it was when you first blended on your foundation or concealer hours ago.

Some cosmetic chemists say that it’s caused by solvents in the foundation evaporating on your skin, causing the pigments to look a darker color on your face, while others disagree, citing your skin oils or skincare oil to be the real culprit: “The oils on your face and the oxygen in the air...mix with the oils in your foundation and cause the oxidative process—AKA the darkening, or, as I like to call it, oompa loompa face,” writes one user.

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(Image credit: Courtesy of Brands)

And based on every single makeup artist I’ve ever spoken with, it seems to be a combination of the two is most likely true. “Oxidation definitely does happen, but I find that it’s almost always because of an SPF or a primer that doesn’t mix well with your skin or your foundation,” says celeb makeup artist and all-around awesome person Vincent Oquendo.

Luckily, though, the fixes are pretty simple. At least, after some trial and error.

Rule out the foundation. Annoyingly, some foundations just seem to have a reputation for oxidizing, no matter what you do. To check for yourself, swatch a line of the suspect foundation on the inside of your wrist the next time you’re home for most of the day. If it still turns orange after a few hours, that foundation is not your friend and deserves to get tossed or returned.

Blot your face. If your skin is on the oilier side, or if you just use a ton of super-rich, hardcore moisturizers (*raises hand*), then try soaking up some of those excess oils before you apply your primer or foundation to help your foundation blend more evenly over your skin. (I, personally, do this every single morning with my favorite Palladio Rice Paper sheets, and my face stays matte, happy, and orange-free all day long).

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(Image credit: Courtesy of Brands)

Swap your SPF. Note that I did not say SKIP your SPF, because it’s the only thing protecting you from both skin cancer and wrinkles, but try playing around with different formulations. “I’ve noticed that face creams with SPF tend to cause oxidation more, for some reason,” says Oquendo, who suggests applying a separate sunscreen on top of your moisturizer, rather than combing the two. “I love the Clarins UV Plus Anti-Pollution sunscreen—it plays nicely with every foundation I’ve tried it with,” he says.

Get the right shade. This sounds obvious, but “you’d be surprised by how many of my clients are wearing a too-dark foundation shade and wondering why they look orange,” says Oquendo, who suggests sticking with the foundation shade that actually matches your skin (“if it looks even slightly orange in the bottle, it’ll look even oranger on your face”), and adding warmth with a dusting of bronzer around the edges of the face and beneath the cheekbones. His current favorite? The Dior Diorskin Nude Air Tan Powder.

And, if all else fails, just try a different foundation. I know—revolutionary. But sometimes, your face just hates what you’re putting on it, and the only way out is by making a complete switch.


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(Image credit: Courtesy of brands)

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(Image credit: Marie Claire)
Chloe Metzger
Beauty Editor

Chloe Metzger is the deputy beauty director at Cosmopolitan, overseeing the editorial content and growth strategy of the hair, makeup, and skin space on digital, while also obsessively writing about the best hair products for every hair type (curly girl here; whattup), and the skincare routines that really, truly work (follow her on Instagram to see behind-the-scenes pics of that magazine life). She brings nearly a decade of writing and editing expertise, and her work has appeared in AllureHealthFitnessMarie ClaireStyleCaster, and Parents. She also has an unhealthy adoration for Tom Hanks and would like to please meet him one day, if you could arrange that. Thanks.