There are few things we hate more than waking up to a nasty, unwelcome blemish on our faces. This happens at least once every month (you can do the math). This, my friends, is when we thank our lucky stars that concealer exists! For years, concealers have been the saving grace for people struggling to hide problem areas. Thanks to concealer, we’re able to hide everything from zits and dark circles to elaborate tattoos, as well as highlight cheekbones and eyes.
You’ve probably noticed that concealers no longer come in only skin tone shades. Instead, there are many different colors (green, purple, pink, yellow, white, etc.). Each shade has a specific issue they are best suited to conceal. And if you have several spots on your face that you struggle with, then understanding color correcting concealers can be a total game changer.
So keep reading to see how you’re supposed to use these color correcting concealers to make troublesome spots disappear.
Concealer Myths and Expectations
Before we get into the specifics of choosing and applying concealer, it’s important to clarify some common myths about how concealer works.
Concealer is meant to be used on small discolored areas (underneath the eyes, around the nose, on blemishes such as red marks from acne). It’s not an alternative to all-over foundation; instead, it works best with foundation.
Depending on how much coverage you need, concealer can be applied over or under your foundation. For less coverage, apply concealer before foundation; for more coverage, apply concealer on top of foundation.
Tip: Generally, concealers should not be applied over powder foundation, as doing so tends to cause streaking and makes the powder layer roll and get cakey. If you prefer powder foundation, apply concealer first.
Using a concealer that is one or two shades lighter is enough to neutralize dark areas without attracting unwanted attention to the area by making it look too light.
Many women think they can achieve a more natural look by skipping the foundation altogether, choosing instead to use just a concealer for coverage and only where needed. This technique can work if you already have a nearly perfect complexion, and you’re just using concealer to highlight or enhance an already-even skin tone. But, even then, the concealer must mesh with your skin color perfectly, and you have to apply it sparingly—think several thin layers, not one thick, dotted layer that’s blended out.
The desire to have a natural look is understandable, but it’s simply not possible for a concealer to cover flaws, such as acne, brown spots, or port wine stains, adequately without looking like you have makeup on. You can still get a close-to-natural look, but even the best concealers have limitations.
Choosing a Concealer
Choose your concealer based on what works for your skin type and concerns. If you have dry skin, don’t go for a liquid concealer with a matte finish because the finish will emphasize dryness. If you have oily skin with enlarged pores, don’t go for a creamy or stick concealer as these textures tend to clog and magnify the appearance of pores, plus they tend to add an oily shine. If you have dark circles or brown spots to hide, you’ll want a concealer that provides at least medium coverage, and the same goes for covering red marks from past breakouts.
For the undereye area, be sure to select a shade of concealer that’s no more than one or two shades lighter than your natural skin tone; for other parts of your face, select a concealer that matches the color of your foundation exactly. Neutral beige to slightly yellow shades look best regardless of where they’re applied. Unless you’re considering a color-correcting concealer (explained below), avoid concealer shades that are noticeably pink, rose, peach, white, yellow, or copper. A tinge of peach or pink can be acceptable, especially to counteract bluish to purple-colored dark circles.
Following the above guidelines, you can experiment to find the textures, finishes, and application techniques that work best for you. Now let’s go over the types of concealers to consider before you start shopping!
Types of Concealer
There are several different types of concealer, and if you have multiple problem areas with varying degrees of discoloration, you’ll likely need to use at least two of them. Why can’t you use just one concealer? Generally, it’s because a creamy, moisturizing concealer that works well on dark undereye circles and dry skin or wrinkles around the eyes is not what works best on breakouts.
You also must take the color of the concealer into consideration. As we explained above, for lightening dark circles under the eye area you should use a lighter color than what you use to cover discolorations on the face. Applying a lighter or highlighting shade of concealer to a blemish or a brown spot just brings more attention to it—probably not what you want!
A word on fragrance in concealer: By and large, most concealers are fragrance free. That’s great, because fragrance free is the best way to go for all skin types, especially in a product you intend to use around the eyes.
- Best for normal, combination, oily, sensitive, and breakout-prone skin
- Coverage is buildable, ranging from light to full
- Available finishes include dewy, satin, radiant shimmer, and matte
Liquid concealer is the most versatile type of concealer because it offers buildable coverage and works for all skin types except very dry. This type of concealer is also easy to apply. For quick application use a clean finger or the wand applicator provided with just about every liquid concealer. If more precision is desired, use a small flat concealer brush.
Liquid concealer is preferred for covering acne because it is the least likely to cake up and it poses minimal to no risk of causing additional breakouts, which a creamier concealer may do.
Liquid concealer is also desirable for use on wrinkled areas because its thin texture makes it the least likely to crease throughout the day, although some slippage into lines is always possible. Liquid concealers with a matte finish last longer than those with a satin finish; they are also less likely to migrate throughout the day. Satin-finish liquid concealer has more movement, but it can provide a more natural look, especially over dry areas. A liquid concealer with a radiant shimmer finish is good for under the eyes because it covers and highlights the area with a soft glow, but it should be only a subtle glow, not overt, sparkling shine.
- Best for normal, dry, and sensitive skin
- Coverage is buildable, ranging from medium to full
- Available finishes include satin and powdery matte
Stick concealer is aptly named because it has a semi-solid texture like a lipstick, is often richly pigmented, and has a thick, creamy texture. This type of concealer can be dotted on or swiped on in a line of color and then blended. Blend the product in a stippling motion with a clean finger or with a small concealer brush, feathering the edges into surrounding skin.
Because stick concealers provide reliable medium to full coverage, they work very well to cover moderate to severe undereye circles. Stick concealer works best under the eyes and around the nose and mouth area and is great for hiding brown or red spots or patches of redness.
Many people with acne are drawn to stick concealer because of the intense coverage it provides, but the ingredients that keep these concealers in stick form pose a high risk of clogging pores and making a breakout worse. Unfortunately, many “acne treatment” concealers come in stick form; we don’t recommend them due to the heavier, wax-like ingredients they typically contain. (For the record, most anti-acne concealers come in the most obnoxious colors you’ve ever seen; no one needs to have a blemish look orange or mint green!)
Some matte-finish stick concealers are available, but they are less common than those with a satin finish. Both matte and satin finishes have good staying power with minimal movement or creasing, but stick concealers with a satin finish, once blended, should be set with a dusting of loose powder to ensure long wear.
- Best for normal, dry, combination, or sensitive skin
- Coverage is buildable, ranging from medium to full
- Available finishes include satin and creamy
Generally, cream concealer provides medium to full coverage. This type of concealer is usually packaged in a small pot, palette, or compact. Cream concealer works well under the eyes and is one of the best concealer options for covering severe discolorations like melasma (patchy, light tan to brown discoloration also known as “the mask of pregnancy”) or port wine stains.
The intense coverage that you can get from cream concealers is due to their thicker texture and more opaque pigment, which means it’s easier to build coverage than with liquid concealers. The downside is that cream concealer can look too heavy on the skin if you don’t use the proper blending technique.
Cream concealers have more slip and can be applied in a stippling motion with a clean finger, sponge, or a small concealer brush. However, those with a notably more creamy finish are more prone to creasing into lines and wrinkles and should be set with loose or pressed powder once blended.
- Best for skin color issues (such as bluish undereye circles, extreme redness or sallowness) that aren’t adequately corrected with foundation and concealer alone
- Coverage is buildable, ranging from sheer to full
- Available in multiple finishes depending on the formula
Color-correcting concealer is a last resort when flesh-tone concealer doesn’t work well enough to cover or neutralize severe discolorations. Color-correcting concealer is most commonly available in cream or stick form; the liquid versions tend to go on quite sheer or can be easily blended so as to appear sheer.
When using a color-correcting concealer, the important thing is not to trade one color problem for another; for example, green concealer may help neutralize redness, but if the result is a visible hint of green under your foundation, all you’ve done is exchange one discoloration problem for another.
If you decide to try a color-correcting concealer, apply it before your foundation; this helps to neutralize and balance the unnatural color of these concealers. You also can pair it with a flesh-tone concealer with the same finish, so that when the foundation is applied on top there is no indication of the color corrector underneath.
Concealer Basics: The Color Wheel
Color correcting is a concealer technique that professional makeup artists have used for years and that went mainstream after social media got wind of the trend.
Mastering the art of concealer has a lot to do with understanding the basics of color correction. You know how people say makeup is an art form? Well, remember learning about the color wheel in elementary school art class? Way back when, we learned how colors directly across from another cancels the other out.
For instance, red is directly across from green on the color wheel. The color green will neutralize the color red, which is why green concealer works best to cover red acne blemishes. By simply referring to the color wheel, you’ll better understand how to make those annoying problem areas vanish. Now that we got our art lesson for the day out of the way, let’s move on to discuss the uses for which each color concealer is best suited.
Green Concealers: As we just mentioned, the color green neutralizes the color red, which is why green concealers are wonderful for getting rid of any redness on your face. Use a green based spot concealer to remove redness from an annoying zit, or any acne scars. If you have widespread redness, (rosacea, windburn or sunburn), then a color correcting green primer will be best to significantly reduce redness and give an even toned base for flawless foundation application.
Purple, lavender, or lilac concealers are best suited for eliminating any unwanted yellow undertones on your skin. People with a pasty, dull, yellow complexion will love how a purple concealer or primer adds a beautiful glow to their face. As you probably guessed, purple is directly across from yellow on the color wheel. To remove yellow tones from your entire face, consider a color correcting purple primer. If you’re looking to conceal yellow spots, a spot concealer is best.
Pink Concealers: Okay, so maybe pink isn’t the best color to describe this group. It’s more like salmon or peach. These are ideal for brightening around the eye area and masking signs of fatigue. This particular concealer color is a mixture of red, orange, and yellow hues, which are across from the blue, purple, and green hues on the color wheel. That’s why this color is best to combat dark under eye circles. Since it’s a great brightening agent, these concealers also work well to cover raccoon eyes and to give sallow olive tones skin a much needed radiance.
Yellow concealers are perfect for hiding purple or blue bruises, veins, and under eye circles, so it’s no surprise yellow is right across from purple on the color wheel. Yellow concealers are typically the most general, and are great for evening out skin tone to give a bright base for your foundation. Depending on your skin tone, they can also be a perfect as an eye shadow base if you don’t have a eye primer handy.
Orange Concealers: For all of you with lighter skin tones, you will want to stay away from orange concealers for the most part. The exception? If you’re doing facial contouring and need something that can work as a liquid bronzer. Other than that, this color is perfect for people with darker skin tones looking to hide dark circles or other spots with deep discoloration.
White concealers can be intimidating if you’re not sure how to properly use them. If you’re not careful, you can easily end up looking like Powder from the movie… well, Powder. So, to avoid looking like a sick hospital patient, be sure to use white concealers for highlighting areas on your face. For instance, when you’re highlighting and contouring your cheek bones, dab a little on your upper cheek bones, right under your eyes, blending outward towards your ears. You can also use this in the inner and outer corners of your eyes to appear more awake, under your brow bone for a subtle brow highlight, down the middle of your nose and in your cupid’s bow for a perfectly highlighted face.
Neutral Concealers: If you’re one of the lucky ones that doesn’t have too many problem areas to hide, this will work fine for you. Any regular concealer should work to veil little imperfections or the occasional pimple. Just choose a shade similar to your skin tone, or one shade lighter, and you’re all set. This is also the best kind of concealer to use as a primer for making your lipstick last all day and night.
How to Apply Concealer
Regardless of the type of concealer you’re using, the application techniques generally remain the same. If your skin is dry, particularly around the eye area, prep it with a light layer of moisturizer (you don’t necessarily need an eye cream), allow a moment or two for it to set, then apply concealer.
Dab the concealer onto discolorations with a clean finger, brush, or sponge and gently blend out until there are no apparent lines of demarcation between the concealer and your skin or foundation. Liquid, cream, or cream-to-powder concealers should not be applied over powder foundation. If you use powder foundation, apply concealer first, allow it to set, and then apply your foundation.
Finish by setting the concealer with a light dusting of loose or pressed powder. A concealer with a matte finish doesn’t need to be set with powder because that may make it look or feel too dry, but you can experiment and see how your matte-finish concealer looks and lasts with and without powder.
If you have moderate to severe discolorations you need a more richly pigmented concealer. This type of concealer works best and looks the most natural when paired with foundation because foundation gives the concealer something to blend into, making it less obvious. Foundation is also typically available in more colors than concealer, which helps to create a more natural, unified look—the foundation color should match your skin exactly, but the concealer shade should be lighter if applied around your eyes, and the same color or a touch lighter than your foundation if applied to dark spots outside the eye area.
When applying concealer to the undereye area, try using one with a radiant finish or adding a luminescent highlighter on top of it for a light-reflective finish that further disguises shadowed areas. Keep in mind that a luminescent highlighter is not always recommended for use on wrinkled skin because, depending on how much shine the highlighter has, it can emphasize lines. On wrinkles, a radiant glow is more becoming than overt sparkles.
The Dos & Don’ts of Applying Color Correcting Concealer
- Do choose the right hues for your skin. The effectiveness of color correctors depends on finding the right tone to match your blemish. Remember that orange is for dark skin and peach is for light skin.
- Do apply thin layers! A thick layer of corrector may show through your foundation.
- Don’t use colors that you don’t need. Color correcting concealer is meant to be used only on blemishes that are strong in appearance. For smaller less noticeable blemishes, a regular concealer will do.
- Do utilize a makeup sponge or beauty blender to pat the coverage into the skin. Don’t brush the colors all over your face. This will undo all the hard work you’ve done by moving the pigments into the wrong areas.
- Do remember that makeup should enhance your skin not hide it! So think of color correcting concealer as a fun extra step that’s to be used sparingly and don’t forget to let your natural face shine.