When it comes to complexion concerns like minimizing redness, brightening under-eye circles, and covering blemishes, there’s one product we always have in our makeup arsenal: concealer. When used correctly, it can help hide blemishes, even out your skin tone, and get under-eye areas looking glowy and bright (even if you’re low on sleep).
If you’re adding concealer to your makeup routine, there are a few important things to consider—from the type and texture of the concealer you choose to finding the right formula for your skin type and the way you apply it to your skin (which we dive into below). New to concealer? There’s nothing to fear, promise. Read on for a foolproof guide on how to apply concealer with tips from pro makeup artists Karina Milan, Cara Lovello, and Nydia Figueroa.
About the Experts:
Just like your iPhone apps, there’s a concealer for pretty much everything. We’re talking under-eye concealers, color-correcting formulas, light-coverage to full-coverage options, and much more. “Concealer is one of my top three beauty must-haves, along with mascara and SPF,” says Karina Milan, a New York–based makeup artist. “Learning how to manipulate it can absolutely change your life. But to start, you want to make sure you're getting the right texture of concealer that will mix well with your specific skin type.”
When we think of covering up with concealer, our first thought is blemishes. And while yes, that’s often what we need to conceal, there are other issues with different coloring. These require individual assessment, so you’re not necessarily looking at a one-size-fits-all situation.
“If you’re covering dark circles that appear purple, you want to use a peach or apricot concealer to neutralize,” explains Nydia Figueroa, celebrity makeup artist and ambassador for Be a 10 Cosmetics. “Then you can choose to get a concealer that is at least one or two shades lighter to brighten under the eyes.”
And if you’re covering redness on the skin, Figueroa suggests choosing a concealer with a green undertone to neutralize the red. “Then pick a color that’s closest to your skin to blend it in seamlessly,” she adds.
As is the case with skincare, makeup also reacts differently to varying skin types. Before making your purchase, figure out what’s the best fit for your skin in particular.
Dry skin: Milan suggests trying a creamy, hydrating concealer to start. Celebrity and bridal makeup artist Cara Lovello adds, “You may want a concealer with a thinner consistency. I absolutely love TARTE Shape Tape, but if the client has mature skin, which tends to be drier with fine lines, I may prioritize a hydrating concealer that has a thinner consistency like NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer,” she says.
Oily skin: For the opposite of dry skin, Milan says, “Try a concealer that has a matte finish and make sure to set it with translucent powder, especially if covering blemishes.” Our pick is the MAYBELLINE Fit Me Matte + Poreless Foundation because it mattifies skin for a shine-free complexion that’s still gorgeous and glowing.
Are you a full-coverage girlie? Or less-is-more? Depending on your skin type and how much you want to conceal, you could be looking for light coverage or medium-to-heavy.
Light coverage: We opt for a serum-concealer hybrid that combines light coverage with skincare. Our pick: PRETTY VULGAR Under Cover Concealer. This light-to-medium coverage option feels like nothing on our skin and sinks in just like a serum, leaving us with beautiful, glowing skin that looks like we’re wearing nothing at all.
Do-it-all: We love a set-it-and-forget-it kind of concealer that covers all the bases like the KVD BEAUTY Good Apple Lightweight Full Coverage Concealer. It provides ample coverage in all the right places, while managing to let our skin breathe and avoid cakiness. This formula handles hyperpigmentation, redness, dark circles—you name it. Fruit stem cells and extracts also help keep our delicate eye area hydrated and nourished.
Ready to reap the benefits of concealer? How you apply it is arguably just as important as the formula you choose. Here’s how.
Before we apply our concealer, we always start with a clean, fresh face, and skincare (of course). If you’ve been wearing makeup, a double-cleanse that incorporates an exfoliator is your best bet. By exfoliating, you get rid of dead skin cells that clog pores and prevent makeup from blending smoothly onto your skin. After exfoliating, finish up with a moisturizer and eye cream to keep your skin hydrated and smooth (even if you have oily skin). Bonus points if your moisturizer contains SPF to protect your skin from sun damage throughout the day.
Nothing’s worse than taking the time to cover up a breakout or brighten our under eyes just to see our makeup fade after we leave the house. If you want your concealer to last for hours, always prep your skin with a face primer. This will help give your makeup grip and keep your foundation and concealer in place.
Next, apply your foundation, tinted moisturizer, or CC/BB cream. “I like applying concealer after evening out skin with a layer of foundation,” Milan says. “That way you can use less product by only applying where needed. I usually have one concealer shade that matches my foundation color for blemishes, and another concealer that is a few shades lighter to brighten.”
For a light, lifted look, Milan says, “Placement of under-eye concealer really depends on need and preference. If there isn't a lot of discoloration under the eyes, applying it on the inner corner and outer corner of the under eye can help create an undetectable lifted effect. Start there and add more where needed.” This method is effective because even if minimal, darkness usually starts in the inner corner of the eyes and tapers out.
For overall brightness, draw two upside-down triangles beneath your eyes instead of close to your lash line, and fill with concealer. Blend and dab the inverted triangles using a concealer brush or your ring finger (fun fact: it’s actually the weakest finger, so you don’t have to worry about applying too much pressure and harming the delicate skin around your eye). Whatever you do, be sure not to smear or drag the concealer to keep it from looking cakey.
For covering up blemishes and dark spots, we reach for a full-coverage concealer that won't smudge or fade throughout the day. “When concealing a blemish, I use a concealer that matches the foundation I’m about to use,” says Lovello. “I conceal the blemish or imperfection first, then apply foundation. I love the NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer for this step,” she says. “Next, I apply concealer on top of the foundation to highlight. This is where you use a concealer three shades lighter. This step is to bring forward certain parts of your face. You don’t want to highlight a blemish, so that’s why that should be taken care of previously with skin color concealer so it blends in flawlessly with the foundation.”
Be sure to dab—not drag—concealer as you apply it around your nose and on any red spots. If you really want the concealer around your nose to stay put, dab it in place using your ring finger and blend, focusing on the crease around your nose. Next, dip a damp makeup sponge in loose powder and blend for a set-it-and-forget-it finish that will actually last.
Not only does setting powder lock in your look, but it also helps keep your concealer from creasing. “Because I like my concealer to last me all day, I always set it with a thin layer of translucent powder,” says Milan. Once you’ve applied, spritz a makeup setting spray to give your makeup extra staying powder and your skin a fresh glow.
“My favorite way to blend concealer in is with my fingers or a damp beauty blender,” Milan says. “Either of these will help press the product into the skin.” What else do these two have in common? Your fingers impart the natural warmth from your skin, making concealer easier to blend. A damp beauty sponge (aka the holy grail of makeup applicators) delivers warmth and light moisture to blend concealer to perfection.
We use a concealer pencil two shades lighter than our skin tone to brighten up our complexion. Once we’ve applied our foundation, we draw with the concealer pencil on the areas of our face that naturally catch the light (aka the areas we want to highlight), like cheekbones, the bridge of our nose, and our T-zone. We use a darker concealer pencil two shades darker than our skin tone to contour softer areas (like the sides of your nose, jawline, and forehead).
Once we apply our foundation (but before we apply our lipstick), we use a fine-tip lip brush to trace around our lips with concealer. This reverse-lining technique gives the illusion of a bigger mouth, and using a fine-tip brush ensures precise application.
You can also apply a small amount of a brightening concealer to the center of your lips when using color lipstick to create a quick and easy ombre effect. This is a technique Figueroa uses on her clients when she wants to kick things up a notch.
Not all concealers can effectively cover every skin concern. That’s when you know it’s time to call in a color-correcting formula to help cancel out the color you’re trying to tone down. A green concealer, for example, will reduce redness and should be used as a spot treatment on pimples, while a peach-toned concealer will cancel out the blue hue from your dark circles.
Want to keep your eyeshadow from creasing? Milan suggests applying concealer to your eyelids as a primer before eye makeup to create a crease-free base. This trick also makes your makeup last longer, as it keeps your eyeshadow from slipping and sliding across your eyelid. This is especially useful once the temperature heats up (or if you’re heading anywhere humid on vacation). Top it off with a light dab of setting powder to ensure everything stays in place.
Whether we’re on the go or we simply just want a more low-key look, we take a few dabs of medium-heavy concealer and apply it freely on our face. Because concealer is naturally heavier than foundation, we’re getting double the coverage with half the product. This gives us the opportunity to really control how natural we want our face to look. To top it off, we’ll add a few swipes of a pinky, natural blush for that effortless, sunkissed glow.
It’s important to remember that concealer and foundation are not the same. Applying more concealer isn’t going to make your blemishes disappear any faster. It can make your skin look cakey and unnatural. “Be very strategic in where you place the product,” Figueroa says. We recommend dabbing the product onto your hand first and then taking the applicator to your face.
Not all applicators are the same! Look for sponges and brushes that specialize in concealer because otherwise, they may overapply to one targeted area or not stay put. Figueroa opts for the BE A 10 Be Discreet Concealer because the applicator is just as effective as the product itself. “It has a pom pom applicator so it places the concealer where you need it,” she says. “It also helps blend the concealer without the need of a brush.”
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