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How to Apply Concealer Like a Pro

BY: Editors | Apr 2, 2018


Sure, you know where to apply concealer (over things like blemishes and dark circles). And you probably know the basic strategy of how to apply concealer (put it on and blend it in until the problem goes away). Yet to make your concealer application look flawless, there are a few specific things you should know. Makeup artist Jackie Jozwiak is here to teach us those things.

How to Apply Concealer: The Basics

Brush method

For under the eyes or larger patches of skin:

Get a wide, flat concealer brush. Apply a small amount of concealer to the problem area, and use light pressure to thinly spread the concealer across the skin.

For blemishes:

Get a small brush with stubby, compact bristles. Dip the brush in your concealer and gently dab it on the center of the blemish. Swirl the brush in a circle over the blemish to buff the concealer in.

Shop concealer brushes (from $4.50).

Finger method

Jackie often applies concealer to clients' faces with her fingers; the warmth from her fingertips helps the concealer really blend into the skin.

To copy Jackie, first clean your hands, then tap concealer under your eyes or anywhere that's not a blemish (more on that below). Be sure to use your ring finger. The ring finger is weaker than the rest and unlike a stronger finger, won't just wipe product away but will tap it in.

Watch two of our beauty experts apply concealer to acne, dark circles, and eczema.

Concealer Tips and Tricks

Apply less than you think.

"My philosophy is, always use the least amount that you have to," Jackie says, explaining that although it's tempting to use a lot, "you don't want to go out and look cakey or really, really made up."

She likens applying too much concealer to another beauty-related misstep—applying too much nail polish. "When you think about makeup, it's just like doing your nails. If you do the first coat of nail polish nice and thin, it dries quick, then everything goes on nice afterwards. If you layer it on really thick, it never dries underneath, and you'll get dents and dings."

Plus, she says, sometimes you think a blemish or dark circle is a lot more visible than it really is.

Choose the right concealer.

In general, choose a creamier formula for the undereye area, a thicker concealer for blemishes, and a hydrating concealer for skin affected by eczema and rosacea.

Read our guide to the best concealers for product recommendations. 

Choose the right shade.

When trying to select the proper shade of concealer for their skin tone, Jackie finds that "most people want to go a lot lighter than what they are," especially for the undereye area. However, if you go too light, the product you choose will act more as a highlighter than a concealer. "For concealer, you're going to want to get something that matches your skin as close as possible. Maybe a shade lighter at the most."

Spring for a quality concealer.

"If you're going to spend money on makeup, spend it on your concealer and your foundation," Jackie advises. Higher-quality formulas have ingredients that can help improve your skin over time, such as moisture-binding hyaluronic acid or plumping peptides. Ideally, taking these extra steps to care for your complexion could eventually lead to needing less concealer.

Put foundation on first.

Do you apply concealer or foundation first? Although there's some debate, Jackie says you should absolutely apply your foundation before your concealer. "If you put your concealer on first...what's going to happen is you're taking part of it off when you put something else on top of it," Jackie explains. Plus, because the foundation will cover up some imperfections on its own "you don't need quite as much concealer."

Shop foundation (from $5.95).

Skip foundation if you need a lot of concealer.

If you have a lot of acne, Jackie suggests applying concealer just to your blemishes and skipping your foundation entirely. It may seem scary, but you'll get coverage without looking overly made up. Make sure your skin is hydrated, though, otherwise your concealer won't look smooth.

That's true even if your acne-prone skin is oily. "One of the biggest things people do with oily skin is...never put moisturizer on," Jackie says, adding that forgoing moisturizer "makes skin more oily" because it kicks oil production into overdrive to make up for the lack of hydration.

Use a synthetic brush, not your finger, on blemishes.

Jackie swears by always using a concealer brush with synthetic bristles to cover acne. Natural-bristle brushes can harbor bacteria, and your fingertips are loaded with natural oils, neither of which should be making contact with active blemishes, she says.

Shop synthetic brushes (sets from $8.99).

Don't put concealer directly onto dry undereye skin.

It will only exacerbate the crepiness. To avoid this issue, Jackie recommends mixing your concealer with a small pump of hydrating serum (she likes Guerlain's Super Aqua-Serum.) After applying this mixture, let it sink into the skin for a few minutes before putting any other products over it.

Shop hydrating serums (from $9.99).

Choose a color corrector for more aggressive issues.

Color correctors are the ones formulated in paint-palette colors: pink, yellow, and green, to name a few. Orange color corrector, for instance, can help cancel out some of the blue visible in dark undereye circles. Similarly, a green color corrector works to camouflage the deep red pigment in a port-wine birthmark.

Shop color correctors (from $3.99).

Double-check your concealer before leaving the house.

"Once the concealer warms to your body temperature, it is going to find every little fine line that you have because it kind of melts into the skin," Jackie says. "So, just give it a little bit of time and then go back with your ring finger and tap it into your skin, and you're all set." If you've already applied concealer with your fingers, you can skip this step.

Refresh your hours-old undereye concealer with a hydrating spray.

If you find lines of dry concealer under your eyes as the day goes on, spritz your face with a hydrating spray, then use your ring finger to gently tap the concealer line back into your skin.

This article was originally written by Kelly MacDowell in 2013. It has since been updated.



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