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How to Properly Apply Concealer

Here we show you the right (and wrong!) ways to apply concealer

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Young woman applying foundation to cheek with make-up brush, close-up
Veronique Beranger/The Image Bank/Getty Images


Concealer is the one staple in a woman's beauty arsenal that can dramatically change your appearance. Used correctly, concealer can brighten a tired face, it can cover up blemishes and it can totally conceal under-eye circles. In fact, many beauty editors use concealer primarily and skip foundation completely.

I find many of my friends are afraid of concealers because they don't know how to find the right shade or apply it properly. It can be daunting, but once you know the basics and try the application process below, you'll find concealer may be your best beauty purchase to date.

See my picks for the top 10 concealers.

Choose Your Perfect Concealer

There are so many types of concealers on the market, choosing one can be daunting. Keep in mind concealer is not a beauty product to scrimp on (find out why here).

A basic rule of thumb is to choose a concealer that's yellow-based and a shade or 2 lighter than your skin tone. Don't go too light or you could end up with the dreaded raccoon look. If your skin is darker in summer, you should choose a darker shade for summer months and a lighter one for other months.

To test shades, try them out at department store beauty counters or Sephora. Just don't get suckered into a full-makeover at the cosmetics counter (see How They Trick You at the Cosmetics Counter).

For more detailed information on choosing concealer, see How to Pick the Right Shade of Concealer.

Should You Apply Concealer Before or After Foundation?

This depends on where you're using the concealer. For under-eye circles, apply concealer first, then foundation. For blemishes and pimple coverage, apply foundation first or the concealer will be rubbed away in the foundation application.

How to Apply Concealer

Concealer looks most natural when you work in "sheer layers and build it up gradually," according to the editors of Allure's "Confessions of a Beauty Editor."

To properly apply concealer, follow these directions:

  1. Apply several dots of concealer under the eyes close to the lashes. Apply a dot to the inside corners of the eyes. You can use your finger or, for best results, try a small-headed brush with firm bristles.
  2. Using the pad of your middle finger, tap in the concealer (always tap, never rub). Make sure to blend well. You can also use your index finger. There's no real rule to it, but I find the middle finger tends to be more gentle.
  3. Apply concealer on other uneven spots on the face -- including the chin, and around the nose and mouth if need be -- and tap in.
  4. Apply another layer if you need more coverage.
  5. Dust fine, loose powder over your face to set your concealer. According to makeup artist Scott Barnes in Allure Magazine, loose powder applied with a fluffy brush is "the secret to good concealer."

How to Disguise Dark Under-eye Circles

It's best not to use your basic concealer to try to disguise dark under-eye circles. Instead, choose an "under-eye concealer" specially formulated to cover up dark spots. These work by brightening the dark areas under the eyes and are not to be used to camouflage redness or blemishes.

For detailed information, see I have dark under-eye circles. Is there any way to get rid of them?

How to Cover Up a Pimple

Use a stiff brush with a pointy, fine tip to dab on a concealer that matches your skin tone. It's important to apply only to the red areas, not necessarily to the raised area. Let the concealer dry.

Apply a second layer. Set the concealer with a dusting of translucent powder. If you find you overdid the concealer, use a tissue to gently buff the concealer away. If that doesn't work, moisten a Q-tip with makeup remover and gently apply to the pimple. Then re-cover the pimple with concealer.

To heal pimples faster, try this recipe for an Aspirin Face Mask.

How to Disguise Pockmarks and Deep Scars

You can disguise a concave pockmark or scar by using an angled brush dipped in a concealer that's a shade lighter than your skin tone. Fill in the center of the pockmark without going over the edges and then dust skin with translucent powder. If the scar is raised, use a concealer that matches your skin tone and pat the scar with the concealer, setting the concealer with powder.

Does Concealer Work on Under-Eye Bags?

Concealer is actually not a good bet for downplaying under eye bags. Instead, makeup artist Dick Page recommends pearl highlighter, which acts as an optical illusion, making you look more awake. Page dots the highlighter on the inner corner of eyes, under the lower lids and on the outer corner of the brow.

How to Fix a Cake-y Concealer

As we get older, our skin becomes drier (this seemed to happen to me overnight on the day I turned 35). Dehydrated skin can cause your concealer to "cake up" on your skin. Fix this by moisturizing your face before applying concealer. Then blend your concealer with a bit of foundation in the palm of your hand. This helps break up the thickness of the concealer, which can sit heavily on your face. 

Loved this? Also check out How to Fake a Full Night of Sleep.

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