Concealers are a key part of a full face of makeup. They provide ultimate coverage to truly conceal all kinds of discolorations. While they are not mandatory for every makeup look, especially if you are one of those people blessed with perfect skin, they can go a long way to make up the under-eye area, or hide any wrinkle or discoloration.
I give you the full lowdown on concealers, with explanations of what they are and why they are so magical. I’ll explain what kind of concealers there are, and make it easy for you to choose the right one for you and apply it properly. As always, I’ll cap things off with a definitive list of the best concealers you can buy right now!
Concealer Makeup Guide: Contents
• What Is Concealer?
• Why Use Concealer?
• Concealer vs. Foundation
• Types of Makeup Concealers
• How to Choose Concealer for Your Skin Type
• How to Choose Concealer for Your Skin Tone
• How To Choose a Concealer Shade for Unique Needs
• How to Apply Concealer Correctly
• Applying Concealer Under the Eyes
• Applying Concealer To Cover Blemishes
• Applying Concealer To Hide Wrinkles
• Concealer Makeup Hacks
• Best Concealers for Every Skin Color, Type, and Need
Concealer is a makeup product not dissimilar from foundation that is usually (though not always) colored to match the skin tone. Concealers are meant to be applied to the skin sparingly, on the parts of the face that need more coverage.
Concealers come in different textures for different purposes, and some colored concealers exist as well, in order to color correct. Concealers are usually thick and high coverage, especially when compared to foundations.
Concealers can seriously perfect the skin, and amp up the foundation game. Naturally, not everyone needs to wear concealer – especially if they have very clear skin, or happen to use a foundation with a high coverage.
However, concealers have a few benefits. Since concealers are only meant to be applied to specific parts of the face, and since they are so diverse in both texture and color, they are a great way of really personalizing one’s makeup.
The different parts of our face have skin that looks and behaves differently, so using different textures and colors will lead to an overall better makeup look. For example, around the eyes our skin is normally dry and more prone to wrinkling. It makes sense to use a creamier concealer around the eyes, rather than the same foundation one would use all over the face.
Concealers should definitely be considered by those who have special coverage needs for under the eyes, as well as those who suffer from severe or uniquely localized acne, sensitivity, redness, or discoloration. Concealers can also be used to temporarily hide tattoos or scars. You can also use concealers to diffuse wrinkles, or to brighten the skin (they can also work for highlighting!).
People will occasionally ask what the difference is between concealers and foundations, and I usually like to start with “marketing”. There are no clear-cut differences across the board, although there are unspoken guidelines (that are not always followed).
Generally, concealers provide heavier coverage than foundations. They have a thicker texture, and might also provide some color correcting or brightening effects, depending on where they are meant to be used. Unlike foundations, which are usually applied all over the face, concealers are only applied to the areas of the face that require more coverage or color correction.
Foundations and concealers can be used together, but one can also be used instead of the other. Some foundations provide such a high coverage that it’s hard to distinguish between them and a concealer.
Those who prefer high coverage all over the face might choose to use a concealer as if it were a foundation, while others might not need foundation at all, and will only use a bit of concealer where necessary.
Concealers come in different textures to target every skin type and concern, and you should choose one accordingly.
Cream concealers come either in the form of sticks, or pressed into a compact. They have a thick consistency, and tend to provide the highest coverage. Once applied, cream concealers look neither too dry nor too oily on the skin, and would work for most skin types.
Cream to Powder/ Mattifying Concealers
These look the same as normal cream foundations, and come in the same forms. However, they tend to include less emollient ingredients, so once they dry down they are very matte and help to control oil. They tend to have excellent longevity.
These types of concealers are best for oily skin, and should generally not be used around the eyes. Some liquid concealers can also have this mattifying effect.
Liquid concealers are lighter and more liquidy than cream foundations. They usually come in small jars with an applicator, or in tubes. Their coverage is usually sheerer and dewier than that of a cream concealer (although some mattifying formulas do exist). They are best for dry skin, and for concealing under the eyes.
Much like powder foundations, powder concealers are simply powders with a lot of coverage. They are not a very traditional part of a makeup routine, but they can work really well for some people, especially those who try to avoid cream and liquid makeup at all cost.
They generally don’t have the same high coverage as a more traditional concealer. These kinds of concealers are best for those with oily skin.
Brightening concealers are especially popular for under the eyes and around the nose and mouth. They can also double as cream highlighters.
These concealers, which often come in the form of a liquid, will have a bit of reflective pigment in them to diffuse imperfections and reflect light, making the area to which they are applied seem brighter. These concealers are great for filling in sunken areas of the face and deep wrinkles, because they make the area appear plumper.
However, brightening concealers must be used carefully since overapplied they can cause flashback in photos and can look overly light.
Color-correcting concealers can come in any texture form. These concealers are not colored to match the skin tone, but instead are colored in unusual colors (most frequently green, yellow, peach, or lavender) in order to provide color correction.
When you have discoloration in the skin, layering the opposite color from the color wheel on top of it will cancel out the discoloration. This means that green concealers eliminate redness, yellow concealers cancel out purple tones, peaches hide the blue that is so common under the eyes, and lavender will brighten the skin and target sallowness.
Color-correcting concealers are best layered under foundation, and are a great way to provide coverage without using too much product.
Once you figure out your skin type and know all the types of concealers that exist there, follow the concealer tips below to choose the best one for you!
Best Concealers for Normal and Combination Skin
Those with normal and combination skin can likely benefit from all kinds of concealers. A normal cream or liquid concealer could probably work for all over the face, although they could also opt for a dewier, liquid concealer under the eyes, and a mattifying concealer for the oilier parts of the face.
Best Concealers for Oily Skin
Those with oily skin would benefit the most from a concealer with amazing staying power, since those with oily skin tend to have a harder time maintaining the longevity of their makeup. This means they would want to use either a mattifying concealer or a powder concealer.
Best Concealers for Dry Skin
Overly heavy concealers tend to emphasize dryness, as do mattifying ones. Those with dry skin should opt for nourishing liquid concealers that will keep their skin looking dewy and hydrated. The key is to use as light an amount of concealer as possible, and not to powder it too much if at all.
Best Concealers for Maturing Skin
Anyone trying to camouflage wrinkles should also stay away from overly heavy concealers. Thick, high-coverage concealers are excellent at targeting discoloration, but they will only emphasize uneven texture in the skin. Instead, opt for light, liquid concealers.
A brightening concealer applied only to the sunken, indented parts of a wrinkle will actually help reflect light and make the area seem plumper, and the wrinkles less apparent. It is also possible to find concealers with antioxidant ingredients to both camouflage and fortify the skin, also fighting premature aging.
Best Concealers for Sensitive Skin
Those with sensitive skin should always be more careful when introducing new makeup items into their routine. Concealers with shorter, simpler ingredient lists will make it easier to avoid irritation, but always start off applying sparingly and seeing how your skin responds.
Those with sensitive skin often experience redness or blotchiness, which a concealer can go a great lengths towards covering. Opt for a concealer with a creamy texture, because a mattifying concealer can drag over the skin and become irritating.
Another option is a green or yellow concealer to color correct for any redness in the skin, below the foundation.
Best Concealers for Acne-Prone Skin
Covering up acne is a delicate process. You want a concealer that won’t aggravate the breakouts, but that will still stay in place and cover them adequately. Cream concealers, whether mattifying or otherwise, tend to be the best at staying in place.
Avoid concealers with comedogenic ingredients like lanolin or refined coconut oil (mineral oil, surprisingly enough, is usually fine). There are concealers out there with acne-fighting ingredients, like salicylic acid, so you can kill two birds with one stone.
Color matching a concealer is a similar process to color matching a foundation, although with concealers there actually might be reasons why you would want a concealer that is a somewhat different shade than your skin tone.
Figuring Out Your Undertones
If you are in doubt, or you just need a one-size-fits-all concealer, opt for a concealer that matches your skin tone exactly. Unlike foundations, concealers are not necessarily classified based on undertones, but knowing your undertone will still make it easier for you to figure out the right concealer shade for you.
The easiest way to determine your skin tone is by looking at a place where your skin is fairly clear, like the forearm. Doing this while wearing white is best, since other colors might impact the way you perceive your skin’s coloring.
• Examine your veins. If they lean more towards blue, then you have a mostly neutral skin tone, and the rest of your skin would look mostly beige, with perhaps a touch of both pink and yellow.
• Yellow is the classic warm undertone. The veins look a little bit green, while the rest of the skin leans towards yellow.
• A cool skin tone is usually how makeup artists refer to those who have a lot of pinkness in their skin. The veins appear more purple, and their skin is usually pale, though not always.
• An olive skin tone leans a little bit towards green, and is considered either a neutral or warm skin tone. The veins appear extra green, and the rest of the skin is either a beige-olive or a yellow-olive.
• Those with darker skin often have a warm, yellow undertone, although also common is a red or orange undertone.
• Orange undertones are also common in people who tan, who might have a yellow undertone to start off with. Since the skin is usually darker, the veins are less visible, although they would lean slightly towards green or purple, depending on the balance of yellow and red.
• Lastly, and almost exclusively reserved for those with darker skin, is the blue undertone, which is simply brown skin that has a cool blue or purple tint. Lupita Nyong’o is a great example of someone with blue undertones to their skin.
Finding the Perfect Match
The key to color matching a concealer is to test it. The chances of finding a matching concealer without trying it out first are nearly impossible.
Begin by choosing two or three concealers that match your skin’s undertone. Apply them in swipes along your jawline, and blend out their edges just a little bit. Choose the color that seems to disappear into your skin best.
You might notice that one color (usually a lighter one) will blend better into your neck, while another (usually a darker color) will blend better into the face. This is because the face tends to get more sunlight, while the neck is protected, so our face tends to lean a little towards darker.
If you want a concealer specifically for brightening, or if you like to match your foundation perfectly to your neck, then opt for the slightly lighter concealer. On the other hand, if you need a concealer for concealing discoloration on the face, and you tend to prefer your foundation to match your face (or you like blending your foundation down your neck for a more tanned look), then opt for the darker concealer.
There are, of course, situations when you won’t be searching for a concealer that matches exactly.
While the primary purpose of concealers is to conceal, hide and camouflage any skin imperfections, they are also used for other purposes as well.
Highlighting & Contouring Concealers
Concealers are excellent for cream highlighting and contouring, since they provide just enough color, and their end look is quite subtle, since they blend readily and look natural underneath powder. The concealer you choose for highlighting can have some mineral particles to reflect light, although the concealer for contouring should just be a normal concealer.
For highlighting, choose a concealer that is 3-4 shades lighter than your skin tone, while for contouring the concealer should be 3-4 shades darker. It is best if you choose concealers that have the same undertones as your skin.
Concealing Under the Eyes
The under-eye area is subject to all kinds of issues, from simply being a little darker, to looking a little purple or blue. The skin around the eyes is thinner and more sensitive than other parts of the face, so some people might also experience under-eye redness. Lastly, there are some who experience puffiness under the eyes, which requires a highlight and contour approach for concealing.
• If you are dealing with blue or purple discoloration, and have a light or cool skin tone, choose a very pale peach concealer.
• Opt for a yellow concealer if you have a warm skin tone and purple circles under your eyes, as well as if your under-eye area is irritated and leaning towards red.
• An orange tone will work better to conceal purple and red if your skin is a little bit darker.
• Those with extremely pale skin might find that a lavender concealer works best for covering up their dark circles, especially if their under-eye circles are more brown than anything.
• For puffiness under the eyes you want to use a concealer that matches your skin tone perfectly. Usually there is an indentation below the eye bag, just above the cheekbone. You want to highlight that indentation with a concealer a few shades brighter than your skin tone, to make the skin appear smoother.
Concealing Skin Sensitivity, Redness, and Breakouts
You have two routes you can take with red or pink discolorations, which can be caused by various skin conditions, including rosacea and acne. One route is color correction, using a green or yellow concealer.
However, chances are using a concealer that matches your skin tone perfectly will work just as well.
When using a concealer in your makeup routine, this is the general product order you need to follow:
• Begin with cleansed, toned, and moisturized skin. You may apply makeup primer as well for a smoother canvas and longer-lasting makeup.
• If you intend to use a color-correcting concealer, apply it in a thin layer to the areas where it is required.
• If you use a cream or liquid foundation, apply it now as you normally would. The thinner the layer you apply, the longer your foundation will last and the more natural it will look. Focus on evening out your skin tone with it very lightly, and don’t worry about any discolorations that show through.
• Now that your foundation is perfect, go into the areas that aren’t covered enough with a light touch of concealer. For adding coverage to larger areas, use a damp beauty blender or even your finger – apply the concealer in a stippling motion. Use a small brush or a miniature beauty blender for smaller areas like around the nose or below the eyes.
• To blend your concealer you want to use a very light touch, and concentrate on only blending out the edges. You can use a sponge or a finger for that, and use a tapping/ dragging motion. If you feel like you over-applied the concealer, you may choose to blend a bit more aggressively, to ensure the thinnest coverage possible.
• Once your concealer is perfectly blending, you are ready to set your makeup. You can use any kind of makeup setting powder. Make sure to apply it to the skin in a tapping motion, so as not to wipe off all of your hard work. Use a larger brush for most of the face, although a small blending brush will do the trick for more delicate areas, like around the nose and under the eyes.
• Once your base is totally perfect, you can finish off the rest of your makeup as you normally would.
Concealing under the eyes is a slightly more delicate process than concealing other areas. The skin under the eyes is more sensitive than the skin in other parts of the face, so it requires a much gentler touch.
• Additionally, the skin around the eye area tends to be dryer than the skin everywhere else on the face, so moisturizing it is critical. If your moisturizer is not rich enough, using a deeply emollient eye cream like the Belif Moisturizing Eye Bomb is critical for preventing your concealer from creasing. The eye cream will plump up the eye area and keep it smooth.
• We’ve already covered how to choose color-correcting concealers for the under the eyes, but let’s quickly review: orange covers blue, yellow covers purple, green covers red, and pink covers blue in very pale skin. Color-correcting concealers go under the eyes before foundation, in a very thin layer.
If you use your finger to apply or blend them, use your ring finger since it puts the least pressure on the under-eye area. You may also follow up color-correcting concealers with regular concealers instead.
• If you have puffiness under the eyes, or heavy wrinkles, you can try to use concealers to highlight and contour the eye area. Conceal the puffy parts of the eye with a shade a touch darker than your skin tone, and then with a tiny brush apply a brighter concealer only to the deeper parts of your wrinkles. This will push puffy areas back, and pull indented areas forward, making the under-eye area seem smooth and flat.
• Finish the whole thing off with a bit of setting powder on a small blending brush. If you find creasing is a major issue, you can try the baking technique, where you apply setting powder generously with a damp beauty blender, let it sit for 5-10 minutes, and then wipe off the excess. This technique doesn’t always work for dry skin, but it does create a very seamless and long-lasting makeup.
Covering blemishes is a tricky situation, since the more inflamed they are, the more they seem to want to repel all types of makeup. A pencil brush can work beautifully to deposit color exactly on the blemish, and enough of it to truly cover.
The key here is to only blend the very edges of the concealer, and set is as quickly as possible, ideally with a damp beauty blender and lots of powder. This will make sure the concealer stays put, and the offending blemish stays hidden all day long.
Much like hiding deep lines under the eyes, hiding other deep wrinkles, whether on the forehead or at the nasolabial fold, requires some clever highlighting.
Using a very fine brush, apply a thin line of a brighter concealer to the sunken parts of your wrinkle. This will make the indentation appear shallower, and the skin overall smoother.
You can take it a step further and apply a concealer a touch darker right outside the line of the wrinkle. Blend this very lightly with a few taps of a sponge, and set lightly.
• Concealer is great at preventing lipstick from bleeding – especially if you don’t have a reliable lip liner with you. Apply a thin line of concealer at the edge of where you want your lipstick to go (i.e. right along your lip line, assuming you won’t be overlining).
After you apply your lipstick, you can go over the line a second time with concealer on a cotton swab, to make sure the edges are perfected. Blend the edges of the concealer to make sure it blends seamlessly with the rest of your makeup, and be confident knowing your lipstick will not budge.
• Thicker cream concealers can do just as good a job at priming the eye area as dedicated eye primers. Apply a very thin layer of concealer all over the eyelid and cover it with a setting powder of your choice. You are now ready to apply eyeshadow that will blend perfectly and stay in place all day.
• If you find your concealer too thick, or you want to apply something all over the face and don’t have foundation with you, a bit of Macgyvering can turn your concealer into a foundation. Mix a couple drops of concealer with a face primer. The face primer will sheer out the concealer and lighten its texture. The more face primer you add, the sheerer your concealer will become.
• Use a concealer to define the eyebrows to get them looking truly fierce. After filling in your eyebrows, use a concealer and a flat brush to sharpen the edges and straighten out lines completely.
Best Concealers Across the Board for All Skin Types and Colors
1. MAC Pro Longwear Concealer
MAC Cosmetics are known for their variety of options, so it is no surprise you have 18 color options for their concealers. The coverage is high, and the finish is quite matte, so it is a perfect choice for oily skin.
It works to cover both blemishes and under-eye circles, as long as your skin is not too dry. This fluid formula comes in a bottle with a pump, which is both convenient and sanitary! These concealers are available for purchase at Nordstrom.
2. NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer
With a sizeable color selection to suit all skin types, these concealers work easily for all kinds of coverage. The doe foot applicator is great for a precise application, including for contouring and highlighting. The formula is creamy enough to blend easily, but the finish is natural, so it works for almost all skin types. Choose one of the 16 colors at Sephora.
Best Concealers For Under-Eyes Dark Circles
1. NYX Dark Circle Concealer
These orange tinted concealers have a creamy yet thick formula, and they are perfect for purple and blue discoloration under the eyes. They blend smoothly and don’t settle into the creases. There are 4 colors to choose from, so you can find the perfect jar for you at Ulta.
2. Bobbi Brown Corrector
This concealer is made especially for the under eyes, but its finish is fairly matte so it is better for those whose eye area gets oily. If you find it hard to keep concealer on, this should be your first choice! These correctors have either pink or peach undertones, to address blue, purple, or green discoloration under the eyes. They are available for sale at Nordstrom.
Best Concealers For Brightening Dull Skin
1. Tarte Shape Tape
This is the holy grail of basically all of the Youtube beauty gurus, which is no surprise since they love their high-coverage products. Unlike many other high-coverage concealers, the shape tape is very creamy so it blends super easily, but the dry-down is semi-matte so it doesn’t cause any creasing.
It is perfect for the under eyes, but it is also popular as a cream highlighter. This is a liquid concealer that comes in a tube with a doe foot applicator, and 14 color options. You can buy yourself a tube at Ulta.
2. Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat Radiant Touch
This concealer-cum-highlighter from YSL is the holy grail under-eye product for many. It both highlights and conceals, to provide an incredible luminosity that is so flattering under the eyes.
It is a perfect highlighter for camouflaging fine lines and wrinkles. It comes in 11 colors, and a convenient push-up pen type applicator with a built-in brush. It is available for sale at Nordstrom.
Best Concealers For Mattifying Oily Skin
1. Cle De Peau Beaute Concealer SPF 25
Is a 25 SPF really necessary in a concealer? I’m not sure. I don’t love putting a brand on my list of the best concealers that doesn’t have a very wide shade range… and yet, it is a great stick concealer.
It has a full coverage and a matte finish that works great on blemishes, but is also popular for the under eyes for those with oily skin. You can pick up one of these sticks at Nordstrom.
2. Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay In Place Flawless Concealer
Estee Lauder is slowly but surely expanding their color range, so I decided to include their renowned formula here. This liquid concealer does not budge, and it’s got a formidable coverage that goes on like a dream, regardless of what it is you are trying to cover. It is fragrance-free, which is great for those with sensitive skin. These are up for sale at Sephora.
Best Concealers For Hiding Fine Lines and Wrinkles
1. Giorgio Armani High Precision Retouch Concealer
If you really want to do some fine detail work, especially to camouflage fine lines and wrinkles, then the ultra-thin applicator on this concealer will work beautifully for you. It is a medium-coverage concealer that illuminates more than it covers. It is nourishing and exceptional for dry, mature skin. You can pick it up at Sephora.
2. Make Up For Ever Lift Concealer
What can be better than a brightening concealer to hide fine lines? That same amazing concealer fortified with anti-aging ingredients! Tensine and vitamin A propel this creamy formula to my list of the best concealers, despite my eternal wish for a better color range. A dab is all it takes, so you can buy this concealer from Sephora.
Best Concealers For Hiding Acne and Pimples
1. BareMinerals Blemish Remedy Concealer
There is a reasonable concern that applying a heavy cream on top of a pimple might not turn out too well, however, this mineral concealer eliminates the fear because it is loaded with ingredients to help blemishes heal quickly, and never come back. Tea tree oil targets the acne bacteria, kaolin clay mattifies the skin, and aspen bark extract helps calm down redness.
The coverage is long lasting, and the stick form means that it is an easy-to-spot concealer. It is available for purchase at Ulta.
2. Kat Von D Lock-It Concealer
Few brands make as long-lasting a product as KVD. This is one of the best concealers for acne because it does not budge – even when it seems like any other concealer simply slides off that pimple. It can also work well under the eyes, assuming your skin isn’t too dry. There are 9 shades of this concealer available at Sephora.
Best Concealers for Color Correction
1. Urban Decay Naked Skin Color Correcting Fluid
These nourishing color correctors are the perfect concealers for sensitive skin, with lots of redness, but they also work for under the eyes or to deal with acne. They come in a tube with a doe foot applicator, and 6 color options, so it doesn’t matter what kind of discoloration you are dealing with. These can be bought from Nordstrom.
2. Marc Jacobs Cover(t) Stick Color Correctors
These stick concealers are perfect for anyone who needs an all-over color correction. They go on so smoothly, with three possible shades: green/ yellow for redness, pink/ lilac for sallowness, and peach/ caramel for under-eye circles. Their gentle formula is amazing for all skin types. You can pick them up at Sephora.
For which kind of skin concern do you normally use concealers? Do you have a favorite product worth adding to this list of the best concealers? Share your thoughts with us!
Photos via @stylelobster, @tonipino, @thestylevisitor, @negin_mirsalehi