How to Apply Concealer, According to the Pros

Photographed by Amber Canterbury

Photographed by Amber Canterbury

It’s a well-known truth: Concealer, when used correctly, can be as reviving as a double shot of espresso. But for it to be effective, you have to know how to apply concealer the right and most natural-looking way possible.

As one of the most versatile products in a makeup routine, concealers remain the go-to for everyone—especially the pros. “Concealer is my favorite product; I’m never caught without it and goes a long way in my kit,” says celebrity makeup artist Kirin Bhatty, whose clients include Laura Harrier and Lola Tung. “Not only can it be used in the traditional sense of concealing imperfections, there are so many uses for this multi purpose product. I use it as an eyeshadow primer, a color corrector, in place of foundation, as a highlighter, and as a contour. You can also mix it into your foundation or skin tint to make it have higher coverage.”

With so many uses, there isn’t a wrong way to apply it. But there are some tricks you can do to apply it completely seamlessly. And that’s where the pros come in. Here, Bhatty and the industry’s most in-demand artists weigh in on how to apply concealer to get that flawless finish wherever you need it.

Create a Smooth Canvas

Thoroughly cleansing and hydrating the skin with a rich, yet weightless moisturizer like Lancôme’s Hydra Zen sets the stage for a smooth canvas, says makeup artist Nick Barose, who counts Lupita Nyong’oPriyanka Chopra, and Rachel Weisz as clients. “Before big red carpets, I use warm washcloths to scrub away dry patches,” he says. Or, if there’s time, makeup artist Vincent Oquendo encourages clients to use Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Facial Scrub or Dior Capture Dreamskin One Minute Mask for an all-over glow before slicking the skin with Georgia Louise’s Vital Finishing Serum for an extra dose of moisture. “It absorbs and doesn’t overload the skin, so your concealer doesn’t slip all over the place,” says Oquendo.

And if you’ll be wearing foundation as well, Barose suggests applying that first and all over—even under the eyes. “If you use too much, it makes what you’re trying to hide look even more obvious,” he explains. “This way you see that you don’t need as much concealer as you think.”

Know Your Shade(s)

Picking the right concealer shade is all about determining what you’re using concealer for. Celebrity makeup artist and YSL Beauty ambassador J.Brandon Correa says that you might want to consider multiple shades to achieve the look you want. “Do you seek to illuminate the under-eye area, address specific spots, enhance overall complexion, or create sculpted effects? By identifying the purpose behind your use of concealer, you’ll find it easier to discover the perfect shade,” Correa explains.

As a general rule of thumb, he likes to pick shades that closely match the skin tone when spot concealing so that it seamlessly blends into your complexion. Others agree. “When your undertones are mismatched, the concealer starts to look ashy or just stands out too much,” says Oquendo. Warmer skin tones should look for yellow or orange undertones, while cooler skin tones will find pink shades most flattering, he says.

Furthermore, you should be using different shades of concealer on different parts of your face. “On the under-eyes, use a light-reflective formula that’s a shade lighter than your skin to brighten up the area,” says Barose, whose go-to formula is NARS Creamy Concealer. Correa adds that going for a shade with a more peachy or orange undertone than your normal shade will help neutralize the blue and minimize those dark circles.

You can also use a mint or apricot-tinged color corrector underneath your concealer to further counteract darkness.

For sculpting purposes, he says to go two to three shades deeper than your natural shade so you can get that contoured finish. If you’re looking to brighten your complexion, then you’ll want to choose a shade that is one shade lighter and add it to the high points of your face.

Pick the Right Formula

Concealers usually come in either a stick or liquid form, and how to choose between the two really depends on personal preference. “Every formula has a purpose,” says Bhatty. “The goal here is using as little product as possible and getting good coverage results.” Bhatty usually always reaches for liquid formulas, such as the Tower 28 Swipe All-Over Hydrating Serum Concealer, as she says it provides her buildable coverage and looks the most like skin. She’ll reach for a stick, like the classic Cle de Peau Beauté Concealer SPF 27, when there is a targeted area that a liquid concealer can’t completely cover and needs more full coverage.

Blend It Out

When thinking about how to apply concealer, you’ll want to consider what you’re going to use to get product on your skin. But one of the best things about concealers is that you can use whatever brush or tool you want to blend it out. Bhatty says she likes using her fingertips or a damp beauty blender to get a more natural finish. When you need something heavier and more precise, such as spot concealing, then she says to reach for a brush.

Apply From the Inner Corner of the Eyes and Move Outward

“You don’t need to cover your whole under-eye area, just wherever you are dark,” says Romy Soleimani, who tends to famous faces including Tracee Ellis Ross and Cara Delevingne. “Usually it’s the inner third of the eye and a bit at the outer corner.” When it comes to application, she likes to deposit the product with a small synthetic bristle brush and then use the pads of her fingertips to blend it in carefully. “It’s important not to go too close to your bottom lashes, so there is no buildup or harsh line,” she says. “And also be sure to get the sides of the nose that hits the inner corner of the eye.” If the under-eye area needs extra brightening, Soleimani neutralizes it with a creamy, peach-hue color corrector.

Spot-Treat Blemishes

To ensure the concealer grips onto the raised bump, Oquendo first applies a matte primer. “Blemishes are already overproducing oil, so you don’t want the product to slip and slide,” he explains. Then, he presses his finger in a thick pot of concealer, like Kevyn Aucoin’s Sensual Skin Enhancer (“It covers up everything!” he says), and blends it into the spot.

Hide Acne Scars and Discoloration

Correa suggests finding a shade that closely matches your skin tone or one that is slightly lighter to get that brightening effect. You’ll then want to apply small amounts of product directly onto the areas of hyperpigmentation using either your fingers or a brush for a natural finish. For darker areas of hyperpigmentation, that’s when he says to layer a color corrector (think a peach or orange shade) underneath the concealer to neutralize the color.

Use as an Eyeshadow Primer

Concealer happens to be one of the most versatile makeup products out there. On Top of providing coverage and concealing the things we want hidden, it can also be a great shadow primer. “This quick and efficient trick instantly brightens the eye area and provides a seamless base for any desired eyeshadow look,” says Correa. “The result? Vibrant and long-lasting eye makeup that dazzles.” Simply swipe on a thin layer of a long-wearing and crease proof concealer, like the YSL All Hours Creaseless Precise Angles Concealer, to your lids to lock in whatever eye look you’re going for.

Place Strategically

If you’re going for that no makeup makeup look, Correa says that to opt for spot concealing rather than going all in with a full-coverage foundation to even out skin tone. “By allowing your natural skin tone shine though, you effortlessly achieve a flawless complexion that looks effortless,” he says.

Sculpt Facial Hair

You can cheat the grooming game and use concealer to polish up those brows or your beard, says Correa. “[It creates] a captivating interplay of contrasting shades that accentuate your unique features,” he explains. All you have to do is apply a thin layer of concealer along the hairline and then blend it in for that natural-looking coverage.

Blot, Then Set

After using blotting papers to take down shine, Soleimani uses a small, dome-shaped brush to apply whisper-light setting powder, like Hourglass’s Veil Translucent Setting Powder, under the eyes and around the nose. For a brightening effect with a hint of shimmer, Oquendo suggests Laura Mercier’s Secret Brightening Powder under the eyes. And there you have it— a fool-proof guide on how to apply concealer to get that 12-hours-of-sleep glow, no caffeine necessary.

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