Concealer is kind of like your favorite skin-care serum: You can’t really see it, but it does some heavy lifting behind the scenes. Once blended under your foundation, it chameleons those uninvited pimples, dark spots, or bits of redness away. Oh and wouldn’t you know, it can still act like an invisibility cloak for your blemishes should you decide to skip the base makeup—if applied correctly.
Follow the below tips for using concealer without foundation—which the pros call “spot concealing”—from top makeup artists, and you’ll be able to avoid looking like a splotchy, half-filled-in paint-by-numbers.
1. Set your skin
The first step, according to celebrity makeup artist Aliana Lopez, is to make sure your skin is prepped and moisturized. “This will help [the concealer] glide on and blend effortlessly,” she says.
2. Pick the right shade
People are often told to use a concealer that’s a bit lighter than their foundation, but Jeannie Vincent says that’s a myth that can lead to the “dreaded blotch effect.” To find the right shade and “ensure the closest match” to your skin tone, she says, “be sure to test the product in as close to daylight as possible…The concealer should basically disappear into your skin.”
3. Go Goldilocks on coverage
When you’re using concealer without foundation, it can be tempting to pick the strongest one out there—but Vincent says to go for, at most, a medium-full coverage option. “A full AF concealer will look straight up weird—unnatural—when paired alongside bare skin,” she says. “Go for something a little less paint-like, a little more hydrating and buildable.”
Remember, coverage levels vary by formula, not by type of concealer. But when choosing between a stick, wand, or palette, Vincent offers this nugget of wisdom: “A general rule of thumb is that stick or solid concealers will be a little drier and stick better to spots, and liquid concealers will be a little creamier with less coverage.” She really likes Hynt Beauty’s Duet Perfecting Concealer ($24), and Urban Decay’s Stay Naked Correcting Concealer ($29).
4. Apply as needed
Less is more when you’re spot-concealing sans foundation. “Use your ring fingers to tap concealer on under the eye,” recommends Vincent. “A brush can be used, but the warmth of your finger will be better at melting the product into your skin, creating a more imperceptible coverage.”
If we’ll pry your brush from your cold, dead hands, Vincent advises using one that’s pencil-tip thin. “Still tap a small amount of product on, and be sure to not drag it around or move it with the brush,” she says.
Beautyblender fan? Makeup artist Chauntal Lewis prefers using a wet sponge, “which will make [concealer] look more like skin rather than makeup,” she says.
5. Color correct
This step’s optional, but you can use a color-correcting concealer if you’re looking to neutralize redness or dark spots. Lopez is a fan of using both a color-correcting concealer and a normal one. “A rosy-toned concealer helps with blue and purple tones in lighter skin, and an orange-red concealer helps cancel out dark areas on darker toned skin,” she says.
6. Set it and forget it
Lopez recommends finishing with a dusting of translucent powder on top for more staying power. Vincent advises using “patting or pressing motions versus brushstrokes” so that you don’t drag the concealer off of the spot you’re trying to cover. And voila! You’re good and glowy to go.
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