A beauty consultant by profession, Jayne has been advising on correct skin and hair care, makeup, and other cosmetics for over 20 years.
How Does Concealer Work?
Concealer can work in two ways: as a blemish eraser and as a highlighter. Sometimes it serves both purposes at once. It can, for example, highlight inner eye corners while erasing the dark veins that shimmer through the skin in that area.
Are Concealer and Highlighter the Same?
But don’t confuse concealer with products sold specifically as highlighter or "illuminator," as they are sometimes called. These are translucent and create a shimmery or opalescent finish.
Concealer is highly pigmented—it's more opaque than any foundation—and leaves a natural-looking, matte finish, making it ideal to set corrective highlights and accentuate contours.
It also gives more satisfactory results for the daytime than products labeled "highlighter," which are most effective in nightlight and hence best reserved for evening wear.
If you’re using concealer only to erase flaws and discolorations, it should match your complexion exactly. If you’re using it as highlighter, it should be two nuances lighter. And it should always be of the same base tone as your complexion.
Should You Apply Concealer Before or After Foundation?
Apply concealer on top of foundation whether you're using it as eraser or highlighter—it only works if it is perfectly placed, so applying foundation over it would sabotage any efforts of perfect placement.
Concealer as Eraser
Erasing Under-Eye Circles
Use as little concealer as possible when camouflaging under-eye circles—too much creates a "caked" appearance and emphasizes even the finest of lines and wrinkles. To control how much you apply, use a concealer brush rather than your finger.
Don't be tempted to use a product lighter than your complexion, since this will most probably emphasize the problem.
If concealer (or foundation) settles into fine lines and wrinkles, you should be able to disperse it by pressing your middle finger lightly against the skin with a slight rolling motion. If this doesn't work, blot gently with a Q-tip.
It’s difficult to hide pimples and acne breakouts without accentuating them. For precision, apply concealer with a brush, then carefully fix with translucent powder for an absolute matte finish that doesn't draw attention.
Don’t be misled by claims that concealer darker than your skin tone causes spots to recede—if concealer is too dark, it will make flaws even more noticeable.
Medicated concealers seem a good idea for acne-related blemishes, but they tend to be of a dry consistency which creates a flaky appearance. Creamy products, most of which are non-comedogenic, provide a smoother texture and better coverage.
Clean your concealer brush with a mild shampoo after covering spots and breakouts. Because brushes take up to 24 hours to dry, consider investing in more than one.
Color Corrective Concealer
Counteract redness and broken or dilated capillaries with a green color corrective concealer—also called color corrector. Be sparse: if you use too much, it will shimmer through your foundation.
Choose a yellow color corrector to neutralize dark under-eye circles, which are usually blue-toned. You can also use orange lipstick for this.
Color corrector is the only type of concealer that should be applied beneath foundation.
Concealer as Highlighter
What You Need
For natural-looking highlights, make sure your concealer is no more than two shades lighter than your complexion.
Matte, liquid products work best for young and mature skin alike. These usually come in a tube with an applicator wand. Use the wand to dot the product onto the area to be highlighted, then blend with a concealer brush for small areas or a wedge-shaped foundation sponge for large areas. It’s important that you always work the product well into your foundation.
For a better idea of exact placement, refer to the sketches at the bottom of this article.
Set Highlights at the Inner Eye Corners
This is a must for all women. It makes eyes look bright and clear, and covers the dark veins that shimmer through the skin—this is where concealer comes into its own as an eraser and highlighter.
Using a concealer brush, work the product upwardly and downwardly. You might find this is enough to diminish under-eye circles, too, if they’re not too heavy.
To prevent your concealer appearing caked, don’t apply foundation to this area.
At the Outer Eye Corners
For strong brow bones and hooded lids, both of which cast shadows that make eyes seem downturned, this has a lifting effect.
Simply blend the product from the outer eye corner toward your cheekbones.
Beneath the Entire Eye for Deep Set and Small Eyes
This makes deep-set and small eyes seem more open and expressive and adds sparkle.
Using the barest amount of product, set the highlight from the inner to outer eye corner, blending down to the cheeks. You can also blend the product into the inner eye corners.
For a Round or Square Face
If you’ve got a round or square-shaped face, apply beneath the entire eye (as above), but let the highlight run down to the corners of the mouth. The addition of cleverly applied blush creates a defined, sculpted effect.
Frown Lines and Nasolabial Folds
Unfortunately, most women only worsen the problem when they try to erase frown lines and nasolabial folds, but if you do manage to get it right, you'll instantly look at least ten years younger.
Highlight the area above the nasolabial fold at the point where the curve of the cheek attracts no light. Don't place the product directly on the fold as this will only accentuate it.
Frown lines are often impossible to erase, but the two methods illustrated in the sketch below might be effective. Experiment until you find what works best for you.
If your mouth is downturned, place a highlight at each corner for a lifting effect.
Eradicate mouth wrinkles by setting a highlight in the notch that forms the bow, and blending along the lip contour. This also prevents lipstick from feathering or "bleeding" into lines.
If the space between your nose and upper lip is too short, place highlighter under the nose exactly as in the sketch below.
To make lips look fuller, set a highlight beneath the mouth in the hollow of the chin, blending downwardly and outwardly.
Highlights for Definition
Because concealer is matte, it’s great for adding decorative but natural-looking highlights. Try the following:
- In the arch of the brows.
- At the center of the upper eyelids. You can do this with an illuminating product or a shimmery eye shadow, but concealer works best for a more natural look.
- At the center of the forehead and running down the bridge of the nose to make it seem narrower.
- On the collar bones to create an impression of leanness.
- On the curve of the breasts to create an impression of fullness.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2010 Jayne Lancer
Jayne Lancer (author) from West London, UK on July 01, 2015:
Thank you, Akoria!
Yes, it really is a cosmetic no woman should be without.
Akoria Ofega from Nigeria on July 01, 2015:
This is amazing and interesting Jayne. I have learnt a thing or two from this article. It is really inspiring to find out that one concealer can be used for so many purposes. Thank you very much.