By some kismet swirling in the universe, I had the luck to bump into New York makeup artist Lisa Aharon (pictured) the day after she did Gwyneth’s makeup for the CFDA Awards—the sexy, smoldering eyes had been the headline, but Gwyneth’s fresh, glowing, flawless skin stood out. Aharon credits amazing skin to begin with (while getting ready for the awards, Gwyneth said she credits our peptide serum), the sheer Colorblur balm on the cheeks and high points, and stealth concealer where needed. “Concealer gives the flexibility you might need for coverage and then can be sheered out for blending,” says Aharon, whose favorites are Kosas and Merit. “And a great blush can work as a color corrector for skin, helping to balance the darker and lighter areas on the face.”
Below, Aharon and others spell out the best ways to use concealer to make your skin look its most beautiful, from shade-matching to exactly how to apply it for the ultimate your-skin-but-better effect.
Concealer is for concealing; foundation is for smoothing skin tone.
Whether you’re looking to cover dark spots, breakouts, redness, or dark circles, concealer is your tool, makeup artists agree. Too many people avoid concealer, thinking they’ll look more natural without it, and instead try to lighten up dark circles or minimize a blemish or dark spot with extra layers of foundation, a Sisyphean task that leaves too much makeup on skin all over and never delivers enough coverage for the trouble spots. For many people, strategically applied concealer obviates the need for foundation or BB cream altogether. “Real skin is beautiful,” says New York makeup artist Gucci Westman. “You want to minimize what you don’t like while letting as much of your natural skin show as you can.”
For eyes, always start with eye cream.
If you’re concealing anything under your eyes, pat on eye cream first to smooth and plump your under-eye area—this also helps concealer blend more naturally. The best eye cream, of course, also treats the skin around your eyes for long-term benefits: This instantly color-correcting, depuffing one is made with phytomimetic vitamin A to help smooth the look of crow’s-feet over time.
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If you have time, take 10 minutes before you start your makeup to use these eye masks. They help brighten, take down puffiness, smooth, and moisturize skin. Gwyneth used them before the CFDA Awards to great effect.
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Return to your eye cream later in the day if you find your concealer creases, cakes, or starts to lift away.
“Get a drop of eye cream and press it right on top of your concealer,” says New York makeup artist Alice Lane, who explains that doing so reawakens the eye area, so you don’t have to add more concealer. You can also use face oil to accomplish a similar concealer-refreshing effect: Pat it on directly over the concealer and wait a few seconds and the magic will happen.
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Pick the form you like best.
Whether you like a thick balm or something more liquid, the texture and the way the concealer is packaged don’t indicate much about its effectiveness. What makes the most difference is the concealer’s pigment load. The more pigment-rich the formula, the better, because you can use much less to get the same effect. For example, all three of these full-coverage formulas conceal to a similar degree despite the differences in consistency.
Use a brush (no matter what kind of concealer you have).
Even if your concealer comes with an applicator (like a doe-foot applicator in a liquid concealer), using a brush makes for a much more natural look. “A brush gives you the most control and doesn’t eat up the product as much as a wet blender,” says Aharon, who says to use the warmth of your fingers to melt a drier formula—you can warm some on your finger and then brush it on or press already-applied concealer into skin with your finger.
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Dab concealer only on the actual trouble spot.
Using a brush makes this possible, and putting concealer anywhere but the dark circle or spot will just leave you with a less-natural look and more makeup on your face.
Pat—don’t rub—to blend.
With your middle finger, pat the just-applied concealer lightly but firmly. (Rubbing it moves the concealer away from the spot you’re trying to conceal and onto a different part of your face.) “Patting makes building to your desired coverage much easier, and it’s the best blending technique,” says Aharon. As you pat lightly, it may seem like the concealer is not blending. But do it for a few seconds more and all of a sudden the concealer should disappear, along with your spots, blemishes, and under-eye circles.
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The ideal balance between dewy and matte is personal.
“If you feel like your under-eye area is getting too shiny, press the lightest bit of powder on top,” says Aharon. “It’s mostly just your preference—it helps set the concealer, but it’s not essential if you like a dewier look.” For blemishes and dark spots, do use powder, she says. “No one really wants more shine in those areas, and the extra help setting the concealer is really useful.” Aharon also likes to mix a too-liquid concealer with a little powder to thicken it up. “This can be great for blemishes,” she notes. “A drier texture tends to hold over the spots better, and the matte/semimatte finish doesn’t attract more light to the already-raised area.”
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Finding your shade involves looking at it on skin in multiple lighting situations.
As anyone who’s ever looked at a flash picture of themselves and discovered raccoon eyes knows, finding the perfect match is not easy—but an essential pursuit if you want to wear concealer. A picture taken with a flash and a mirror aimed at your face when you’re turned in the direction of bright rising sun are probably the two most powerful tests. If your concealer shade passes those two tests, you can relax. Most makeup artists advise keeping two shades on hand so you’re able to adjust as your skin tone changes throughout the year. “We have hundreds of tones on our faces,” points out Westman, who says she uses a lighter shade to correct redness in particular.
The often-repeated advice to use one shade lighter than the rest of your face works for some people and not for others, so approach shade-matching with care. Aharon emphasizes that the color of the darkness you’re trying to cover is important. “If you have very blue undertones, try a peachy-orange shade for color correction,” she says. “If the darkness isn’t too deep, go brighter and lighter.”
You can suffer from pale circles, too.
A puffier under-eye, especially as we age, can read on some people as a circle of paler skin that stands out in a not-so-enchanting way. “Using a too-light shade of concealer just makes this situation worse,” says Aharon. “If this is your issue, stick to concealer in the same skin shade/tone as the rest of the face in that area.” Used all over the face, self-tanner can be helpful, too, if it works with your skin tone.
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