Do you ever get halfway through applying your foundation and think, "This is too much?" Though intricately blending foundation onto every nook and cranny of your face can be really fun, sometimes you want to give your skin a break and cover only the spots that need it. You might reserve your concealers just for covering blemishes and dark circles, but plenty of makeup artists use them to even out skin tones so they don't need to cover the entire face.
"I use just concealer to even out the skin with a lot of clients," says Los Angeles-based makeup artist Robert Sesnek. "I find that depending on the [skin] concerns, spot-treating with concealer is a great way to let the skin breathe and use much smaller amounts of product versus fuller-coverage foundation that isn’t always necessary."
That's far easier said than done, however. One person can have lots of different skin tones in lots of different spots, and it's hard to determine what formulas and shades are best for spot-concealing. So we asked makeup artists to reveal their best tips and product recommendations. Ahead, learn how to even out your skin tone with just concealer.
Depending on their personal styles and how much time they have for application, individual makeup artists might opt for different types of formulas for spot- concealing the face. Sesnek says the type of concealer you use should really depend on your skin's specific needs. Overall, he recommends "a creamy or buildable formula under the eyes and a fuller-coverage formula around the nose, center of the face, or cheeks."
Specifically, Sesnek's go-tos are Catrice's Slim'matic Camouflage Stick for lower-coverage spots and Liquid Camouflage High Coverage Concealer for higher- coverage spots [he works as a makeup artist for the brand].
New York City-based makeup artist Tommy, on the other hand, takes a more advanced approach. "Taking a product that is pigment- and coverage-heavy and thinning it down is what artists like myself do," he explains. "It's better to dumb down a pigment-rich product instead of attempting to layer products that are not meant to go the distance."
This technique allows you to customize the coverage of a single formula rather than picking multiples. Delina Medhin, a New York City makeup artist, takes the same approach. "A lot of times we have areas of our face that don't need that much coverage at all," she explains. "You can [mix in] a moisturizer or face oil, depending on the [concealer] formula, and apply the thinner version on those areas; It's a great way to make your makeup look super invisible."
Tommy recommends using his long-time favorite, Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer, to do this, but we're impartial to the Best of Beauty-winning TruBlend Undercover Concealer by CoverGirl.
As Tommy points out, the face can be multi-tonal, meaning it can have multiple skin tones. To address that and keep your skin as multi-dimensional as possible, he advises using two different concealer shades when spot-concealing.
The first is "a 'medium' shade that best matches and unifies all the tones found in one's complexion — for around the nose, redness, and blemishes," he explains. To find the best shade for those areas, he says to find a color that matches the area under your chin or behind the ears.
The second should be "a brighter shade for 'lifting' the natural highlights — the under eyes and bridge of the nose," he says. This shade, Tommy explains, should be one shade lighter than the first and have more neutral or orange undertones.
Oh, and another thing: Don't expect to use the same concealer shades all year long. "Where people run into difficulty is in blending and shade-matching, especially relying on one shade year-round," Tommy says. "We know this is trouble because we are not the same shade in summer as we are in winter."
If your current go-to concealer isn't a great match, consider what time of year you purchased it. It might be time to invest in some other shades.
Because everyone has different skin, everyone is going to need different amounts of coverage in different parts of the face — regardless, you want to avoid over- applying when spot-concealing. "I would not recommend applying concealer to an area where there is no need for it," Sesnek says. "This is the time to remember that less is more and see how little product you can get away with."
Sesnek and Tommy both advise focusing concealer application to the center of the face because that's where most people are prone to discoloration and need the most coverage. "I recommend consumers lay down their coverage under their eyes first, and then around the nose, mouth, and center of the forehead," Tommy explains. "Then blend out towards the cheeks, chin, neck, and hairline."
And be wary of how much product you lay down before you start blending. "Most people are heavy-handed by nature, so start with a single dot in the inner corners of the eyes then blend, take a step back from the mirror, and see where more is needed before laying on a lot of product at once," Tommy recommends. "It's like cooking: better to add to taste slowly and not risk ruining the meal."
Folks with more acne-prone skin or other skin conditions, however, might want to cover their entire face with concealer, to which Medhin says: If you need to, go for it. "You can also use concealer the same way you would use a full coverage foundation," she explains. "When my hyperpigmentation was showing through every foundation, I loved using Nars Soft Matte Concealer all over my skin for a full- coverage makeup look that looks like skin." Nyx's Full-Coverage Concealer Jar has a similar coverage and consistency.
Just like your skin needs different shades and coverage levels for each part of the face, using a couple of different tools can be a huge help when spot- concealing. The main brush you'll need, according to Tommy, is a tapered foundation brush that isn't too fluffy or too dense. His recommendation is Stila's No. 33 brush. "Being double-ended, it's perfect for [spot-concealing]," he says. "[It has a] small side for pinpoint coverage around the eyes and blemishes and the other for general coverage everywhere else."
A small, fluffy eye makeup brush is also great for creating a smooth, even base, according to Medhin. "A good shape size reference is the MAC 224 or the Smith Cosmetics 232 brush." Morphe has a wide and affordable selection of these types of blending brushes, too — the M500 Deluxe Deluxe Pointed Blender Brush is a good place to start.
Sesnek also uses soft-bristled detailing brushes for the areas around the eyes, nose, and mouth because it allows for an airbrushed finish. Then, he takes one extra step to make sure everything looks even. "After everything is buffed in, I will take a damp sponge to soften everything to make it more seamless into the skin," he explains.
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Now, learn how to apply concealer like a makeup artist:
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