Dear Daniela: How Do I Use Concealer?

Photographed by Natalia Mantini
Dear Daniela,
I never feel like I get concealer right. After a late night, I really struggle to actually cover up my dark circles without making them look weirdly… grey. Also, when I get spots, I wonder if I’m actually drawing more attention to them in my efforts to cover them up. What concealer type should I be using? Help!
Amina, 24
The desire to cover our blemishes goes back a long way. The Tudors caked their faces in toxic lead powder, choosing to risk death over letting their smallpox scars show. And in Ancient Egypt, Tutankhamun was buried with his anti-acne treatments – apparently even in the afterlife, pimples are frowned upon.
You’re totally right that the sheer variety of concealers on the market, from liquids to creams and powders, is staggering. The names don’t help either – surely you want all concealer to be 'high coverage'? You aren’t buying it to kind of mask a spot.
I recruited one of my favourite makeup artists, Bobbi Brown’s Keeley Wilson, for answers. "There are lots of misconceptions about concealer, especially what’s actually best to use under the eyes and for blemish coverage," explained Keeley.
Let’s start with under eye, which is certainly my biggest beauty bugbear. "Lots of people seem to think that you need to buy a lighter shade to help 'brighten', but in reality that will only make any darkness look ashier," explained Keeley. "Providing you have the right shade, the other reason your concealer might look grey is because you need to use a corrector first. Think about it this way: If you had a purple wall in your bedroom you wanted to paint white, you wouldn’t just go straight in with the white. The darkness of the purple would show through, so you’d use a primer first to knock the colour out. It’s the same principle here – if you have a lot of darkness under the eye, use a corrector to take the worst of it out first." I love Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Corrector – it’s super hydrating but very lightweight – or try BECCA Under Eye Brightening Corrector for even more coverage.
Aside from ashiness, creasing under the eyes is enough to make you want to just put on sunglasses and forget about it. "I can’t recommend using an eye cream first enough. It’ll help to keep the area hydrated and so the concealer will feel and look less cakey," added Keeley. "The other thing is to use the right tools. I like to use a brush to apply my concealer, and then use my ring finger to pat over the top to take off any excess; the warmth from your finger will help to blend the product, making it look more like skin." I’d personally recommend Charlotte Tilbury’s The Retoucher, or the Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Concealer.
If your under-eye area is particularly dry, Keeley had some advice: "Use a concealer that has a slightly thinner texture. First apply a small amount of eye cream to prep, then use a brush to apply the concealer under the eye in an inverted triangle shape, making sure to blend the product out so that it’s not too thick. Then once you’re happy with how it’s looking, take a translucent powder and dust some over to keep creasing at bay."
Now, onto blemishes. As a rule of thumb, I’d say a creamy concealer is your best bet for covering spots – you can even get concealers with salicylic acid or other zit-busting ingredients for particularly juicy ones. "Always choose a cream or liquid concealer the same shade as your foundation," confirmed Keeley. "I’m not sure that fingers are best for these thicker textures, as you’ll only end up removing a lot of the concealer as you go. I always do foundation first, then use a small brush to dab concealer on, and then finish with loose powder. You really can’t afford to skip powder if you want it to stay." I love NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer or Glossier Stretch Concealer for blemishes, FYI.
If you’re looking to cover a larger area of pigmentation, scarring or uneven skin texture, you might want to step things up and try something heavy duty, like Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage. I’ve seen it cover tattoos, surgery scars – pretty much everything. The two tones in the pan let you correct then conceal, and the pressed texture makes it easier to apply to a large area without looking cakey.
That’s not all concealer is good for, mind you. Keeley’s shown me in the past how to use a small amount to highlight my brow bone or tidy up my lip line. In fact, one of my favourite tricks is to apply concealer to my lips before red lipstick. It takes all the natural tone out, meaning that your lipstick goes on a much truer red. "Also use concealer to highlight the brow bone! It masks any newly grown hairs, especially in between brow appointments," added Keeley.
Good luck!
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