Foxalicious Fundamentals: Concealer 101 (Overview)

By Voxy  

Today’s Topic: Concealer 101

Welcome to the Foxalicious Fundamentals series, designed to answer the questions of and give some guidance to those of you who are just starting out with makeup and skincare — although I hope that the more experienced among you may also find a tip or two! This series will focus on basic advice, uncomplicated procedures, and inexpensive products wherever possible. If you would like to take anything in one of the Fundamentals posts to the next level, just ask.

I am retroactively lumping the “Brushes 101” post from the other day into this series, and have changed its title accordingly (bad blogging practice, but welcome to my learning curve).

This post is the first of a three-part series on concealers:

1) Overview, or All The Concealers Voxy Owns and What They’re Good For (sorry, this one will include some spendy products)

2) Concealing Blemishes

3) Concealing Undereye Circles


What is a concealer?

A concealer is a heavily pigmented makeup product that’s designed to cover up (perceived) imperfections and flaws. They are for spot application, not whole-face coverage. In general, concealers are more opaque and highly pigmented than foundations, although there is some overlap — you could have a full-coverage foundation that is more opaque than some less-pigmented concealers.

You may also have heard of products called correctors, a term which is sometimes interchanged (not entirely accurately) with concealers. A concealer covers something up; a corrector works to counteract a color imbalance in the skin. People with unwanted redness in the face are sometimes advised to use a green-tinted corrector to counteract the redness; some people with purple undereye shadows are advised to use a yellow-toned corrector. I’ll talk about those some other time; today, we’re talking about concealers, which are basically skin-toned (though some of them may be more peach, or more yellow, or more brown, or more pink).

How do they work?

Concealers work in two ways: 1) by providing an opaque cover for imperfections that blends into your natural skin tone (remember that last bit; it’ll be on the quiz later), and 2) by using light-reflecting particles to optically diffuse shadows and discolorations. Some are more of the first type, some more of the second, and some do both.

Concealers come in four basic forms: stick, cream, liquid, and powder. In general, the thicker the product, the more coverage it has; obviously, powders are hard to evaluate by this method so you’ll probably just have to try them. The following list goes through the first three from thickest to thinnest, then tacks powder on at the end. The line between “cream” and “liquid” can be hard to draw — for the purposes of this post, if it comes in a pot, it’s a cream; if it comes in a tube, it’s a liquid. Swatches are at the bottom of the post.

Stick concealers

Good for: undereye circles, acne scars. Can be used on active pimples depending on their stage and if your skin will tolerate them. Do not require a separate applicator; blend with fingertips.

Disadvantages: Can be shiny (setting with finishing powder or foundation eliminates this), can rub off blemishes (setting with powder helps but does not eliminate this problem), can settle into undereye lines if applied too thickly or if skin is not properly moisturized. Less good for oily skin.

Voxy recommends:

Cover Girl CG Smoothers Concealer ($6.25 at For a long time, this was the only concealer I used. But as I started to get older and my skin changed, I found I needed other options.

Cream concealers

Good for: undereye circles, acne scars. Like stick concealers, can sometimes be used on active pimples. Best applied with a brush and blended with fingertips. Many cream or stick concealers can also be used in a pinch as an eyeshadow primer or just to conceal darkness or discoloration on eyelids. (Even if you are not planning to wear eyeshadow, you would be amazed at the difference this makes in just making you look more awake and put-together.)

Disadvantages: can be shiny, should be set with finishing powder or powder foundation. May not want to adhere to blemishes. Can settle into undereye lines if product is too opaque or if applied too heavily.

Voxy recommends:

Laura Mercier Secret Concealer ($22). Either this or the CG Smoothers is my daily go-to undereye concealer.

DuWop Circle Block ($28). Previously reviewed here. I use this when I’ve got particularly bad undereye circles.

Benefit Erase Paste ($26). I like this for acne scars.

This is my Dermablend Cover Creme concealer, which is so old (I rarely use it) that it has since been replaced by another product and the “Cover Creme” line of products is now a line of foundations. I think the closest current match for it is Dermablend’s Quick-Fix Concealer ($21). This is for serious, serious coverage. Now that I’m thinking about it, I should really upgrade to the newer formula.

Liquid concealers

Good for: blemishes, spot coverage of eye area (especially inner eye), acne scars. May be applied in layers with a brush; blend with fingertips if needed.

Disadvantages: Sometimes not opaque enough; may not adhere to surface of blemished skin. Patience required for building layers of product. Not as good as an eyelid concealer/primer as creams.

Voxy recommends:

Amazing Cosmetics Amazing Concealer ($42, but start with the travel-size version for $28; it lasts forever). My go-to blemish-covering product. Why didn’t I photograph this horizontally like the other ones? Good question.

Neostrata Exuviance CoverBlend Multi-Function Concealer SPF 15 ($20). What I go to when the Amazing Concealer is not enough. My skin tone falls between shades in this line, so I bought the two closest and blend them on the back of my hand before applying.

Make Up For Ever Lift Concealer ($22; I’ve linked to the Sephora site because a) you can’t purchase directly from the MUFE site, and b) the MUFE site is unbelievably annoying). Less opaque than either of the above two; I use it for spot coverage under the eyes and around the inner eye, and for the occasional minor blemish.

Yves St. Laurent Touche Eclat ($40). This is the least opaque, and isn’t really a concealer, but more of a highlighter. It helps make shadowed areas of the face look lighter. I use it for the inner eye and around the top and bottom of the lip if I want to wear a defined lip line (for balms and glosses it doesn’t matter so much). This is a cult favorite product and I held off buying it for a long time, but I do really like it.

Powder concealers

Good for: blemishes, minor acne scars. With a light touch, can be used to set other concealers if a finishing powder or foundation isn’t available or is the wrong shade.

Disadvantages: Can look, well, powdery. Not the best to use as an undereye concealer, and usually too dry to use as an eyeshadow concealer (can make eyelids look crepey). If blemishes are exuding oil, this can cause powder concealers to clump, but then again if a blemish is in the exuding-oil stage, there’s only so much that can be done with it anyway. (Remember to ask me about using masks on blemishes beneath concealers; this is a good trick.)

Voxy recommends:

BareMinerals SPF20 Multi-Tasking Concealer ($18). Really? A powder concealer is actually going to cover anything? Yes, indeedy. This was a product that would originally have been in the Skeptic Files, and when I finally got around to testing it I was really surprised by how opaque a powder could be. I take this and the CG Smoothers stick in my purse for midday touch-ups if I need them.


In addition to your fingers, I highly, highly recommend a concealer brush. The picture below shows a variety of concealer brushes with slightly different brush heads, but they all follow the general Popsicle-stick shape. If you only get one, get the Ecotools one; the one with the yellow handle here is an Ecotools concealer brush from their 5-pc. kit, but you can get a “deluxe” version (which as I noted the other day seems only to be longer) sold separately for $3.99 at Target, ULTA, and other drugstores. Top to bottom: Studio Basics, Sonia Kashuk (I think? it’s not labeled), Ecotools, MAC 194.

Do I apply concealer before foundation, or after?

Oy. Short answer: whatever works for you.

Long answer: Unless you have serious, serious dark circles under the eyes, put on your foundation first, and then spot-correct with concealer. If your undereye circles are severe, you might want to put the concealer on first so that your overall complexion is more even before you apply foundation. (If your undereye circles are that bad, you might want to look into some more heavy-duty correctors anyway.)

In general the order of application of makeup products is from heaviest to lightest. If I’m using a liquid or cream foundation, I put that on first, followed by cream and powder concealers. Same goes for using a tinted moisturizer instead of a foundation. If I’m using a mineral powder foundation, I’ll usually put on undereye concealer first (stick or cream), then the powder foundation, then spot coverage with powder concealer (occasionally liquid if I need it).

For the love of all that is holy, are you telling me I need to buy all of these products?

No. That’s what I’m for. ;)

Seriously, I think that since I started wearing makeup I have bought just about every concealer known to man in my quest for the perfect concealer. And then, of course, they keep coming out with more! I’m quite sure that concealer is the category of makeup on which I’ve spent the most money over my makeup-wearing career. What you’re seeing here is only the products that made it through screening. There are plenty more that did not. And there are other products that will work better for some people than others; try, try, try, and sample, sample, sample. Sephora is your friend.

You should have a couple of different formulations in your arsenal, though, depending on what your needs are. I’d recommend something for undereyes and something for blemishes, so a stick and a liquid, or a cream and a powder, etc.


Photos taken in natural light, no flash. My skin is a little pinker in the photo than in real life, in which it’s more balance between pink and yellow. I still have to learn how to take pictures of myself that are more accurate light-wise, but this is pretty close.

Stick and cream concealers, from left to right:

1. CG Smoothers Concealer in shade 705 (Fair)

2. Laura Mercier Secret Concealer in shade 1

3. DuWop CircleBlock in shade Light — the top part is a red corrector paste to help with dark circles; the bottom part is the actual concealer. I blended them just a bit to show that the dark red really does disappear under the beige concealer.

4. BeneFit Erase Paste in shade No. 1 (Fair)

5. Dermablend Cover Creme concealer in shade Chroma 0: Pale Ivory (no longer in production, as far as I can tell)

Liquid and powder concealers, from left to right:

6. Amazing Cosmetics Amazing Concealer, in shade Fair (Ultra Light)

7. Neostrata Exuviance CoverBlend. Top shade is Light (8772), bottom shade is Beige (8773). In the middle you can see that if I blend them I get something that’s closer to my natural skin tone, even though this was just a quick swatch.

8. Make Up For Ever Lift Concealer in shade 3. This is perhaps the only concealer in which I don’t take the lightest or next-to-lightest shade.

9. YSL Touche Eclat in shade 1 (Luminous Radiance)

10. (Hard to see, but there) BareMinerals Multi-Tasking Concealer SPF20 in Bisque.

As you can see, some of them are much yellower-toned, and others much pinker. They can all be made to work on me.

Other products to suggest? What’s worked (or not worked) for you? Let us know in the comments!

Provenance: All purchased.

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  1. avatar a biologist
    Posted January 6, 2010 at 9:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Thank you for writing these posts on the basics! It is really very helpful.


    • avatar Voxy
      Posted January 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Oh, good! I’m glad. Definitely pass along specific questions if you’ve got them, and I’ll put them in the queue!


      • avatar a biologist
        Posted January 9, 2010 at 12:13 pm | Permalink | Reply

        I’m looking forward to the concealing undereye circles post. This is the main improvement my makeup routine needs, other than something general to even out skin tone.


        • avatar Voxy
          Posted January 9, 2010 at 12:45 pm | Permalink | Reply

          The photography on that one is taking awhile, since I don’t always wake up with dark circles and the trick I used with this post of washing off the product and reapplying new stuff isn’t working as well with the dark circles. It’s on the way!


          • avatar a biologist
            Posted January 13, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

            I have dark circles to match my blue eyes nearly every day–so I’m envious. Though perhaps soon, no one will know! My first-ever trip to Sephora is next weekend, but in the meantime I bought the Ecotools brushes you recommended. My regular moisturizer is not keeping up with the super-dry weather, so I think I will investigate overnight moisturizers while I am there. I am lurking the thread at the Chronicle as well, so I am grateful for your help both here and there.


            • avatar Voxy
              Posted January 13, 2010 at 11:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

              Wait — you’re going to Sephora this coming weekend, or next weekend? If it’s this weekend, I’ll try to hustle to finish undereye concealer recs before you go.

              Right now I’m in love with Borba moisturizers — I love the Advanced Aging Recovery Cream for a night cream, but it is SUPER moisturizing and might be more than you want. You will also want to be sure you have a really good undereye moisturizer (I should do an eye cream post; one more for the list, there) — again, I love the Borba Orbital Eye Rejuvenator. However, I do not pay $60 for the night cream or $38 for the eye cream (though I would, for the eye cream; it’s that good) — I get them at TJMaxx for a fraction of the price. I think I paid $7.99 for the night cream.


              • avatar a biologist
                Posted January 14, 2010 at 12:23 am | Permalink | Reply

                I’m going the weekend of the 22nd. I’m a little nervous, but I will be brave and report back. I don’t need too much more moisture. Can I admit I have been using old fashioned Pond’s as a night cream? I just need a little more moisture for the winter.

                I would love a post explaining eye creams. My eyelids are pretty oily, but I am beginning to see fine lines appear below.


  2. avatar Inthelab
    Posted January 6, 2010 at 7:05 am | Permalink | Reply

    I’ve used the Chanel stick in the past; it was OK. Now I use the 2-part one by Becca. you get a medium and a full coverage cream in a divided compact. It comes in maybe 20 shades, so finding a match should in theory be easy; the reality is few places carry Becca so I had to order on line and hope the shade I chose worked (it did). The full coverage is really full and imo blends best with clean fingertips.


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