Foxalicious Fundamentals: Concealer 102 (Blemishes)

By Voxy  

Today’s Topic: Concealer 102 — Using Concealer to Cover Blemishes

In the first post on concealers, I gave you a tour of my concealer collection. Remember, those are only the ones that made it past the rigorous screening process. (Now you know what Paula Abdul is doing these days since she’s not on American Idol.) (Kidding.)

As I mentioned when I did my rave about the Clarisonic — who, by the way, had the nerve NOT to choose me as one of their winners of their “Why I am a Clarisonic Super Fan” contest — since I started using the product about which I am secretly the Biggest Super Fan In The Whole World But Never Mind That, I’m Not Bitter, I have been fortunate enough not to have very many breakouts, Not That That Matters To The Fine People At Clarisonic.

However, when I screw up my medication schedule (say, by repeatedly forgetting to take it for three days in a row) or when I am under stress (such as that induced by not winning a contest, for example), I do get the occasional breakout. In the spirit of making lemonade from lemons, at least now I can show you how these products work in concealing actual blemishes. Who else do you know who would show you their blemishes? (Actually, don’t answer that.)

Don’t worry, the photos aren’t gross. These blemishes are past their prime and on the way to healing, but they are still plenty red enough to need coverup. I have two beneath the corner of my lip, so I was able to show you two products in action in each photo. All photos were taken in the same natural light, or as close to the same as I could get, what with the sun going in and coming out, etc. No retouching.

Before You Start

Be sure that your skin is clean and well-moisturized. If your blemish is in the drying-out stage, there may be little dry bits of skin to contend with. Remove as much as possible of this via exfoliation (either chemical or manual, but be gentle), and then moisturize well. Allow some time between when you wash, exfoliate, and moisturize and when you start applying makeup so your skin can calm down from any temporary redness that washing and exfoliating may cause.

Spot concealing of blemishes should be done AFTER you apply foundation, if you use one, regardless of whether the foundation is liquid, cream, powder, stick, or mineral.

How to Apply Concealer to Blemishes

D’you remember in the last post I said you needed a concealer brush? Well, here is the secret that no one tells you: when you are covering up blemishes, apply your concealer with the butt end of the brush (or with any other similar object). For covering dark circles, you want to work the concealer into the skin. For blemishes, you want to cover the blemish completely (or as close as you can while still looking natural), and then you want to leave it alone. Don’t keep working product into it. Get in, get out, move on. The butt end of the brush works great for this.

For the below photos, I used the butt end of the MAC 194 concealer brush, which is the bottom brush in the picture below. This is the brush with the skinniest end. If you can find something else that’s about that diameter, you’re in good shape. It doesn’t have to be a concealer brush; if you have another kind of cosmetics brush around that also has a skinny, round tip, that’s fine. Or if you have a round-handled spoon. Or a click-pen with a smooth, round clicker.

You want to put a tiny bit of concealer on the butt end of the brush, and I really do mean tiny. It’s better to put on less, and then add layers, than to start with too much and have it look goopy. Using a dabbing/stippling motion, start where the blemish or other discoloration is reddest/darkest/strongest/whatever. Your concealer will probably look a great deal lighter than the redness of the blemish. That’s OK; it blends out. Keep stippling with the butt end of the brush outwards towards the unblemished skin; when you’ve reached it, you can finish blending into the natural skin with your fingers. The warmth of your fingers helps melt the concealer and makes it easier to get a really smooth transition into the unblemished area. Practice will show you how far out from the edge of the blemish you need to apply concealer in order to get a smooth blend; it will depend on your skin tone, how opaque the concealer is, and how far removed it is from your natural skin tone or coloring (i.e., if it’s pink and you have a more yellow complexion, etc.).


Below are photos showing ten different products used on these blemishes and what they looked like. I did them in natural light in front of my balcony doors because if you can make it look near-invisible in natural light, you will be fine for just about any indoor lighting that the average person is going to run into. You can see that some of them work better than others, but none of them are disastrous and all of them are an improvement over either no-makeup or just-foundation.

The first photo is what the affected area looks like after cleansing and moisturizing but with no makeup.

Then I applied my everyday foundation (Almay SmartShade in shade #1, Light). You can see that the foundation already gives some coverage. If you use a full-coverage foundation (which this is not), you can often get away with using a bit of extra foundation as a concealer.

Picture #1. Top: Erase Paste in shade Light; Bottom: Amazing Concealer in shade Fair (Ultra Light). I could have blended both of these a bit more; this was just carelessness on my part. So they actually perform slightly better than the photo indicates.

Picture #2. Top: Neostrata Exuviance CoverBlend in Voxy’s Custom Blend of shades Light and Beige; Bottom: Dermablend CoverCreme in shade Chroma 0: Pale Ivory.

Picture #3. Top: DuWop CircleBlock in shade Light; Bottom: Make Up For Ever Lift Concealer in shade #3.

Picture #4. Top: Cover Girl CG Smoothers Concealer stick in shade 705 (Fair); Bottom: YSL Touche Eclat in shade #1 (Luminous Radiance.)

Picture #5. Top: Laura Mercier Secret Concealer in shade 1; Bottom: BareMinerals Multi-Tasking Corrector SPF 20 in Bisque.


While these all can be made to perform on my skin, the best results came from the Exuviance CoverBlend and the Dermablend CoverCreme, with DuWop coming in a surprising third (I don’t normally use this for blemishes, since it doesn’t make sense to me to put a red paste on top of a red spot, but it turns out to be a good product for this, so I learned something). The others all work OK, and had I blended them a little more I could have made them work even better, but there’s a limit to anyone’s time. Also, I know from experience that some of the ones that looked nice when just-applied in the swatch (YSL Touche Eclat, for instance) don’t wear well over blemishes, so although it looks fine now, in four hours that red spot will be peeking through again. The Laura Mercier concealer will require setting powder, which is why it wasn’t one of my top choices for blemishes.

Super Extra Bonus Trick

You guys were supposed to remind me to mention this trick! I don’t know which of you is in charge of me this week, but whoever it is, you’re sleeping on the job, there. ;)

Sometimes, pimples that have burst (whether spontaneously or with help) are hard to cover because they tend to leak oil for a little while (a few hours up to a few days). It can be really hard to get concealer to adhere to oily skin; powder concealers clump when oil touches them, and stick, cream, and liquid concealers can just slide right off.

If you have an oil-absorbing mask that you like, you can apply a thin layer to the blemished area and surrounding skin before putting on your makeup. It should be a mask that dries clear or has little enough color (NOT GREEN) that your foundation and makeup will go on OK over it. I use Dermalogica’s Sebum Clearing Masque. This is what you might call an off-label use of the product, as it’s supposed to be one of those wait-10-minutes-and-wash-off kinds of products, but I was pretty unimpressed with it as a wash-off product, so I decided to try it this way and it works well. But you don’t need an expensive product. Any old oil-absorbing mask you like which, when applied in a very thin layer, will dry almost colorless, will do. If you’re desperate, dip a cotton ball in some Milk of Magnesia (the plain variety, please) and apply in a thin layer. This will dry with a whitish tinge, and repeated use can be too drying for some people, but it will definitely give you a nice smooth surface for makeup application and will help absorb oil. This way, the concealer both adheres to the mask and is separated by the mask from emerging oil. It’s not always perfect, but it’s a whole lot better than nothing, or clumping, or sliding.

Comments? Questions? Other tips and tricks for covering blemishes?

Provenance: Purchased.

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  1. avatar Ania
    Posted June 11, 2010 at 2:21 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi, thanks for this post – this is the best concealer review I’ve seen, with demonstrations and comparisons and all :). I just have a little question. I’m interested in getting the Neostrata Exuviance CoverBlend but I went on the website and there were three different types: multi-function, leg and body, and concealing treatment. Which one are you using? Also, I wanted to ask about the staying power of the concealer – my skin is very oily and most of my makeup slides off later.
    And also (that’s a lot of questions sorry), do you use an undereye concealer? Mine are not very bad but I have fine lines andoily skin so my concealer tends to crease.
    Hope you can reply. Thank you


    • avatar Voxy
      Posted June 12, 2010 at 2:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Hi, Ania! The CoverBlend I use for blemishes is the “multi-function” one. It comes in a small tube about the size of a tube of Neosporin or other antibacterial ointment. I definitely advise checking out the shades in person, though; I always have to mix Fair and Light if I want it to look natural on me.

      Are you using a primer and a setting powder for makeup? They really can help for oily skin if you have the right one. I don’t know if you’re sensitive to silicones in products, but Too Faced Primed & Poreless and Tarte Clean Slate primers are both good choices. I also set makeup with MUFE HD powder (or some other silica powder; Coastal Scents makes one that’s much cheaper) and usually don’t have a problem. In your case I’d put on primer, then foundation, then setting powder, *then* blemish concealer, and then (if possible) a super-light dusting of setting powder over that again.

      Re: undereye concealer — yes, I use one for dark circles. (I just found a new one I love and haven’t reviewed yet — Redpoint’s NOC-Out concealer palette.) The best trick I have for that is something that sounds stupid but isn’t — if you’re only using concealer to cover dark circles, then you only need to put it where the circles are, not on the whole undereye area. Usually I can get away with concealer just on the circles and not at all towards the middle to outer portion of the undereye.

      The trick of applying undereye concealer before foundation is a good one also.

      Good luck!



    • avatar a biologist
      Posted June 13, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Permalink | Reply

      For undereye circles, I got Laura Mercier’s Undercover Pot on Voxy’s rec and I love it! The best thing I’ve ever tried. My eye area is oily and it definitely stays in place. I’m looking forward to hearing about the Redpoint palette, as I’m already almost halfway through the dark circles half of the Undercover Pot.


  2. avatar Ranganathan
    Posted January 9, 2010 at 8:44 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks so much for this post! I (unfortunately) have an opportunity to try these tricks out. I especially appreciate the Super Extra Bonus trick, because my blemish is quite scabby and if I exfoliate, I’m sure it will ooze (sorry, that sounds awful.)


    • avatar Voxy
      Posted January 9, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink | Reply

      No, no, I totally get it. Just remember that when they’re at their worst, it is not always possible to cover a blemish completely and flawlessly. Sometimes minimizing it is the best we can do.

      If there’s really a scab, take a paper towel, fold it into quarters (or whatever), wet it with warm/hot water, and let it sit on the blemish before you wash. This will soften the scab and thus cause less damage to the surrounding tissue when you wash and exfoliate.

      If, after you exfoliate, it begins to leak oil immediately, then I usually rip off a tiny piece of TP and stick it right on there, changing as necessary. You want to let it expel as much as it can (helping is OK if your hands are clean, you use a tissue, and you don’t go at it too vigorously). Sometimes it will leak oil for a while then form a crust; you want to gently wipe that away with your warm paper towel before trying to put makeup on.

      Good luck! Isn’t adult acne fun? ;)


  3. avatar biograd
    Posted January 6, 2010 at 9:09 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Do you use the same butt-end-of-brush technique with stick concealers? My Almay stick concealer is pretty thick (maybe the CG is softer?), but I’ll give the brush idea a try.

    When I was really little, I raided my mother’s ancient, tiny makeup collection and put her concealer stick on as lipstick – I had no idea what it was supposed to be for. :)


    • avatar Voxy
      Posted January 6, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Most of the time I don’t use stick concealers to cover blemishes — they have so much hard wax that they tend not to stay on very well, at least on my skin. It’s like the difference between a hard cheese and a soft cheese. But if that’s all I have, and I want to make it work, I might dot the stick on the blemish once or twice, but then I do try to blend with the back end of the stick. Usually there’s too much surface area on the concealer stick to get precision, and while dabbing some more on one thing you can easily accidentally remove some from somewhere else, which is very frustrating.

      (For undereye circles, you want to melt concealer into the skin anyway, so I apply the stick directly to the skin and then blend with fingers.)

      Oh, that reminds me, I was supposed to talk about the little mask-under-concealer trick. I should add that to the post. WordPress is behaving oddly tonight so we’ll see if I can make it work.


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