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?