How To Pick The *Perfect* Concealer for You in 5 Steps
Having a bad skin day that you just want to cover up?
We’ve all been there. Whether it’s a breakout, a bad night’s sleep, allergies or hormones causing it, don’t panic! There’s a concealer for it.
Or perhaps you just want to even up your skin or dark spots in one quick slick without even thinking about it? There’s a concealer for that too.
But we hear you, it can get confusing. How do you find the perfect concealer shade? Which type of concealer is right for you? And how on earth do you figure out which skin undertone you have? What even are undertones? (And what did we say about not panicking?)
Consider this your go-to guide for de-bunking your concealer concerns once and for all. We’ve got you covered (if you’ll pardon the pun).
We asked Melissa Austin, makeup artist and Editor of Beauty Answers, Laura Kay, permanent makeup expert and founder of Laura Kay London, and Sofia Alfana, brand manager at Real Techniques, for their top tips and tricks on all things concealer. So, sit back and buckle up – operation cover-up is a go!
Step 1: Understanding your undertones
You know the phrase ‘it’s what’s underneath that counts’? Well this is literally the case when choosing any base or concealer. If you start by assessing what undertone you have then chances are, you’ll find your perfect match.
So, what is an undertone and why is it important to know yours? Not to be confused with skin tone, which spans from fair skin to dark skin and can change with the seasons. Your undertone is the natural hue beneath the skin’s surface and there are three types: cool, warm and neutral undertones.
“Your underlying skin tone plays a crucial role in selecting the right concealer shade,” explains Melissa. “The purpose of concealer is to neutralise or cover imperfections like dark circles, blemishes and redness. So, choosing a shade that closely matches your skin tone is essential.”
According to Melissa, not following this rule could result in a bad match. “If you select a concealer that’s too warm or too cool, it may create an unnatural contrast with your foundation and actually draw attention to the areas you’re trying to conceal,” she says. *checks own undertone immediately*
How do I find my undertone?
There are a few ways to determine which undertone you have and they’re not as high tech as you might think. A common method is to look at the veins on the inside of your wrist.
If they are blue in colour, you have a cool undertone and if they look more green then you’re warm. Bit of both? Then you’re neutral. Clever, huh?
Or if you’re an avid jewellery wearer you’ll know what suits you best – gold or silver. If silver jewellery is your thing then your undertone is classed as cool, whereas if gold jewellery looks best, chances are you’re a warm. If both look great then you’ll be neutral.
And then there’s the t-shirt method. Try on a bright white tee and see how your natural skin looks next to it. If it looks rosy or pink then your undertone is cool. If it looks more yellow then you’re warm, and if you suit both an off-white and bright white t-shirt then you’re neutral.
We told you it wasn’t technical but hey, simplicity is key right?
Step 2: Knowing your skin type
Now that you’ve sorted your warm undertones from your cool undertones, you’ll need to identify your skin type. This is so that you know which concealer formula to go for.
All you need to do is think about how your bare skin behaves 30 minutes after you’ve cleansed. If it feels tight and uncomfortable, you have naturally dry skin. If it looks shiny or greasy you have oily skin.
Greasy and dry in patches means it’s likely to be combination skin and if you experience irritation or redness, chances are you have sensitive skin. None of the above? Then your skin is classed as ‘normal’.
“For dry skin, look for creamy or liquid concealers with hydrating properties,” advises Melissa. “These formulas will provide coverage without emphasising dry patches.” We love Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer (£26/$32) which lives up to its name perfectly and contains a botanical blend of strengthening and hydrating anti-oxidants.
For oily skin, Melissa says to think matte. “Oil-free, matte or long-wear concealers will help to control excess oil and prevent creasing throughout the day,” she says. “Those with combination skin can go for slightly hydrating formulas that also offer some oil control,” she adds.
Prone to acne or sensitivity? “Choose fragrance-free concealers to minimise the risks of breakouts or irritation.”
Luckily, the world is basically your (beautifully concealed) oyster when it comes to picking a formula, with everything from cream concealer to stick options within easy reach at most beauty counters.
Step 3: Picking your shade
You’ve found your formula, you know your undertones. Could we be any prouder? Now it’s time to find your perfect concealer shade.
The key is to go for one that’s slightly lighter than your base. “The purpose of a concealer is to brighten and cover specific areas like under-eye circles or blemishes which are often darker than the rest of your skin,” explains Melissa. “By choosing a slightly lighter concealer, you can counteract the shadows and make those areas appear more lifted and illuminated.”
Psst! Counteracting shadows like this is also a great way to create the illusion of smaller, flatter zits too (bonus!).
For those with hyper-pigmentation, a common mistake is opting for a concealer that matches the darker patches of the skin. Go for a shade that blends with your skin tone instead to get the most natural finish.
If you’re still unsure on shades, Sofia advises investing in a colour wheel. “This will determine which hint of colour to use. For example, on fair skin use a concealer with yellow and pink undertones, for darker skin use one with orange undertones,” she explains. (Try The Flesh Tone Colour Wheel by Terry Thomlinson, £12, tiltmakeup.com.)
How much lighter should concealer be than foundation?
The general rule of thumb with concealer is to go one to two shades lighter than your foundation. “It is easy to spot when someone has over corrected because the area concealed will look too prominent, unnatural and reflect the light too much,” warns Laura.
This is most common in the under-eye area. Go too light and you may walk into a reverse-panda eye situation!
Step 4: Colour correcting
The beauty of makeup is that there is pretty much a solution for all your prettifying needs. Thin lips? Invest in a lip defining pencil. Sparse lashes? Treat yourself to a lash plumping mascara! Feeling pale? Oh, hi bronzer!
The same applies for concealing skin issues like dark under-eye circles and pigmentation. The trick here is to brighten the area with a colour correcting concealer first. This is because sometimes just using a normal concealer doesn’t quite cut it and the darkness from underneath can still show through.
“Green cancels out redness, while peach or orange shades counteract dark circles on various skin tones,” says Melissa. Next, apply your normal concealer over the top et voila! What dark circles?
Step 5: Picking your coverage
Your final step to finding the perfect concealer is choosing how much coverage you want. Are you a sheer finish fan? Or more of a heavy-duty, go big or go home kind of gal?
“If you need more [coverage], look for products labelled ‘full coverage’ or ‘buildable’ and if you’d prefer a more natural finish, look for concealers with a dewy or radiant effect,” explains Melissa.
If you’re concealing acne or bumps, go for a full coverage concealer but avoid ones with added ‘shimmering’, ‘illuminating’ or ‘radiance boosting’ pigments. These types of light-reflecting finishes will enhance them, rather than hide them.
How to apply concealer
“Using a makeup brush to buff the product onto the skin makes for a flawless coverage,” says Sofia. This is a lot more hygienic than using your finger, especially when concealing breakouts. You can use a normal foundation brush, but a targeted concealer brush is more precise. She recommends the Real Techniques Brightening Concealer Brush.
Apply concealer just on the areas that need extra help – so, the sides of your nose, under the eyes and over any blemishes. Keeping to thin layers will help stop the product from settling into fine lines or creasing.
You can even use a thin line of concealer around your very outer lip line to make your lips look fuller. Genius.
When concealing zits, tap your concealer directly onto and around it, then dust on a translucent powder to set it. Here it’s even more important that you use a brush (or at least a makeup sponge) to apply, even if you’re using a stick concealer.
This is also where picking the right shade of concealer will really help to conceal blemishes.
There’s a concealer shade, formula and coverage out there for everyone. Once you’ve figured out your undertone, decide what skin concern you’re primarily using your concealer for and follow the above golden rules. Then you’ll be well on your way to a finish that’s flawless and, frankly, fabulous.