What isn’t there to love about a full-coverage foundation during the winter season? It’s essentially a blanket for the face that also happens to conceal random breakouts and even out skin tone. Unfortunately, it carries a couple downsides. There are clogged pores if you’re not priming correctly underneath and the looming threat of it transferring to your clothes or worse—someone else’s.
Also, it can just feel heavy when using day after day. If your skin needs some breathing room but you still want the same benefits of a foundation, most will recommend swapping it out for a concealer. And while that is the obvious and correct fix (besides going makeup-free when we feel like it), there are some caveats for ensuring that it works with instead of against your complexion.
Choose Your Coverage
Like foundation, concealers are available in different finishes, from sheer to full-coverage. The type you use will depend on the condition of your skin. For instance, if it’s free of blemishes and you simply want to even things out, a sheer formula—similar to one you’d use on the under-eye area—will serve you best.
Natalie Soto, global makeup artist/educator for Jane Iredale cosmetics, stresses the importance of the technique you use to apply the product. “As the consistency of concealer can be a lot richer than foundation,” she says, “you should use a damp sponge in a tapping motion if applying it all over the face in place of foundation.”
Now, if you want to get fancy with a highlight and contour effect, know that you will need to utilize more than one shade.
“For contour, choose a concealer like Mehron Celebré Pro-HD Conceal-It and apply a shade that’s three shades darker than your foundation and on the cool side of the color wheel,” says James Vincent, Mehron Makeup artist. “Use this in place of contour powder for a more natural shape and shading that looks realistic and more elevated.”
And if you’re looking for a more bronzy and beachy effect, you can find something two shades darker and on the warm side of the color wheel.
But again, if you want to keep it simple, be sure to color-match your concealer to your skin tone. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a face that’s shades lighter or darker than the rest of your body. Awkward!
Spot-Treat, Don’t Spread
This is perhaps the biggest difference between foundation coverage and concealer coverage. Whereas the latter is typically applied all over the face and blended, concealer should instead be concentrated to the blemishes you wish to disguise.
For instance, if you have a pimple or dark spot on your cheek, instead of covering the entire area with concealer, you should dot each blemish and blend or build until it’s covered. The overall effect is that “no-makeup” makeup look that tricks people into thinking you’re wearing nothing at all.
A great way to sheer out concealer for all-over coverage is by mixing a small amount of concealer with a pearl size amount of your daily moisturizer or a facial primer (try Jane Iredale Smooth Affair Facial Primer & Brightener).
If you’re going for that contour/highlight effect we talked about earlier, your concealer should be applied to the parts of your face that are hit most by sunlight.
Vincent says, “Use a powder brush to sweep it over the forehead, down the center of the nose, on the chin and the highest part of your cheekbone. You can’t believe how easy it is to get the most beautiful beachy effect.”
Blend, Blend, Blend
So what does one do when you need two types of coverage in the same area? Well, you’ll need either two different concealers—sheer and full—or you’ll have to apply the same concealer in two different ways. Again, a heavier consistency is best for disguising blemishes, but blending out the surrounding area with a sheerer formula (i.e. a moisturizer blend) will ensure that the treated area doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb on your face. And like foundation, you’ll also want to seal in your coverage with a setting powder or spray.
If you have no idea where to start your concealer search, start with this list of makeup-artist-approved brands.