Expert Tips for Covering Scars (Even That One That Refuses to Go Away)

Aly Walansky
Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Whether from acne, injury or surgery, many of us have scars. While allowing them to heal naturally is ideal, if we can disguise them in the meantime, why not? We asked a few experts and got some great tips on how to cover scars. Bye, bye, blemishes.

Hope of Healing
If the scar is flat and less than two years old, it may diminish. To make sure it does, you need to do two things consistently: Protect the scar from sun exposure with clothing or a broad spectrum sunscreen, and treat the scar with a product loaded with skin-healing ingredients, such as quercetin, petrolatum and vitamin C, says Bryan Barron, beauty expert and co-author of Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me. You’ll find these ingredients in products from Mederma, as well as Paula’a Choice Clinical Scar-Reducing Serum ($24,

Scars older than two years are more difficult to treat, as are raised keloidal scars, which may require a cosmetic procedure from a dermatologist to diminish. After a wound occurs, skin begins repairing itself immediately, but the complete process of scar formation takes two years, says Barron. Thus, the sooner you take steps to reduce the appearance of a scar, the better.

The Art of Disguise
For those times when you need to hide a scar quickly, your best bet is a long-wearing, full coverage concealer applied in several thin layers with a concealer brush or your fingers. The trick is dabbing (not rubbing) the concealer in order to build to your desired level of coverage, says Barron. Try Make Up For Ever Full Cover Concealer ($32,, La Mer The Radiant Concealer Broad Spectrum SPF 25 ($70,, or, for a great budget option, Revlon ColorStay Concealer ($9.99, For concealer brushes, check out the Cover FX Concealer Brush ($20, or, for smaller scars, the Amazing Cosmetics Concealer Brush ($15,

Neutralize the Color
Using a color that is on the opposite end of the color wheel will neutralize or cancel out the other color. So if you have a scar that is red, use a concealer that has a green undertone to it, and that will neutralize the red, says Gabriela Santana-Blackburn, executive director of curriculum development at Tricoci University of Beauty Culture. If you put a light concealer over it, it will just turn it to a pink or light red scar. It is important that the concealers are a natural flesh tone and not just green, yellow or any other color. Red and green neutralize each other, yellow and violet neutralize each other, and blue and orange neutralize each other.

If you have a keloid scar or a raised scar that needs to be covered, do not use a lighter color concealer like we tend to use under the eyes, says Santana-Blackburn. This will draw attention to that raised area instead of the minimizing it. You are better off using a concealer that is a perfect match to the darkness/lightness of your skin so that the scar blends in with the rest of your skin.

Next, press powder into the concealer to give it a longer lasting quality. Most people are in the habit of using a big fluffy brush and brushing on a setting powder. This is really ineffective from a long-lasting standpoint, says Santana-Blackburn. If you use a powder puff and work the powder into it then press it firmly over the area, this will give you a longer lasting coverage that isn’t easily wiped away.

Don’t Make It Worse
The worst thing you can do is expose a scar to the sun without any sunscreen or protective clothing, says Barron. Sun damage destroys skin and inhibits its immune response which results in delayed or improper healing. Other mistakes are using drying cleansers (including bar soaps) and applying products that contain irritating ingredients, many of which are of natural origin (like lavender or eucalyptus) but can cause serious irritation that will inhibit skin’s ideal healing response. Barron says to also be careful not to keep the scarred areas submerged in water for long periods of time, such as using a hot tub or taking a long bath. Skin doesn’t like too much water and prolonged exposure to it causes its barrier to become impaired, which also, you guessed it, delays healing.

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