Fashion & Beauty

A Primer on Concealers

January 9, 2020



few too many holiday indulgences, we (okay, me) are looking a little peaked. What’s up with all these shadows, puffiness and under-eye bags? As we did a couple of months ago when we were searching for a better blush and seamless-looking foundations, we asked you to share your go-to concealers. You rose to the occasion:

A YouTube video inspired one fearless reader to attempt to erase dark circles with what she referred to as a creative color corrective approach (Red lipstick! “OMG, that was entertaining,” she reported. ) A few of you swore allegiance to Nars’s concealer; one of you is an avid fan of RMS and Tarte products. Our garden columnist, who also has quite a knack for digging up effective beauty buys, gives the thumbs-up to Clarins Instant Light. MyLittleBird contributor Catherine Clifford favors the natural look so is laissez faire about any dark shadows she says she has. For her newly pared-down makeup plan, my favorite makeup connoisseur loves Cle de Peau for camouflaging dark circles and anywhere rosacea crops up.

Clearly, the choice of products is daunting, so to help evaluate the possibilities, we enlisted two Washington, DC-based pros.

As if picking one product wasn’t complicated enough, Carl Ray, Michelle Obama’s official make-up artist, points out that there are several different textures of concealer—liquid, cream, stick and balm.

“Liquids, which give sheer to medium coverage, are great for normal to oily skin,” says Ray, who’s partial to this texture. “Nars Creamy Concealer is one of my favorites.” Cream concealer, which usually comes in a pot, offers medium to full coverage, while stick concealer is great for covering up blemishes and dark spots. Balms offer even more coverage but are thicker and require a skilled hand.

Alexandria Washington, pro makeup artist at Georgetown’s full-service makeup bar Own Your Wonder, notes, “Every type of concealer isn’t for everyone.”

For example, if you have mature skin under your eyes and apply liquid concealer with a matte finish there, it can make you look older. If you prefer liquid concealer, hydrate the skin with eye cream before.

“Cream concealers can be tricky,” says Washington, “because they sit in your creases and make you look as if you wearing concealer.” Both Ray and Washington agree it’s important to blend well.  Whatever concealer you use, say these pros, the way you apply it, what you use before you apply it and your technique are key.

Says Washington, “Begin applying concealer below where you may have bags at the top part of your cheekbone. Apply from your nose, then brush toward hairline and blend it up (for natural coverage, use a small, fluffy brush to blend, a flat brush for heavier coverage). Then, use your ring finger to pat it in.”

Concealer has other uses beyond under the eyes. “You may want to use one for spot treatment under eyes, around nose, to disguise broken capillaries, dark spots or breakouts,” says Ray.

“If you find a concealer that matches your skin really well, you can use it on your nose and chin instead of foundation. Your whole face doesn’t need makeup,” advises Washington.

Finally, you may need to use a different color concealer than your foundation. To make your under-eye area look brighter, go a shade lighter. Or if that area is puffy, match concealer and makeup. But if you have dark circles, your concealer should be a shade darker.

Got all that? No? For some more personal, face-to-face advice on applying concealer (or foundation, blush, etc.), sign up for a Sip and Glow class at Own Your Wonder (use code OWN IT for 15% off) or contact Carl Ray  for individual and group makeup classes and/or individual makeup applications.


—Janet Kelly

LEFT: RMS’s cream formula Beauty Un-Cover Up (available in 16 shades, $36, Sephora) doubles as a concealer and foundation for the under-eye area and face.CENTER LEFT: Clarins’s Instant Light Brush-on Perfector Concealer comes in three colors ($36, Nordstrom). Stephanie Gardens had this to say about it: “Twist the tube and a bit of concealer is deposited on the built-in brush, which is nicely shaped to put it where it needs to go. Stuff lasts forever. This is perfect for me with tinted Chanel’s Les Beiges tinted moisturizer, which I use instead of foundation—it has amazing coverage for something so light. CENTER RIGHT: The pricey stick Cle de Peau Concealer (six colors, $73, Nordstrom) has many proponents for its full, lasting coverage.  RIGHT: Nars’s liquid Radiant Creamy Concealer  is available in 26 colors. It’s $30 at Nordstrom.


LEFT: The Vanish AirBrush Concealer (22 shades, $34, Sephora), brand new from Hourglass, is getting raves. Although I liked its brightening effect, unfortunately, it settled into my, ahem, creases. CENTER LEFT: One very discriminating reader wrote that she sometimes uses Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat All Over Brightening Pen (14 shades, $35, Sephora) for an evening look. “I like how that product seems to reflect light, which I think may be youth-enhancing (at least I hope it is).” It contains skin-loving hyaluronic acid and Vitamin E. CENTER RIGHT: By Terry’s Terrybly Densiliss Concealer (six colors, $69 Dermstore) is almost as spendy as Cle de Peau. My daughter-in-law and I can attest that it lasts a long time (like a year) and doesn’t work its way into under-eye wrinkles. RIGHT: The Shape Tape Concealer  from Tarte (available in an impressive 30 shades, $27, Ulta), which got an enthusiastic endorsement from a loyal reader, camouflages imperfections and contours and highlights, too. Maybe too matte for some.


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