We're going to go out on a limb and say that concealer is the most game-changing product in your makeup bag. It's the one product we can count on to give us a fake-it-'til-you-make-it glow. But some days, we wake up with extra-large bags underneath our eyes or stray blemishes that even the best concealers can't hide. Enter: color correctors.
Color correctors are available in an array of shades that conceal blemishes, cover up dark circles, hide hyperpigmentation, brighten your complexion, and more. They offer a quick, temporary fix for your skin issues but can also be super intimidating to use if you're a newbie. That's why we talked to experts to learn how to color correct like a makeup artist plus find out exactly what each color-corrector shade does to create a flawless complexion.
Meet the Expert
- William Scott is a makeup artist and brow specialist based in New York City; their clients include Hannah Bronfman, Karlie Kloss, and Padma Lakshmi.
- Jenna Kristina is a Los Angeles–based makeup artist whose clients include Julia Garner, Lili Reinhart, and Christian Serratos.
- Lauren Lebowitz is a makeup artist and regional manager for Glamsquad in New York City.
Keep scrolling to learn, once and for all, how to color correct.
Learn How to Use Color-Correcting Concealers with MUA Jaleesa Jaikaran
What Is Color Correcting?
Scott explains succinctly, "Color correcting in makeup is the use of a pigment to counter or balance a discoloration of the skin to conceal that discoloration and make the skin appear even in color." Unlike concealers and foundations that help cover imperfections with shades that match your skin tone, color correctors help cover imperfections by canceling out the unwanted tones.
Remember that art class you took in high school? We bet you never thought that lesson on color theory would come in handy for covering up a gigantic zit or your genetic dark circles. Well, surprise! Color theory is key to understanding color correction.
By applying a makeup shade that is exactly opposite the shade of your skin discoloration on the color wheel, you can neutralize the discoloration instead of simply spackling on layers of flesh-tone makeup. Now, you can understand why applying red-orange lipstick to green-blue dark circles isn't at all crazy.
Color correctors come in shades such as green, orange, yellow, pink, and purple. Which color correctors you should use depends on your skin issues, skin tone, and undertones; we'll get to all that later.
How to Apply Color Corrector
Color correctors aren't meant to tackle skin imperfections all by themselves; instead, color correctors are best used as a first step to perfecting your complexion before applying concealer and/or foundation.
Here's Scott's no-fail technique to perfect color correction:
- Start with "clean, moisturized or primed skin," Scott says.
- "Use a detail brush to apply the color corrector directly, and only, over the discolored area," they advise.
- "Use your finger or a moist sponge to push the product into a thin and even application," they suggest.
- If your color corrector strays away from the discolored area, "use a cotton bud to remove any excess from skin that does not need correction."
- Next, apply foundation or concealer over the corrected area. "Whichever you choose will depend on how much coverage a blemish might need, as well as how much coverage you feel the rest of your skin needs," they explain. "It's best to apply these layers of makeup thinly and in a patting motion with a sponge or a finger."
- If you applied concealer over the corrected area in the last step, add your foundation now. "Apply foundation to the area surrounding it, blend, and follow with a setting mist and powder," Scott advises.
- Let your base makeup set completely before adding more powders. "If you are applying powder makeup (blush, shadow, highlighter) to an area that has been color corrected, know that the product may catch on those spots or may reveal them in other ways," they warn. If your powder accidentally erases makeup from the corrected areas, fix your mistakes "with small touches of concealer," they suggest.
When to Use Green Color Corrector
Green, which sits opposite red on the color wheel, is the best color corrector for any red-toned areas of inflammation or irritation, like pimples and sunburns.
"Green color corrector is intended to counter redness such as rosacea or acne, for example, and is best suited for pale-to-medium skin tones," Scott says.
If you're using green color-corrector on blemishes, "make sure the coverage is opaque before adding [makeup] on top to match the rest of your skin," Lebowitz adds.
When to Use Yellow Color Corrector
If you have purplish skin discolorations—for example, dark circles or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from old acne breakouts—you need yellow corrector.
"Yellow color corrector is intended to cover and brighten purple tones coming from under the skin from visible veins, bruises, and under-eye circles," Scott says. "It is best suited for people with light and warm complexions, olive skin, [and] medium-deep skin tones."
If you have olive skin, Kristina suggests picking a color corrector in "a mustard tone with a slight hint of green to blend in with the skin."
When to Use Orange Color Corrector
Orange, the opposite of blue, is the perfect corrector for bluish-toned imperfections.
"Orange color corrector is intended to neutralize dark spots, scars, under-eye circles, areas that may turn gray under foundation, or other stubborn and relatively cool-toned blemishes," Scott explains. "It is best suited for medium- to dark-skinned people."
Remember: If you're using color corrector on dark circles, don't apply corrector on the entire under-eye area like a typical concealer; apply it only to discolored areas before dabbing a flesh-tone concealer on top.
When to Use Pink or Peach Color Corrector
Pink and peach correctors also balance out cool-toned discoloration, like bluish dark circles, and brighten skin, according to Kristina.
"For people with pale skin, a pink color corrector would do what orange does for those with darker skin tones," Scott suggests. "Peach color correctors are versatile in who they work well for and are also intended to counter dark areas."
Kristina agrees. "I usually use something with a pink or peach tone, depending on skin tone, to help cancel out the blue tone of tired under-eyes," she says. "I tap that color in the fold under the eye and then I use the correct concealer color on top of that to blend with the client’s skin tone."
When to Use Purple Color Corrector
Purple, the opposite of yellow, is best used as a skin-brightening neutralizer for sallow complexions or yellow-toned areas such as bruises.
"Purple color corrector is intended to neutralize yellow spots on the skin," Scott explains. "It is best suited for light and cool skin tones."
More Color-Correcting Tips
Now that you know what every shade of color corrector does, you need to know how to choose color correctors that flatter your skin tone and undertone for the most natural-looking coverage.
"The color corrector one chooses should be close to the level of color of the foundation of the person wearing it," Scott says. "Most color-correcting palettes aren't numbered by depth of shade but side by side, we can see that many of these palettes vary in depth amongst each other."
For example, they say, "If I wear a medium-deep tan foundation, I will choose an orange color corrector that is also about medium depth and avoid one that looks pastel against my skin. Similarly, if I have light, neutral skin and am choosing which green and pink correctors, I will choose those that don't look too rich against my skin [and] are also light in color."
Also, pay attention to the undertones of color correctors. If your undertones are red, you need cool-toned products with a pinkish cast; if you have golden skin, you need warm-toned correctors with a slightly yellow tint. "For deeper skin tones, going warmer is especially key because you want to keep the richness of your skin and avoid the skin looking too gray or purple," Kristina explains.
Pro-Approved Color Correctors
Now that you've been schooled on exactly how to use color correctors, try these ace color-correcting products that our experts rely on for flawless-looking makeup.
"Make Up For Ever has had a handle on color correctors for as long as I can remember," Scott says. "The formulas disappear easily under foundation/concealer and wear well for long periods on dry or oily skin."
This foolproof buy features four color-correcting creams in six palettes labeled for deep, dark, tan, medium, light, or very fair skin. In other words, selecting the wrong palette for your skin tone is damn near impossible.
"Ben Nye color-correcting wheel is as dependable for a makeup artist as any Ben Nye product will certainly be," Scott explains. "The shades in the wheel easily address most skin tones and the discolorations typically found with them."
"The formula is smooth, and easy to mask and set for a full day's wear," they add.
"Stila makes their own palette, which has all the shades one would need to correct many types of discoloration on many different skin tones," Scott says.
Along with five cream color correctors, this versatile palette comes with two correcting setting powders: one yellow and one lavender.
Kristina is a fan of these creamy under-eye correctors because of the line's diverse shade range. "There are so many colors, so most skin tones can find a shade," she says.
The shades address not only a range of skin tones but also a range of under-eye circle tones: purple/blue/red, brown/gray/green, and plum. Genius.
Kristina loves the color correctors by stage makeup brand Graftobian. Choose from the dark wheel or light wheel for six correctors tailored to your skin-tone depth. The dark wheel, pictured here, is a great option for correcting skin with warm undertones.
Correct Click Under Eye Circles from Cover FX is an oil-free cream concealer that was made to tackle under-eye circles. This product is highly pigmented and goes onto your skin smooth for a flawless finish. It comes in a few shades, allowing you to match to your skin tone for the best results.
This NARS concealer not only tackles dark circles but it can also be used for highlighting and contouring. If you're looking for a versatile product, the Radiant Creamy Concealer is it.
Boasting 30 shades, get a close match to your skin tone thanks to this line's wide range that reaches from light to deep tones.
The Chill Out Smoothing Color Corrector is available in three peach shades: light, medium, and deep. This color corrector is infused with CBD, vitamin E, and jojoba extract. If you want to keep moisturizing top-of-mind, this color corrector will help you conceal dark under-eye circles while locking in moisture.
This undereye corrector by Tarte was created to target dark circles and other skin imperfections. This formula will give you a radiant crease-free finish.