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Just like foundation, choosing a concealer shade takes a bit more knowledge than you may think. Intuitively picking a variation that you think best mimics your skin tone is not the smartest approach for finding a concealer. In fact, finding your perfect match is arguably more difficult than finding the equivalent in a foundation. And with so many different concealer variations, it can be difficult to determine whether you need a color-correcting formula, a brightening shade, or one to cover-up.
Case in point: A light-reflective concealer brightens up the shadowy circles under the eyes, but it won't camouflage redness or blemishes. And if you've ever heard the old-school advice to go a few shades lighter with your concealer, that may work for areas that you're trying to highlight but it's not ideal for covering spots and scars.
To help take the guesswork out of the process, we tapped two top makeup artists for their shade-matching expertise.
For Dark Circles
"People often make the mistake of using the same concealer that they might cover a pimple with to cover their dark circles, and this doesn’t usually work," explains Katie Mellinger. "A pimple will often read red, which means you need something with more of an olive or green undertone to cover. If you throw green, olive, or yellow undertone concealers (for pimples) over blue undertone concealers (for under-eye circles), it can often look more green or even turn gray, depending on the product—especially yellow and blue."
Meet the Expert
Katie Mellinger is a celebrity and editorial makeup artist. Splitting her time between New York City and Los Angeles, Mellinger's work has been featured in Vanity Fair, W, and Wonderland Magazine. Her clients include the likes of Amy Poehler, Emma Watson, and Naomi Watts.
Instead, Mellinger suggests using a formula with a peach undertone in this area. "For under the eyes, I always recommend something with a peach undertone (for lighter skin) or an orange undertone (for darker skin) to cover. The orange in the concealer will cancel out the blue in the dark circle, making a more seamless transition into the general skin tone of the face."
Neil Scibelli agrees that pink-peach-orange tones are best for concealing dark circles. "I tend to lean more toward warm tones when it comes to blue undertones in order to balance out the complexion if it feels too cool," he says.
Meet the Expert
Neil Scibelli is a New York-based editorial and celebrity makeup artist. Scibelli received his training under brands like Kevyn Aucoin and Laura Mercier and now contributes to websites like Glamour, InStyle, and PopSugar.
"I would suggest using concealers with salmon and orange undertones to cancel out any blue or purple hues on the skin, especially under the eyes." His favorite is Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Concealer, which he says is the perfect mix of salmon and orange undertones.
For Yellow Undertones
If your skin tends to read more on the yellow side (aka your veins appear green), Scibelli says that again, salmon tones will serve you well. "A pink- or salmon-toned concealer will help counteract anything that's too yellow peeking through the skin. A pink-toned concealer also helps to warm up yellow undertones." He says IT Cosmetics' Bye Bye Under Eye Full Coverage Anti-Aging Waterproof Concealer mostly sells these peachy undertones.
For Pink/Red Undertones
If your skin becomes flushed easily or you tend to burn more than tan in the sun, you likely have pink undertones. Because peach concealers cancel out yellow undertones, you'll want to do the opposite and find a concealer with a suggestion of yellow to it. Scibelli's top picks are Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer and the Bobbi Brown Instant Full Cover Concealer.
For Olive Undertones
If your skin has the slightest olive-green tint and turns a deep brown rather than a golden bronze when you tan, you probably have olive undertones. "[These] undertones can wear concealers with a bit of golden or yellow undertones, which complement the overall skin tone and also cancel out any green veins or hues peeking through olive skin tones," Scibelli says. His pick: RMS Un Cover-Up Concealer.
For Neutral Undertones
When taking a close look at your skin, if you can't identify hints of yellow, pink, or olive and aren't sure exactly which undertones you have, you probably are neutral. In this case, you won't want to veer on the side of yellow or peach, or your concealer will stand out against your skin. "A great test is to try along your jawline or inner wrist," explains Scibelli. "If the product looks too orange or yellow, then that means you have to tone down to a more blue tone to get to the perfect neutral finish." For these skin tones, he recommends Maybelline Age-Rewind Eraser Dark Circle Treatment Concealer.
Test concealer in natural lighting so that the artificial light doesn't sway you in the wrong direction.
To cover blemishes, Scibelli says to mix in a bit of green, which sits across from red on the color wheel, to counteract redness. "I would suggest color-correcting with a green-based primer or concealer first, then applying your complexion color concealer over it," he explains. "Green really counteracts redness and is great for target areas on the skin." He's a big fan of Lancôme Teint Idole Ultra Wear in Green for this, as well as L.A Girl's Pro Conceal in Green.
While we're on the topic, take a look at how to find the perfect shade of blush for your skin tone.