How to Never Buy the Wrong Concealer Shade Again, According to MUAs

young woman in yellow blazer on purple backdrop

Javier Diez / Stocksy

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 might be more arduous than you anticipated. In fact, finding your perfect match is arguably more difficult than finding the equivalent in a foundation. And with so many different concealer variations available, 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 you might find that it doesn't camouflage redness or blemishes the way you need it to. 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 us understand how to how to decipher between what concealer to use for dark circles and beyond, we tapped two top makeup artists Katie Mellinger and Neil Scibelli to offer their very best tips.

Meet the Expert

  • Katie Mellinger is a bi-coastal celebrity and editorial makeup artist based in New York City and Los Angeles. Her clients include Amy Poehler, Emma Watson, and Naomi Watts.
  • Neil Scibelli is a New York-based editorial and celebrity makeup artist. He received his training under brands like Kevyn Aucoin and Laura Mercier.

Here’s our expert-approved guide on how to find the right concealer.

How to Choose Your Concealer Shade

When it comes to what color concealer to use, it all depends on what you're trying to conceal. "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 Mellinger. Instead, she suggests using a formula with a peach or orange 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," she says. "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." Dermablend's color-correcting concealer comes in orange and red tones to cancel out darkness and discoloration underneath the eye area.

Dermablend Quick-Fix Color-Correcting Concealer
Dermablend Quick-Fix Color-Correcting Concealer $33.00

Looking to conceal your blemishes? Scibelli says to mix in a bit of green—which sits across from red on the color wheel—to counteract the redness associated with your pimples. "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." Try this green-hued corrector from Cover FX, which comes conveniently packaged in an easy-to-use tube to conceal rosacea, redness, and inflamed breakouts.

Cover FX Correct Click - Redness
Cover FX Correct Click - Redness $18.00

Liquid Concealer

Shiseido Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Concealer
Shiseido Synchro Skin Self-Refreshing Concealer $31.00

The Benefits

  • Suits all skin types: Liquid concealer is the most versatile formula and is suitable for normal, oily, and dry skin types.
  • Buildable: When it comes to coverage, because liquid concealer is on the thinner side it can either take on a more sheer appearance or be built up to fuller coverage without looking cakey.
  • Has many finishes: Liquid concealer comes in a slew of finishes: dewy, matte, or satin.

Best For

  • Dark circles
  • Blemishes

Stick Concealer

Physician's Formula Gentle Cover
Physician's Formula Gentle Cover $7.00

The Benefits

  • Good for dry skin types: Stick concealers are often available in satin finishes, making them hydrating enough for dry skin types.
  • Has full-coverage: A stick concealer typically has full-coverage, making it ideal for those with severely dark under eye circles or discoloration.

Best For

  • Spot concealing
  • Dark Circles
  • Blemishes
  • Discoloration

Cream Concealer

PUR Cosmetics Disappearing Act Concealer
PUR Cosmetics Disappearing Act Concealer $24.00 $10.00

The Benefits

  • Gives medium to full coverage: Cream concealers are lauded for their coverage and can be built to full coverage if necessary.
  • Camouflages discoloration: Because cream concealers have a thicker consistency, they work well with your foundation to cancel out any discoloration.

Best For

  • Spot concealing
  • Discoloration

How to Apply Concealer

  • Liquid concealer: To apply a liquid concealer that has an applicator—like Scibelli's top pick, the Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer ($30)—you can apply with either your fingers or from the applicator directly. Blend out using a beauty sponge or a concealer brush like the Nars #12 Cream Blending Brush ($28).
  • Stick concealer: To apply a stick concealer, apply it straight from the tube onto your problem areas and blend it out with your finger. If you're covering dark circles, Scibelli suggests using a shade that has a salmon or orange undertone to it to cancel out any blue or purple hues on the skin. His favorite is Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Concealer ($15), which he says is the perfect mix of salmon and orange undertones.
  • Cream concealer: To apply a cream concealer, work with small amounts at a time and build up as necessary. Use a synthetic concealer brush to dab the product onto problem areas and blend out with a beauty sponge. He touts It Cosmetics' Bye Bye Under Eye Full Coverage Anti-Aging Waterproof Concealer ($27) for its peachy undertones, which he says will counteract any yellow that's peeking through the skin.

A great way to figure out your undertone is to try a product along your jawline or inner wrist, suggests Scibelli. Also, always make sure to test concealer in natural lighting, as artificial lighting can yield a wrong shade.

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