Every so often a pimple will appear, usually timed with an important event or on the one day we might be having our professional photograph taken—it's almost as if breakouts have a sixth sense.
While acne and breakouts are common and nothing to be ashamed of, there are ways to ensure they don't get more attention than they deserve. Maybe you break out from time to time, or covering pimples is something you've mastered; no matter your situation, our step-by-step guide on concealing acne with makeup (compiled with the help of beauty expert Hillary Clark) has got you, well, covered.
Meet the Expert
Hillary Clark has spent over two decades in the beauty industry as an esthetician and makeup artist. She is the founder of Beauty HAC Skincare.
Check Your Ingredients
Clark emphasizes that the first step before covering breakouts is to check the ingredients in your products. "I look for products that have natural botanical and anti-inflammatory ingredients," she says. "That goes for my prep products, my powders, and my concealers. SPF is another game-changer because you want to protect inflamed, compromised, and opened skin from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation."
Since bacteria are known to clog pores and cause breakouts, it's important to use clean and sterilized makeup brushes on inflamed skin and clean fingertips should you touch your face. Try using something like Angel Skin's Clear it Up! Acne & Oily Skin Cleanser ($25) for cleansing oily, acne-prone skin, Clark also advises. "When cleansing, don't scrub or over-exfoliate the skin [as] this will just further agitate angry breakouts and can even cause them to spread above and below the skin," she says.
Clark also emphasizes the importance of not stripping or overly drying out the skin. “Drying out the skin will cause the oil glands to overproduce, causing excessive oil production that can lead to more breakouts," she says. She recommends using products that work with your skin type and not against it. Glow Recipe's Strawberry Smooth BHA + AHA Salicylic Serum ($40) helps to address breakouts while calming the skin gently.
Prep With Anti-Inflammatory Products
Hydrating the skin before makeup is essential if you want your products to blend well on the face. The key when working with pimples and acne is to ensure you're first prepping with an anti-inflammatory moisturizer. If your skin tends to be red, Clark recommends looking "for prep products that have neutralizing color-correcting bases in the sheer green-to-yellow undertone." Dr. Jart+'s Cicapair Tiger Grass Color Correcting Treatment SPF 30 ($52) helps to soothe and reduce redness in sensitive, irritated skin. To help combat signs of stress and clear up clogged pores, try incorporating Freeman's Anti-Stress Dead Sea Minerals and Lavender Clay Facial Mask ($5) into your skincare routine a few times per week.
Utilize Sheer Mineral Powder
After the skin has been prepped properly, Clark recommends laying down a sheer veil of mineral powder. "I like to lay down a sheer veil of mineral powder because this gives foundation and concealer something to stick to," she notes.
She further explains: "The skin of a breakout is often warm or stretched out, making it smooth, so the heat of the infection and the pulled surface can make it very hard for products to stick to the skin without a soft powder base." You can apply the powder with a fluffy brush, lightly dusting it all over the face. Clark recommends Bare Minerals' Loose Powder Foundation SPF 15 ($35) as a "stellar clean formula with PPF ideal for sensitive, acne-prone skin."
Go in With Foundation
After you've applied the mineral powder, it's time for foundation. "Start with foundation all over the face or just where you need it," says Clark. "I start with foundation first and then do concealer because if you do concealer first, you will wipe it off when applying foundation and you end up with too much product on the skin. Plus, you end up agitating inflamed areas." The True Skin Serum Foundation ($54) by Ilia and Sappho Organic's Essential Foundation ($54) are two foundation formulas Clark swears by. If you're looking for a tinted moisturizer, try Tower28's Sunny Days SPF 30 Tinted SPF ($30)
When it comes to blending your foundation, it's best practice to use a brush that easily glides on the skin. Start with smaller amounts of product and work your way into blending until you feel satisfied with your level of coverage. For a synthetic brush option, check out the 190 Synthetic Foundation Brush ($39) by MAC Cosmetics.
Once your foundation has been applied, go back in with a smaller brush and apply concealer or more foundation to your breakout, giving it your undivided attention. You can also apply concealer to the under-eye area or anywhere else that needs coverage.
"With a brush and a very light touch, I stipple foundation onto the breakout and feather outward to blend into the skin," Clark says. "The technique is slightly different with a cystic breakout that is bulging versus a dry or crusty breakout that is healing. Therefore, the brush and using a light touch is so important." For this method, try Real Techniques' Cover & Conceal Dual-Ended Face Makeup Brush ($11).
Once you've covered everything and are pleased with the outcome, you'll want to use a setting spray to seal it all in place. Clark recommends using a mattifying setting spray, preferably one with an SPF. Hold the nozzle about 12 inches from the face and lightly mist it in a circular motion until you've covered it entirely. Let the spray fully dry, and remember, the best practice is to keep your hands and fingers off your face. For a matte setting spray, check out Maybelline New York's Lasting Fix Make-Up Setting Spray ($10).