How to Cover Cystic Acne: A Makeup Artist Reveals All

person with acne hyperpigmentation

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Cystic acne can be more than just physically painful. The dark, red swollen areas can make us feel insecure or make us want to hide our acne under heavy makeup. But, no matter what we do with cystic acne, makeup never seems to stick just how we want it to. For this troublesome issue, the most important aspects are product and procedure—in other words, what you’re using to cover the acne and how you’re using it.

Below, we've laid out some simple tips for camouflaging acne—even the most troublesome blemishes that seem impossible to hide. With the right products and techniques, you can create even coverage that won't make your underlying pimples look obvious. In fact, they'll practically disappear into the rest of your complexion.

Moisturize First

Embryolisse moisturizer
Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentre $28.00

It is always important to moisturize your skin before applying any type of makeup. However, it’s especially important in cases of cystic acne. A lot of the trouble we have with concealing the area is due to the difference in the texture of the skin. Moisturizing all over will help to create an even surface for application. For normal to dry skin, we suggest Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentre ($28). For oily skin, try Murad Oil-Control Mattifier SPF 45 PA++ ($42).

Make Sure to Prime

Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer
Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer $39.00

Next, prime the skin (for most of the same reasons as above). An allover primer will help your foundation and concealer stick to problem areas. We like Laura Mercier Pure Canvas Primer ($39) for all types of skin—it’s simple, it’s clean, and it creates the perfect uniform texture for foundation/concealer application.

Go for Full Coverage

tarte amazonian clay foundation
Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation $39.00

If you're doing a full face of makeup, use a full-coverage foundation before concealing problem areas. This will help you see how much more coverage you actually need—fewer products are more beneficial for concealing cystic acne. Our favorite full-coverage foundations are Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation ($39) and MAC Full Coverage Foundation ($36). For serious coverage, a cream foundation like Dermablend Cover Crème ($39) is best. This type of coverage is great for that cystic acne that seems to emit a deep red glow in the affected areas—but be warned, it can feel rather heavy on your skin.

Conceal the Rest

Kevyn Aucoin powder
Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer $48.00

Once you've achieved the coverage you want with your foundation, you can go back in and spot-cover places that need extra attention. Kevyn Aucoin's The Sensual Skin Enhancer ($48) concealer provides serious coverage and heavy-duty staying power. A little bit goes a long way, so start light and add from there if need be. MAC Pro Longwear Concealer ($28) is also great for cystic acne.

Tap concealer onto the spots you want to cover rather than swiping it on. This ensures full coverage and some extra staying power.

Set With Powder

Smashbox powder
Smashbox Halo Hydrating Perfecting Powder $42.00

Always set your finished product with powder. With full coverage makeup like the kind used to conceal cystic acne, always tap powder on the foundation, pushing it into the other layers instead of swiping it on. You can then blend it out from there. Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Face Powder ($58) is great if your previous concealing efforts have done the job, or try Smashbox Halo Fresh Setting & Perfecting Powder ($42).

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