How to Cover Cystic Acne: A Makeup Artist Reveals All

Updated 10/05/17
cover cystic acne

Cystic acne can be more than just physically painful. The dark red swollen areas create a sense of insecurity in a lot of us who suffer from the problem. Worse yet, no matter what we do with cystic acne, makeup never seems to stick. 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, I've laid out some simple tips for camouflaging acne—even the most troublesome blemishes that may 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.

Keep scrolling to find out how to cover cystic acne like a makeup artist!

Moisturize Before Makeup

Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentre $16

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. I suggest Embryolisse Lait Crème Concentre ($16) for normal to dry skin. For oily skin, try Murad Oil-Control Mattifier SPF 15 PA++ ($40).

Prime the Skin

Laura Mercier Foundation Primer $34

Next, prime the skin (for most of the same reasons as above). An allover primer will help your foundations and concealers stick to problem areas and stay put. I like Laura Mercier Foundation Primer ($34) for all types of skin—it’s simple, it’s clean, and it creates the perfect uniform texture for foundation/concealer application. If you have oilier skin, Lise Watier Base Miracle Pore Minimizing Primer ($36) is great.

Apply Full-Coverage Foundation

Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation $39

Always 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 to concealing cystic acne. My favorite full-coverage foundations are Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation ($39) and MAC Full Coverage Foundation ($33). For serious coverage, a cream foundation like Dermablend Cover Crème ($38) is best. This type of coverage is great for that cystic acne that seems to emit a deep red glow in the affected areas—you know, the kind that just looks painful.


Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer $48

Once you have full coverage, you can go back in and spot-cover the places that need extra attention. Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer ($48) concealer provides serious coverage for heavy-duty staying power. A little bit goes a long way, so start light and add from there. MAC Pro Longwear Concealer ($21) is also great for cystic acne.

With cystic acne, makeup just never seems to stick, no matter what you do. That’s why it’s important to tap on concealer with your fingertip, sponge, or brush—not swiping it onto the skin.

Set With Powder

Smashbox Halo Hydrating Perfecting Powder $49

Always set your finished product with powder. With full coverage like the kind used to conceal cystic acne, I always tap on the foundation, pushing it into the other layers instead of swiping it on. You can then blend it out from there. I like Koh Gen Do Maifanshi Face Powder ($42) if your efforts have already done the job or Smashbox Halo Hydrating Perfecting Powder ($49) for a little extra coverage.

This post was originally published on December 21, 2015.

Want to find out how to camouflage acne scars while healing your skin? We’ve got you covered.

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