Hillary Kerr, our generally savvy and beauty-loving co-founder recently admitted she only owns one concealer—and isn’t even sure it’s the right shade. The more we talked about cover-up with our friends and co-workers, the more we realized she isn’t alone. Considering the sea of options available, we’re not surprised. How do you know if you need a stick, wand, pen, pot, or tube? And should it be green, yellow, beige, or brown? We tapped Mai Quynh, the makeup artist who perfects the skin of Scarlett Johansson, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Reese Witherspoon, to answer all our questions.
“Most women should own two types,” Quynh says, one for under your eyes and one for full coverage—believe it or not, they do very different jobs! For the former you’ll want a wand or pen, which is lighter and often packs brightening benefits.
Try Maybelline’s Fit Me! Concealer ($5) or Sephora’s Smoothing and Brightening Concealer ($17).
You’ll also want to pick up a thicker formula without brightening ingredients—you don’t want to draw attention to the thing you’re covering—to disguise blemishes, scars, dark and red spots. The best options are sticks, tubes, and pots, which are more opaque.
Try RMS Beauty’s Un Cover Up ($36) or Tarte’s Maracuja Creaseless Concealer ($24).
Less is more: you’ll get a reverse raccoon effect if you apply concealer in a half-moon shape under your eyes. Instead, focus on the inner area, from the side of your nose to just under the middle of your pupil. Use a brush, wand or pen to dab the product in place, then pat with your ring finger to set. “Your ring finger gives the lightest touch,” Quynh says.
We like Nars’ Radiant Creamy Concealer ($28) and Armani’s Maestro Eraser Concealer ($40), both of which brighten while they camouflage.
Gently apply a thin layer of a thick concealer in the same shade as your skin with a small brush, pat with setting powder, then layer on a little more concealer if needed, Quynh says. “It’s not realistic to think that it’ll last all day because the natural oils on a blemish will make things shift,” Quynh says. The solution? Pack a Q-tip in your makeup bag to remove and re-do the cover-up if needed.
Try Laura Mercier’s Secret Camouflage Concealer ($30) with Amazing Cosmetics’ Concealer Brush ($15), then top with CoverGirl’s Loose Powder ($6).
An easy rule of thumb: to cover a blemish, match your skintone exactly, for under your eyes the goal is to brighten and conceal, so pick a color half a shade lighter than your skin, Quynh says. Once you find a texture you love, buy two shades so that you can mix to match your complexion year around—or try a palette.
Koh Gen Do’s Moisture Concealer ($54) and Make Up For Ever’s 5 Camouflage Cream Palette ($38) are both foolproof.
You can use colorful formulas—often called correctors instead of concealers—to mask discoloration on your skin. Think back to art class: hues opposite each other on the color wheel strike a balance. For example, a yellow-based formula counteracts the purple hue of under-eye circles, while green helps neutralize redness. Just make sure to use a light hand and blend only where you need it.
Our editor swears by Lancome’s Maquicomplet Complete Coverage Concealer ($30) in Correcteur for dark under-eye circles. Or try Maybelline’s Cover Stick ($5) in Green for excessive redness.
YSL’s famed Touche Eclat ($40) is actually a highlighter—and a fantastic one. “There’s confusion with these pens because they’re very light compared to normal concealers,” Quynh says. “They’re great to brighten the under eye without a lot of shimmer.” That said, they don’t conceal much. Apply on the inner corners of eyes and pat into place with your ring finger for instant brightness.