In the world of makeup, under-eye concealer is a necessary evil. We're thrilled when we discover a new holy-grail product, but so often our excitement is squashed when a midday glance in the mirror reveals creasing and cakiness. What does it take to achieve the crease-free concealer we always see on the red carpet? Magic?
According to Honey makeup artist Suzy Gerstein, the creaseless look we see on celebs isn't actually witchcraft. "Models and actresses have a team of makeup artists and lighting assistants there to smooth away creases, whether it be through makeup or lighting or post-production," she says. Ah yes, that makes sense.
Now, there are a few genius tricks that we mere mortals can use to simulate the flawlessly concealed, fresh-faced look of celebs. But Gerstein urges us to set reasonable expectations. "You can minimize creasing, but being that we are moving, breathing beings, it is not always possible to prevent it altogether," she says. "Remember to go easy on yourself. As much as a crease annoys you, it's usually nothing a couple of swipes of a damp Beautyblender or a fingertip can't fix."
Learn 5 Tricks for Using Concealer from MUA Bob Scott
Now that we've set our expectations to a realistic level, Gerstein and two other top Honey makeup artists have some pretty brilliant (and simple) tips for preventing those creases as much as possible.
Set It with Powder—but Not Too Much
Our MUAs agree it's easy to mess up the powder situation with under-eye concealer. You definitely want to apply powder on top of your concealer, which "sets the look and minimizes creasing throughout the day," says Gerstein. But don't overdo it. "Instead use a light powder, like Laura Mercier's Secret Brightening Powder ($28), and use it sparingly," says celeb makeup artist Min Min Ma. The keyword here is "sparingly." This powder contains light-reflecting particles, which are great for brightening dull and dark under eyes but overly reflective if you load up on the product before a photo session. You've been warned. For best results, apply with a small, fluffy powder shadow brush, like the Fenty Beauty Tapered Blending Brush ($24).
Place Your Concealer Strategically
When it comes to concealer, find the sweet spot between too much product and not enough. You want to apply enough to cover the entire area and be able to blend it without making the coverage splotchy or too thin, but you don't want to cake it on the delicate eye area either. "Where you place the concealer is also important," says Ma. "We tend to get most darkness around the triangle part at the inner corner of the eyes, so focus there. The skin around that area tends to be smoother, hence less creasing." Apply the bulk of the product in this darker area, and blend it out toward your orbital bone for a traceless finish.
Choose a Lightweight Formula
According to Ma, the texture of your concealer affects how much it will crease. Dry concealers tend to crease more because they are less flexible and can cling to the folds of your skin. "I tend to go for light and creamy textured ones, " says Ma. If you haven't found your perfect formula yet, Ma suggests trying the Charlotte Tilbury The Retoucher ($35), which sets in place without drying down too much.
Prep with Eye Cream
A lesser-known tip for crease-free concealer is to prep the under-eye area "with an easily absorbed eye cream," says Gerstein, who recommends Tatcha's Luminous Deep Hydration Firming Eye Serum ($85). If you typically skip the daytime eye cream so your eye makeup doesn't smear or run, the trick is to wait it out. “I like to do this step first, then apply the rest of the makeup, and then go back to under-eye concealer to ensure that the product has time to absorb," she says.
If you're in a rush, Gerstein says to apply your eye cream, then separate a two-ply tissue and press it on your under-eye area. This hack removes any excess cream and readies the under-eye area for concealer.
Don't Apply Concealer Too Close to the Lashes
Despite what you think, you don't need to apply concealer all the way up to your lashes. Just like you should blend the edges of your concealer out toward the orbital bone for a seamless fade, do the same in the other direction. Blend it up toward your lash line rather than apply the product directly along the line. "Avoid taking concealer up to the bottom lashes, as it tends to pool and crease there,” Gerstein advises. If you accidentally get too close to the lash line, fix it by dipping a cotton swab in some makeup remover or a multi-purpose skin salve (Gerstein likes Honest Beauty's Magic Beauty Balm, $13), and gently run it under the lash line. This will “break up the product and bring the area back to life,” Gerstein says.
Choose the Right Tools
What you use to apply your under-eye concealer also matters. For a no-makeup makeup look, apply the product only where you need it to look naturally well-rested. "My trick is to use a small, pointed synthetic brush to apply the concealer only to the areas where you see a shadow, then pat into place with your fingertip," says Gerstein. "The warmth of your skin will melt the product and blend it, making it look like real skin." Ma recommends Lancôme's Concealer Brush #8 ($28). Make sure to use your ring finger (your weakest finger) so you don't pull at the delicate skin around your eye.
Dab with Blotting Paper
Remember when you learned to blot your lipstick on a piece of tissue to remove the excess product? Apply that same concept for this cool hack for creaseless, stay-all-day concealer. After you've applied your concealer, gently press a blotting paper over the under-eye area. This "really blots off excess oil, leaving just the pigment behind, which ensures long wear," says Gerstein. What you'll be left with? The perfect amount of coverage. What you won't be left with? The excess product accumulating in your fine lines and creases.
We're not talking about the next-level baking made famous by the drag community and later adapted by mainstream culture on Instagram. We're talking about an easier version for everyday makeup. Instead of coating the area with a thick layer of powder, opt for a light dusting. Here's how you do it: "Have a loaded setting brush ready with loose setting powder," says celebrity makeup artist Robert Greene. (Your Laura Mercier Secret Brightening Powder will work here, but be careful not to use too much.) First, pat in your concealer with your fingertips, making sure there are no visible crease lines. Then, tap on some loose powder quickly and lightly over the area you've concealed. “Let the powder sit for two to three minutes,” Greene says. (You can do your eye shadow or lipstick while you wait.) Then gently dust off all remaining powder that hasn't set in, until the look is “smooth and set.”
Use Less Product
If you prefer a full-face of makeup, stick with what you know and like. But if you find yourself complaining about your concealer settling in the fine lines around your eyes, try a less-is-more approach. So often our mistake is simply caking on way too much product. "Today's trend seems to be guiding women to 'cook and bake' their under-eye makeup for a flawless finish," says Greene. "I won't say this technique is wrong, but it must be adapted to fit a real woman's needs who isn't planning on walking a red carpet or hitting the stage.” (See the technique above.)
You'd be surprised how little product you need to actually get the job done. Instead of starting with a thick coat of concealer, build it up as you need it. "I like to work in thin layers to achieve a realistic finish and only apply as much as needed," says Gerstein. That way, you don't end up applying way too much product all at once, which means inevitable caking and creasing.