More and more, we're seeing dreamy, dewy, and translucently covered complexions on our iPhone screens. Not only is a highlighted, bare-faced look beautiful, but it also allows us to save some serious time in front of our bathroom mirror each morning. (After all, the perfect foundation application can take a lot of time and effort). Sure, sometimes we crave more coverage, but there's also something to be said for showing off our natural features—freckles, dark circles, you name it—rather than buffing, blending, and cursing them away.
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Makeup artists are on board (we've been taking many screenshots of natural finishes lately), and our favorite beauty brands seem to be debuting fresh new product launches catering to our multitasking, albeit formula-picky, minds. It seems that we're all in agreement that the perfect product compromise for coverage without foundation is a trusty concealer. Kind of genius right? It's the perfect aesthetic for summer, but honestly, we're planning to continue the practice all year round. As for application, most of the time, we'll reach for our trusted Beautyblender ($20) to strategically diffuse our usual under-eye application out and over our nose, cheekbones, chin, and T-zone. Or, if we're strapped for time, we'll simply use our fingers. (Just make sure they're clean!). Curious to see which ride-or-die concealers are the absolute best for doubling as a foundation in a pinch? (Or, you know, not in a pinch—the choice is yours!).
Keep scrolling for Byrdie HQ's 15 favorites.
Celebrity makeup artist Vincent Oquendo recently used this lightweight concealer from Laura Geller on me during a master class he hosted for our L.A.-based Byrdie Beauty Lab. As he blended it out over my dark circles and across my cheeks, he said that he recently did a look for a celebrity client using just concealer and highlighter. He ultimately did use foundation on me, but he easily could have used this concealer by itself and I would have felt like an A-lister. And yes: it stays true to it's filter-like name. Our editorial director, Faith Xue, is also a fan.
Being a seasoned beauty guru, Faith had another favorite to add. "When I tried Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Away Liquid Concealer ($32), everything changed," says Faith. "Namely, all my pores disappeared. I also stopped wearing foundation. And now I think I'm obsessed with concealer. This new liquid concealer comes in a sleek wand and features a sponge-tipped applicator with a pointed tip that makes it super easy to swipe in the crevices of your face. The very special thing about this particular concealer, however, is the formula. It's just the right amount of matte and creamy where it won't appear chalky or cakey, even if you apply multiple layers."
After consulting tons of makeup artists, we're not sure if a more beloved drugstore concealer exists. This Maybelline concealer is consistently trusted by the industry's best application wizards, and on days when you want to forgo foundation, its spot- and circle-correcting prowess works just as well. Even Gigi Hadid says so! Plus, it blends like a dream thanks to that coveted soft-tip applicator. It's a steal, and we take it everywhere.
As the seasons change, our skin tends to change, too. I know all too well that the colder months can leave our skin dry and irritated (along with our moods), but fear not! Our contributing editor Kaitlyn McLintock swears by this affordable and hydrating pick from Neutrogena.
"When my skin's dry—usually in the winter—I use this game-changing concealer instead of foundation. It's the perfect compromise, and you'd never know I'm not technically wearing foundation," she tells me.
"In addition to Neutrogena's, I also love to use this concealer from Milk Makeup," Kaitlyn told me. "I apply it all over, like foundation, because it's lightweight and my skin feels like it can actually breathe, yet it's thin enough to spread evenly."
Fun fact number one: I'm absolutely obsessed with Laura Mercier's Flawless Fusion Ultra-Longwear Foundation ($48), and I never get as many compliments on my "perfect" skin as when I'm wearing it. Fun fact number two: This concealer iteration from the brand is just as good and yields just as many compliments.
For a flawless base, combine the concealer with the foundation. The two were designed to be worn together, or separately, to ensure that skin looks even and natural.
I'll be honest, since receiving this radiance-enhancing concealing pen from Clé de Peau the other week, I haven't been using much else on my face. The formula is refreshingly lightweight (aka it doesn't feel like a mask) and it somehow manages to be both sheer and buildable so you can achieve whatever level of coverage you're seeking. It's technically for under your eyes, but I've been putting it all over my face for a light hint of coverage I just can't quit. In fact, I love it so much, I wrote a full review for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!
If you're interested in using your concealer as a foundation but seek a long-lasting, full-coverage finish, this one from Becca will be your BFF. The finish is stunning and it blends beautifully. While it does have a stickier feeling than some, it's water-resistant, skin-smoothing, and guaranteed to tackle even the most stubborn of breakouts.
When working with concealer formulas that have a thicker texture, use a tool like the Beautyblender to help evenly blend the formula onto your skin.
Makeup artists, celebrities, and editors alike adore Hourglass's infamous foundation/concealer hybrid. In fact, when I had a chance to interview Vanessa Hudgens, she said she pretty much insists makeup artists use it on her to help diffuse any unevenness or problem spots.
"I've actually turned so many makeup artists onto the Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Foundation Stick ($46)," she told me. "With almost every makeup artist I've ever worked with, I'm just like, 'Hey, you should use this.' It's just beautiful, and the coverage is amazing."
Whenever Byrdie HQ discusses our favorite concealers, this cult-classic from Nars is the first to show up to the party. It's lightweight, easy to blend, but boasts better coverage than the majority of foundations we've tried. Thus, when we're in a hurry to run out the door, we'll concentrate it underneath our eyes and blend it out with a sponge to extend its magic to the rest of our face. We especially love that with 30 shades to choose from, this concealer offers more options than most.
When I asked Byrdie's senior editor Hallie Gould which formula works double-time as both a concealer and a foundation within her product arsenal, she immediately credited this travel-handy stick from Flesh.
"I like to buff on the foundation stick in Custard. Because it's super matte, I'll use a Beautyblender dampened with Eve Lom's Radiance Face Mist for some glow. It's pretty full-coverage but in a really beautiful, flawless kind of way." (Psst! For Byrdie's full review of this delightful makeup line, click here.)
I sit (almost) directly next to Byrdie's wellness editor Victoria Hoff, and I've heard her infinitely praise this concealer for its foundation-like talents. Victoria will tell you she's not a foundation person, and prefers to use this concealer as a middle ground for those times when she does seek a little extra coverage.
"I now use a different concealer formula around my nose than I do beneath my eyes, for starters, since the area around my nose tends to dry out as the day goes on. I swear by this pick from RMS Beauty for this reason. The creamy, oil-based formula positively melts into my skin but never cakes. I also purposely chose a yellowish shade, since it helps cancel out the blueish tones that tend to appear in that area."
When a 13-year-old makeup YouTube sensation comes into the office and gives your co-worker a faultless makeup application, you carefully take note of every single product he uses. Such was the case when Reuben de Maid made over Byrdie's features editor, Amanda Montell. Ingeniously, he used this concealer from Too Faced (one of his absolute favorites) all over her complexion as an alternative to foundation. And as someone who has loved the actual Too Faced Born This Way Foundation ($39) for years, I'm excited by this time-saving prospect.
"I typically need a high-powered concealer to hide any trace of exhaustion or a potential breakout," Byrdie's managing editor, Lindsey Metrus, explains. "Tarte's full-coverage formula doesn't crease, and it hides just about every imperfection possible."
Hallie completely agrees. "I use Tarte Double Duty Beauty Shape Tape Contour Concealer ($27), which never, ever creases or budges. It's basically like a mask for dark circles."
I never know whether to call this sultry little pot from Kevyn Aucoin a concealer or a foundation (because I use it as both), but I'm obsessed all the same. I first discovered it after Glamsquad makeup artist Alyna Ajere used it on me during a press trip with Kenra Professional, and after posting a photo on Instagram, I'm not sure if I'd ever received so many DMs about my skin.
That being said, it's a little tricky to apply, so after snagging a jar of my own, I asked Ajere to share her exact method. "With this product, less is more, and a damp Beautyblender spritzed with some rose water is key. I start with three small dots on the forehead and cheeks. Then, I use the Beautyblender to buff it carefully into the skin. Depending on how much coverage you want, you can always go back for more. Afterward, I'll set it with powder," she explained.