Tattoos have officially become mainstream: A recent poll by Ipsos showed that roughly one-third of Americans are rocking ink. We're all about body art, of course. But we also recognize there are moments when you may wish your tattoos would disappear for a hot minute.
There's good news: If you want to hide that stick-and-poke of your ex's initials or that owl tattoo that spoke to you one night after too many vodka tonics, you have options besides removal. Tattoo cover-up makeup is surprisingly effective and there are plenty of amazing concealers and foundations that can render your ink practically invisible for the day. However, it is important to note makeup should only be applied to fully healed tattoos.
Read on for the tattoo cover-up makeup that experts always keep in their kits.
Meet the Expert
- Monica Ninh is a makeup artist and owner of Beautysession salon in Portland, Oregon. She has worked with Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams, and Damian Lillard in campaigns for Nike and Adidas, and her work has appeared in print for Paper Magazine.
- Tobi Henney is a makeup artist who splits her time between New York and Los Angeles. Her celebrity clients include Megan Fox, Ashley Graham, and Karlie Kloss, and her work has been featured in the pages of Elle and Harper's Bazaar.
- Kelli J. Bartlett is a makeup artist based in New York City. She is the artistic director and founding member of Glamsquad.
Generally, concealer pencils "are very convenient" and easy to apply over tattoos, Ninh says. She recommends this pencil, available in 25 shades, by Jones Road, the clean beauty brand founded by legendary makeup artist Bobbi Brown.
Ninh says the makeup's texture is "blendable" and buildable for complete coverage. For the most natural-looking tattoo cover-up makeup, apply it "in layers" and add "a light dusting of powder between layers for oily skin types," she suggests.
RCMA's professional-grade foundation is "highly pigmented so it doesn’t leave much of a texture," Ninh says. The product was designed to set without powder on dry skin types, but if your skin tends toward oily, Ninh recommends the brand's No Color Powder ($14) for setting.
Made with 50 percent pigments (read: very concentrated color) and a base of oils and waxes, each foundation palette features five shades with a common undertone. Bonus: If you want to test-drive the product before committing to a palette, you can order an inexpensive sample to start.
Designed as an under-eye concealer that won't settle into fine lines, Tarte Shape Tape Concealer also works well to cover tattoos, Ninh says. She calls it an "all-around" great "full-coverage, matte concealer for areas with minimal plateaus."
This concealer comes with a doe-foot applicator but Ninh prefers applying concealer over tattoos with "fine detail brushes for an easier application."
Henney calls Kryolan's full-coverage, matte product one of her "go-to" products for covering tattoos. This foundation stick is formulated with oils and waxes, helping it stay put for the long haul.
Frankly, we're blown away by the shade range. With over 100 flesh tones, it's a fantastic option for those on the very dark or very light ends of the skin-tone spectrum who struggle to find makeup shades that match them.
"I love this as it has various shades and color correctors to use on clients," Henney says of MAC's concealer palette, which offers a natural finish and medium-to-full coverage. "It can be layered until you get the coverage you want."
Palette shades range from Extra Deep to Medium, so porcelain-toned folks may need to look elsewhere for their tattoo coverage needs.
Designed to help cover surgical scars, tattoos, and acne scars, Estée Lauder's concealer is the real deal. And a little bit goes a long way with this one; just apply with a makeup sponge or brush and blend thoroughly until dry.
Good tattoo cover-up makeup needs to be smudge-proof and fade-resistant. This water-resistant, highly pigmented concealer makes tattoos practically disappear—and sticks around if you're hanging at the beach or pool.
Henney calls it "a great liquid concealer that can be tapped on to any tattooed areas and layered for great coverage."
Although this professional-grade concealer palette is pricey, Henney swears by it, saying it's "incredible at covering very large and bold tattoos." Featuring a "combo of correctors and concealers with good coverage," these silicone-based concealers help hide tattoos for up to 24 hours.
Color us impressed by the shade range; the Melanin palette, shown here, is excellent for those with deep skin tones who find that other concealers (literally) pale in comparison.
MAC Pro Longwear Concealer
This lightweight, water-resistant concealer, available in 16 shades, covers tattoos with a transfer-resistant formula that won't rub off on clothes.
Bartlett raves about this product, saying, "It really dries down and provides medium-to-full coverage for tattoos. I generally start with a warm color to color-correct, and then add a flesh tone on top after to fully conceal." Bartlett recommends setting the concealer with this Ben Nye finishing powder for $7.
Ben Nye Tattoo Cover-All Wheel
Designed for use in film and TV, Ben Nye products offer high performance at a low price point. The wheel of four shades allows you to color-correct and conceal to perfection.
Pro tip: When you've mixed your way to the ideal shade, stash the remaining mixture in an empty contact lens case and use it for touch-ups.
Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer Concealer
Kevyn Aucoin's full-coverage, natural-finish face and body foundation comes in 15 richly pigmented shades. It's also waterproof and transfer-resistant, i.e., perfect tattoo cover-up makeup. Start by blending a small amount and adding as you go for more natural, gradual coverage.
KVD Beauty Lock-It Concealer Crème
Touting 24-hour wear, KVD Beauty Lock-It Concealer Crème conceals skin discolorations and tattoos with full coverage and a matte finish. With a doe-foot applicator, this matte liquid concealer is good for covering medium or large areas of ink. Bonus: Like all KVD products, it boasts a cruelty-free, vegan formula.
Dermablend Quick-Fix Body Foundation Stick
Dermablend is one of the leading brands for full-coverage face and body makeup, beloved by experts, including Henney.
"Dermblend [has] great concealer sticks, which easily cover bold tattoos," Henney says. "They can be layered very easily."
Too Faced Born This Way Multi-Use Sculpting Concealer
This full-coverage, cruelty-free concealer from Too Faced comes in a whopping 35 shades, perfect for hiding tattoos on a wide array of skin tones. Formulated with hyaluronic acid and coconut water, it dries to a natural, flexible finish that doesn't crack or look cakey.
Ninh is careful to point out that the best makeup for covering tattoos either has an alcohol base or is alcohol-activated; most concealers designed for the face are water-based. To give a water-based concealer extra staying power, try covering your tattoo with a thin layer of a liquid bandage product like KeriCure Natural Seal Invisible Bandage ($9) before layering on makeup.
Dermacol Make-Up Cover
Dermacol's matte-finish concealer has been used for decades on film and TV sets, and this classic still holds up for covering tattoos today. The product's claim to fame: The formula contains 50 percent pigments, so it boasts concentrated coverage. Gently tap the makeup, available in 19 shades, onto your skin with fingers or a damp sponge.