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The Right Concealer for the Job

Step-by-step instructions for keeping blemishes, bags and blotches under cover


Sunny Gu

It may seem like a simple task, but there actually are several things to consider when applying concealer.

We buy and swipe on concealer quickly — like pulling on black leggings or adding a dash of hot sauce. But this cosmetic is no lightweight. My chum and beauty legend Bobbi Brown always said concealer was the "secret of the universe." For years I disagreed, favoring a reviving power swoosh of bronzing powder — that is, until menopause. When skin started adding embellishments like dark circles, brown spots and broken capillaries, it was time to face the camouflage. Concealer at 50 takes more than just one kind. Let's keep this cover-up confidential with seven tricks.

1. Start with three concealers. The old do-it-all wand — or bullet — is kaput. Each problem requires a specific color, texture and application. You'll need a color corrector, a full-coverage concealer in your skin shade for brown spots and zits — a creamy one and a matte one, respectively — and a very moisturizing concealer wand or brush-pen. And that magnifying mirror and concealer brush I'm always nagging you to buy? Use them! Precision application and blending make the difference.

2. Decide where you need help. For mature faces there are several top spots: under the eyes, in the recessed area above the tear ducts on the sides of the nose, around and under the nostrils, and on brown spots or breakouts. You may not need coverage on all of them, and coverage may vary from day to day. FYI: If you wear tinted moisturizer, BB or CC cream, or foundation, concealer goes on after it.


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There are various types of concealers.

3. Brighten dark under-eye circles. The "you look tired" comment starts here, where naturally thin skin gets more transparent with age. Circles are actually due to broken blood vessels or a concentration of melanin. The degree of darkness is exacerbated by genetics, allergies or loss of collagen. A peachy corrector in sync with your skin tone and circle color — from warm pink to apricot to orange — cancels out blue, purple or brown-gray discolorations. Apply a moisturizing eye cream or gel, and let it absorb for two minutes. Using a narrow, flat, synthetic concealer brush, start at the inner eye corner along the nose above the tear duct where discolorations begin. Continue to sweep on corrector in a wide half-moon shape from your lower lashline to the top of your cheeks. Try a highly pigmented moisturizing formula — like Bobbi Brown Corrector or Sonia Kashuk Hidden Agenda Concealer Palette II (08) in Medium — that won't drag or crease on this delicate dry area. Finish by tap blending to feather the edges into your skin for no telltale borders. 

4. Deflate under-eye bags. It's an illusion that works. Apply a chilled caffeinated eye cream (the combo of cold and caffeine deflates puffiness). Brush a concealer that is one shade lighter than your skin tone in the crease beneath the bag to reduce the dark shadow and contrasting bulge. Then apply a concealer one shade darker than skin tone to the puffy part. The skin here may be loose and crinkly, so use a light hand, thin coats and a silky fluid wand formula — like L'Oreal Paris True Match Concealer, Nars Radiant Instant Concealer or Boots No7 Radiant Glow Concealer.

Woman applies concealer under her eyes and on cheeks with makeup brush

Sunny Gu

Apply concealer the correct way.

5. Apply concealer around the nostrils and under the nose. Neglected and dead center, this area is often red. It calls attention to enlarged pores or spider veins on the sides of the nose, a droopy tip (noses continue to grow with age!), a hairy upper lip that needs waxing, and "marionette lines" (deep nose-to-mouth creases). Apply a primer as a base to smooth the way for a full-coverage concealer. Brush on precisely where needed, with a final tap to melt coverage into surrounding skin. 

6. Disguise brown spots. These stubborn age spots can be large or small, solo or in clusters — but they're here to stay. A long-wear opaque concealer close to your skin tone is dabbed right on target (over a primer if skin is dry or flaky). Look for superconcentrated creamy full-coverage formulas — like Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage or Maybelline Face Studio Master Conceal. Aim to blur a soft-focus kind of perfect imperfection.


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Tap to blend concealer.

7. Blend away blemishes. Covering adult breakouts — raised and red bumps — requires accuracy. You are counteracting redness and also creating the illusion of a flat, even surface. Using that essential brush, tap a full-coverage matte finish skin-tone concealer — like Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer or NYX Professional Makeup Gotcha Covered Concealer — directly on top of the pimple. These products are water- and sweat-resistant and will keep shine and redness at bay, so you can skip the worrying and the powder topcoat. Keep tapping and dabbing gently — avoid a swiping movement — until the redness diminishes. Tap around the edges. 

For more beauty & style tips for women 50+ check out The Woman's Wakeup: How to Shake Up Your Looks, Life and Love After 50 by Lois Joy Johnson and AARP's Beauty & Style app for tablets. 

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