Can You Use Concealer as Foundation?

Makeup artists break it down.

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

No matter if you're the no-makeup makeup type or love embracing full-face glam, there will always be those days when skipping or wearing a light layer of minimal makeup is what the skin needs. For those who want pared-back coverage, the question is often: Can you use concealer as foundation? And the good news is: Yes, you can with the right products and application techniques in tow.

Related: The 13 Best Concealers of 2023 That Brighten, Correct, and Camouflage Skin

Foundation's primary purpose is to even out the overall skin tone and create a base for layering other makeup in your routine. Concealer is the thick powerhouse makeup that covers up blemishes, scars, and discoloration, and it can even brighten under the eyes to help you fake a full eight hours of sleep. Truth be told, you don't always need to wear foundation for seamless-looking skin. Often, wearing concealer as foundation provides similar benefits but leaves the skin feeling light and able to 'breathe' better. It also shaves shaving time off your everyday makeup routine, especially on the go.

Meet Our Expert

  • Tobi Henney is a celebrity makeup artist whose clients include Barbara Palvin and Meghan Fox.

  • Amy Tagliamonti is a makeup artist for television and film.

  • Kirin Bhatty is a celebrity makeup artist who works in Los Angeles and New York City.

Here, we explore exactly how to nail the concealer as foundation look, which is easier than you may think.

Concealer vs. Foundation: What’s the Difference?

Concealer and foundation go hand in hand, but the two have different functions. Henney says the most significant difference between concealer and foundation is that foundation is typically worn on the skin as a base, whereas concealer is more pigmented to provide more coverage to targeted areas. "Concealer can brighten and cover dark under eyes, blemishes, and imperfections, while foundation helps to even out the skin tone for a more flawless base," she adds.

The consistency and texture between the two vary, too. Tagliamonti says foundation is more fluid and available in various finishes. "Concealers come as creams or sticks and provide full coverage since their job is to conceal," she adds.

The application method for both differs, too. When using concealer to hide a small blemish area, it's best to apply a small dot of it over the area and blend it out. Then, add more concealer, if necessary, until you're happy with the coverage. "Typically, a larger brush or sponge is used to apply foundation, and a small brush targeted for smaller areas works for concealer," Tagliamonti adds.

Pros and Cons of Using Concealer as Foundation

Wearing concealer in lieu of foundation is an easy go-to when a quick, one-step makeup routine is necessary or when you want to avoid wearing several face makeup products to create a base layer. Bhatty calls concealer a versatile product you can sheer out or build up depending on the application. Using concealer as foundation works across the board for all skin types and tones, but you'll want to avoid wearing only concealer if you're looking for that next level of coverage, Tagliamonti says. "You may need the extra backup of foundation plus concealer."

Related: We Tested 27 of the Best Liquid Foundations, These 6 Make Your Skin Look Flawless

One area where it gets tricky when using concealer as the primary type of makeup is selecting the right shade. Choose a shade that best matches your natural skin tone rather than wearing the same concealer you use to brighten the under eyes or highlight.

"Often concealer for under and around the eyes tends to be a bit lighter than the rest of the face because its purpose is to conceal darkness while lightening and brightening the hollows," Tagliamonti explains. "So always opt for a concealer that's the same shade as your foundation so you don't look too pale, uneven, ashy, or dull." You'll likely need two to three different concealer shades when wearing concealer as foundation to match all of the different areas of the face. "More times than not, I mix colors from RCMA VK Foundation/Concealer Palettes ($72) because it is often hard to find an exact match," she adds.

<p>Getty Images</p>

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The Right Way to Apply Concealer as Foundation

The biggest mistake most people make when wearing concealer as foundation is failing to prep the skin. Bhatty says it's important to apply concealer to clean, hydrated skin. "The concealer should always sit on the skin in a balanced way," she shares. "But if the skin is patchy, dry, or needs exfoliation, the concealer won't perform optimally."

To properly prep and prime the skin, Henney likes to cleanse it first with micellar water and spritz it with Caudalie Beauty Elixir ($49). "Next, I apply a serum—I love #1 The Serum by Rationale ($163)—and then moisturizer, such as Augustinus Bader The Cream ($290). Eye creams are also great to use under concealer." Skin doesn't need to be drenched in a heavy moisturizer—it's better off if it's not—but rather just a bit of dampness so that the concealer blends in easily and settles into the skin for a natural finish. Makeup primer, like Prime Skin by Gee Beauty, available in nine shades for a subtle glow, also gives the skin a smooth finish and allows the concealer to last for hours.

Related: What Are Makeup Primers and Why Do You Need Them?

With prepped skin in place, start by mapping out where to apply concealer on the face. Tagliamonti prefers applying concealer along the jawline to ensure that the color matches. "It's also easier to correct when starting along the jawline rather than the middle of the face," she adds.

From there, you can layer the makeup directly onto the skin or swipe it onto the backside of the hand and then apply it to the face with a blending sponge or brush. "I love blending in concealer with my fingertips and sponges," Bhatty says. "For brushes, use a loose fluffy brush all over the face so the product diffuses well. A small tightly-packed concealer brush is best for focusing on blemishes and dark spots." The makeup artists' top picks include Fenty's Precision Concealer Brush #180 ($26), the classic BeautyBlender ($20), Makeup Forever foundation brushes, and Trademark Beauty Foundation Brush ($11). If more concealer is necessary in certain areas, apply more product to achieve the desired coverage.

The last step is to set the makeup so it doesn't shift, smear, or wear off the skin. For a natural-looking finish, opt for lightweight loose powders, such as Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder ($49) or a setting spray like Charlotte Tilbury Flawless Setting Spray ($38).

How to Choose the Right Concealer

Concealer tends to range in coverage from sheer to full, so selecting the right one is critical to ensure the makeup provides the coverage and finish you want. Choose a lightweight concealer with a sheer finish for skin that has few or no pimples or hyperpigmentation to conceal. Thicker concealers with heavier coverage are ideal for hiding dark spots, hyperpigmentation, active breakouts, and acne scars.

While Bhatty prefers applying Tower 28 Swipe Serum Concealer ($22) with a damp Beauty Blender for concealer in place of foundation, Tagliamonti’s picks include Eisenberg Paris Precision Concealer ($40), which she likes to use on herself, Amazing Cosmetics Amazing Concealer ($29), which she sometimes mixes with moisturizer and sunscreen and uses as a foundation, and Rare Beauty concealers (starting at $22), which she says are simple to crossover and use as foundation because of the extensive color range. Henney also recommends Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer ($37). “It is great for a fuller coverage base with concealer-type coverage,” she says.

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