Nobody would ever know.
Zits happen, and they’re nothing to be ashamed of. Sometimes, though, you want to cover a pimple before hanging out with friends, going on a date, or attending a big event. When a zit sticker isn’t quite the vibe, you can always reach for makeup to get the job done. We asked skincare and makeup professionals to hit us with their best pro tips on how to cover a pimple, including which products they like best and how to make coverage look natural versus obvious.
How to Cover a Pimple: Step-by-Step Guide
Ready to learn the basics of how to cover a pimple? Follow these steps to a T and you’ll be golden.
Step 1: Cleanse, Moisturize, and Treat
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to makeup, in general, is foregoing any prep work, notes makeup artist Stevi Christine. A clean, dry, and prepped canvas makes covering a pimple much easier, and it’ll help the end result look more natural.
Start by using a gentle foaming cleanser that tackles oil, dirt, and any product residue without being too aggressive, such as Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Foam ($38, Amazon). You can follow up with a sweep of micellar water or hydrating toner, like belif Aqua Bomb Hydrating Toner with Hyaluronic Acid ($30, Sephora).
“Next, add a product with salicylic acid to just that area,” Christine advises. “Or if the pimple is cystic, use an ice pack or a hot towel to help reduce the swelling.” This helps reduce the overall appearance of the pimple while your makeup sits on top.
You can try a treatment product such as Hero Cosmetics Rescue Balm ($12.99, Target) or The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Exfoliating Blemish Solution ($6.50, Sephora). These should be used as spot treatments only.
Step 2: Apply a Lightweight Foundation
If you like to wear all-over foundation, Christine says to consider using a light to medium coverage product versus heavy coverage. Remember that you’re only covering a pimple which is a tiny spot on your face; you don’t need to cover the rest of your skin.
“I prefer keeping the rest of the skin dewy, so a lightweight foundation is great, Christine says. “I like Kevyn Aucoin The Etherealist Skin Illuminating Foundation ($59, Dermstore) because it’s light but has coverage, and the product works on most skin types and tones, too.”
Merry Thornton, a board-certified physician assistant in dermatology and founder of Element Medical Aesthetics, adds that it’s important to always use a clean makeup sponge or brush when applying both your foundation and concealer. This helps keep the area clean, which can reduce the transfer of dirt bacteria across your face and ultimately keeps skin clearer.
Step 3: Tap On Concealer with a Small Brush
A tiny bit of concealer goes a long way when covering a pimple, notes Emmy award-winning makeup artist Nyssa Green. She says it’s best to use a tiny makeup brush or even a Q-Tip that helps control the amount you apply.
Also, her preferred concealer for the job is one that’s creamy and full coverage, such as NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer ($32, Sephora), or Tarte Shape Tape Ultra Creamy Concealer ($31, Ulta). If the pimple has a dark or purple undertone, Christine recommends choosing one with a peachier undertone to counteract the dark tones.
“Be sure not to rub the concealer—only ‘tap’ it in,” Green advises. “Allow it to dry down a bit and add another layer if needed.” Blend it well around the edges so it looks super natural versus like an obvious patch of concealer.
Step 4: Set It All In Place
Allow the concealer to dry down completely, then apply a setting powder or spray to lock everything in place. Green swears by One/Size by Patrick Starrr On 'Til Dawn Mattifying Waterproof Setting Spray ($32, Sephora).
“This way, the coverage will last all day and there's no dry out or flaky skin from using powder,” she says. “I've used this technique on brides, TV anchors, and men and it's foolproof!”
Pimple Treatment Pro-Tips
This technique for pimple coverage will conceal both small and mighty zits while you wait for it to heal. When you’re not wearing makeup, stick to these skincare pro tips:
Don’t Pick, Scratch, or Pop: “This can lead to scarring and hyperpigmentation,” warns Thornton. It can also spread the bacteria to other parts of your face and worsen a breakout.
Avoid Cakey Products: Distract from a pimple by letting the rest of your skin glow. Even if you have larger area breakouts, you can still highlight the clear portions of your skin versus covering everything up with heavy makeup. Thornton adds that this approach also helps prevent future breakouts.
Wash Nightly: Alway cleanse your face before you go to bed with a gentle cleanser and follow up with hydration. If you don’t want to wash again in the morning, simply rinse your face with warm water and gently pat dry.
Spot Treat: Thornton recommends wearing a hydrocolloid pimple patch overnight, like Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Original Acne Pimple Patches ($8.99, Target). This pulls sebum and pus out of the pore and miraculously reduces the size and redness of the pimple. Salicylic acid or sulfur spot treatments are also an excellent option.
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