Beauty

Should you apply foundation or concealer first? A make-up artist advises

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Lucy Partington
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Some people choose concealer over foundation, while others opt for foundation over concealer – but which is right? We asked the experts. 

It’s the eternal dilemma: are you somebody who applies foundation first and then uses concealer to add extra coverage to the areas that need it? Or maybe you’re in the group of people who chooses to conceal specific areas first before diving in head first with foundation. Either way it doesn’t really matter which suits you best.

That said, when it comes to expert advice, there are different ways of working that will make the products you use not only work harder, but that could also make them a whole lot more effective.

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So we spoke to Bobbi Brown senior pro artist Warren Dowdall and MAC Cosmetics’ senior artist Debbie Finnegan to find out their preferences, along with their top tips when it comes to choosing the right shade of concealer and how to make sure you’re using it to its full advantage.

Is it best to apply foundation or concealer first? 

“It depends on the area you’re trying to conceal,” says Dowdall. “I always start by correcting and concealing the under eye area. I never apply foundation there because it’s such a thin skin that foundation can look heavy and settle in any fine dehydration lines.”

“For most people, it’s the darkness under eye that makes you feel and look tired, so tackling that area first means skin looks fresher and it’s less tempting to apply too much foundation on the rest of the face.”

“When it comes to blemishes or hyperpigmentation, it’s best to apply concealer after foundation, applying it exactly where it’s needed for a natural-looking finish,” he explains. 

What difference does the order make?

“Applying concealer and foundation in the right order really gives a balanced application that looks natural and clean,” says Dowdall. “If you apply concealer before foundation, it tends to be wiped away when foundation is added over the top, so it can defeat the purpose and gives extra work later on.”

Finnegan agrees, saying that cream products are best used first in a specific order. “Layer skincare first, then foundation, concealer, cream blusher and then when you’re happy, finish with powder and set it all in place,” she says.

Should concealer be lighter, darker or the same shade as your foundation?

“Honestly, a lot of it is down to personal preference,” says Finnegan. “Personally, I love a more natural vibe so I don’t usually recommend going more than one shade lighter in the under eye area, although if you are trying to counteract any discolouration in that area you will most likely need a warmer shade. Then when it comes to covering skin concerns, like blemishes, a concealer that matches your skin tone will work best to blend in with rest of your skin. 

How do you stop concealer from budging throughout the day?

“Setting it is the key to locking it in place. I use a fluffy blending brush with a sheer matte powder,” says Dowdall. “Gently roll the brush over the area after applying concealer, then pat it with my finger. The brush helps to pick up just the right amount of powder that sets the concealer but doesn’t look dry.”

What sort of concealer should people look for when it comes to targeting different concerns, like under eye circles and blemishes?

“I would always suggest having two different concealers in your make-up bag. The skin under eyes is thinner and more delicate, so look for formulas that are hydrating, nourishing and that have a soft luminous finish. Bobbi Brown Intensive Skin Serum Concealer, £30, has a weightless texture that boosts moisture levels and energises skin,” says Dowdall.

“When approaching blemishes I usually opt for a formula with less moisture; if the blemish becomes shiny this will reflect light and basically highlight the problem,” says Finnegan, “I love MAC Studio Fix 24-hour Wear Concealer, £19.50,” says Finnegan. “It’s a great blemish concealer as it covers super well, lasts all day and dries to a lovely matte finish that doesn’t look dry.”

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Lucy Partington

Lucy Partington is Stylist’s beauty editor. She’s obsessed with all things skincare, collecting eyeshadow palettes that she’ll probably never use, and is constantly on the hunt for the ultimate glowy foundation.