When it comes to covering up skin imperfections like dark spots and acne, sometimes you need more in your toolkit than just a good concealer (although that's certainly important). Having the right primer, foundation, setting mist, and, yes, concealer for your specific skincare concerns can help you get a flawless complexion that looks natural-looking, not caked with makeup. Here, the best way to use concealer and other smart product picks to disguise current blemishes, old acne scars, dark spots, gray hairs, and more.
How to conceal acne scars and blemishes
Good news: You really can erase signs of acne. The trick to concealing damage from old breakouts is knowing what type of scar you're dealing with, says Rebecca Kazin, MD, associate director at the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C. The toughest ones to hide are the kind that leave a pit deep in the skin—but the right technique can smooth them over. First use a primer, like Smashbox Photo Finish Primer ($36; sephora.com). "It will act almost as a spackle does when filling a hole, giving you a flatter surface to work on," says Lijha Stewart, Make Up For Ever's director of artistry and education. Then apply your foundation, followed by a full-coverage concealer to disguise discoloration. (Most women use concealer first, but you'll actually achieve better coverage if you start with foundation.) A concealer we like: Dermablend Quick-Fix Concealer ($26; macys.com). Be sure to tap it on instead of stroking so you can build coverage. Finish with a setting spray, such as Kat Von D Lock-It Makeup Setting Mist ($26; sephora.com).
To hide an active blemish, dab on a treatment product first. Then apply a darker shade of concealer than the one you typically use to brighten your undereye circles, says Stewart; otherwise, it will highlight the spot.
How to conceal redness and dark spots
Maybe you flush easily or have dark spots that show through your foundation no matter what you do. Solution: color-correcting products. "Green and yellow help brighten and balance redness, while peach will neutralize darkness," says Stewart. To counteract ruddiness, we like to apply Physicians Formula Mineral Cushion Corrector + Primer Duo SPF 20 in Yellow/Green ($17; target.com) before foundation. And to disguise hyperpigmentation, try Urban Decay Naked Skin Color Correcting Fluid in Peach or Deep Peach ($28; sephora.com) for light and dark skin tones, respectively—just dot along the undereye or on a brown spot and blend to cancel out darkness. Finish with your regular concealer.
How to conceal gray hair and patchy brows
Can't make it in for a color appointment? Fake it with a root concealer. If your hair is thin, choose one with a powdery consistency, like Eufora Conceal ($29; eufora.net for salon locations), advises Tiffany Chiapparelli, lead educator at Amika. Sweep it on and it makes hair appear thicker while hiding those grays. If your strands are already full and you just need a quick way to get your color to look uniform, a spray is ideal—spritz at the roots and you're good to go. Our pick: eSalon Cover Story ($15; esalon.com).
And don't forget your brows! A handy crayon, such as Rita Hazan Root Concealer Temple + Brow Touch-Up Stick ($25; sephora.com), lets you cover grays and groom at the same time. Bulk up patchy arches with Touchback BrowMarker ($20; touchbackbrow.com): It's like a felt-tip pen for sparse eyebrows.
How to conceal stretch marks and cellulite
Ah, stretch marks and cellulite. Even swimsuit models battle these normal imperfections, which aren't necessarily related to weight, says Dr. Kazin. In fact, some of us are just genetically predisposed to these skin conditions. The secret to making stretch marks seem to disappear is to use primer to blur and concealer to fade. As for lessening the appearance of cellulite, any rich moisturizing lotion paired with massage can temporarily plump up the skin, minimizing dimpling, points out Dr. Kazin. A formula with firming ingredients and caffeine, such as (10) Clarins Body Fit Anti-Cellulite Contouring Expert ($70; sephora.com), is especially helpful for tightening and toning.
How to conceal varicose veins
First create a smooth base with primer. Then take a look at the color of the veins. The same rules apply as with discoloration on your face—the opposite shade neutralizes. So if veins have a blue cast, use red, and vice versa. Stewart's little trick (which can work for tattoos, too) is to use a lip pencil or eyeliner.
Next, airbrush away. Use an airbrush device, like Temptu Air ($195; nordstrom.com), to spray foundation on top of the color correction. (Try the water-resistant Temptu Perfect Canvas 24-Hour Hydra Lock Airpod Foundation, $48; temptu.com.) "This keeps the layers of makeup from mixing," says Rebecca Perkins, founder and head makeup artist at Rouge makeup salons in New York City.