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Concealer vs. Foundation: Which One Should You Use?

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Many ladies are often confused with the differences between certain types of makeup. Who can blame them? With such a wide array of makeup products and the hype surrounding them, it’s hard to know what sets one product apart from the other.  For example: concealer vs. foundation.

Although concealer and foundation are both used to tone and color the skin, they’re not exactly interchangeable with each other.  There are distinct nuances between the two, as well as a specific order in which you apply them.

Concealer vs. foundation: What’s the difference?

Here’s a complete overview of the differences between concealer and foundation to help you in your makeup application.

What’s a concealer?

Concealer does what you might expect to do from its name alone – conceals! It conceals the parts of your skin that you don’t want to be seen, be it freckles, pimple marks, dark circles, and other spots or blemishes. If you want to brighten up shadows or dark spots on your face, you can choose a shade that’s slightly lighter than your natural skin tone.

There are also other concealer types, such as color correcting ones, that target specific blemishes such as hyper-pigmentation and reddened skin. For instance, cult-favorite green concealers like the Urban Decay Naked Skin Color Correcting Fluid are perfect for neutralizing skin discoloration caused by rosacea, acne, and dryness. They also help blur flaws instantly while leaving your skin bright and illuminated.

Concealers are typically medium to full coverage, which makes them hard to take off after a long day (especially if you don’t know how to remove makeup without a makeup remover). They usually come in liquid, cream, or powder form.

What about foundation?

While concealer is used as a spot treatment for your blemishes, foundation takes it up a notch because you apply it all over your face to even out your complexion. Foundation serves as the base for the rest of your makeup as it’s perfect for creating a uniform skin tone.

When choosing the type of foundation to use, select one that’s as close as possible to your natural skin tone. You wouldn’t want to walk around all day with a face that’s lighter in color compared to your neck! Here’s a handy guide to finding the right foundation that will match your skin.

Concealer vs. foundation: Which one is better?

Before and after concealer
Source: bareMinerals

If you just prefer a natural and fresh everyday look, or if you just want to even out your complexion, a foundation that’s close to your natural skin color would be enough. But if you’re wondering about how to cover your pimples and dark circles, I suggest you prioritize investing in a high-coverage concealer vs. a foundation. Concealers usually offer thicker and fuller coverage than a foundation and will typically do fine on their own.

However, if you’re going for a fully done up look, go for both! Foundation is necessary to ensuring that the rest of your makeup goes on smoothly, while concealer is essential in covering up the spots that your foundation can’t cover. Just make sure that you blend them together seamlessly for the most flawless look. You can then follow up with rest of your makeup, such as lipstick, contour, and eye shadow.

Also, aside from covering up blemishes, did you know that concealer can be used in some makeup hacks too? For instance, you can use some concealer around your eyebrow makeup to get sleek and chiseled brows. You can also use some to accentuate your cupid’s bow or achieve the trendy Korean gradient lip.

Concealer vs. foundation: What should you apply first?

Ask nearly every makeup artist and they’ll say that it’s better to apply your foundation first before the concealer.

Why? Well, it’s just more logical. Foundation is meant to even out your skin tone and reduce the appearance of discoloration, blemishes, and excess redness. It’ll be hard to judge just how much concealer you’ll need to use until you’ve applied your foundation. Foundation also serves as the base of your entire makeup routine, hence its name. If you put concealer first, you’ll find that it’ll be harder to blend the two together as opposed to if you applied the foundation first. You’ll end up with a heavy and cakey makeup look.

However, if you regularly use a powder-type foundation, go ahead and put on your concealer first. Doing it the other way around can result in an uneven and less smooth look.

How to apply concealer and foundation

Here’s the frustrating thing about foundation and concealer: When they’re expertly applied, they turn your face into bright, perfectly even, and smooth-looking pearl. But when they’re not applied well, they have the potential to make your skin look oily and flaky, highlight fine lines you didn’t know existed, and leave you with a chalky-looking mask. Not fun at all!

Here are the steps to achieving flawless-looking skin so that you’ll never have to handle patchy, cakey and heavy makeup messes.

Step 1: Choose your formula

Most foundation formulas fall between sheer, medium, and full coverage. If you like embracing your freckles, choose a foundation that’s lightweight, sheer, or hydrating. If you want to even out skin tone, look for a foundation that’s medium-coverage, which typically say “satin” or “semi-matte” finish.

If you have redness, blemishes, or hyper-pigmentation, opt for high-coverage concealers that will give you that full face beat.

Step 2: Prep your skin

Do not EVER skip this step. No matter the differences between concealer and foundation, they both have the tendency to settle into the crevices and creases of dry skin.  If your face isn’t cleansed and moisturized first, you can forget about having beautiful seamless makeup.

After using a gentle cleanser or face wash, massage a lightweight moisturizer over your face, then wait for at least 15 minutes for the skin care products to sink in before proceeding with the rest of your makeup routine.

Step 3: Apply and blend

How you apply your concealer and foundation is ultimately up to you, but if you want them to blend seamlessly into your skin for that Photoshop-level finish, I’d suggest you use a Beautyblender. Loved by makeup artists worldwide, the egg-shaped makeup sponge will distribute your makeup in a way that looks natural. It also won’t leave little lines and streaks on your face the way brush bristles do.

Once you’ve got your sponge ready (dampen it first so that it works well), apply a few drops of foundation over the main points of your face (cheeks, chin, and forehead). Then, with dabbing motions, quickly tap the round part of the Beautyblender over the blots to blend the foundation out toward your jaw and hairline. Keep dabbing under your jaw and chin to seamlessly blend the edges of the foundation.

Afterwards, dab concealer over the areas that need more coverage. Then, using the pointed side of the Beautyblender, blend it on to your skin until it looks natural and flawless.

Step 4: Set it

With a kabuki brush or whatever big fluffy brush you have, gently swirl loose setting powder over the areas that tend to get oily and shiny, like your T-zone. If you apply too much powder on accident, spritz your face with a setting spray or a face mist to melt the powder into your skin. Instead of your skin looking chalky, the spray or mist will provide you with a natural finish.

Makeup without foundation: can I use concealer instead?

As mentioned before, the difference between concealer and foundation is their formula. The consistency of a concealer is heavier and thicker than that of a foundation, so if you use it on your entire face, you might clog up your pores and have a breakout. Makeup is already known to be bad for your skin, so if you start having these types of habits, you can end up further damaging your skin in the long run.

But, if you’re one of the blessed ones who have natural skin that’s even and pretty much flawless, you can opt for makeup without foundation and use a little bit of concealer on your dark sports and blemishes. Just make sure to apply moisturizer or serum beforehand so that the concealer will go on smoothly. You don’t want to ruin your otherwise fresh face with makeup that looks heavy and cakey.

Can I use foundation as concealer?

Generally, you can but it won’t be as effective. Foundation is normally less opaque, so it won’t provide the same coverage as concealer. Having several layers of foundation on your face will also result in your makeup looking cakey and unblended.

If you really want to test out if it’ll work for you, try using a liquid foundation with a heavier formula.

  1. After applying foundation on your entire face, observe the areas the need extra coverage.
  2. Squeeze a bit of the liquid foundation on the back of your hand and then dab on the areas that need cover-up. To blend the foundation on to your skin, repeat dabbing and blending until the foundation until you achieve your desired coverage.
  3. Apply some powder afterwards to help set the makeup and avoid a patchy look.
Woman dipping wand into concealer
Source: Giphy

If you’re like me and you have both blemishes and uneven skin tone, foundation and concealer are both god-sent. While the both can be used as standalone products, there shouldn’t be concealer vs. foundation debate as both products work better when they’re used together.

Combining foundation and concealer will always lead to great makeup looks as your skin tone is even, and all blemishes are covered. Even if you have imperfections hiding beneath all the makeup, you’ll be able to walk outside your home with your head held high and your strut confident.

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