Maybe you’ve skipped concealer for most of your life because you didn’t suffer from acne or dark circles. Or perhaps you pledged allegiance to a certain concealer in your 20s, but it doesn’t seem to do the job now that you’re older. As age-related hyperpigmentation begins to appear and skin becomes drier and less firm, coverage needs as well as how you apply concealer change, according to makeup artist Mathias Alan.
Alan mentors women over 40 on their changing cosmetics needs on his Mathias4Makeup YouTube channel. “I often get asked about concealer, because it can be very frustrating for women to find the right product for their skin tone and type,” he says. Though Alan notes that “application techniques vary from person to person, because of the combination of primer, foundation, concealer, and application tool being used — whether it be a brush, sponge, or finger,” the product you choose is important, and identifying a few key factors (plus learning a few tried-and-true techniques) can help you pick your perfect match.
Look for: Texture
If you now have a few more skin issues to cover than you used to, you might think that a heavier, thicker concealer should do the trick. Wrong. Mature skin benefits from creamy — not thick — formulas that blend easily and boast buildable coverage. “A thicker consistency will settle into fine lines if your skin is extremely thin under your eye,” Alan warns.
Speaking of under the eye — where you’re likely to be applying concealer — he notes that because skin is incredibly thin in this area, you’ll want to be “mindful of how much opacity you’re getting from the concealer you have chosen.” Definitely steer clear of heavier concealers here; a little goes a long way and a too-thick formula can actually weigh down the delicate skin. However, should you feel timid toward creamy, pigmented formulas (which Alan notes is a sticking point for many mature women), be aware that a water-based product, though lighter in consistency, will wear off quickly and provide little to no coverage for more finicky age-related skin issues.
Look for: Color
The No. 1 struggle Alan sees women encounter with concealers: what color to choose. “Many of the women whom I have mentored will blindly choose concealers that they think should match the foundation they wear — for example, light beige, neutral, fair beige,” he says. “Concealer is not supposed to match your foundation; it’s supposed to be a touch lighter than your foundation.” To determine your concealer color, rather than look at your face, assess your neck for a color match. Then test the closest matches (if you can) to see which brightens your eyes best. Remember, too, that concealer is applied on top of foundation, so be sure to wear your foundation when you test concealers so you can get a complete picture of how you’ll look.
Though every woman’s coloring is different, Alan allows that one through line for choosing colors does exist for mature skin. “Normally, even if a woman’s undertones aren’t extremely pink or tan, the under-eye area tends to look blue or plum as we age, and a concealer with a little bit of salmon in the tone would work better than a beige or neutral concealer alone,” he says.
Look for: Coverage
Do you want full coverage or sheer? “This is always a personal preference,” Alan says, noting that while the product’s built-in coverage certainly matters (i.e., “full coverage” formulas are best saved for glam looks), your application and an examination of your end goals trump all. “Most women don’t consider that their concealer application should vary depending on the event or type of day they’re about to get ready for,” he says.
Think about time of day, what kind of look you’re seeking (more made-up for an event or dressed down for daily errands), how long you need the coverage to last and whether your photo will be taken (sheer coverage won’t show up on film, while heavily applied full-coverage can appear caked on). You can certainly depend on one concealer for all scenarios, but how you layer the product will make the difference. Opt for a creamy formula with medium coverage and apply it with a concealer brush using light, downward strokes— a technique that Alan says makes the product look thinner and more lightweight. If one layer isn’t enough, apply another thin layer until you build to the coverage you desire.
Look for: Longevity
It doesn’t hurt to purchase concealers claiming long-wear or waterproof properties; after all, you don’t want your concealer sliding down your face by midday. But Alan notes that, again, longevity boils down to application and product layering. After you apply your concealer, Alan suggests lightly stippling skin with a beauty sponge (misted with setting spray, if you use it) to further blend and set your concealer. Finish by using an eye shadow brush — not a fan or big powder brush — dipped in a finely milled, loose setting powder, and work the powder into the fine lines of the under-eye area. “[Setting powder] is really one of the main keys to keeping your concealer from creasing under your eyes,” Alan says.