concealer vs foundation

Concealer vs Foundation: What’s The Main Difference Between The Two?

If you’ve ever used makeup, chances are you’ve probably applied foundation and concealer. While both products seem to be pretty straightforward, there’s actually a knack for applying them.

When applied correctly and in the right places, you’ll be left with a base that will make the application of the rest of your face products a breeze. If you don’t set yourself up with good base makeup, you risk your other products looking blotchy or cakey, which will show up in photos and under bright lights.

This article will give you all the information you need to create your own flawless base. I’m a makeup artist myself, so I’ve applied a lot of foundation and concealer on myself and my clients; I want to share all of the tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years so that you don’t waste money on products that won’t suit you well.

Main Differences Between Foundation vs Concealer

The main differences between foundation vs concealer are:

  • Foundation is used on the majority of the face, whereas concealer is used only on specific small areas that need additional coverage
  • Foundation typically matches the users’ skin tone, whereas concealers can have different tones in order to achieve specific results (add brightness, fix purple tones, etc.)
  • Foundation works well in a variety of formulations (powder, cream, liquid), whereas concealer works best as a liquid or light cream formulation

All About Undertones

Undertone

Finding your unique undertone is one of the most important things you can do before purchasing any foundation or concealer products. Before I get into comparing foundation and concealer, I want to quickly outline the different undertones you may see when shopping for any of the recommended products. 

Once you know these, it’ll be a lot easier to select products. Keep in mind that every brand has different keywords for each undertone, but it’s pretty easy to decipher them when you know your unique undertone. When looking at your skin, make sure to look at your jawline or your wrist, as these tend to be the least affected by the sun or skin conditions. 

Skin Undertones:

  • Cool: pink or red tinge to the skin, veins on wrist appear blue or slightly purple; silver jewelry tends to be most flattering on you.  
  • Neutral: you have a mix of tinges to the skin, your veins tend to be a mix of blue-green, you can pull off both silver and gold jewelry.
  • Warm: you have a golden, yellow, or peach tinge to the skin, your veins are green or olive, golden jewelry tends to look the best on you.

All About Foundation

Foundation is such an essential product in your makeup routine! In this section, I’ll walk you through foundation, how to use foundation, some of my favorite foundations, and the different formulations available to you. 

What is Foundation

Foundation

Foundation is essentially the base makeup that acts as a canvas for the rest of your face makeup products. The goal of a foundation is to achieve a uniform skin tone across the entire face; it does this by covering blemishes, redness, hyperpigmentation, and scarring. Foundation is unique to each user; some people may wish to cover only certain areas of the face, while others may wish to achieve a perfect porcelain-like appearance to the skin.

Foundation comes in different formulations and coverage types, so it’s important to know what you want to achieve before you set out to purchase your first foundation look.

There are also different formulation types of foundation, but I’ll cover that a bit later on in this article. Essentially, the formulation types chalk up to preference, but what is important to figure out is how much coverage you want. Here they are:

  • Light: this type of foundation barely covers the skin, but it does add some nice color and subtly evens out the skin tone. This type of coverage doesn’t do too well at covering redness or a lot of blemishes. Pick this type of coverage if you don’t love the feel of a lot of makeup on the face.
  • Medium: this type of coverage is awesome because it’s completely customizable and buildable. It creates an even canvas, but it also lets the skin breathe. If you have certain areas of the face that need more coverage, you can build it there while leaving other areas bare. 
  • Full: this type of coverage completely covers the skin and leaves a perfectly even tone. If you have problem areas to your skin that you want completely gone, then you should use full coverage. However, your skin probably won’t be able to breathe extremely well, so make sure to use a good skincare routine at the end of the day.

How to Use Foundation

I find that there isn’t a perfect method for applying foundation, as everyone has their personal preferences regarding tools and desired coverage. The most important element in applying foundation is finding a good primer; when you don’t use a primer, you risk all of your foundation falling off or settling weirdly into lines.

Once you have a primer on, grab your tool of choice and lightly tap it into your foundation. From there, start stippling your foundation into the skin using circular motions; this helps the foundation blend into the skin so that it will stay on all day. 

I recommend staying away from dotting your foundation all over your face before you start blending. If you have a quick-drying liquid or stick foundation, it could dry down before you have a chance to blend it all out. Trust me, I’ve been there, and it’s tough to backtrack once you have foundation all over your face.

Once you’ve applied the desired amount of foundation, seal it off with a finishing powder and apply a quick spritz of setting powder; this will help settle everything so that you can move on to bronzer, blush, etc.

Top Foundation Picks

M.A.C. Cosmetics Face and Body Foundation

MAC

This was my favorite foundation to use when I worked at M.A.C.! It has a sheer, buildable coverage that is also waterproof; the result is a natural radiant and glowing complexion. There are 30 available shades in this range, so you’re bound to find one that works for you!

Makeup Forever Ultra H.D. Invisible Cover Foundation

Ultra HD

This foundation is a community favorite! Ultra H.D. Cover is medium coverage, long-wearing, liquid foundation that is perfect for dry, combination, and oily skin. Makeup Forever claims that it will last on the skin for up to 24 hours, which is quite impressive. This used to be my go-to foundation; I would definitely recommend picking some up the next time you need a new foundation!

Double Wear Stay-In-Place Foundation

Double Wear

Double Wear actually won the ‘Best of Beauty award from Allure a few years ago. It’s an oil-free matte liquid foundation that stays with you throughout your busiest days while still lightweight and comfortable. It’s available in 55 shades that range from cool to neutral to warm undertones.

All About Concealer

Let’s get ready to conceal! In this section, I’ll go over what concealer is, how to use concealer, my top concealer picks and what different concealer formulations exist.

What is Concealer

Concealer

Now that you’ve gotten the hang of foundation, you may be wondering if there is another step you can take to create an even more flawless base. You may have sections of your skin that need a little extra coverage, like a large pimple or dark purple under the eyes. 

This is where concealer comes in; it acts as a finishing touch to your face makeup. If you want your under eyes to look bright and awake, then use a concealer shade that’s slightly lighter than your skin tone. I recommend having two different concealers: one for under eyes that is a little brighter and one that can be used to cover pimples and other problem areas. 

How To Use Concealer

The good news is that applying concealer is quite quick and simple. First, dispense a little bit of concealer onto the tips of your fingers or a small brush. Then, dot it onto the desired area; unlike foundation, because the area of coverage is smaller, you won’t have to worry about it drying down too quickly. 

Once you have placed your concealer with your fingers, then take a small fluffy brush-I like to use an eyeshadow brush-and blend out with light pressure. The same rule for bronzer applies to concealer: less is more. When you apply too much, especially to your under eyes, they can look very cakey, so start with a small amount and go from there.  

Top Concealer Picks

YSL Touche Eclat Radiant Touch Pen

Touche

This is my absolute favorite concealer! Its lightweight formula covers the skin in an all-over natural highlight, so you look more awake and fresh-faced. The pen comes with a brush attached to the end so you can directly apply it to the face. I would recommend blending it out with a clean brush afterward, though, as the product brush is too saturated.

If you’re using this product to cover blemishes, I recommend placing a small amount on the back of your hand and applying from there; if you put the brush directly on acne, you could risk contaminating it with bacteria, which will ruin your product.

Lancome Teinte Idole Ultra Wear All Over Full Concealer

Lancome Teinte Idole

This is an excellent full-coverage concealer choice! It’s hydrating, long-wearing, and great for covering dark circles. The great news is that it works for dry, combination, and oily skin types, so anyone can use it. I would recommend working with small amounts at a time since it is quite full coverage.

M.A.C. Cosmetics Pro Longwear Concealer

MAc Pro Longwear

This was another favorite of mine when I worked at M.A.C. Cosmetics! It has a matte formula that covers blemishes and dark circles well while still being lightweight and blendable. It comes in 16 different shades that range from cool to neutral to warm-toned. I used to use one shade lighter so that my under eyes were brightened slightly.

The Different Foundation & Concealer Formulations

  • Powder: this type of foundation/concealer is great for those that have oily skin or for those who want an easy and quick way to even out the skin tone. It doesn’t do too well at staying on the face all day long, though.
  • Liquid: this type of foundation and concealer is great for giving full and even coverage to the skin. While it may take a bit longer to apply, liquid is so versatile, so it’s my top choice of the formulation.
  • Cream: cream foundation and concealer tend to be great for those with dry to very skin. It tends to be great for those who want to cover acne scarring or create super smooth skin.
  • Stick: stick foundation/concealer is more for convenience than the actual formulation of the foundation itself. I find that stick foundations can be quite thick, so I recommend using them to conceal specific sections.
  • Tint: this type of formulation is great for the summer or when you want a very sheer amount of coverage. Tints often have skincare and SPF infused in them.

FAQs

Question: Do I have to use a colorful concealer to fix dullness or darkness under my eyes?

Answer: If you want to cover up dark circles under the eyes, then you’ll be looking for a peach or orange color corrector. I don’t find that color correctors make a difference unless you have extremely dark purple under your eyes. If your dark circles aren’t purple enough, you risk the orange color showing up underneath your concealer. If you want to try a color corrector, I recommend starting with the tiniest bit of product and then apply your concealer on top.

Question: Can I get away with using foundation in place of concealer?

Answer: I have definitely tried to use foundation as a replacement for concealer, but sadly it doesn’t work too well. This is because concealer has its own unique set of ingredients that help it adhere to specific areas of the face, like delicate under eyes. If you are in a pinch, you can still use foundation in the place of concealer, but be warned that it probably won’t stay in place all that long and it likely won’t conceal any dark purple or redness on the face.

Question: What are the best tools for applying foundation and concealer?

Answer: The tools you use for foundation really chalk up to personal preference, but I have narrowed it down to a few favorites that always seem to give me a beautiful complexion.
Beauty Blender
Sephora Collection Pro Foundation Brush #56
M.A.C. Cosmetics 170 Slanted Round Brush
M.A.C. Cosmetics 187 Duo Fibre Face Brush

Concealer vs Foundation: Bottomline

Foundation and concealer are your best friends to achieve a smooth, even skin tone and cover problem areas. I hope that after reading this article, you’re comfortable purchasing and applying these products.

Remember that foundation and concealer don’t have a ton of rules you need to follow to see a beautiful complexion; you can figure out what application methods work well for you.

One last tip I’d like to share is that samples are your friend; if you’re unsure whether a specific brand or formulation will work for you, then ask your local beauty store for a free sample to take home. Too often, I’ve bought an entire bottle of foundation only to find out that it isn’t the right fit for me.

If you’re interested in reading more about some of my favorite recommendations, check out these articles:

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