Let me preface this by saying that I’ve had acne in some form or another since I was 13 years old, and I’ve tried a lot of solutions — seriously, a lot. And, like most people who have dealt with acne, I’m really over getting unsolicited skincare advice from strangers (No I haven’t tried Accutane and yes I wash my face daily and actually? None of this is any of your business. K bye.). However, the only acne-survival tips that I’ve historically hoarded from friends and acquaintances have been about the camouflage of acne.
I, like many acne-prone teenagers, realized early on that foundations and most drugstore concealers either did not provide enough coverage, or worse, called more attention to my inadequately hidden blemishes. I still wince looking at high school Facebook photos of me where my face is so covered in concealing products it looks like a greasy, cakey mess.
Thankfully, I have matured beyond this stage, and managed to find concealers that actually work to cover up acne. In the last five years I’ve landed on a skincare regimen (supplemented by medication) that helps me avoid all but the occasional hormonal flare-up, but even so, these treasured brands still help me increase my self confidence and disguise my occasional breakouts and acne scars daily.
Before I break down this list of my favorite concealers for the acne-stricken, I just want to caveat that I have very, very pale skin (I believe that technical term is “basically translucent”). Because of this, sometimes I will actually find that the lightest shade of a concealer is “too dark.” This list therefore showcases concealers that both are awesome at covering acne AND come in shades like “pale as a ghost.”
Here is me before concealer-application, in all of my no-makeup, acne-scars, tired eyes, and wet-hair glory. I genuinely cringed putting this photo online. The only products I used before showcasing all this concealers were lotion and a slightly mattifying primer.
VMV Hypoallergenics Skin The Bluff Concealer in N1 Light
This is one of my favorite brands because, as it says right in the name, all of the ingredients in the products are hypoallergenic. Meaning, if you’re trying to conceal an existing breakout, you won’t risk irritating your sensitive skin earlier.
Today I used it to conceal a particularly upsetting zit right above my lip (wtf, right?) as well as the discoloration and acne scarring around my nose and mouth.
I love the creamy-yet-matte finish of this concealer, and the coverage is medium to heavy, but easily build-able to disguise pitted scars or fresh blemishes.
My go-to concealer for both undereye circles and my breakouts is NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Chantilly ($29). Unlike most liquid concealers, NARS’s provides a heavy level of coverage, and the formula dries easily and really stays put. This means you don’t get the greasy feeling that sometimes comes with creamy concealers, and you can really utilize the liquid form to get full coverage in hard-to-reach areas, like the sides of your nose. Even though the concealer appears way-light when it is first applied, once it is blended it takes on a luminous quality to perfectly match your skin tone. (Oh, and it’s great for contouring in a pinch as well!).
The most luxurious concealer in my arsenal is Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer in Ivory ($70). This concealer is great for acne specifically because it goes on thick, with the heaviest level of coverage of any of the concealers in the list. It really does not mess around.
It’s so heavy, in fact, that it’s my go-to concealer for any special events or instances where I’m wearing a full face of makeup. It covers up scars and blemishes, and once set with powder, it stays all day. However, as you can see in my application below, it can almost be too heavy for daily wear, especially if you don’t layer it with foundation and powder.
For high pressure events though, this stuff is my not-so-secret weapon to keep all breakouts under wraps.
My next top pick for acne-friendly concealer is Stila Stay All Day Concealer in Light 01 ($5 — on sale! Normally, $23).
It has a creamy consistency similar to VMV’s concealer, but it provides a medium coverage that is specifically formulated to last all day long.
Kevyn Aucoin The Sensual Skin Enhancer in Sx01 ($48) is THE creamiest of the creamiest concealers I have ever encountered. It provides a tone of coverage, while also giving a satin-finish look that blends easily into your natural skin.
Because of it’s thickness, I never use this product around my eyes or on my cheeks, but it is great for larger or raised acne blemishes around the mouth. It also has a subtle shimmer that deflects from flaws in your skin, which is a total plus.
IMHO, BECCA is probably one of the most underrated makeup brands out there right now. BECCA Ultimate Coverage Creme in Praline ($32) gives a medium coverage that is blendable, silky, and long-lasting, plus it comes in tons of shades for tons of different skin-tones.
To match my own ghostly skin, I sometimes layer BECCA Coverage Creme with their Undereye Brightening Concealer — this gives me the coverage I need while also brightening my skin.
Tell me what tricks you use for covering up scars, blemishes, and persistent acne issues you've been fighting the good fight against since high school. We're in this together.