The Art Behind Acne Coverage: Know Your Options

As my skin cycles from breakout, to wound, to scab, to scar, I have to adjust my makeup routine accordingly.
Publish date:
August 28, 2013
acne, concealers, cystic acne, bb creams, acne coverage, Dermablend, Sensual Skin Enhancer

I've had requests from commenters, but it's hard for me to write up a post about how I cover my current activity--f#@% it, acne--as I change up my routine day by day. Maybe it's from experimenting with different visual art mediums since I was a kid, or my perfectionist tendencies, but I'm not going to settle for a one-stop-shop concealer. And, of course, there's the fact that that product simply doesn't exist.

Not only should a concealer match your skin tone and cover what's beneath, but it needs to camouflage. Right, OK, let's talk camouflage! There's the run-of-the-mill print stuff that's been copped into mainstream fashion since 'nam (love your veterans, and not just through buying up all the interesting stuff to pair with leather pants and canvas duffles at the Army Navy Store), and then there's the serious hunters that dress up like a bush and submerge themselves in swamp water to really blend into their surroundings. They're the ones with the sexiest collection of dead ducks, if you're into dead duck collections.

You want your concealer to help you snag the whatever the "sexiest dead duck collection" means to you (I can't decide if this analogy is working), and that means that it needs to step up and really camouflage. It needs to match its surroundings, including texture and sheen.

My skin is so terribly moody, I can never tell if it'll be oily, dry, flaky, dull, or some head-aching combination of those things. Plus, as my acne heals, I need to adjust the way I cover. Foundation is great if my skin is behaving and just needs overall enhancing, but when I have mounds and spots all over, I like to skip it and concentrate on concealing.

That way my skin can breathe--the less products I can go without on my face all day, the better. That includes primer, I'm absolutely not a believer in primer on irritable and broken out skin.

That's why it's best to have options when it comes to concealing products and not put all my eggs in one basket by relying on one. I like to mix a few depending on how my skin is feeling and looking that day.


This is me right now. I can't really classify my face as oily or dry, but I have several zits in various stages of erupting and healing. I used an oil-free and SPF-free moisturizer to soothe and prep my skin after cleansing, because my skin can't take anything that will leave a residue--not even a healthy, dewy, glowy one.

I start like I always do for zit concealing, with my Sensual Skin Enhancer.

I dab some on the back of my hand with a small paint brush. It's a great base product for concealing because it's so sticky. It has full coverage, staying power, and the ability to get into and cover awkward scabbies, but its only drawback is that it doesn't blend without the help of an emollient. If I'm using it on a freshly moisturized face for light coverage and highlighting, that's great! But for concealing, I mix with a less viscous foundation.

Since I'm not looking to add moisture and want a matte finish to match the rest of my not-exactly-glowy skin without having to cake on powder, I'm using L'Oréal's Magic Nude Liquid Powder Foundation. It truly does dry matte like a powder--it's pretty amazing.

I mix the two products in the middle with the brush, so that I have a little extra on either side if I need to add more stickiness or more liquid foundation as I apply. Notice how the shades are slightly different--the use of both makes for more natural coverage.

Apply the concealer on the spot first with the brush, then press it and blend slightly with your finger.

After that I use a pointed blending sponge, like Sephora's The Perfectionist Makeup Sponge, moistened ever so slightly with a bit of Mario Badescu's Oil Free Moisturizer SPF 30 or Maybelline's Dream Fresh BB Cream if I need a little more color (if I got a little of sun over the weekend or whatever--adapt!), and dab the area until blended.


At this point my skin is hopefully done freaking out with breakouts and is on its way to clearing and healing. I want that dewy, light-reflective skin that healthy chicks with lots of omegas in their diets have.

I like to use an SPF oil-free moisturizer to get there if my skin is looking dull or flaky. (Well, it shouldn't be flaky at this point. You should always exfoliate flakes away before applying makeup.) The SPF ingredients leave you with a shinier finish, even if the product is oil-free.

I'll apply a light coating of BB cream or the Badescu moisturizer all over to prep my skin before concealer- but instead of applying directly, I rub the product allover my palms, and then press onto my face, letting my skin absorb the thin layer from my palms. This will leave you more sticky and dewy than slick, which is exactly how you want your skin before you go in with concealer.

To cover scabs and scars, I mix Dermablend Smooth Indulgence Foundation with the Sensual Skin Enhancer the same way I did with the Magic Nude. This will make for a creamier, dewier paste to match your dewier skin, but has the same staying power, coverage, and blendability as the other combo.

Apply and blend using the brush, finger, sponge method.

I don't like to set concealer with a powder, because that defeats the whole purpose of having it match the texture and sheen of the rest of your face. Plus it can look cakey, and even worse than having a couple of spots is having a face of cakey makeup. For real, I never judge a chick for zits--in fact, I find it endearing--but I don't want to be friends with cake faces. And to be honest, I feel like dusting powder on makes the zit look more pronounced or even removed some of the coverage I already applied, and often found myself going back in with more concealer on top of the powder. NOT PRODUCTIVE.

The above combo should get you lasting coverage, but if you find yourself needing to touch up throughout the day, YSL's Touche Eclat is the answer.

It's really thin and has a highlighting effect. It'll blend perfectly and sort of reactivate the concealer that you applied that morning. Just dab on with the brush and tap in with your ring finger.

And to distract from any mounds, scabs, or scars, believe me when I say that it's all about having great brows.

I remember in high school always wearing lots of eye makeup to draw attention away from my bad skin, but when you want a fresh-looking face, skip heavy or dark eye makeup and a bright lip and concentrate on perfect brows.

What weird concealing tricks do you have? And definitely let me know if you want to argue about the existence of this all-in-one concealing product.