Even before the coronavirus lockdown, shopping for beauty essentials online had become more commonplace than ever, but when it comes to complexion products - particularly concealer and foundation - it can be tricky to choose the right formula and shade via a screen.
To help guide you in your search, Bazaar spoke to the experts to discover the best ways to virtually shop for a new concealer, so you can brighten, smooth and blur away imperfections with confidence.
Know your skin
Just as you might when choosing your moisturiser, it's important to understand your skin type before investing in a concealer, as different finishes work best depending on your complexion.
"If you have oily skin, avoid a creamy or stick concealer as these textures tend to clog and magnify the appearance of pores," explains the skin expert and founder of Paula's Choice, Paula Begoun. Instead, look for an oil-free, long-wear or mattifying formula, such as Fenty’s Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Concealer or L'Oréal Paris’ Infallible More Than Concealer.
On the other hand, "if you have dry skin, avoid matte finishes because this will emphasise dryness," Begoun continues. Formulas with a slightly radiant finish, packed with hydrating ingredients, are better options, so try NYX’s Born To Glow Concealer or Estée Lauder’s Double Wear Radiant Concealer.
You may also want to consider the foundation finish that you prefer and match your concealer texture to it. “Often customers shop online and buy a full coverage matte foundation and concealer. Then, when they receive the product they don’t like how ‘heavy’ it is,” says the education manager for NYX, Katie Hodge. If this is you, refocus your search and look for a lightweight formula that can be built up where needed, because "full coverage" is not the only way to successfully conceal.
Know your concern
You’re likely to use your concealer for different reasons too, so while many products can be used interchangeably, some formulas work better for certain concerns, for example breakouts, redness and under-eye darkness.
Go liquid for breakouts
"Liquid concealer is preferred for covering pimples because it is the least likely to cake and it poses minimal risk of clogging pores, which a creamier concealer may do,” says Begoun. “It’s also desirable for use on wrinkled areas because its thin texture makes it the least likely to crease."
“You should also avoid any brands that use mineral oil (sometimes used for hydration),” says the global make-up artist for Fenty Beauty, Hector Espinal Hector, as this can "clog pores and make the breakouts you are trying to conceal even worse". Try Pat McGrath's Skin Fetish Concealer or Charlotte Tilbury's Magic Away Concealer.
Cream textures for redness
A medium-to-full coverage cream concealer, often available in a pot, tends to conceal discolouration particularly well, particularly when applied by being warmed into the skin using a targeted brush or sponge.
“I love using Nars’ Soft Matte Complete concealer for dark patches, blemishes or redness for the skin, it is more velvety in texture, so great for staying put on oily areas,” says the senior make-up artist for Nars, Rachel Hardie.
Brightening formulas for under eyes:
"A liquid concealer with a radiant shimmer finish is good for under the eyes because it covers and highlights the area with a soft glow, but it should be not be an overt sparkling shine,” says Begoun. Try IT Cosmetics’ Bye Bye Under Eye or Uoma Beauty's Stay Woke Brightening Concealer.
Find your shade...
Once you know the finish you want in your concealer, it’s time to address the hardest part of your search – getting the shade right. The general consensus among experts is that you want your concealer to match your skin completely, with a maximum of one or two shades lighter for your under-eyes if you wish to brighten.
... through technology
Personalised shade matching used to be something that was only possible in-store, but the use of virtual technology is on the rise and has only increased due to lockdown.
When it comes to virtual shade-matching, there are three main approaches. The first are try-on tools, which allow you to virtually ‘see’ products on your skin using photos or live video. This is the approach of NYX, which uses the technology for all its foundation and concealer ranges, while you can use the 'Foundation Finder' from Maybelline as a good guide for choosing a concealer from the brand.
MAC’s virtual try-on feature, currently for eyeshadow and lip colour, will also be expanding into concealer and foundation soon and you can live chat with a MAC make-up artist on the website for further advice in the meantime.
The final option available is a comparison service, the most famous of which is Findation, which uses consumer data from millions of make-up customers to cross reference foundation and concealer shades so that you can find other formulas in the right shade from you. Simply enter the concealer you are currently wearing and you’ll be offered equivalent products from a whole host of brands - although if you are worried you are currently wearing the wrong shade, it is worth using a combination of the other services to check.
... by undertone
If the formula you like isn’t included in any try-on technology, it’s time to embrace an old make-up artist’s trick that focuses on your skin’s undertone.
“The biggest mistake I find people making, is trying to find a shade match without identifying their undertone," explains Espinal. “Undertones are key to making sure you find your perfect shade match, because if the undertone is incorrect, your base could look too orange or ashy.”
How to check your undertones
To discover your undertones, use Espinal's trick that he learned when working at Sephora. Simply reach your arm out straight and, with the opposite hand, firmly press down just above your wrist with your index finger.
Then, as you release check the first colour that your skin goes - normally either pink, red or blue (the cool undertones) or yellow, peach or golden (the warm undertones). This will show you your main undertone, which you can use as a guide when matching base products.
For example: “Yellow tones are great for cancelling out redness, while peach tones are great for brightening the under eye area on light to medium skin tones,” says Hardie. “If you have a deeper skin tone, to brighten any darkness use an orange/red toned concealer.”
"A lot of people make the mistake of choosing a lighter shade for their concealer, thinking it will cover their under-eye circles,” agrees the global make-up artist for L'Oreal Paris, Val Garland. This is what causes that visible lighter circle around the eyes, which is especially noticeable on camera. “To neutralise dark circles you need to choose a shade that is peachier than your skin tone.”
The last thing you can do, is check the reviews to see what other customers are saying about important details, such as ‘are the shades true to the imagery?’ and 'does the finish measure up to the claims?’. Just make sure to cross-reference these reviews across different websites if you can and avoid being swayed by one really positive or really negative opinion.
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