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Skin issues: Do you conceal or foundation first?

Concealer before foundation or foundation before concealer? We wade into the great debate


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There is an unquestionably natural order to many things in life: rain follows thunder, summer follows spring and Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte follows the first muffled brush of a Gucci slide being put to rest for another year. But in the beauty sphere an age-old debate as contentious as jam/cream, cream/jam on scones continues to rage (it’s cream first FYI, always cream first). So what comes first, concealer or foundation?

In the interests of creativity we’d like to point out that there is no right or wrong answer as we’re all for championing make-up mavericks and beauty renegades. Instead, we’ve put forward both sets of arguments for you to make up your own minds with a little help from our (rather persuasive) experts.

The case for concealer:

When it comes to the pros, we have to admit we were hard-pushed to find many subscribing exclusively to the concealer-first technique, aside from when powder foundation is involved.

That said, the ones who do have pretty impressive credentials. Take make-up magnate Bobbi Brown, who argues that if you’re not a fan of full coverage, applying your concealer first may mean that you find yourself using less foundation – something that make-up artist and global make-up ambassador for Rimmel London James Molloy also advocates. ‘I consider concealer to be a wonder product for the complexion and thanks to their impressive pigment levels, the new wave of creamy concealers can be dialled up or sheered away to the lightest coverage. Because they’re so versatile, I use them before foundation as it may be all the skin needs to look even.’

This piecemeal, less-is-more approach to coverage relies on honing in on targeted areas. ‘Generally we all have a little more discolouration though the centre of our faces, so this is where you should use your concealer with a fluffy brush to buff away any redness and correct under the eyes. A smaller detailing brush can then be used to pinpoint any small blemishes,’ he adds. Celebrity make-up artist Caroline Barnes agrees: ‘My general rule of thumb is to build coverage with concealer after foundation to ensure the finish isn’t too heavy, but if you have thread veins, darkness under the eyes or pigmentation it’s a great idea to start with a punchy concealer so that it can really connect well with your skin rather than sitting over a layer of foundation. Pat the product in thoroughly and allow to dry for a few seconds before you apply foundation for long-lasting coverage.’

And at the extreme end of the spectrum there’s Mario Dedivanovic (aka @makeupbymario) who is a staunch concealer-first devotee, unwaveringly applying it before foundation with the reasoning that you’re less likely to end up with a cakey mask of foundation.


The case for foundation:

‘I always apply concealer after foundation,’ asserts make-up artist and backstage favourite Lynsey Alexander. ‘I find that when applied first, you end up moving it around or even removing it when blending in your foundation. I also find that you need less coverage if you have a thin veil of base foundation on. I spot-conceal with two brushes, one firm to apply in key areas and another softer, fluffy one to blend the product in. Setting with a light finishing powder is essential for long-wear.’ It’s a sentiment that top make-up artist Andrew Gallimore shares: ‘When applying make-up to models or anyone really, I generally apply foundation first and then concealer. I prefer to do it this way round as the foundation will help to even the skintone and reduce the appearance of blemishes or darkness under the eyes. You can then go back in, using less product, and work on anything that still needs concealing. I like skin to look real and this way I use as little product as possible.’

The verdict:

When it comes to the professionals we approached, the debate was weighted overwhelmingly in favour of foundation first. But anything to do with the complexion (or make-up full stop) is very personal, and in the world of beauty where something can switch from the ridiculous to the sublime in the swipe of a make-up brush (case in point feather brows) there is no definitive answer. So go forth and apply your foundation and concealer with abandon in whichever way takes your fancy, but please do remember to keep your scones resolutely jam-free until cream has been applied.

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