Why Makeup Artists Always Apply Foundation Before Concealer

If you've ever wondered whether it's better to apply foundation or concealer first, you're far from alone. Many a makeup lover (and plenty of our beauty editors, as well) have debated the aforementioned complexion question. Sometimes, you simply have to go straight to the pros for the answer — after all, they're the ones who practice this art form every day and therefore know exactly which techniques, tips, and tricks are most effective with regard to the results.

In an effort to settle the enigma once and for all, Allure tapped six professional makeup artists for their opinions. With a near-unanimous verdict, one technique emerged as the winner, though one pro strayed from the pack (and offered a solid argument to support his answer, of course). So, should you be applying your concealer before your foundation, or foundation prior to concealer? Sort through the justification for each of these two stances to determine the best for you.

Team Concealer

First up: the lesser-used method. Makeup artist Allan Avendaño is the one pro who makes a partial case for using concealer first, though he stipulates that this technique is not necessarily better so much as everything is based on the individual. "There’s really no right answer," he exclaims. And that's totally fair — after all, makeup is an art and therefore involves experimentation and customization to one's own preferences.

The Case for Applying Concealer Before Foundation:

"I use concealer on a case-to-case basis," he explains. "When someone has really dark circles or looks fatigued, I go in with a color-correcting concealer first, then use a foundation to even everything out, and then use another light layer of concealer if it still needs covering."

On the flipside, when Avendaño is covering up blemishes on the skin, he agrees with the other experts, preferring to apply foundation first. "What happens if you apply concealer first is that it will more than likely either start creasing or the pimple will peek through it," he says. "By applying it last, you can get more time with the product and also apply powder to set everything in place." And on that note, we can further examine the more popular approach.

Team Foundation

Nearly every expert fervently voted for applying your foundation first, then layering concealer over top. (In fact, just one of the makeup artists advocates for using concealer first — and even then, he stipulates that his technique is circumstantial and depends on a person's complexion needs.) Why are so many makeup artists opting for this method? These pros backed up their position with plenty of excellent reasons.

The Case for Applying Foundation First:

"I have always found that it makes far more sense to apply concealer after foundation," says Robin Black, makeup artist and Beauty Is Boring founder. Here reasoning is right on the mark: "Foundation is meant to even out your skin tone and reduce the appearance of blemishes, discoloration, and excess redness, so until you've applied your foundation, it’s hard to judge how much concealer you actually need to use."

Black also points out that the act of blending foundation over concealer often results in moving the concealer off of the area you originally intended to apply your coverage to, adding that this rings true regardless of which application tool you use.

Makeup artists Katey Denno, Gloria Noto, Fiona Stiles, and Rachel Estabrook are all riding the same wave as Black.

"Using concealer first is a waste of product and creating more work for you, as then you just have to go over the area again," explains Stiles. "Concealer is meant to conceal, while foundation is meant to be the base, or foundation, of your look — similar to how when you build a house the very first step in creating it is building the foundation." Additionally, she notes that if you're using the right foundation formula for your skin's needs, it should ideally do most of the concealing for you.

Denno says she always likes to start by applying a light layer of foundation, beginning in the center of the face and blending outwards, then following up with concealer only where needed. "The foundation and concealer shades should be a perfect match with your skin tone and similar in texture to one another," she advises. "That way, everything blends together seamlessly."

Concealer is meant to conceal, while foundation is meant to be the base
— or 'foundation' — of your look.

Noto also stresses the importance of going easy with foundation or tinted moisturizer before applying concealer on any blemishes, as she says this is what gives the most natural-looking coverage. "I love skin to shine through, so I try not to let it look like there is too much makeup on."

Even if you're someone who prefers a full-coverage finish, Estabrook says using foundation first is the way to go. "I would personally create a clean canvas with foundation and then spot conceal any areas that need more attention," she explains.

The Verdict

While there's nothing wrong with using concealer first, the majority of these makeup artists would advise applying a light layer of foundation beforehand to even out the complexion and reduce the appearance of blemishes. This allows you to see what areas still need to be addressed, and which ones you can leave alone. Generally, concealer is thicker in consistency than foundation, so if you want your makeup to look as natural as possible, it's probably in your best interest to listen to the experts and only use it where you think it's needed.

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