Makeup is a powerful tool. Not only can it make your eyes look brighter or your lips look fuller, it can also do wonders to conceal red blemishes and stubborn acne scarring in a matter of seconds. The key is having the right makeup brushes and the best products by your side—including concealer and foundation—and knowing exactly how to use them correctly.
To help you achieve beautiful-looking skin and feel confident every time you walk out the door, we’ve created an easy-to-follow guide on how to cover acne and acne scars with makeup. Follow these pro-tips and you’ll be set (literally)!
Covering Acne and Acne Scars with Makeup
Whether your acne-prone skin battles blemishes regularly or you're just dealing with the occasional pimple, the steps to cover up unwanted acne with makeup are the same.
Similarly, you can use this technique to cover up acne scars, including post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), that can linger much longer than the blemishes themselves.
Step #1: Use a Treatment Product
Any good beauty routine designed to make acne less noticeable begins with treatment. Your daily skincare process should target both individual blemishes and even the appearance of your complexion overall. After cleansing your skin, we recommend using a product such as Bye Bye Pores Leave-On Solution Pore-Refining Toner, especially if you also have an oily skin type. Formulated with kaolin clay and silk, it helps absorb excess oil and control shine for a matte finish.
Bye Bye Dark Spots Niacinamide Serum is another great addition to your morning or nighttime regimen if you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation.
“This formula is your secret weapon to fight [the look of] skin discoloration,” says Dr. Dara Liotta, a board-certified plastic surgeon and IT Cosmetics Advisory Board member. “With 4% niacinamide and ethyl vitamin C, it helps visibly reduce dark spots and improve skin clarity.”
Step #2: Moisturize
Just ask your favorite makeup artists, and chances are they’ll agree that the key to effortless makeup application is supple skin, making hydration especially crucial. So, before picking up a cosmetic brush, be sure to apply the best moisturizer for your skin type first. If you have acne-prone or oily skin, we strongly recommend using an oil-free and non-comedogenic moisturizer, like our Confidence in a Gel Lotion Moisturizer.
“This is the best lotion!” writes one super fan in a recent review on the site. “It does not cause me to break out like most other lotions. It goes on smooth and works great under makeup. I have finally found my new face lotion!”
Step #3: Prime
Once you’ve got your skincare regimen locked down, you can move right along to the creative part of the process: cosmetics! If your end-game is to cover up acne and acne scars with makeup, a makeup primer will be invaluable. It’s designed to create a smooth texture for makeup to glide over, which can even help minimize the look of skin indentations from acne scars.
Your Skin But Better Oil Free Makeup Primer is especially perfect for acne-prone skin types since it’s oil-free and non-comedogenic. Not only does this makeup-gripping base help extend the wear of your makeup—a must when it comes to covering pimples and lingering acne scars—but it's infused with skin-transforming ingredients to help refine the look of pores with continued use. To use, simply apply a thin layer over cleansed and moisturized skin.
Step #4: Apply Foundation
To help create an even-looking complexion, apply a color-correcting, full-coverage foundation to your face. Bye Bye Redness Neutralizing Color-Correcting Cream is our best foundation to cover redness and acne-prone skin, and it boasts serious color-correcting power. You'll love its hydrating, soothing formula and the fact that it neutralizes the look of discoloration, which makes it that much more impressive.
We recommend building up a little extra coverage on areas with acne and acne scars while using a lighter hand on the portions of your skin that are clear. This allows the natural glow of your healthy skin to come through while concealing problem areas.
Think of it this way: you wouldn’t add thick paint over an entire canvas if your goal was to simply cover an imperfection. That said, if you only have a handful of blemishes, you can turn to a lightweight base such as Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare, available in 40 shades to match a wide range of skin tones.
“The texture of the [Your Skin But Better Foundation + Skincare] formula immediately perfects skin by minimizing the look of pores and imperfections without settling into lines or skin texture,” says Dr. Liotta. “[Mean]while, the powerful ingredients—such as hepes acid, aloe vera, and vitamins E and B5—work to visibly improve your bare skin in just two weeks, so you’ll look better both with and without makeup all the time.”
Another excellent choice is our #1 best-selling* CC+ Cream Oil-Free Matte with SPF 40, which boasts oil absorbing abilities to help combat blemishes and deliver a matte finish. Whatever base you go with, using our Airbrush Dual-Ended Flawless Complexion Concealer & Foundation Brush will make application a breeze and create a superior finish.
Step #5: Conceal
If you still have a few spots shining through, no sweat! Now’s the time to double-down on your coverage by pin-pointing problem areas and covering them with concealer.
As part of her mission to create problem-solving makeup and skincare, IT Cosmetics founder Jamie Kern Lima helped develop Bye Bye Breakout Full-Coverage Concealer, an innovative drying lotion and concealer in one. In other words, it works overtime for you by concealing and treating at the same time.
Featuring full-coverage pigments and oil-absorbing ingredients including kaolin clay and tea tree, it works to cover the appearance of acne scars and treat active breakouts simultaneously.
We recommend using the Bye Bye Breakout applicator to put it on. Then, go in with the micro-end of your Heavenly Luxe Complexion Perfection Brush No. 7 and gently tap around the blemish until you get your desired level of coverage.
Step #6: Set It
Finish with a thin layer of setting spray or setting powder, such as Bye Bye Breakout Powder, which goes on effortlessly with the fluffy end of your Heavenly Luxe #7. Because of its sheer, buildable coverage, this talc-free powder instantly minimizes the look of skin imperfections—including stubborn acne scars—with just a few sweeps of your favorite powder brush.
Do’s and Don’t of Covering Acne with Makeup
Looking for the cheat-sheet version of the above? Keep the following do’s and don'ts top of mind:
Do Prioritize Skincare: Covering acne isn’t just about dotting on concealer. A proper skincare regimen will go a long way in the health and beauty of your skin.
Don’t Forget to Prime and Set: To help your makeup last longer, apply a primer and a setting spray. Your eight-hours-from-now self will thank you!
Do Remember That Acne Doesn’t Define You: Whether you’ve got a monster pimple on the tip of your nose or a breakout that stretches across your cheek and chin, that acne is still only a very, very tiny part of your appearance.
Don’t Feel Like You Need to Hide Your Whole Face: It’s just as important to make the rest of your skin come to life with makeup while you simultaneously cover up acne scars.
Still not quite sure which foundation to reach for? Learn how to find the best foundation for your skin type.
Source: The NPD Group/US Prestige Beauty Total Measured Market, Makeup Product Sales, January - December 2020.