Many acne sufferers not only deal with the actual lesions, but with the spots and coloration they leave behind. Even without picking, the damage done to collagen by inflammation is often beyond self-repair. There are more permanent treatments for acne scar removal, like laser and dermabrasion, but many opt to tackle the problem day by day with a great concealer. We enlisted celebrity makeup artist, Emily Kate Warren, to create a step-by-step guide on masking those unwanted reminders of pimples past.
1. Prep it out
Start with the cleanest and smoothest base possible. Gently exfoliate your face, sloughing off dry skin, and apply a brightening lotion, which helps address redness. “I always recommend gently exfoliating any flaky skin and moisturizing well the night before,” says Warren.
2. Ace the base
Smooth a lightweight foundation all over, and blend well using a sponge or brush. Warren uses various foundations, though she prefers non-oily formulas that last. “I look for a foundation that’s creamy and dewy with just enough pigment,” says Warren.
3. Meet your match
Non-oily concealers with a high pigment provide the best long-lasting coverage. “The key to concealing acne scars is high pigment and less product,” says Warren. Make sure it properly matches your skintone, or else it will only exaggerate the scar. If you can’t find an exact match, many recommend a shade lighter, but Warren actually says the opposite. “If you use a shade lighter, it can actually highlight the pimple,” says Warren. “I often create a custom shade with a mixing method and, if necessary, I will go a shade darker since shadowing makes the bump look smaller.” Her general rule of thumb in the art of concealing is “highlight to draw out, shadow to push back.”
Tip: To address the redness, apply a smidge of green concealer before your regular concealer. Green and red cancel each other out when they are combined equally.
4. Conceal the deal
Dot concealer over the marks and use a brush to gently pat and blend. When it comes to brush size, Warren says it depends on what you’re dealing with. “I use a variety of brushes depending on the size of the scar,” says Warren. “Tiny tipped brush for a very small one and a fluffy brush for a large cystic scar.” Start small, and continue to layer as necessary.
Tip: Pitted or uneven acne scars? Use a brush to first fill in the dents with concealer, and then cover the rest of the scar until you reach desired coverage. Lastly, soften the edges by blending outward with a dry, fluffy eyeshadow brush, not a sponge. “A sponge can act like an eraser, removing all of the product you’ve just applied,” says Warren.
5. Strong finish
Swirl a full, natural-bristle brush into loose or pressed translucent face powder. Tap off the excess and lightly dust over concealed area to keep it in place throughout the day. “It’s important to set the powder so it lasts, but you don’t need to mattify the entire face,” says Warren. “Just the areas you are trying to conceal.”