Like foundation, concealer is base makeup used to create a smooth, uniform appearance on skin. It's typically a bit more pigmented and opaque than foundation, since concealer is meant to camouflage dark undereye circles, blemishes, scars and other discolorations. It comes in many formulas including sticks, liquids and creams -- which texture you choose is mostly a matter of personal preference. We found that all formulas have their share of positive and negative comments. Overall user satisfaction is largely based on finding the right shade and application techniques.
For covering blemishes, dark spots or scars, experts recommend formulas that are heavily pigmented, such as Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage (*Est. $30). This concealer comes in a compact with two coordinating shades that can be blended to create the right shade, even in the summer when your skin might be a bit darker (you can just add more of the darker shade). This concealer has won beauty awards from Allure and InStyle magazines for several consecutive years for hiding blemishes and neutralizing redness in skin. Reviewers say this concealer is very thick, making it ideal for hiding major flaws -- with the exception of undereye circles. That's because users at MakeupAlley.com and TotalBeauty.com say that it is too thick and dry to be applied under the eye, where it tends to appear cakey and settles into fine lines. The concealer is available in seven shade combinations.
Cle de Peau Beaute Concealer (*Est. $70) is unsurpassed for covering dark undereye circles, according to many reviewers. The stick concealer has won Best Beauty Buy awards from InStyle magazine for six consecutive years because just a tiny bit "sends dark circles packing." Paula Begoun, beauty expert and Beautypedia.com founder, says that it offers "substantial but (almost) imperceptible coverage." Although it is expensive, several users at MakeupAlley.com say that the lightweight formula of this undereye concealer is worth every penny. Only the slightest amount is needed to cover imperfections, and many reviewers say that one tube can easily last two years or longer. Of course, this will likely vary greatly from person to person based on application technique and whether or not it is used on a daily basis. Cle de Peau Beaute Concealer is available in four shades.
On the other end of the price spectrum is MAC Studio Finish SPF 35 Concealer (*Est. $16.50). It's a favorite of users at MakeupAlley.com and TotalBeauty.com, where reviewers say it provides full coverage for everything from scars to blemishes. Some warn that it has a tendency to settle into fine lines and can look cakey if not applied and blended correctly. Others say that applying moisturizer first and using a brush to apply the concealer makes all the difference. Paula Begoun says that it takes some practice to achieve the proper coverage without using too much product but that once you do, the creamy formula of the concealer covers flaws excellently. MAC Studio Finish contains titanium dioxide for broad-spectrum sun protection. It comes in 14 shades.
In the end it may take some experimentation with different concealer brands and application techniques to find one that meets your needs and expectations. Furthermore, if you have only minor flaws that need concealing, you may find that a good foundation is all you need.
Beautypedia.com, Paula Begoun's online database of beauty reviews, is the most thorough source for concealers. Here Begoun reviews hundreds of products and rates them based on overall wearability and coverage. Allure and InStyle magazines test and rate several concealers for their annual beauty awards but only list those that perform the best. Ladies' Home Journal and Real Simple magazines also recommend top-performing concealers, but testing criteria aren't very clear. About.com recommends several concealers and gives a brief description of each. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.) User reviews at MakeupAlley.com and TotalBeauty.com provide insight into consumer satisfaction and ease of use.