Style

3 ways to conceal pimples like a pro: We asked Canadian makeup artists to share their process

Skin prep tips, what’s in their actual kits, and complete camouflage routines for you to copy.

Skin prep tips, what’s in their actual kits, and complete camouflage routines for you to copy

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

No matter how old we are or how clear our skin normally is, we've all been there: waking up to huge, surprise zits on your face. And, of course, they always seem to form during the worst possible times, like right before a wedding, hot date, big boardroom meeting or the day of a run-in with someone we haven't seen in years. The good news is that some strategic makeup can totally help tone down their appearance. That's why we've reached out to three makeup experts for their best practices in hiding flare-ups, from the go-to products in their pro makeup kits to preferred application techniques. And note: before you start taking concealing action with makeup, know that the right skincare comes first. 

The Pro: Témi Shobowale 

The skincare tip: 

"For some odd reason," says makeup pro and skincare company founder Témi Shobowale, people with acne "often do the opposite of what should be done, using a lot of products that dry out their skin all at once to 'heal' breakouts. Dehydration and [increased] sebum production lead to breakouts." 

To help balance out the skin and create a clean canvas, Shobowale begins her skincare routine with a soothing face wash, like REN Clean Skincare's Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk. She then gently swipes a cotton pad drenched with her eponymous chamomile floral water toner, Essentials by Temi Soothing Complexion Mist, all over the face, before immediately applying her Essentials by Temi Soothing Elixir Oil. "I moisturize while [the] face is still damp from the mist in order to retain the moisture and spot treat," she explains. Literal hot tip: Shobowale likes to warm up three to four drops of the face oil between fingers before pressing the product into the skin. "This process will leave your skin less irritated, plump and soft, which minimizes bumpy, rough skin texture," she says. If you're looking to dial down skin's sheen before makeup, Shobowale suggests dabbing your face with a clean makeup sponge or blotting sheets beforehand.  

The makeup technique

Shobowale will start with one to three layers of Hourglass Cosmetics's Vanish Seamless Finish Liquid Foundation (be sure to blend out each layer of foundation in between, she says), depending on the desired coverage level. Then comes the blemish camouflaging: "I gently press a thin layer of Milk Makeup's Flex Concealer with my finger around and onto the breakout," she says. The makeup artist then sets the entire face with Cover FX's translucent Perfect Setting Powder, using a pressing motion with her Vincent Longo velour makeup puff. "I like to use the baking technique on the zit area," adds Shobowale. Baking involves concentrating a dusting of powder on your breakout zone and allowing your body to heat or "bake" it together with your concealer for a few minutes before brushing away the excess powder.  

The kit

REN Clean Skincare Evercalm Gentle Cleansing Milk, $42, Sephora

Soothing Complexion Mist and Soothing Elixir Oil, $18 and $42, Essentials by Temi

Hourglass Vanish Seamless Finish Liquid Foundation, $72, Sephora

Milk Makeup Flex Concealer, $37, Sephora

Cover FX Perfect Setting Powder, $46, Sephora

The Pro: Sheri Stroh 

The skincare tip: 

First, "take care of any dryness or flakiness," says makeup artist Sheri Stroh, whose emergency zit kit starts with a mild exfoliating peel, like Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Exfoliating Peel Spray, to slough away dry, dead skin. "After this, I will apply a soothing toner, either by misting it on or using a washable bamboo round." Stroh then massages on a facial moisturizer formulated for sensitive skin (her pick: CV Skinlabs' Calming Moisture) to enhance blood circulation. "After that, depending on the breakouts and texture, I may use a primer to help smooth the skin and make it more even and to help ward off excess shine," she says. 

The makeup technique: 

When it comes to the concealment plan, Stroh first reaches for a hydrating, buildable foundation or tinted moisturizer like Beautycounter's Dew Skin. "I will try to use the least amount of foundation to do some initial coverage and then spot conceal after that," she says. For foundation application, use whatever tool works best for you (fingers, a brush or a sponge) — just be sure to adopt good hygiene practices, stresses Stroh. "Please make sure whatever you are using is clean to help minimize the risk of spreading bacteria and making a breakout worse." 

Next up: a full-coverage concealer that matches skin tone exactly, and forgo any brightening/illuminating formulas. "[Those] are meant for the under eye area. You want a drier, long-wearing formula that is more on the matte side," says Stroh, who recommends Laura Mercier's Secret Camouflage Concealer. When attempting to disguise a multitude of zits camping out together, Stroh first uses the pads of her middle and ring fingers to dab concealer on top of the troubled zone and then comes in with a stippling brush to better press the product into skin and diffuse it. "I also keep a small blending brush on hand to blend out the edges of the concealer so that it's not as noticeable." If you're dealing with smaller, individual spots on the face, "you can use a very small makeup brush, I like a tiny liner brush, to apply your concealer and then buff out any edges." 

Last but not least, Stroh finishes with RMS Beauty's "Un" Powder, a translucent setting powder, to keep makeup in place. "If you really want [makeup] to set and stay, use a small makeup puff instead of a [powder] brush. It will add product a little more densely, which is what you want," she advises. If you notice that some of your carefully placed concealer has shifted a bit, don't hesitate to go back in and layer a small amount on top of the powder. "If you work in thin layers, it will increase how long [makeup] will all stay on." 

The kit:

Juice Beauty Stem Cellular Exfoliating Peel Spray, $68, Sephora

Origins Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Relief & Resilience Soothing Treatment Lotion, $46, Sephora

CV Skinlabs Calming Moisture, $45, The Detox Market 

Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer, $45, Beautycounter

Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage Concealer, $46, Sephora

RMS Beauty "Un" Powder, $42.50, The Detox Market

The Pro: Myles Sexton 

The skincare tip: 

"The most common mistake people make is applying acne treatments on their pimples during the day," notes makeup artist Myles Sexton. "You're not only wasting product, but you're making it hard for yourself to cover up [spots] because acne products typically dry out the skin. Treatments should be used at night when your skin is healing itself." Sexton's go-to pimple zapper: Kate Somerville's EradiKate Acne Treatment, he says. "It heals even the most stubborn zits." 

Before makeup application, Sexton likes to apply his favourite hydrating facial moisturizer: Ole Henriksen's C-Rush Brightening Gel Crème. "It's amazing for all skin types and lightly refreshes the skin without making you feel like you have anything heavy on [it]." 

The makeup technique: 

After moisturizer, Sexton reaches for Fenty Beauty's Pro Filt'r Instant Retouch Concealer. "It is hydrating and has a buildable coverage on the skin so, depending on your type of breakout, you can customize it to your needs," he says. While some makeup artists swear by the light touch of brushes, paired with a five-star dab and blend application technique, Sexton prefers using a makeup sponge. "A sponge will give you more of an airbrushed finish … make sure you use more of a stippling motion versus wiping motion. The more you press, the more coverage you will get and the more blurred it will look." On oilier skin types, Sexton will seal in concealer by dusting on Marc Jacobs Beauty's Finish Line Perfecting Coconut Setting Powder so that the product doesn't move around. "It has a slight warmer hue to it, which also helps to colour correct the redness in the skin," he adds. Sexton also likes Cover FX's translucent Perfect Setting Powder, mentioned above by Shobowale, for deeper skin tones.

The kit:

Kate Somerville EradiKate Acne Treatment, approx. $34.28, Ulta 

C-Rush Brightening Gel Crème, approx. $59, Ole Henriksen

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Pro Filt'r Instant Retouch Concealer, $35, Sephora

Marc Jacobs Beauty Finish-Line Perfecting Coconut Setting Powder, $59, Sephora


Natasha Bruno is a Toronto-based freelance writer with an obsession for beauty, health & wellness, women's issues, and curly hair. Her byline can also be found in The Kit, the Toronto Star, S/ magazine, Sharp Magazine, Bustle, FASHION magazine, among other outlets. Follow her journey on Instagram @natashajbruno.

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