Concealer vs. foundation

Face Makeup

For best results, always apply color-correcting concealer before foundation. When using concealer on top of foundation for added blemish coverage, pick a color as close as possible to your foundation.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Should you use concealer or foundation?

It doesn’t take a professional makeup artist to tell the difference between blush and bronzer. However, when it comes to covering up blemishes, removing dark circles, hiding pimples and simply evening out your skin tone, things can become confusing. 

Whether you’re going for smoky eyes or lips that pop, the proper foundation and concealer will help bring everything together. There are many features to consider when choosing the right face makeup. 

Foundation

Foundation serves as your face’s central base, with its primary goal being to even out your skin tone. You should pick a shade that’s as close to your actual skin color as possible. It comes in various categories, including liquid, cream, mousse and powder, and can be applied using your fingers, brush or a sponge. Foundation should go all over the face and onto the neck for full, blended coverage. Generally, liquid-based foundations are ideal for dry or combination skin and those seeking fuller coverage, while powder-based foundations are well-suited for oily and acne-prone skin. 

The price for foundation varies depending on the brand. Drugstore brands typically start around $10, while more expensive brands can run up to $80 or more. 

Foundation pros

A lot of formulas contain SPF, protecting your face from sun exposure. A good liquid foundation will also moisturize and hydrate your skin. Above all else, foundation serves as a great everyday tool for anyone self-conscious about their skin, regardless of their skill level when it comes to makeup application. 

Foundation cons

Despite all the natural foundation formulas available, some users still struggle with clogged pores and unfavorable reactions. Powder foundation can be a struggle for those with oily skin and acne. While a lightweight formula is ideal for problematic skin, it doesn’t always give enough coverage. 

Best foundations

Jane Iredale Liquid Minerals a Foundation

jane iredale Liquid Minerals a Foundation

What you should know: This is a uniquely formulated foundation that acts as an anti-aging serum. It’s perfect for those seeking lightweight coverage that will hydrate dry and aging skin.  

What you’ll love: This cruelty-free foundation is both long-lasting and provides sheer to medium coverage. Its pigmented serum leaves a soft and dewy finish and comes in a ton of different shades. 

What you should consider: This foundation has no SPF, so it isn’t ideal for sun protection. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Lovely Skin and Ulta Beauty

 

Dermablend Professional Cover Creme Full Coverage Cream Foundation with SPF 30

Dermablend Professional Cover Creme Full Coverage Cream Foundation with SPF 30

What you should know: This foundation is a full-coverage option that has 30 SPF, making it a great choice for days spent outside. 

What you’ll love: Available in various shades, this cream foundation is highly regarded by dermatologists for its formula and has a lot of repeat users who swear by it. 

What you should consider: Despite consistent glowing reviews, some users have claimed that the formula hasn’t stayed consistent. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Lovely Skin, Macy’s and Ulta Beauty 

 

Christian Dior Capture Total Triple Correcting Serum SPF 25 Foundation

Christian Dior Capture Total Triple Correcting Serum SPF 25 Foundation

What you should know: This is an expensive but top-quality option that leaves a silky smooth finish. It’s an excellent choice for those fighting age spots and blemishes. 

What you’ll love: This triple correcting serum contains 25 SPF and successfully smooths out wrinkles. Fans of this one rave about how easy it is to use and how well it covers redness, pores, and dark spots. 

What you should consider: Though worth every penny, it’s on the pricier side. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Concealer

Available in cream, liquid, stick or pencil, the primary job of a concealer is to conceal. Contrary to foundation, concealer is used as a spot treatment and should only cover specific problem areas like undereye dark circles, pores, scars and pimple marks. Unlike foundation, which should match your natural skin tone, your shade of concealer depends on why you’re using it. For example, a color-correcting concealer in a peach shade may help with under-eye dark patches, while a green hue may help cover red splotch. 

Like foundation, the price range for concealers highly depends on the brand. Drugstore brands start around $5, while higher-tier brands can run up to $30 or more. 

Concealer pros

A lot of high-quality concealers are relatively inexpensive. A little can go a long way, giving more bang for your buck. Additionally, most concealers are quick and easy to apply, making them ideal for when you’re on the move. 

Concealer cons

Even some of the best concealers can cake and crease, especially with finicky skin and temperamental weather. 

Best concealers 

Hey Honey Trick And Treat Active Propolis Cream Concealer

Hey Honey Trick And Treat Active Propolis Cream Concealer

What you should know: This is a high-quality pick, celebrated for its protective formula and moisturizing capabilities. For anyone specifically seeking under-eye cover-up, this is a prime choice. 

What you’ll love: It has a combination of natural ingredients, including bee propolis, vitamin E and dead sea salt. It also comes from a trusted brand that promises a formula that’s cruelty, paraben, S.L.S. and phthalate-free.  

What you should consider: It may take a few tries before finding the right shade. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Macy’s and Ulta Beauty 

 

NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer

NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer

What you should know: Sold by a highly trusted brand, it’s a great go-to for anyone who struggles with acne or relentless blemishes. 

What you’ll love: This cream-based concealer has a moisturizing formula that’s gentle on all types of sensitive skin. Its matte finish does a great job covering breakouts, leaving flawless-looking skin. 

What you should consider: Its thicker formula is not ideal for those seeking under-eye treatment. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Kohl’s and Sephora 

 

Urban Decay Stay Naked Correcting Full Coverage Concealer

Urban Decay Stay Naked Correcting Full Coverage Concealer

What you should know: This is another solid choice for blemish and acne control. Available in several shades, this concealer is lightweight, long-lasting and leaves a matte finish. 

What you’ll love: With the dual power of fighting blemishes and dark circles, this cruelty-free and vegan formula is buildable to your liking. Whether you’re looking for light or heavy coverage, this versatile option allows you to do both. 

What you should consider: Some users have complained about creasing. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Ulta Beauty 

Should you get concealer or foundation?

While they’re both great on their own, they’re even better together. If you’re dealing with redness and inflammation but have bags under your eyes after a sleepless night, both foundation and concealer can team up to tackle these troubled areas. Or, maybe there’s just that one pimple you need to hide quickly before heading out. In this case, concealer alone may be all you need. Depending on the type of skin issues you’re having and how much time you have to spend on your makeup routine, the choice between using foundation, concealer or both together simply boils down to personal preference.

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Kat Noland writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.