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Concealer vs Foundation: Which Should You Use, and When?

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As a makeup artist, one of the most commonly asked questions I get is about concealer versus foundation. Namely, what’s the actual difference between the two? While it’s true both are essential in most makeup routines, they both serve a unique purpose. And figuring out what this is — and making it work for your skin, is the key to a flawless complexion.

Want to get the skinny on the concealer vs foundation debate? This article covers it all, including the main differences, concealer or foundation first, and how to apply with MUA finesse!

Dior Foundation Makeup on Table

What’s the Difference Between Foundation and Concealer?

Sure, they look sort of the same and give your face skin tone matched coverage, but what else? Well, as it turns out, a lot.

The main difference between concealer and foundation is coverage placement. Foundation goes onto the entire face and neck to even out skin tone, create a flawless finish, and provide overall-even coverage. Concealer is more about concentrated spot treatments. It focuses on areas you’d prefer to keep extra hidden (blemishes, dark circles, and dark spots).

Secondly, the texture. Foundation is usually thinner and easier to smooth over the skin. Plus, it gives you a bit more breathability when it’s providing that full coverage. Concealer has a thick, more pigmented formula to stay put on the problem areas.

When Should You Use Foundation?

We all like something different from our makeup. Some days, you’ll want full glam and others, you’ll want a natural vibe. Foundation is best for the days when a clean canvas is your goal.

Foundation can be applied when you want to achieve an even skin tone and a flawless complexion. It’s the ideal base for most makeup styles, whether it’s an everyday look or a night on the town.

When Should You Use Concealer?

Concealer is the perfect way to hide the hard to cover spots, so treat it as such. It should be applied to things like dark circles, redness around the nose, and blemishes to give an added layer of coverage. You don’t have to use it daily, but it is great to apply on the face to hide any imperfections that foundation alone can’t get rid of.

This makeup product is perfect for when you have a specific area of concern you want to target! With a little bit of concealer, it will stay hidden and won’t interfere with the rest of your flawless makeup look.

Does Foundation or Concealer Go on First?

You plan on using both products for full effect, so which goes first? Always apply your foundation first, concealer second. The only exceptions to this rule are if you’re using a powder foundation. Then, you would apply a concealer first. Or if you only have a few minutes to get ready in the morning, you can apply a bit of concealer under the eyes, blend the edges with your ring finger, set with some powder and then you’re good to go.

Woman Applying Foundation on Skin

How to Apply Foundation

Before becoming foundation-applying pros, we need the best product for our skin and makeup goals. There are liquid powder, cream, and tinted moisturizers, so consider your skin type and how much coverage you want that day.

Also, think about the look you hope to achieve — dewy, matte, sheer, and everything in between. You can create dramatically different looks with a simple switch in foundation, so it makes a major impact. Then, follow these steps for a flawless finish:

  1. Prep your face so it’s clean, moisturized, and primed. This will keep your foundation in place all day and give a smooth finish.
  2. Choose your preferred applicator tool. Something like the Shiseido Hasu Fude Foundation Brush is ideal, as it has an angled head for a streak-free, even finish (even for beginners). Otherwise, a makeup sponge is excellent for precise and buildable coverage.
  3. Apply small dots of foundation all over your face. Use your tool and blend it in, starting from the centre of your face and working outwards.
  4. Still not happy with the coverage? Add another foundation layer using the same method for a beautiful base to apply the rest of your makeup.
  5. Use a setting spray or powder once your entire makeup is complete for an all-day stay.

Girl Applying Foundation in Front of Mirror

How to Apply Concealer

First and foremost, choosing a concealer. You want one that matches your skin tone, gives the right coverage, and comes in your preferred form (liquid, cream, stick, etc.). Sometimes, you can buy a concealer designed for a specific part of your face — like under the eyes or blemish control.

  1. Start with a clean, moisturized, and primed face. If you plan on using foundation first, apply that and give it a minute to set.
  2. Put a tiny amount on the back of your clean hand (this warms up the formula) and sweep a small amount onto your concealer brush. Apply a thin layer of concealer to the specific pigmented areas on the face.
  3. Use a makeup sponge or fingers to gently blend the concealer into the skin. A light tapping motion will give seamless coverage but prevent creasing and drying. We’re obsessed with the JUNO & Co Microfibre Velvet Sponge for its smooth, flawless look and precise control in those smaller areas.
  4. Finish up with a translucent setting powder to keep your concealer in place.

A Buildable Base for Every Look

Congrats, you’ve levelled up your makeup skills with a better understanding of the concealer vs foundation debate. Creating the perfect base for the rest of your beat is now just a few simple steps — and the right products — away.

Girl Applying Foundation to Skin


1) Is it better to use concealer or foundation?

Both products have a purpose depending on the coverage you want. Think: F-Foundation is for evening out the F-Face, and concealer is to provide extra concealing coverage to hide the hard-to-cover spots.

Can concealer be used as foundation?

You can use concealer as foundation in a pinch, but it’s not recommended. Concealer provides a denser type of coverage, can look pretty heavy if applied to the whole face, might be a different shade then the color of your skin, and isn’t designed to be used every where.

What goes on first, concealer or foundation?

Foundation typically goes on first, followed by concealer. You can use concealer before foundation if you have really deep dark circles to “sandwich” your concealer and foundation layers together or if you’re using a powder foundation, you can apply concealer first.

Can I wear concealer without foundation?

Yes, you can wear concealer without foundation if you only want to treat blemishes, spots, or under the eyes.

Do you need both concealer and foundation?

No, you don’t have to wear concealer and foundation together. However, applying both provides a flawless finish that is a smooth base for the rest of your makeup.