Makeup is an art form. It’s a mode of expression for professional makeup artists and makeup lovers alike. Whether through education or self-taught techniques, artists create looks for clients that transform or highlight existing beauty. Like many styles of artistry, makeup requires the use of products and an understanding of how to use them.

Many artists were trained to apply concealer first and foundation second. Others use foundation as the base of the makeup look and concealer second to highlight certain areas. Now, with social media, techniques are being perfected (and created) at a higher rate. Sources say that the order in which concealer or foundation is used matters less than the consistency of each product, but how does that work in real-time?  We chatted with makeup artist and educator of 25 years Tania Russell, as well as did some digging of our own. Here’s what we know about whether to apply concealer or foundation first. 

Concealer vs. Foundation

Concealer is a liquid product, usually thicker than foundation that can be used to conceal areas of your face. You may have dark circles under your eyes or hyperpigmentation due to acne scars, redness due to sensitivity or irritation. Whether you have blemishes or wrinkles, there’s a concealer for that!

Whatever your skin needs, there’s a consistency that will match them. Applying concealer under your eyes and on any textured areas will smooth things out for your foundation. Foundation acts as the base of your makeup look; it’s a single-tone product that matches your skin color as closely as possible, serving as the canvas for your product application.

How To Apply Concealer and Foundation

Whether you’re using the back of your hand or another smooth surface to work from, you’ll need tools to move the product from its surface to your face. Most concealers have a wand in them, as do some foundations. However, to extend the life of your products, using tools to move and apply them is the suggested method. Cotton swabs will suffice if you don’t have access to the higher caliber applicators. The shape of the applicator makes a difference as well. Flat, eyeshadow applicators can be used for more than your eyes. They can apply concealer and/or foundation too. Start near the innermost corner of your eye, tracing the shape of your bottom lid and creating a triangle directly underneath your eye (adjacent to your nose).

If you’re going for something a bit lighter, dab product in the innermost corner and skip the middle of your under eye, continuing along the end of your eye.

Applying Concealer First

Before applying anything to your face, your skin needs to be clean and moisturized. The next step would be to apply primer so that you can prep the skin for layers of product. Once those products have been applied, it’s time to conceal the hyperpigmentation, redness, wrinkles and blemishes. You can spot conceal meaning applying a small-ish amount to the areas in need of a bit of assistance. Applying a small dab of product on the back of your hand and working from there to spread the love where needed will get the job done. Using the concealer wand to apply the product directly will also do. Artists may use the back of their hand or a smooth surface to work from to avoid contamination of products as cleanliness also plays an important role in the makeup application process.

These practices feel all too familiar to makeup artist of 25 years and makeup educator of 15 years, Tania Russell. She explains why applying foundation first gives the artist more wiggle room and prevents the overuse of products which can cause makeup to look cakey.  

Applying Foundation First 

Foundation is an all-in-one product and descriptor. Not only is it the base of your makeup look, but the word’s meaning itself infers that it’s the first step of your routine. Russell shares that applying foundation first allows her to see what the foundation will cover. “A good foundation will do a lot of the coverage work for you.” Particularly for media gigs, that include photography, she says that heavy-handed product application of foundation and./or concealer does not photograph well.  Russell also says the best way to avoid an overly heavy application is to do a light to medium coverage foundation application. “…and then spot conceal as necessary to get the level of coverage you may need.” Finishing your makeup look requires a setting spray and/or powder.

If you want an extended wear out of your look, set your face midway through your routine, powder at the end and set with finishing spray one more time. Whatever order you prefer, doing what works best for your skin always trumps trend!