Under eye concealer is like the undergarment of makeup. At its best, it’s undetectable and gives skin a seamless, flawless finish. At its worst, it’s lumpy and bumpy (in beauty terms, that means cakey) and it looks really obvious. And like a bra, the difference between a good and bad concealer ultimately comes down to finding the right fit for you: the perfect texture and shade, and the way in which you apply it will determine just how good your concealer looks — and how well it covers those dark circles.
We know, there are a dizzying amount of options out there: creams, liquid pens, sticks, light-reflecting, full coverage — and the list goes on. So, how do you know which one is the best under eye concealer for you? Easy. Follow our concealer cheat sheet. In the name of research, we brushed, tapped, and swiped on tons of different formulas to tell you which ones cover well and banish circles, all while looking natural on skin. Plus, we gleaned some pretty good application tips and techniques from the pros.
First, a primer on dark circles
For some of us, dark circles are the bane of our existence. Okay, maybe that’s a little overly dramatic, but they’re certainly annoying and a challenge to get rid of, or at least cover really well. So, where do they even come from? “Dark circles can be caused by a variety of different things,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. For one, chronic inflammation can cause excess pigment. “This can be from everything ranging from aggressively removing eye make up to rubbing your eyes because of allergies,” he says. Sun exposure can contribute to darkness, too. Sunlight triggers pigment-producing cells to produce melanin, the stuff that makes skin tan or gives you sun spots, and it can also lead to under eye pigmentation. Age also plays a role. Thinning skin can cause blood vessels just under the skin to become more visible, revealing a blue-ish tint, he says. Then there’s just plain genetics. Sometimes dark circles just run in families. See your dermatologist to pinpoint the exact reason for your discoloration and for a customized solution. In the meantime, there’s makeup.
6 secrets to concealing like a pro
Dark circles can be tricky to hide. So, we asked celebrity makeup artist Jamie Greenberg for some of her best tricks. “You want a concealer that covers your problem areas without looking cakey or creasing,” she says. Here are her rules for a seamless application.
1. Consistency matters. Greenberg’s go-to under eye concealers have a thin, yet creamy formula. They look fresh and healthy on skin, but won’t settle into fine lines. Sticks are typically drier than creams and are good for your blemishes, scars, and splotches rather than under eyes. But a more moisturizing stick formula could do the trick, too.
2. Your eye cream can make a difference.If you’ve ever layered concealer over eye cream only to see it start pilling up immediately, here’s why: “Eye creams should be made up of the same base as your concealer—oil or water—otherwise the two can clash,” Greenberg says. Check the ingredient list of both products to make sure they’re compatible (water or oil will be one of the first few on the list). When layering under concealer, Greenberg likes eye creams that feel lightweight and airy on skin. “Really work it into your eye area and wait a few minutes before applying concealer,” she says.
3. Consider a color-corrector.For really dark circles, layer a color corrector underneath your concealer, says Greenberg. Peach correctors help neutralize darkness and the blue-ish tint under eyes. If you have dark skin, go for more of an orange-red hue. Try NYX Cosmetics Color Correcting Palette for a mix of shades.
4. Nail the right shade.The ideal color is one shade lighter than the rest of your face, says Greenberg. That will lighten and brighten without looking like you’ve swiped highlighter under your eyes. “The number one mistake most women make with concealer is going too light, which actually ages you more,” she says. Pros often mix multiple shades to find the right fit. If you can’t find the right shade for your skin tone, try blending two together, says Greenberg.
5. You can skip the tools. Save the tiny brushes for small details like blemishes. Greenberg likes to dab on under eye concealer with her ring finger (it’s the weakest of all, so using this finger won’t contribute to any pigment-inducing rubbing and tugging). “The heat from your fingertip helps the product meld into your skin, which makes it look more natural,” she says. When using a concealer with pen-like applicator or wand, dab it under eyes, and then tap it in with your fingertip.
Why we love it: It’s waterproof and highly pigmented, so it covers even the darkest rings. It’s also infused with skin care ingredients like hyaluronic acid and collagen to plump up the skin, which not only makes dark circles less noticeable, but also smooths wrinkles.
Why we love it: It’s a creamy concealer in an easy-to-apply chubby stick crayon. Just dot it on under eyes and blend with your finger. The collection was recently upgraded to included 6 more shades (!) — and each one is infused with light-reflecting pearls and the coverage is totally buildable. Start with medium coverage and work your way up to full — if needed.
Why we love it: By now, you’ve heard all about the wonders of CC creams, which correct an uneven skin tone, while looking lightweight on skin. We’ll here’s the genius of that product, only in a concealer. It also has a metal rollerball application, which feels cooling and can help deflate puffiness fast. Roll it on and pat the color into skin with your finger.
Why we love it: There are so many reasons to covet this concealer. For one, it’s a serious multitasker. It offers medium coverage and also contains goji berry and Haloxyl, an ingredient that brightens dark circles over time. Plus, it has a cool sponge-tip applicator that makes blending a cinch. It comes in six shades, four that are skin toned, one that is a neutralizer (read: color corrector), plus, a brightening formula.
Why we love it: This concealer builds up to full-coverage, but never looks heavy on your skin (hence, the whole weightless thing). The formula is also packed with anti-aging peptides and skin brighteners for a long-term fix.
Why we love it: There’s zero chance of creasing here. This creamy concealer, which comes in 10 shades, sets matte and stays put thanks to its waterproof formula. Yet, because it’s moisturizing, it looks fresh all day and won’t settle into fine lines.
Why we love it: If you need full coverage with a creamy texture, this doe foot will deliver. The texture easily swipes on and blends out with. It also has 16 hour wear that won’t crack or dry under pressure.
Why we love it: The moisturizing liquid formula, which comes in seven shades, is highly blendable and contains light-reflecting pearls to brighten up dark shadows instantly. Use the eyeliner-like brush to dot it under your eyes and tap with your fingers.
Why we love it: This line has a whopping 16 shades, so even those with hard-to-match skin tones can find a full-coverage concealer that works for their complexion. And if you have serious under eye discoloration, there are also five corrector shades (peach, yellow, orange, green, and lavender) to neutralize any pigment before you layer on your concealer.
About the Author:The daughter of a hairdresser, Krista Bennett DeMaio likes to say she has beauty in her blood. She has well over a decade of beauty editorial experience. The former magazine-editor-turned-freelance writer has covered all things beauty from anti-aging skincare to NYFW runway trends. Her work has appeared in national publications and websites including Women’s Health, Redbook, Shape, Dr. Oz The Good Life, bhg.com, and prevention.com. She lives in Greenlawn, New York with her husband and two interns, er, daughters.