Base camp If you can get away with just applying concealer (and no foundation), you should—right? Wrong.

Versace Fall 2011 beauty If you can get away with just applying concealer (and no foundation), you should—right? Wrong.

I’ve always been anti-foundation and pro-concealer. For the most part, I didn’t like the way foundations smelled, the way they could smear off on your clothes and (most importantly) how they just looked so obviously THERE on your skin. Concealers, on the other hand, I couldn’t live without. (I do have a concealer wardrobe, after all.) Subtle, stealthy, they did their job but only where you needed them.

So this was my makeup philosophy: If you could get away with JUST applying concealer, and skipping the icky foundation, it was ideal. In fact I believe I’ve written that sentiment on this very website right here.

But now I have some breaking news. I might have changed my mind on all of this. And that’s thanks to a recent sesh (during TIFF) with Lynne Ryan, the lead makeup artist for So You Think You Can Dance Canada and national makeup artist for Murale. In a nutshell, here is the paradigm shift. (I’m going to bold it so you really pay attention.) Whereas I once believed that the right concealer would allow you to skip foundation… now, I’m of the mind that the right foundation will allow you to skip concealer. Come and let me explain my Aha! Moment.

My TIFF ’11 makeup experience

If you’ve been reading here for a while now, you might recall that pretty much the only time I willingly submit my face and hair to be “done” is during the Toronto International Film Festival. For a beauty ed, the Murale HQ is the place to be, because not only do you get to see Sally Hershberger herself (pacing around looking painfully cool in her all-black outfit and always covetable worn-in boots) but you get access to a VERY high calibre of hair and makeup experts. Last year, if you’ll recall, I had my hair done by Sally’s boyz James Vides and Mike Viggue, and makeup by one of the Murale artists. (I had to add the red lippie myself because the dress was purchased subsequently and it called out for A Lip.)

This year, Paul did my hair and the lovely Lynne (who you can check out in this Marilyn Denis vid) did my face:

TIFF hair makeup If you can get away with just applying concealer (and no foundation), you should—right? Wrong.

(I may be looking a tad shiny/frizzy here, but it was the end of the night and a few drinks in, okay?)

Anyway, poor Lynne—I think what was supposed to be a 15-minute makeup job turned into 45 because of all the questions I asked. And OBVIOUSLY I had to inquire when she started doing things I’ve never seen before with foundation. Here’s the intel I walked out with…

Most of us are in denial about how much coverage we need.

woman with freckles If you can get away with just applying concealer (and no foundation), you should—right? Wrong.

Let me just clarify that I do NOT advocate going around with a full face of foundation. Not at all. I still maintain that you only need to apply “skin makeup” where you need it, whether it be foundation OR concealer.

But the thing is, a lot of us are in denial about whether we need foundation or not. I know I am. Lynne started applying it on my cheeks, which I usually leave au naturel. WELL. As I lamented on Thursday, I actually have tons of freckles starting to surface, and so Lynne gently suggested I needed some extra coverage there. (No, they’re not the cute kind of freckles that look good if you leave them bare.)

And this brings me to my next point…

Concealer kinda sucks for covering up larger areas of discolouration and redness.

Besides the pigmentation issue, my other problem areas are around the nose and chin, where my Scottish inheritance has blessed me with patches of blotchy redness. Now sure, you can cover these up with concealer—but it’s not really the idea thing to be using on such large surface areas. First of all, concealer is WAY heavier than foundation, so you’re probably going to use more product than you need and have a cakier, less natural finish. Second, you just don’t get the same colour choices with concealers that you have with foundation. You know how so many of them leave a too-pale, whitish cast? It’s easier to get away with that on under-eye circles or what have you than the entire circumference of your chin.

So the better option, clearly, is to do a sheer application of foundation on any large problem areas, and then go in with concealer on top for any detail work.

But then again…

If you build up the coverage, your foundation might just be able to double as a concealer.

This is what REALLY blew my mind. Lynne didn’t use a stitch of concealer on me. Said I didn’t need it.

Say what?!?

Because of said aforementioned Scottishness, I’ve just assumed, for my entire life, that I was one of those unfortunate folk who could not live without concealer. Apparently not—with the right foundation (one that goes on sheer but is buildable), it can perform double duty. This is what Lynne used on me:

Chanel Vitalumiere Aqua Foundation If you can get away with just applying concealer (and no foundation), you should—right? Wrong.

But the next tip is also important…

Try applying your foundation with a brush. A tiny brush!

We’ve had the brush vs. sponge debate here before, and even though I tried to listen to Carmindy, I really do think I prefer brushes, at least for the initial application. (Sponges are great for going over your work.)

But what’s neat about Lynne’s technique is that she didn’t use the typical foundation brush… she actually had a smaller, concealer-type brush.

MAC Concealer brush If you can get away with just applying concealer (and no foundation), you should—right? Wrong.

And ever-so-carefully, she went all over my face with a sheer application of foundation, blending, blending, blending. Not just when she was applying it as a foundation, but also the second round when she was building it up in the “problem areas” as a concealer.

Just something you might want to think about trying. I’ve definitely found that large foundation brushes deposit too much product and make blending a bit difficile. This would give you tons more control (and ideally a sheerer application), although it’ll take you longer of course.

Set it with a translucent powder, of course.

I can’t remember what product Lynne used, but my preference (as you know) is one of the HD kind. (I’m actually using one from It Cosmetics right now that’s pretty fab.) Also, do I not always say to use a domed eyeshadow brush to apply it, and sparingly? Well, Lynne did this too, really carefully all around the areas where shine tends to surface so that the products “stuck” to the skin. And this obviously helps prevent it from smearing off on your collar or boyfriend.

And ALWAYS choose a foundation formula that matches your skin tone exactly.

I won’t go into detail on this one here, but if you need tips, watch this vid. Also, I know we all shared our favourite foundation recos here (mine in the post, yours in the comments), but I have a brand new love. Here she is:

MUFE HD Foundation If you can get away with just applying concealer (and no foundation), you should—right? Wrong.

I recently attended a Make Up For Ever seminar on HD makeup (so more tips to come!) and they kindly colour-matched me to my exact shade. Mind officially blown. Because my skin is this weird neutral colour that can go either way, I usually end up with a shade that’s a fraction darker (and yellower), as per the advice I shared here. But hooray! Finally I have one that’s absolutely seamless. (It’s shade #115, which has pink undertones yet isn’t obviously pink. YAY!)

Tell me:

Are you a daily foundation wearer or do you try to get away with just concealer?
Have you ever tried to use foundation instead of concealer?
What are your favourite foundations?


Nomadic D
Monday, October 17/2011 at 2:03 pm

I’m pretty fickle, there are days when I just go with concealer (the maybelline age rewind one that I’m obsessed with it great cause has the two different consistencies on either end) and days when I mix foundation and moisturizer for a really lightweight tinted moisturizer, and days when I just dab bits of foundation here and there. See these posts for some of my favorite concoctions:

And right now I’m mixing the Armani face fabric with Laura Mercier illuminating tinted moisturizer. Like I said, pretty fickle. I think a lot of it depends on where I am, since I travel a lot and I think climate really affects what my needs are, and also how much I’ll be sweating which also varies a lot depending on rehearsal schedules and whatnot. But a lot of it also just depends on my mood. And I guess I’m not very good at following instructions since I seem to be constantly making up my own rules! Regardless, i think it’s always great when someone gets you to step outside of your routine and think outside the box a bit.

I loved the MUFE HD foundation texture but couldn’t find a good match. Also been dying to try the vitalumiere aqua, but I can’t seem to find it in a pale enough shade. But the one that’s really calling out to me is the burberry foundation, it’s so luscious! Have you tried it?

Oh and, sorry for the eternal comment today, I must be feeling especially verbose for some reason!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 11:58 am

I haven’t tried the Burberry foundation yet, no! I agree with you about customizing it depending on what you’re doing that day and/or your mood. I do the same!


Monday, October 17/2011 at 2:28 pm

I actually DO wear foundation every day, and sometimes little or no concealer. And I have far-from-great skin. I’m very fair, so redness shows up easily on me, but I find that the foundation does, indeed, do wonders. Only blemishes then show up (and I currently use a lightweight Vichy Aera Teint foundation) and I sometimes even cover those up using the bit of foundation left over in the opening of the pump bottle. I saw makeup guru Lisa Eldgridge using the foundation-as-concealer trick a while back and I thought it was such a great idea! Save money on concealer, buy a better foundation!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 11:59 am

Yay! We’re totes on the same wavelength then. :-)


Monday, October 17/2011 at 2:31 pm

I just bought Living Nature foundation from Saffron Rouge and am anxiously anticipating its arrival. Cream or liquid concealer always looks to cakey on me when I use it to cover up spots/pigmentation, and the mineral one I’ve been using is just not the right color match. So far I haven’t had a lot of luck with foundations not breaking me out or causing a rash, but I have high hopes for living nature.. I love the finish of liquid foundation.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 12:00 pm

I really love Living Nature foundation (just wish theirs was a better colour match for me). How are you liking it?


Monday, October 17/2011 at 2:32 pm

i’ve always hated foundation and powders and how they look on me. I am extremely pale, and literally, anytime i’ve gone to a makeup counter no one can find the right foundations or concealers for me because i’m too pale. lately i am only using some concealer on trouble spots that need it (just one or two on my face), and i’ve started to swipe some on under my eyes AFTER i’ve completed my eye makeup- i blend it in with a foundation brush and i’m pretty good to go. i know i don’t do makeup “right”, at all, but honestly I’m just afraid of foundations, and i can’t afford the really good ones and cover girl won’t cut it.


Monday, October 17/2011 at 8:48 pm

I just wanted to say I feel your pain! Also on a budget and very fair. I do the concealer under the eyes and blend with my fingers (sorry!) or a brush as well.


Tuesday, October 18/2011 at 1:20 pm

I hear your pain, Pale One! I am a ghost girl too, and have had good luck with Aveda foundations in #1 & MAC’s palest concealer. Aveda’s concealers in #1 were too dark!

If you want to try a light mineral makeup, Avon’s translucent & the palest mineral foundation are pretty good IF you go LIGHTLY! I know, Avon, shocker. (My friend sells it, cheap samples!) Took me a while to get the hang of them, but wow, you really don’t need much.

Now I only need concealer for spots that are actually red, the minerals handle everything else!


Monday, October 17/2011 at 3:21 pm

Lately I’ve been wearing my Becca concealer and then brush on a thin layer of the MAC MSF Natural all over my face, followed by a light buffing of the Chanel Bronze Universal. I’m new to mineral powders but so far I’m enjoying the coverage. Next on my list to try is the new Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier loose mineral foundations…both get great reviews in the beauty blogosphere. Have you tried any mineral foundations? In the past I’ve also used Revlon Colorstay which is a great drugstore foundation although more of a med/heavier coverage. BTW, I’ve heard the new Covergirl Natureluxe liquid being compared to the Armani Silk foundation…it has me curious…anyone tried it?


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 12:11 pm

I’m not a fan of mineral powders, but Living Nature has a great liquid mineral foundation that I would highly recommend. I just find the powders can leave your skin with a weird sheen and can magnify pores…


Monday, October 17/2011 at 3:49 pm

Totally agree! I’ve been using foundation as concealer / instead of concealer for my whole life and never knew it was “wrong” until I started covering beauty for my job. The texture of foundation is just so much easier to work with, and I like how it lets a *little* bit of undereye darkness show through (I think it looks so fake when people completely obliterate their circles). I use MUFE HD too, and I’m also liking Juice Beauty’s new organic foundation – sadly, it only comes in three shades (but I bet you could mix in some loose mineral powder to adjust it).


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 12:14 pm

Yep – hello Kim Kardashian (re: under-eye circle coverage)!

I didn’t realize Juice Beauty had gotten into colour cosmetics… I will have to check that out!


Monday, October 17/2011 at 3:53 pm

I do agree — I’ve recently been only using my koh gen do aqua foundation as a concealer/evening out the parts that need it the most, and my face looks way less cakey and more natural than when I used to use just cle de peau in the areas that I “needed” it (and I definitely needed more coverage than I thought). of course the really good foundations are also formulated these days to have way better coverage, with all those light reflecting particles and such, to mimic the look of natural or great skin, so that helps as well!


Monday, October 17/2011 at 5:13 pm

We wear the same shade of Makeup 4ever! I recently went to an event through their line and was introduced to so many new products, and I fell in love! Awesome tips here, thank you. Question: The skin on my face is much lighter than the skin on the rest of my body, even my deccolatage (sp?) and my arms, etc., due to my diligence in putting spf on my face and not so diligent when it comes to other areas and I am conflicted. I don’t know whether to throw on some bronzer to match it all or to just match my foundation to my face, and leave the rest.

Sorry its jumbled, I’m at a playdate with a ton of 3 year olds, its like the seventh circle of hell.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 12:16 pm
Dot & Lil
Monday, October 17/2011 at 5:15 pm

I have always done exactly what you’re saying–squeak by with no foundation, only concealer. In fact, I have never owned or used a foundation–ever! But, you’ve sold me–I’ll try it! Ooooh first ever foundation purchase–exciting! The choices!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 12:16 pm

Yay! It’s a whole new world…


Monday, October 17/2011 at 5:32 pm

I LOVE Makeup Forever HD Foundation. It’s just like a second skin. Perfectly matched and totally 100% blendable. A little expensive for my liking, but totally worth it. I’ve used it for photo sessions I’ve had and always photographs perfectly as well!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 12:17 pm

Yep – I will definitely re-purchase. (And beauty editors RARELY say that.)


Monday, October 17/2011 at 8:27 pm

That’s what I’ve been doing for so long! I used to always wear both foundation and concealer, but since I’m very pale with a ton of freckles (there’s a ginger for ya :)) I could never find a good foundation, they would always be too dark. So I finally decided that it was annoying, because I would have to apply foundation all over my face or else you would see the seam, so for a while I would only wear concealer. But recently, I’ve been battling mild acne, so sometimes when it’s worse I wear foundation to cover it up, but I still sometimes wear only concealer with translucent powder. But the problem is, I wear a lot of concealer, and as you said, it’s heavier than foundation, so you can kind of notice it! :( but I think soon I’m gonna try and find matching L’Oreal True Colour foundation and concealer (I just bought the concealer today, have yet to try it out). I really want to find a good makeup routine that will make my skin look better, so I guess I’ll have to experiment arund with foundation/concealer/powder/etc.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 12:19 pm

My mom has freckles so I totally know what you’re talking about. (I have some but not all over my face – just cheeks.) What about Living Nature foundation? It’s a liquid but is mineral so really pure… I think it would be totally fine for acne-prone skin.


Monday, October 17/2011 at 8:59 pm

Like you, I’ve been going with only concealer for a while. I do have some tinted moisturizer, but I find that even that at full strength is too much over my freckles (an issue I know I’ve griped about on here before). Luckily they are the “cute kind of freckles” that I want to leave visible, but if I am ever looking especially dark under the eyes or too red on the face, I’m afraid to put anything over top as it seems to “sit” over the freckles. I bought a green moisturizer ages ago that was meant to combat redness but I didn’t really like it…maybe a tinted primer would be my best bet.


Tuesday, October 18/2011 at 12:31 am

Ohhh, I love what they did with your hair!!! Very pretty :) And lucky for the Chanel Aqua-Lumière… I was totally ready to spend the big bucks to buy it, but then I went to the Chanel counter to get matched… to no avail. Yep, Chanel does not carry my skin color, and it SUCKS. lol I’ll definitely check out the MUFE one, Chanel was too yellow for me, so I might just get that “Halleluia” moment too! I just bought a small sized Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer a few days ago, and I find it to be a little too sheer to go on its own… works GREAT under my mineral powder foundation though, for everyday makeup.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 12:20 pm

OMG! They don’t have your skin tone? That sux. Were you able to find anything in the MUFE HD foundations?


Tuesday, October 18/2011 at 1:25 pm

Wow, gorgeous hair! Gorgeous colour, waves… Wow.

And yes, I used to use concealer instead of foundation too. Too pale for foundation for years. However, I think some of this is because foundations are getting better too! Finer, smoother, more colours, & less likely to turn people orange.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 12:22 pm

Totally agree! The formulas are getting more and more advanced – they’re sheer but still cover well.


Tuesday, October 18/2011 at 2:20 pm

i wear foundation everyday and always forget to wear concealer. i do have spots from acne scars and freckles and sun spots but it is true a good foundation will cover most of them. i don’t need to be fully made up everyday and i don’t have time in the morning to do the full face routine. i am mixing 2 shades right now because of the tan from summer and it’s working out beautifully (bourjois healthy mix + chanel pro lumiere).


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 12:22 pm

Nice! Doesn’t the Bourjois one smell amazing?


Wednesday, October 19/2011 at 1:38 pm

Hi there,
I love your blog and read it religiously but haven’t commented before as my queries are usually covered. However the foundation/concealer is something I’ve been thinking about lately. I usually do a light application of foundation (Chanel Vitalumiere) followed by a variety of concealers to cover under eye shadows, redness, pigmentation etc. Thinking about all the time this was taking me I thought what I needed was a thicker foundation, so I tried a sample from Estee Lauder (Double Wear) this week and found it way too heavy and difficult to blend with the brush I have. Next step try your excellent advice about using a smaller brush, can you please tell me the number so I can track it down.
Great post, I really learned something.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 12:27 pm

For liquid products I will alternate between MAC’s concealer brush – the number is worn off but I think it’s this one:
And then sometimes when I’m lazy I will revert back to using a foundation brush – I have this one:
You might also try applying with a brush and then dabbing with a sponge after to help press it into the skin and remove any excess product. The BeautyBlender is great for that.
Another tip is to lightly spritz a facial mist and then press a tissue over your face….


Saturday, November 26/2011 at 9:02 pm

Sorry, but I don’t agree with this. I’ve been wearing foundation for the past 8 years , 5 times a week (MAC, Loreal, Mary Kay, Smashbox, etc), giving my skin a break on the weekends. What I’ve noticed is this, the FEW times I’ve gone without any makeup whatsoever, men approached, smiled and spoke to me more. It always surprised me because I feel very insecure without makeup, and yet the response is the opposite of what I expected. Men in general are simply more attracted. Thing is, I have pretty good skin. And I mean, smooth, pimple-less, even tone skin, but I have a few spots here and there of hyper-pigmentation from previous zits during that time of the month. And it’s those small spots that bother me.

What I notice is this, in the morning after my face has been washed and moisturized, my skin looks amazing 100% of the time, that is, until I cover it up with foundation. Then, throughout the day after smiling and laughing, etc. the foundation looks tired, my skin looks tired, and it appears that there are lines on my face from where the foundation creased from all the facial movement. I don’t have wrinkles btw so what’s up with that?

So, I thought to myself one day, why cover up my beautiful skin with all this foundation? Why not just conceal my flaws and do the rest of my makeup. The best beauty decision I’ve ever made in my life. Now when I look in the mirror I see my skin and NO flaws. I’ve had people ask if I was wearing foundation, and others just comment on how great my skin looks. NEVER had that reaction wearing foundation. Best part about it is I no longer have to worry about whether my foundation matches perfectly or not, because most of my skin is showing through and THAT’S the best color for me.

I find that foundation is best for people with lots of redness, lots of uneven skin, pimples, etc. But for those who don’t have that problem (and can get away with it), concealer is just fine. Not to mention, you’ll get to age a lot slower.

So to say that you shouldn’t only wear concealer even if you can get away with it is ‘wrong’? Wow. Even the most incompetent man without a clue about makeup would raise an eyebrow at that statement.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Tuesday, December 6/2011 at 12:32 pm

Did you read the article? I never said that everyone “needs” to wear foundation:

“Let me just clarify that I do NOT advocate going around with a full face of foundation. Not at all. I still maintain that you only need to apply “skin makeup” where you need it, whether it be foundation OR concealer.”

If you have great skin then OF COURSE you can get away without it. This post is mainly directed at people who have been using concealer on larger areas when they could get lighter, more natural-looking coverage with foundation, which tends to be more sheer and blendable.

As for your particular situation, it sounds like you were either using the wrong foundation or not applying it correctly… but if going without is working for you, then GREAT! :-)


Friday, September 13/2013 at 12:27 pm

I turn 40 in a few months and decided it might be time to move on from my mineral powder and get a good liquid foundation. I just NEVER found the right shade and the powder was sheer and just easy. I went to the Armani counter after hearing good reviews on their foundations. They found a perfect match but I was surprised at how sheer it really was. I almost couldn’t tell the difference from my mineral foundation. I wasn’t aware of the “build up” technique and will definitely try that on some minor discoloration on the cheeks. Thanks for the tips! Love your site!


Leave a Comment