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What’s the Difference Between Concealer and Foundation?

A guide to choosing between concealer and foundation for your needs, and how to use them.

Difference Between Concealer and FoundationLet’s face it: there are so many forms of face coverage makeup that it can be easy to mix up all of them. We’re talking about primer, foundation, concealer, BB creams, and even more new concoctions that are popping up on the market. Although they belong in the same category of makeup, they’re certainly not interchangeable with each other. There are distinct differences between each of them, and a specific order you should apply them in. Even concealer and foundation have their own nuances. We’ll give you an overview of them, as well as the difference between concealer and foundation to help guide you in your makeup application.

What's Foundation?What’s foundation?

Typically after a primer, foundation is the first step of your makeup routine. It’s a form of face coverage makeup that’s supposed to go over your whole face. It’s as close to your natural skin tone as possible to help even out your complexion. The main purpose of a foundation is to help you achieve a uniform appearance and texture for your skin. Applying foundation also creates a smooth canvas for flawless makeup application.

Foundation can come in powder, liquid, or cream form that may be catered to specific skin types. Powder foundations usually comes with a matte finish that’s ideal for oily skin. Cream and liquid foundations are generally better for mature or dry skin. Foundation can be applied and blended with a brush, sponge, or clean fingers.

Foundations offer anything from sheer light coverage to blur out slight imperfections (think fine lines and acne scars) for a natural look, to full coverage for a truly flawless look that covers all areas of skin (like dark spots and wrinkles).

What's Concealer?What’s concealer?

Concealer does what you might expect from its name—it conceals parts of your skin that you don’t want to be seen! That often means dark circles and other spots or blemishes. For the purpose of brightening up dark spots or shadows, you should choose a shade lighter (just slightly) than your natural skin tone. Apply concealer after your foundation, and before other makeup.

There are also other types of concealers, such as color correcting concealers that target more specific blemishes such as reddened skin and hyperpigmentation. For example, green concealers are perfect for evening out rosacea or reddened pimples. Orange and pink work to conceal serious dark circles.

Concealers are usually medium to full coverage, and can come in powder form, liquid form or cream form. They might already come with an applicator brush that you can use to sweep the formula onto your face, and then blend out with a brush or clean fingers.

Foundation vs ConcealerWhat’s the difference between concealer and foundation?

The chief difference is that foundation is applied all over your face to even out your complexion, while concealer is used as spot treatment. That’s why you always apply foundation first, then follow with a concealer on areas that need more coverage.

When choosing a type of foundation, you’ll want to select one that’s as close to your natural skin tone as possible, otherwise you’ll see too drastic of a difference between your face and neck! Foundation literally serves as a foundation for the rest of your makeup, ensuring even and long lasting application.

On the other hand, you’ll usually want to select a concealer that’s slightly lighter than your skin to effectively brighten up dark spots and eye circles. You can also select a different colored concealer (like green or purple) to color correct your skin.

Which one should I choose?

If you’re going for a fully done up look, both! Foundation is crucial to ensuring the rest of your makeup goes on smoothly, and concealer is necessary to cover up the spots you missed with your foundation. Just apply your foundation and blend it over your face first. Then follow with concealer on top, and make sure it blends seamlessly into your foundation for the most flawless look! Follow up with the rest of your makeup, such as eye and contouring makeup.

If you personally prefer a more natural everyday look, and if you want to even out your complexion for a fresh face, go for a natural foundation. But if you’re struggling with dark circles and a particularly bad breakout? We suggest prioritizing a concealer. Concealers usually offer fuller and thicker coverage than a foundation, and usually will do just on their own.

Did you know that you can use concealer in a few extra makeup hacks too? That’s right, they’re not just for covering up blemishes. Use some around your eyebrow makeup to achieve those sleek chiseled brows, or around your lips to accentuate your cupid’s bow. Concealer is thicker and more opaque than foundation, which is why it’s able to accomplish these tricks.

Can I swap them?

Generally we don’t advise using your concealer as a foundation, since it’s thicker and more difficult to blend over a larger area. Usually a concealer won’t blend in seamlessly with the rest of your complexion.

As for using foundation as concealer? If it has fuller coverage, you certainly can do this in a pinch! Just make sure you still use foundation all over your whole face, or at least makes sure you blend the foundation fully into your skin to avoid a patchy look.


To sum it up, there are definitely a few key differences between concealer and foundation that don’t really make them interchangeable with each other—most of the time. Because who know what new makeup hybrids could hatch out of beauty brands!

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