Whatever it is—dark undereye circles, cellulite, a scar—there's a way of making it appear to disappear.
Is your skin luminous and even-toned, clarified by monthly facials and a multipart skincare regimen? Do you head to the salon every six weeks to cover your gray with the perfect honey highlights? Yes? That's great, really great. You can move on; we'll see you later. This story is for those who don't always have the time or the money to keep up a maintenance program; who are looking for quick fixes to camouflage problems (from breakouts to spider veins); who know that there's probably a laser or acid or suction machine out there that offers a solution but aren't ready or willing (or flush) enough to try it. For you, we canvassed beauty experts to come up with the best advice for concealing imperfections (or, as we prefer to think of them, annoyances. Because, really, you're fine as you are; this is just a little surface polishing). Print out these pages and save them for the day or evening you find yourself facing a spot you'd rather not.
The Tool Kit: Pencil (one shade lighter than your brows); powder (that matches your brows); small angled brush.
The Technique: Overzealous plucking (or age) can leave brows patchy. Even after you've put away your tweezers, it can take anywhere from three months to a couple of years for brows to grow back, says brow expert Sania Vucetaj. In the meantime, fill in only bare spots ("never, ever, ever the whole brow") with a pencil. If the pencil is too waxy, it will leave a heavy line, so look for one with a drier texture (like Paul & Joe Eyebrow Pencil) and always use short, feathery strokes. Once the holes are filled, take a brow powder (like Becca Brow Powder) to fill in the length of the arch (again, with short strokes). The powder will adhere more to the penciled-in areas and help bulk them up a bit, while blending in with the rest of the brow.
Dark Undereye Circles
The Tool Kit: Eye cream; creamy concealer (one shade lighter than your skin tone) with a slight golden (or, for darker skin, apricot) cast; translucent loose powder; small, slightly tapered brush with synthetic bristles (animal hair absorbs too much moisture, drying out concealer).
The Technique: When you lighten dark circles, suddenly every crease under your eyes is brought into high definition. So use a very creamy concealer, says makeup artist Susan Giordano. Always start with an eye moisturizer (Vital Radiance HydraSmooth Under Eye Concealer includes one in half of its dual-ended wand). Let it absorb for five minutes, then begin applying the concealer with a brush at the inner corner of the eye. Work your way out, but "use it only on dark areas," says makeup artist Laura Mercier. Gently pat in the concealer (use your ring finger so you don't tug at the delicate skin), then dab on the slightest hint of translucent powder with a tiny velvet puff or eyeshadow brush. (We like Clinique CX Soothing Concealer Duo SPF 15 and Mally Beauty Cancellation Concealer System, which both include creamy concealer, sheer powder, and a dual-ended brush.)
The Tool Kit: Eye gel; highlighting pen.
The Technique: When it comes to concealing, makeup artists preach moderation—especially with puffiness. Concealer accentuates bags, so use it only on the inner corners of the eyes. Minimize swelling with a firming eye gel (like Christine Chin Hydra-Lift Eye Gel; store it in the fridge for a little extra tightening power, the beauty equivalent of icing a sprain), and then run a highlighting pen (it delivers a sheer, slightly shimmery cream through a firm brush; we like Elizabeth Arden Sheer Lights) along the indentation below the puffiness. The light reflectors will make that area appear less depressed.
The Tool Kit: Creamy, full-coverage foundation; tinted redness neutralizers.
The Technique: To downplay overly rosy cheeks, often a result of broken capillaries or rosacea, use a foundation with gold or yellow undertones, which help counteract the pink. Blush-prone skin tends to be dry, so look for a very emollient formula (ignore anything labeled matte, says Nars senior makeup stylist James Boehmer) and moisturize before smoothing it on with a sponge. The sun aggravates redness, especially if it's caused by rosacea, so always wear sunscreen (or choose a foundation that includes it). "Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the least irritating UV blockers, and when they're finely ground in a sunscreen or foundation, they can help camouflage redness as well," says Mary Lupo, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University School of Medicine. Products with green tints (like Murad Correcting Moisturizer SPF 15 or Avar Green, which is prescription only) help hide more serious redness (while also soothing irritation), but always apply a foundation on top to ensure a natural finish. Choose warm lipcolors; anything bright or blue-based will bring out pink tones in the skin.
The Tool Kit: Makeup primer; powder foundation.
The Technique: No product can tighten pores, but makeup primers that contain silicone (like Clarins Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch) make them appear smaller by laying down a thin film on the skin. When you apply foundation, it sticks to that smooth surface, rather than settling into (and accentuating) pores. Boehmer prefers to use powder foundations (try Max Factor Powdered Foundation or Cover FX Mineral Powder Foundation) on skin with more noticeable pores, which tends to be oily. (We also like Per-fékt Skin Perfection Gel, a silky primer with oil absorbers and a slight tint that can double as a sheer foundation.) Avoid light-reflecting foundations, which can draw attention to pore size.
The Tool Kit: Thick concealer (the kind in a pot or compact) that matches your skin and has yellow undertones to counteract redness; sheer loose powder; small brush with a straight, firm tip (slightly larger than an eyeliner brush).
The Technique: Before you begin, accept your limits: You can only camouflage the redness of a pimple; try to disguise the bump itself, and you'll end up with a mound of noticeable concealer. Use a brush to dot the concealer (we like Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage) directly on top of the blemish; then dip a small puff or another brush in translucent powder and pat it over the spot to set the concealer and leave a smooth finish. (Benefit Bluff Dust, a yellow-tinged sheer powder, comes with a velour puff.)
The Tool Kit: Concealer (a touch lighter than your skin tone, with peach or gold tones to brighten darkness); brush; powder and/or cream foundation (that matches your skin).
The Technique: For isolated dark spots, just dot the concealer on top with a thin brush and pat with your finger to blend the edges. Then use a large brush to apply a fine layer of powder foundation over the whole face. This will help set the concealed patches and even out your complexion. (The very dry skinned should choose a liquid or cream foundation instead.) If you have more significant sun damage and need to cover larger patches, Boehmer recommends starting with a sheer liquid foundation all over the face, and then blending a heavier cream foundation over darker areas.
The Tool Kit: Soothing ointment; Q-tips; concealer; sheer lip gloss.
The Technique: Before you cover the sore, dab on an ointment like Aquaphor to protect it. No topical treatment has been shown to significantly shorten the life span of a cold sore (only a prescription oral medication, like Valtrex, can do that, if you pop a pill at the first tingle), but it's important to keep it moist while it heals. Next, dab on a concealer that matches the skin around your lips. To avoid contaminating your makeup, use a Q-tip (makeup artist Mally Roncal coats it with a little Vaseline first so it glides more easily over the inflamed area)—and don't double-dip. And you know how if you don't want people staring at your butt, you wouldn't put a big bow on it? Skip the bright lipstick and go for a sheer rosy gloss (again, using a clean Q-tip). Have fun with color on your eyes instead—which can draw attention away from that sore spot.
The Tool Kit:Light lip liner; lipstick; sheer gloss.
The Technique: First, how not to plump up your lips: by drawing on new ones. It's okay to trace slightly above the lip line, says makeup artist Paula Dorf, but only with a very light pencil. (She uses her own peachy pink Enhancer Baby Eyes to define the lip line, or try Cargo The Reverse Lipliner.) Stick to pale lipstick colors as well. Anything too dark makes the mouth look smaller. A dab of glimmery gloss on the center of the lips (both top and bottom) will also have a mild pout-enhancing effect. And a note on lip plumpers: Most use irritating agents like cinnamon to increase blood flow to the lips. If you can bear the "tingling" (we prefer the more accurate term: "burning"), slick them on before you apply any color. The results are temporary, though, and far from bee-stung.
A Bad Haircut
The Tool Kit: Headband; hot rollers or curling iron; patience.
The Technique: Nothing makes hair grow faster. Your only recourse after an unfortunate cut is to wait for it to grow out (at a rate of about an eighth to a half inch every month). Until then, experiment with new textures. "Awkward layers are more apparent on straight hair," says hairstylist Gretchen Monahan, who recommends using hot rollers or a large barrel curling iron to create waves. If the problem is heavy bangs or harsh layers around the face, invest in a few headbands. (We like wide stretch designs, like the ones by hairstylist Eva Scrivo that come in suede and cotton faille, or Goody's linen version—more city sleek than Sandra Dee.)
The Tool Kit: Volumizing shampoo and mousse; comb; baby powder.
The Technique: When a dye job's overdue, extra body at the roots can hide the evidence. Use a volumizing shampoo (and use it often—when roots are oily, they look even darker), confine conditioner to your ends, and work a volumizing mousse through damp hair. Zigzagging your part also keeps hair from lying too flat against the head and accentuating a line of demarcation. Powder (regular white talc works if you're blonde; Bumble and Bumble makes aerosol tinted versions for brunettes and redheads) can help blend roots as well. Monahan recommends shaking or spraying a bit along your part, then using your fingertips to work it in. (For a more lasting at-home root fix, Clairol Nice 'n Easy Root Touch-up kit now comes in 16 shades, all calibrated to match faded haircolor.)
The Tool Kit: Red-based concealer (or lipstick); thick concealer and/or powder foundation that matches your skin tone; translucent loose powder.
The Technique: Once you've banged into that coffee table (again), it'll take at least a week for the violet-blue souvenir to fade away. While you're waiting it out: Makeup artist Scott Barnes recommends dabbing a bit of red-tone concealer (or even just red lipstick) on top of the bruise to cancel out the purple, setting that with translucent powder, and then smoothing on a concealer or heavier foundation that matches your skin tone (try MAC Face and Body). Be sure to pat the concealer around the bruise, softening the edges so it disappears into the surrounding skin. To keep the color in place, Roncal swirls a large brush into powder foundation and then presses it over the area before swiping it back and forth to remove the excess. And a self-tanner warning: While it works camouflaging magic on many other imperfections, it darkens a bruise. So before bronzing, smooth a bit of Vaseline over it to block the color.
The Tool Kit: Self-tanner; self-tanner; more self-tanner.
The Technique: For some reason, bronzed dimpled thighs are less conspicuous than pasty whites ones—"but the last thing you want to do is get a tan and break down collagen, making the problem even worse," says Lupo, who recommends self-tanner instead. For an added slimming effect, Barnes makes the outer and inner thighs a bit darker. Coat them with self-tanner first (spray formulas, such as ModelCo Tan Airbrush in a Can, are easier to control than lotions), let it dry for about 15 minutes, and then go over the whole leg. Roncal finishes with a layer of shimmer cream (like Smashbox Body Lights Glowing Lotion), which can help blur bumps and lumps.
The Tool Kit: Self-tanner or body bronzer; body concealer; sheer loose powder.
The Technique: If the squiggles are relatively light, a coat of self-tanner will be enough to camouflage them. (For a slow—and streakproof—buildup, try Vaseline Intensive Care Healthy Body Glow Lotion.) A leg bronzer will also mask veins or broken capillaries—and wash off at the end of the day. (Yves Saint Laurent Make-Up Leg Mousse imparts both a veil of color and a cooling sensation.) When you want more serious coverage, Roncal recommends blending a concealer on top of veins, painting the makeup on with a brush, and then distributing it evenly with your fingers. (Choose something pretty heavy, like Dermablend Leg & Body Cover Crème, when concealing anything off your face.) A few pats of translucent powder will set the color, but you'll still want to avoid water sports and games of footsie for the rest of the day.
Stretch Marks and Scars
The Tool Kit: Thick concealer; translucent loose powder; pearly cream.
The Technique: Stretch marks and scars are usually very smooth in texture, so look for a heavy, full-coverage concealer (like water-resistant CoverBlend by Exuviance Corrective Leg & Body Makeup SPF 18) that won't slide away—and don't moisturize the area beforehand. Match the concealer to the darker color around the scar or stretch mark; anything too light will just make it look worse, says Dorf. Use a brush to pat the makeup over the mark in thin layers, and set it with loose powder. If a scar is depressed, try dabbing a pearly cream (like Nars the Multiple in Copacabana) on top. It'll reflect light off the area and make it appear less noticeable.