From erasing signs of a late-night to covering up that unexpected overnight breakout, concealer is one of those make-up bag essentials that we just can’t live without. But with so many textures and shades to choose from, we know how confusing it can be to find the best concealer for your needs.
Concealer works that bit harder than a foundation. The right formula can brighten under-eye shadows, correct discoloration and redness, and conceal blemishes and scarring. It’s the secret beauty weapon to creating an even-toned, flawless complexion, if used correctly.
“For a more natural finish, I recommend applying concealer after foundation,” says Alexis Azcueta, part of the senior pro team at Mac. “Use it sparingly and just on areas where it is needed. Less is more to prevent it caking up and creasing.”
The first step to picking the right shade is finding your skin’s undertone, as the majority of concealers like foundation shades will come in cool, warm or neutral options. In simple terms, cool undertones are pink, red or blue – usually this applies to fair skin that tends to burn easily in the sun. Warm undertones are yellow, golden or peach – skin that tans easily. Neutral shades are a mix of both.
The next step is choosing the texture and finish. Creamy concealers tend to be thicker – great for when you want to cover something up – whereas liquid concealers tend to be on the sheer- to medium-coverage end and are great for the under-eye area, as they won’t settle in fine lines.
Then there’s a finish to choose. Whether matte, dewy or something in-between, that’s up to your preference. There’s just one rule – stay clear of a matte finish if you have dry or more mature skin.
From high street to high end, we put the latest and bestselling formulations on trial to see how they fare on all imperfections, as well as how well they stayed in place throughout the day, even through hot weather and sweaty workouts. Whether you’re looking to cover or correct, there’s a formula here that will work for you.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best concealers for 2021 are:
Best overall – Laura Mercier secret camouflage brighten and correct duo: £28, Johnlewis.com
Best for cover-up – Kevyn Aucoin the sensual skin enhancer: £38, Feelunique.com
Best for a natural finish – Glossier stretch concealer: £15, Glossier.com
Best for eye cream and concealer in one – By Terry hyaluronic hydra-concealer: £35, Spacenk.com
Best all-rounder – Mac pro longwear concealer: £19.50, Lookfantastic.com
Best for dark circles – Fenty Beauty bright fix eye brightener: £18, Boots.com
Best for a matte finish – Clarins everlasting concealer: £23, Johnlewis.com
Best for full coverage – Too Faced born this way multi-use sculpting concealer: £25, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Best for eye brightening – YSL touche éclat highlighter: £21.60, Lookfantastic.com
Best value – Maybelline instant anti-age eraser: £8.99, Boots.com
Laura Mercier secret camouflage brighten and correct duo
The original secret camouflage concealer palette has long been a favourite of ours, so we couldn’t wait to get our hands on this new, next-generation double-ended stick. One side houses creamy, illuminating coverage with light-reflecting pearl pigments that creates the illusion of a much brighter eye area and leaves skin silky soft thanks to hydrating squalene. Flip the stick over and there’s a matte, full coverage, and highly pigmented formulation perfect for covering up out-of-the-blue breakouts and other imperfections. It’s two winning concealers in one.
Buy now £28.00, Johnlewis.com
Kevyn Aucoin the sensual skin enhancer
Best: For cover-up
This cult classic might be the priciest of the bunch, but it’s also the pot that’s going to outlast them all too. You need the tiniest amount of this intense-coverage product – once you master how to use it, it will leave you with a flawless complexion, no matter how many imperfections you woke up with. We found it best to apply with a concealer brush on the back of the hand first, so you don’t make the mistake of over-applying (easily done), and it also helps you to warm up the thick, heavily pigmented coverage to make it easily workable. For days you want more sheer coverage, we found it mixed well with our primer too. Expect it to stay put all day, even after a sweaty workout.
Buy now £38.00, Feelunique.com
Glossier stretch concealer
Best: For a natural finish
Reach for this flexible concealer if you’re looking for a light, buildable formula that you can layer without creasing. It’s Glossier, so it looks to enhance your natural skin rather than cover it up, but it creates enough depth for problematic areas. The silky-soft formula leaves a luminous finish that we found especially good at brightening the undereye. It’s also our favourite to be used on its own for foundation-free days.
Buy now £15.00, Glossier.com
By Terry hyaluronic hydra-concealer
Best: For eye cream and concealer in one
This skincare-infused concealer is like a hydrating eye cream with natural-looking coverage. As the name suggests, it’s packed with moisture-boosting hyaluronic acid, which plumps and smooths fine lines under the delicate eye area. The silky, weightless formula glides on for light coverage that’s buildable and leaves the under-eye brighter, but it works well on other imperfections too. We found the built-in blending brush handy for the handbag and touching up on the go. It’s a skincare/make-up hybrid that works.
Buy now £35.00, Spacenk.com
Mac pro longwear concealer
A make-up-artist favourite, this medium- to full-coverage product has a natural matte finish but still feels super lightweight on the skin. Its fluid texture makes it easy to work – so much so we like to keep it simple and blend it in effortlessly with our fingertips. Whether you need it to erase fatigue or mask an unexpected spot, it does so while staying in place all day. Not much will shift it, as we found it didn’t budge when tested on a hot day during a sweaty workout. We’d forgotten how brilliant this classic truly is.
Buy now £19.50, Lookfantastic.com
Fenty Beauty bright fix eye brightener
Best: For dark circles
If it’s dark circles you want to conceal, turn to one of the new colour-correcting formulas in this range. Top make-up artists use contrasting colours to neutralise imperfections in the skin – think back to art lessons on the colour wheel. These work in the same way, erasing discolouration with a hydrating, light texture. Use sparingly for the best results, on its own for a natural look, or as a base with a formula that matches your skintone layered over for serious dark circles. If you’re looking for a replacement for the Becca under eye brightening corrector, this is it.
Buy now £18.00, Boots.com
Clarins everlasting concealer
Best: For a matte finish
New to the beauty shelves, this high-coverage concealer with a matte finish has some serious staying power. Expect it to naturally cover up capillaries around the nose, pigmentation, redness, breakouts and darkness around the eye area, and for it not to budge all day. We found the thick texture works best with a concealer brush and warmed up on the back of the hand. Although the brand claims it’s hydrating, this isn’t for those with skin on the dry side.
Buy now £23.00, Johnlewis.com
Too Faced born this way multi-use sculpting concealer
Best: For full coverage
Just as the name suggests, this is much more than a generous concealer and can be used for contouring and highlighting too. It’s full coverage that still manages to look natural and dewy even on a dry skin type, thanks to the hydrating hyaluronic acid formulation. It erases signs of a late night, as well as other forms of discolouration including pigmentation and redness, and will be your best friend when unexpected breakouts occur. It feels surprisingly weightless for such heavy coverage and didn’t even melt off on a hot summer day. Impressive.
Buy now £25.00, Cultbeauty.co.uk
YSL touche éclat highlighter
Best: For eye brightening
A true beauty icon – this gold click-pen needs no introduction. Yes, technically it’s not a concealer, it’s a highlighter, but what’s in a name when it masks a late night so well. And it seems we’re in good company, as since it broke beauty ground when it launched in the early 1990s, A-listers have consistently raved about it. Its popularity has seen many poorer copycat imitations, but nothing reflects light as naturally as this sheer to medium “filter” for dark circles. Rediscovering this classic, we found it worked best over our base and we liked to apply it to the inner corners for an extra, wide-awake touch.
Buy now £21.60, Lookfantastic.com
Maybelline instant anti-age eraser
This high street beauty hero is the number-one-selling concealer in 21 countries including the UK, and we can see why so many people still love it, with its consistent rave reviews from consumers, make-up artists and beauty editors alike. We put it back on trial to see if it still packs the same punch against the latest formulations, and it’s easily our favourite purse-friendly option. The cushion-tip applicator, combined with the light, easy-to-blend texture, doesn’t sit in fine lines and blurs dark shadows well. Expect it to conceal redness and blemishes too.
Buy now £8.99, Boots.com
The verdict: Concealers
For cleverly having two different formulas in one stick, our best buy goes to the Laura Mercier secret camouflage brighten and correct duo, as the illuminating side brightens shadows, and the creamy conceal formula covers up imperfections. For an all-day formulation that won’t budge, reach for the classic Mac pro longwear concealer.
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