pretty simple

How to Hide a Break-Out Like a Pro

The best tips, tricks, and products.

J.Crew top, $70 at Tiffany & Co. earrings, $4,200 at Photo: Heather Hazzan
J.Crew top, $70 at Tiffany & Co. earrings, $4,200 at Photo: Heather Hazzan

Everyone gets pimples, even famous people. Celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose, who works with clients like Gillian Jacobs and Amandla Stenberg, knows that the occasional blemish is unavailable. But as a longtime champion of makeup for real life, he also knows how to handle surprise zits in a realistic way. “It’s not about getting rid of the pimple immediately. That’s impossible,” he says. “It’s about drawing attention away.”

In this next instance of Pretty Simple, the Cut’s series on the basics of beauty, Barose demonstrates how to effectively cover up a pimple that you swear just came out of nowhere. Read on for his tricks and tips, which work on all kinds of zits.

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Step One: Exfoliate and Moisturize

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You might hate your pimple, but it needs a little love. Treat it with some kindness and gently exfoliate it. You want to get rid of any kind of flakes or dried-out bits, making it as smooth as possible.

“What if your pimple is healing and you get that light layer of flake?” I asked Barose. “Does that have to go?” According to him, you want to buff that away, too. Makeup can cover up color, but it can’t cover up texture. The smoother the skin, the better your makeup will sit on it, helping your pimple blend in with the rest of your face. You’ll want to follow up with some oil-free moisturizer, too, for extra smoothness. Then wait one or two minutes before the next step.

Step Two: Apply a Light Layer of Foundation

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Formulation-wise, concealer is heavier than foundation. To make the cover-up look natural, you want to use as little concealer as possible. Start with a light layer of foundation all over the face, including on the spot.

There are dizzing array of foundations out there, but you want to choose one that’s matte (not glowy) and offers medium coverage. Your pimple doesn’t need to be dewy. “Don’t pick a foundation with super light coverage or one specifically designed for radiance,” Barose says. He’s using Marc Jacobs Beauty’s Shameless Foundation with Thrive Causemetic’s Blend + Blur sponge.

Step Three: Blend

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Choose a concealer the same color as your skin. This means that your under-eye concealer isn’t going to work. Also, if your concealer has the word “Radiant” in the name, this isn’t the time to use it. Matte concealers only need apply. (Barose is using M.A.C Studio Finish Concealer.)

Then find a non-fluffy brush around the same size of your pimple and start to blend — gently. You know how a Vitamix is a super-powered blender? Don’t be a Vitamix here; be a hand mixer. Blend edges where the pimple meets the rest of your skin, but don’t overblend on the actual pimple itself. “You want to deposit the pigment and blend as little as possible,” Barose explains. Concealers are really pigmented. If you mess around with yours too much, the color will become diluted and your pimple will pop through and say hello.

Consider using a color corrector, but only if your pimple is “so red and shining like a volcano,” says Barose (read: Cystic buggers). Pimples only look truly red on people with lighter skin tones. In that case, use a green color corrector to knock out redness. Let it dry a bit before moving onto concealer.

Step Four: Powder Puff It

Take a little tinted or translucent powder (your choice) and lightly pat your pimple. You’re not just telling it “Good job for behaving,” but also setting your makeup. Barose prefers a powder puff because it gives more coverage, but you can use a brush too. Just don’t use a sponge: “It will rub off the makeup,” he explains.

Step Five: Add a Little Blush

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How did this blush tutorial get in here? Adding a little color to the rest of your face will draw attention away from the pimple (you could use eyeliner or a great lip color, too.)

In this case, Barose uses a matte blush (don’t choose one with shimmer). Also if your pimple is close to where you might normally apply highlighter, “it’s not the day to highlight your cheeks,” he advises.

The Finished Look

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How to Hide a Break-Out Like a Pro