For me, there's only one beauty product that I consider truly worthy of desert-island status: concealer. If I woke up one day and my entire beauty stash had disappeared (presumably stolen by a burglar with an eye for premium foundation and eye shadow), then concealer would be the first thing that I'd be rushing out to buy.
One of the first beauty products that I remember purchasing as a preteen was everyone's favourite '90s cover-up: Rimmel's Hide the Blemish Concealer. Who cares if Natural Beige was absolutely not my shade? A little of this smudged across my (then) non-existent dark circles and over the humble beginnings of teenage acne made me feel like one of the cool girls.
Disclaimer: I'm not entirely proud of the fact that my favourite makeup product is—as its name suggests—a product created to conceal and cover up supposed skin imperfections. But hear me out. The concealers of today have genuinely come a long way from the thick, chalky, complexion-covering formulas of my teenage years.
These days, a good concealer is as much about brightening the skin as it is about disguising a particularly bad breakout. The best boast skin-like finishes that let your moles and freckles shine through but can be layered up if a little extra coverage will help you feel your best. And if I'm honest, as someone who's been tackling acne since her teenage years, there are some days when I just want my skin to look like as blank a canvas as possible.
Which is why I took the challenge to find the best concealers on the market right now as seriously as if it were my full-time job. Also, because it kind of is. To keep things as scientific as possible, I used a light, tinted base beforehand—Lumene Instant Glow Beauty Serum (£27)—and applied all of the concealers using my fingers.
I also used two different concealers at a time (one under my eyes and one for blemishes and redness), as I tend to cocktail my concealers on a daily basis. To determine if the concealer was deserving of your hard-earned money, it needed to deliver on the following fronts: coverage, longevity and cake-free application.
It's also worth pointing out that my skin tone lies on the ivory to fair end of the spectrum, so finding a concealer shade that suits me isn't a struggle. Brands like Fenty Beauty (available in 50 shades) and L'Oréal Paris (available in 21 shades) both offer a good spectrum of colours for all skin tones, while Stila and Hourglass have a smaller selection but still offer a good range of shades from light to deep.
However, brands like Bourjois Paris and Paul & Joe still have a long way to go when it comes to catering effectively to all skin tones. Below you'll find some shade alternatives to the exact product I've used so that you can get a picture of how the wider offering shapes up.
So without further ado, of the hundreds of concealers that I put on my face, these are the 14 that actually work. Keep scrolling.
Bourjois Paris (Under-Eyes) + Hourglass (Blemishes)
I'll admit I'm already a huge fan of this Bourjois Paris concealer, along with its serum foundation counterpart. When applied under the eyes and down my nose, it provides a satin finish with plenty of natural radiance. Plus it contains hyaluronic acid, so it really feels like you haven't got any makeup on. The Hourglass Corrective Concealer boasts a wonderfully creamy texture and really packs a punch when it comes to pigment. I was really impressed by the way it reduced the redness on a couple of particularly juicy blemishes with one swipe.
Sensai (Under-Eyes) + Paul & Joe (Blemishes)
I love, love, loved Sensai Highlighting Concealer. I normally steer clear of these types of highlighter-concealer hybrids, as I find that they tend to fall flat on both counts, but this one was really impressive for the way that it delivered just the right amount of glow along with impressive coverage. In fact, it went straight into my handbag, as I think this would double up as a great on-the-go foundation.
If there were an award for best concealer packaging, then this Paul & Joe Stick Concealer would definitely win it—coverage has never looked so chic. The stick provided really creamy coverage and meshed really naturally with my skin. However, it did start to cling slightly to dry spots throughout the day, so it might not be ideal for more dehydrated skin types.
Although I often tend to go for higher-end concealers (I find the formulas to be creamier and higher-coverage), I was seriously impressed by both of these drugstore options.
The Max Factor Radiance Lift concealer not only did a great job of disguising my tired-looking eyes, but it also worked to smooth out some of the morning puffiness too. Despite its name, I also found that it had more of a velvety finish (rather than a really luminous glow), which I personally prefer.
If I were going to only use one drugstore concealer from now on, it might just be L'Oréal Paris Infallible More Than Concealer. It has an enormous doe-foot applicator, so it isn't for pinpoint concealing—it's more of a "dab it on everywhere and blend in" thing. It did a great job at minimising redness and reducing the appearance of blemishes, and like the Sensai concealer, I think it would also work well as a makeshift foundation. Plus this stuff lasted all day.
Stila (Under-Eyes) + Barry M (Blemishes)
The first thing to note about the Stila concealer: The formula is seriously watery, and a little goes a long way. This is the only product I had to blend with a brush, as I applied way too much. It's a serum concealer, which meant I had low hopes for coverage, but when I brushed it all over my skin, it ended up acting like a lovely BB cream. A little darkness still shone through on my eyes, but if you like a natural, skin-like finish, this feels comfortable and looks nice.
For roughly the same cost as my morning coffee, I can't rave enough about Barry M All Night Long Full Coverage Concealer. It provided some of the best blemish coverage of all the concealers that I tried. The only downside was that it was slightly drying and looked a little patchy by the end of the day. But for £4, I'm impressed.
It Cosmetics (Under-Eyes) + Surratt Cosmetics (Blemishes)
As someone who verges on the oily side of combination skin, I know that achieving that dewy-skin look walks a fine line between greasy and radiant. However, It Cosmetics Bye Bye Under-Eye Illumination Concealer definitely helped me to achieve my glowy skin dreams. When applied under the eyes, down my nose and on my chin, I really love how my skin looked with this on. Unlike some luminous concealers, it stuck around all day, too, so there was no need for touch-ups. Kind of like the little black dress of concealers, Surratt Cosmetics Surreal Skin Concealer provides solid medium coverage, a soft matte finish that would work well on all skin types and a decent amount of longevity. A great option if you're looking for a good all-rounder.
RMS Beauty (Under-Eyes) + Fenty Beauty (Blemishes)
Despite an ever-growing blemish on my right cheek and particularly tired-looking eyes, I was really happy with how my skin looked with this particular concealer combination. RMS Beauty Un Cover-Up Concealer is packed with coconut oil, I was worried it would look greasy. However, it immediately brightened my under-eyes and evened out the redness around my nose and on my chin. Without powder, I needed a touch-up halfway through the day, but I tried it again with a loose dusting of pressed powder and it lasted really well.
Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Instant Retouch Concealer is basically magic in a bottle. Some scarring left from a big spot on my left cheek magically disappeared, and it even managed to disguise the new friend on my right cheek. On days when I have a major breakout, I'd reach for this again without question. Oh, and the fact that there are 50 shades available means this really is a concealer for everyone.
Rimmel London (Under-Eyes) + Benefit (Blemishes)
I went through a phase of exclusively wearing Rimmel's Wake Me Up Concealer, so I was intrigued to try the new version: Lasting Radiance Concealer. Personally, I don't think it has as much luminosity or staying power as the original formula, but it's still a great affordable option. I liked how it evened out my skin tone, but it doesn't have the coverage I'm looking for.
Benefit Boi-ing was one of the first expensive concealers that I bought, and the range has since been extended into four different formulations. Benefit's Airbrush Concealer doesn't have quite the amount of coverage as the original industrial-strength formula, but what I did like about it was the way it blurred over the enlarged pores around my nose and chin for a soft-matte finish.
So there you have it. In my opinion, any of these concealers would be well worth your money, but my top three would have to be Sensai Highlighting Concealer for the under-eyes, Fenty Beauty Pro Filt'r Instant Retouch Concealer for blemishes and L'Oréal Paris Infallible More Than Concealer for a great concealer all-rounder.
This piece was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.