What is the Perfect Brush For Covering Zits?

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We really wish there was one super-awesome, double-ended makeup brush on the market for covering zits. Which requires both concealing and blending. But, alas, there is not. And, honestly, with all the brushes on the market, we are disappointed about this very apparent gap in the marketplace.There are a lot of zits out there, people!

What the market does offer is a range of flat-head, pointy-head and fluffy-head concealer and/or blending brushes that are helpful in covering particular types of zits. So, at this point, you’re going to have to play mix-and-match. But don’t worry! We’re here to help!

animationBefore we give our brush recommendations, however, this is a post for people who, for the most part, have good skin and need to cover one or some zits. Covering full-blown acne is a different situation that can require color correcting creams and other approaches.

First of all:

  1. Evaluate the zit or zits. Not all zits are the same. Some can look ready-to-blow, with a juicy white head. Others can be open and oozy. Some can be big, smooth and shiny. Others can be dry and crusty. They can be later in their life cycles, when they are just unfortunate red or brown marks. And unfortunately, sometimes, you can have all of these at one time. (sigh)
  2. Consider, and appreciate, the healthy skin on your face. One mistake people make when they are covering zits, or a collage of zits, is that they over-foundation and over-powder their entire face. This only makes the whole situation look worse. Not to mention it probably aggravates the underlying situation.

They key to real excellence in covering pimples in their various states is allowing the healthy skin to look healthy, and hiding the zits.

e.l.f. Studio Concealer Brush. $3

e.l.f. Studio Concealer Brush. $3

The first thing you are going to want to do is apply a light moisturizer and/or primer to the whole face. This is a critical step. Do not underestimate it. It helps to moisturize the crusty dry parts of pimples, often found along the edges as the pimple draws to the center. For shiners, it can help create a layer on top  to which makeup can stick. This layer also helps to unify the underlying skin canvas. After you’ve applied this later, let it set for a few seconds.

Then, you’ll want to lightly apply a liquid foundation. We can’t say the word “lightly” enough here. Lightly. Lightly. Lightly. Do not worry about trying to hide the zits with this layer of foundation. Just make sure your whole face has a light and even application of foundation. Your choice of foundation depends on your skin type, coloring and the look you are trying to achieve, but once you’ve applied it, let it set for a few seconds.

Now, Onto The Zits!

Bare Minerals Maximum Coverage Brush. $20.

Bare Minerals Maximum Coverage Brush. $20.

You’ll want a sticky concealer that matches your foundation and/or skin. Some concealers are so light and creamy that they just slide around your face. You’ll want a sticky, pasty concealer for this job. Especially on those difficult-to-cover shiny zits. Something like Benefit’s Erase Paste or It Cosmetics’ Bye Bye Undereye, although there are lots of options here. Some women think a lighter concealer will cover discoloration, but it doesn’t. Concealer that is lighter than the foundation only draws attention to the zit.

There are two approaches from here: Either apply the concealer directly to the zit on your face with your finger and blend with a brush, using super light strokes, as demonstrated in our gif above. Or, apply the concealer with a brush right from the start. Both approaches work, although the first method can be a little faster.

Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage Brush. $26.

Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage Brush. $26.

If you have an oozing pimple, it’s likely best to dab the concealer directly onto the pimple with your finger. Your pinky finger works best because it is very gentle and small. You’ll want a healthy amount of concealer to cover the area, but don’t overdue it. One good dot. And make sure you hold the concealer on the wound for a second. The warmth from your finger will help to emulsify the concealer into place.

Using a concealer stick or wand directly on an oozing zit is not advised as it will just spread bacteria onto the makeup and the rest of your face. Nor is a brush, which will just rub the goo around. So, instead, pat a dab of concealer on the zit and move on to other zits. You’ll want to blend the oozers last, after the concealer has had some time to set in.

Amazing Cosmetics Concealer Brush. $15.

Amazing Cosmetics Concealer Brush. $15.

If you have a big-and-shiny-variety zit or a pimple with a white head that has not broken open, a traditional concealer brush with a small flat head will likely work best to cover it. These kinds of zits can be fairly three dimensional. You should start by dabbing concealer onto the top, or the center, of the mound with the flat side of the brush head. Then, gently blend the concealer downward to the healthy skin with the wide, thin tip of the brush. And by downward, we mean work vertically, from the top to the bottom of the zit. For some of these zits, you may have to repeat these steps to build a second layer of coverage.

There are some great flat-head concealer brushes out there, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get one. Among them: E.L.F. Studio Concealer Brush ($3); bareMinerals Maximum Coverage Concealer Brush ($20); and Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage Brush ($26), which comes with a handy cap to protect the brush head.

Kevyn Aucoin Beauty Concealer Brush. $32.

Kevyn Aucoin Beauty Concealer Brush. $32.

What if the concealer doesn’t stick to the top of the zit? Yes, this can happen. Sometimes these kinds of zits can be so warm to the touch that they literally melt the concealer so a brush just wipes them away. If this happens, you may want to consider a mineral makeup or powdery concealer, which can really stick to shiners, especially after you’ve followed the steps above.

But be warned: You’ll want to use a light hand when pressing this type of concealer onto a shiner because you don’t want it to be a powdery dot on your face. The technique is the same as with traditional concealer. Dot it on the zit top with the flat head and blend downward to the healthy skin.

Stila #33 One Step Complexion Brush. $32.

Stila #33 One Step Complexion Brush. $32.

Because they aren’t “live” and oozing, covering dry, crusty zits and acne scars, or leftover red or brown marks, is pretty much the same, and it is easier than covering oozers and shiners.

For these tasks, it’s helpful to have a pointy brush so you can precisely cover the mark with concealer. Top choices: the somewhat stiff Amazing Cosmetics Concealer Brush ($15) or the softer tipped Stila One Step Complexion Brush ($32). Obviously, you’ll want to use the smaller end of this dual-head brush. The other side is supposed to be for foundation, but we like it for other things, like contouring, better because the thicker side seems to pointy and stiff for many foundations.

M-A-C 195 Concealer Brush. $24.

M-A-C 195 Concealer Brush. $24.

In any case, you may also want to consider the M-A-C 195 Concealer Brush ($24), which combines the traditional flat-head concealer brush with a pointy toe at the top. Although we’re sort of meh on this brush. But, honestly, even a lipstick brush, such as the Japonesque Retractable Lip Brush ($14.50), can work well for this purpose.

For this task, put the concealer on the back of your hand, dab your pointy brush into the concealer and then work to cover the spots by dabbing in the top-to-middle part of the zit and then blending downard and outward along the edges to the healthy skin. Using light little straight strokes. You can move quickly in covering these zits because they won’t give you problems the way oozers and shiners do.

M-A-C 217 Blending Brush. $24.

M-A-C 217 Blending Brush. $24.

Once you’re done with these easier-to-cover zits, go back to the oozers and do some final blending. You will need an excellent blending brush for this. Such as the M-A-C 217 Blending Brush ($24), which has many more affordable dupes on the market, or the slightly stiffer Bobbi Brown Touch- Up Brush ($29).

Now: Should you blend from the inside of the zit out or inside in? If you have a good dot of concealer on the zit and it stayed in place, do tiny little blending strokes outward from the center of the zit. Work from the inside out and then, if necessary, from the outside in.

Bobbi Brown Touch-Up Brush. $29.

Bobbi Brown Touch-Up Brush. $29.

Finally, powder! This is a necessary step to seal in all your hard work. Do NOT apply the powder with a brush or you will ruin all the hard work you just did by rubbing it around and/or off! Use a cotton pad or puff to pick up and apply the powder. You are going to want to press and roll the powder gently over the zit. Be careful! Do not use too much powder! You can always add more. But it’s hard to undo the damage if you over-powder! Finally, let the powder set and then use a gentle powder brush to dust away any excess. If you have any doubts about the powdering process, read this!

Once you’re done powdering, your face should be a lovely canvas, ready for all your purty makeup colors.

A Final Consideration

Another factor to consider when selecting a brush to cover zits is fiber. Synthetic brush fibers are naturally more bacteria-resistant than real animal hair, as real hair has organic matter on which bacteria can breed. So synthetics are a better choice for this particular purpose. Unless you plan to thoroughly wash your brushes between each use, of course. Companies are not terribly transparent in the materials used in brushes, but typically, a synthetic brush will be marketed as “cruelty free” or will note that it’s made of nylon. It’s not as easy to tell the difference between goat hair and synthetic hair as you might think, and many women incorrectly think they are using a synthetic brush when it’s actually made of goat hair.

If pimples are a recurring problem for you, we suggest you try the E.L.F. Studio Concealer Brush, which sells for $3 and boasts anti-bacterial, synthetic haired Taklon (a polyester-derived fiber). It’s a lot less expensive than, say, the Clinique Concealer Brush, which sells for $19 and also boasts anti-bacterial properties. That way, you can also buy several of them and always keep a clean, freshly washed one on hand.

In the meantime, we implore the makeup brush people out there to design an award-winning all-in-one zit fighter. There are no clear front-runners here.

Even More Information

If you need some more tips, or would like to see professionals and how they handle brushes when covering zits, here are some good tutorials on covering zits: