Primer Vs Concealer

You’re standing in front of your vanity, staring at an array of makeup products, wondering where to start. Among the options, two products stand out: primer vs concealer. As a seasoned makeup artist with years of experience, I’ve witnessed firsthand the transformative power of these essential cosmetics. 

We’ll untangle the confusion, clarifying the roles of primer and concealer. Get ready to master your makeup routine and achieve flawless looks effortlessly.

What’s The Difference Between Primer and Concealer?

Primer acts as a base. It smoothens skin texture, minimizes pores, and helps makeup adhere better, prolonging its wear. It is the first step of makeup to create a perfect canvas for foundation. 

Conversely, concealer camouflages skin imperfections like dark circles, blemishes, and redness. It has higher pigmentation than foundation, providing concentrated coverage to specific areas. While primer preps the entire face, concealer targets localized concerns. It gives you a solution for uneven skin tone and under-eye circles.

Define Primer

Primer is a preparatory cosmetic product applied before makeup to create a smooth surface for enhanced application and longevity. It contains ingredients that fill in pores, blur imperfections, and control oil so your makeup can adhere better to the skin. 

Types of Primer

From mattifying to hydrating formulations, different primers offer unique benefits tailored to various skin concerns and makeup preferences.

Types of primer

Mattifying primers

Mattifying primers control excess oil production on the skin, especially in areas prone to shine, like the T-zone. They contain silica or clay to absorb oil and create a matte finish. Ideal for those with oily skin, mattifying primers help minimize the appearance of pores and keep makeup looking fresh throughout the day.

Smoothing primers

Smoothing primers focus on creating a flawless base by filling in fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven texture. They typically contain silicones or polymers that create a smooth surface, blurring imperfections and creating an even canvas for makeup application. Smoothing primers are perfect for those with uneven skin texture or visible pores, helping to create a seamless and polished look.

Pore-Minimizing primers

Pore-minimizing primers specifically target enlarged pores, helping to reduce their appearance and create a smoother skin texture. These primers often contain ingredients like salicylic acid or niacinamide, which help to unclog pores and refine their appearance over time. Pore-minimizing primers are ideal for those with large pores or uneven skin tone, providing a more refined base for makeup application.

Hydrating primers

Hydrating primers are formulated with moisturizing ingredients such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, or botanical extracts to replenish moisture levels in the skin. They help to combat dryness and dehydration, creating a supple and plump canvas for makeup. Hydrating primers are suitable for all skin types, especially dry skin, providing long-lasting hydration and ensuring a smooth makeup application.

Under-eye primer

Under-eye primers are specifically designed to address the delicate skin under the eyes. They often contain light-reflecting pigments or ingredients like caffeine to reduce puffiness and hide dark circles. Under-eye primers help to smooth fine lines and wrinkles, providing a brightened and refreshed look to the under-eye area. Ideal for those concerned with dark circles or signs of fatigue, under-eye primers create a well-rested appearance for flawless makeup application.

What’s The Purpose of A Primer Makeup Routine?

Smoothing the skin

Primers create a smooth canvas for makeup application by filling in fine lines, wrinkles, and uneven texture. Ingredients like silicones or primer polymers help blur imperfections, resulting in a more even and smooth complexion.

Minimizing pores

Certain primers are formulated to minimize the appearance of enlarged pores. They contain ingredients like salicylic acid or niacinamide that help to unclog pores and refine their appearance, providing a smoother surface for makeup and reducing the likelihood of makeup settling into pores.

Extending makeup wear

Primer acts as a base that helps makeup adhere better to the skin, prolonging its wear time throughout the day. By creating a barrier between the skin and makeup, primers prevent oils from breaking down foundation and other products, ensuring makeup stays in place for longer periods.

Enhancing makeup application

Primer facilitates easier and more even application of makeup products such as foundation, concealer, and eyeshadow. It provides a grippy surface for makeup to adhere to, allowing for seamless blending and layering of products. This results in a more professional and polished makeup that lasts throughout the day.

How To Apply A Makeup Primer? 

Start with clean skin: Begin by cleansing your face to remove any dirt, oil, or leftover makeup. Pat your skin dry gently with a clean towel.

Apply moisturizer: Before primer, apply a tinted moisturizer suitable for your skin type. Let it absorb fully to ensure your skin is hydrated.

Dispense primer: Squeeze a small amount of primer onto your fingertips or the back of your hand. A pea-sized amount is usually sufficient for the entire face.

Dotting method: Using your fingertips or a makeup brush, dot the primer evenly across your face. Focus on areas where makeup tends to wear off quickly or where you have larger pores.

Blend it in: Gently blend the primer into your skin using upward and outward motions. Ensure it’s evenly distributed, paying attention to areas like the nose, cheeks, and forehead.

Allow it to set: Give the primer a minute or two to set on your skin before applying any makeup on top. This allows it to create a smooth base for seamless makeup application.

Proceed with applying makeup: Once the primer has set, you can continue with your makeup routine as usual. 

Define a Concealer

Concealer is a cosmetic product used to camouflage imperfections on the skin. These can be dark circles, blemishes, and redness. It has a thicker consistency and higher pigmentation than foundation, providing concentrated coverage to specific areas of concern for a more even  flawless complexion.

The two common types of concealer are: 

Concealer types

Liquid concealer

Liquid concealers offer lightweight coverage and are easily blendable, making them ideal for various skin types. They have a built-in applicator for precise application and effectively conceal dark circles and uneven skin tone.

Cream concealer

Cream concealers provide fuller coverage with a thicker consistency, perfect if you need to cover blemishes and scars. They offer high pigmentation and a matte finish, best applied with a concealer brush or fingertip for targeted coverage and lasting results.

What Does A Concealer Do?

Concealing blemishes

Concealer is primarily used to camouflage imperfections such as blemishes, acne scars, and redness. Its higher pigmentation and thicker consistency provide concentrated coverage, effectively masking the appearance of imperfections for a smoother and more even complexion.

Brightening under-eye area

Concealer is a staple in brightening the under-eye area by covering dark circles and reducing the appearance of puffiness or fatigue. Formulated with light-reflecting pigments or brightening ingredients, concealer can help to illuminate the under-eye area, creating a more refreshed and awake appearance.

Contouring and highlighting

Lighter shades of concealer can be applied to the high points of the face, such as the cheekbones, bridge of the nose, and brow bone, to highlight and bring forward features. Conversely, darker shades can contour and create shadows, adding dimension and definition to the face.

Colour correction

Concealers come in various shades to address different skin concerns through colour correction. For example, green-toned concealers can neutralize redness, while peach or orange-toned concealers can counteract dark circles or hyperpigmentation. By strategically applying colour-correcting concealers before foundation or regular concealer, you can effectively neutralize unwanted undertones and achieve a more balanced complexion.

How To Apply Concealer?

Prep your skin: Start with a clean and moisturized face. Applying concealer on hydrated skin ensures a smoother application and prevents it from looking cakey.

Choose the right shade: Select a concealer shade that matches your skin tone or is slightly lighter for brightening the under-eye area. For colour correction, choose a concealer with undertones that neutralize your specific skin concern.

Apply in thin layers: Dot the concealer onto areas you want to conceal, such as blemishes, dark circles, or redness. Use a small makeup brush, sponge, or your fingertips for precise application.

Blend thoroughly: Gently blend the concealer into your skin using tapping or dabbing motions. Ensure seamless blending around the edges to avoid harsh lines or demarcation.

Set with powder: To prolong the wear time of your concealer and prevent creasing, lightly dust translucent setting powder over the concealed areas using a fluffy brush.

Layer as needed (optional): If additional coverage is required, build up the concealer in thin layers rather than applying a thick coat all at once to prevent a heavy, cakey finish.

Primer Vs Concealer: 9 Differentiating Features

Formula & Texture

Primer typically has a lightweight, silky texture that glides smoothly onto the skin, creating a velvety base for makeup application. It often contains silicone-based ingredients to fill in pores and fine lines, resulting in a smoother complexion. 

On the other hand, concealer comes in various formulas such as liquid, cream, or stick, with thicker textures designed to provide coverage for specific imperfections like dark circles or blemishes.

The Application Process

When applying primer, it’s usually spread evenly across the entire face after moisturizer, focusing on areas prone to oiliness or enlarged pores. Its lightweight consistency allows for effortless blending. 

Conversely, concealer is applied sparingly to targeted areas, such as under the eyes or over blemishes, using fingertips, brushes, or beauty blenders. It requires precise application for effective coverage without looking cakey.

Purpose and target areas

The primary purpose of primer is to create a smooth base for makeup application, minimizing pores and prolonging makeup wear. It’s applied all over the face to enhance the longevity and finish of makeup. 

On the contrary, concealer is specifically designed to camouflage imperfections like dark circles, redness, or blemishes, providing targeted coverage to specific areas of concern.

Longevity and staying power

Primer acts as a barrier between the skin and makeup, helping to extend the wear time of foundation and other products. It prevents makeup from creasing, fading, or melting throughout the day, ensuring a fresh look for hours. 

Concealer offers localized coverage and may require touch-ups throughout the day, depending on the skin type and the intensity of the concealed imperfections.

Compatibility with different skin types and concerns

Primer is suitable for all skin types and concerns, offering various formulations to address specific needs, such as mattifying, hydrating, or colour-correcting. It can help control oil production, blur imperfections, and provide a smooth canvas for makeup application. 

Concealer formulations may vary in coverage and texture to accommodate different skin types and concerns, offering options for oily, dry, sensitive, or mature skin.

Finish and effect on makeup application

Primer often imparts a matte or satin finish to the skin, creating a smooth canvas for makeup application and enhancing the overall look of foundation and other products. It can also help to improve the adherence and blendability of makeup, resulting in a flawless skin. 

Concealer may have varying finishes depending on the formula, with matte, dewy, or natural options. Its primary role is to provide coverage for specific imperfections, altering the appearance of the skin in targeted areas.

Versatility and multipurpose use

While primer is primarily used to prep the skin for makeup application, some formulations may offer additional benefits such as colour correction or skincare ingredients to address specific concerns like redness or dull skin. 

Concealer is typically focused on providing coverage for imperfections and may not offer the same versatility in addressing multiple skin concerns.

Removal process and clean-up

When removing makeup, primer can be washed off easily with a gentle cleanser or makeup remover, leaving the skin feeling clean and refreshed. 

Concealer, especially high-coverage formulations, may require more thorough removal, particularly around delicate areas like the eyes where residual product can accumulate. It’s important to ensure complete removal of both primer and concealer to maintain healthy skin and prevent clogged pores or irritation.

Layering and combination with other products

Primer is often applied as the first step in a makeup routine, followed by foundation, concealer, and other complexion products. It serves as a base layer to enhance the performance and longevity of subsequent makeup products. 

Concealer, however, can be applied before or after foundation, depending on personal preference and the desired level of coverage. It can also be layered with other concealers or colour correctors to achieve the desired result for specific imperfections.

Primer Vs Concealer: Comparison Table

Comparison featurePrimer Concealer 
Formula & textureLightweight, silky texture; often silicone-basedVarious formulas (liquid, cream, stick) with thicker textures for coverage
Application processSpread evenly across the entire face after moisturizerApplied sparingly to targeted areas using fingertips, brushes, or beauty blenders
Purpose and target areasCreates a smooth base for makeup application; applied all over the faceCamouflages imperfections like dark circles, redness, or blemishes; provides targeted coverage to specific areas
Longevity and staying powerExtends the wear time of makeup; prevents creasing and fadingOffers localized coverage; may require touch-ups throughout the day
Compatibility with different skin types and concernsSuitable for all skin types; various formulations availableFormulations may vary to accommodate different skin types and concerns
Finish and effect on makeup applicationImparts matte or satin finish; enhances adherence and blend-ability of makeupVarying finishes depending on formula; alters the appearance of skin in targeted areas
Versatility and multipurpose usePrimarily used to prep skin for makeup application; may offer additional benefits such as color correctionFocused on providing coverage for imperfections; may not offer same versatility.
Removal process and clean-upWashes off easily with gentle cleanser or makeup removerMay require more thorough removal, particularly around delicate areas like the eyes
Layering and combination with other productsApplied as first step in makeup routine; enhances performance of subsequent makeup productsCan be applied before or after foundation; layered with other concealers or color correctors
Read also: Eyeliner Vs Eyeshadow.

How to Choose Between Primer and Concealer

Choosing between primer and concealer depends on your specific makeup goals. If you want to create a smooth base and extend the wear time of your makeup, go for a primer. Consider your skin type and any concerns you want to address when selecting a primer formula. 

If you need to conceal imperfections like dark circles or blemishes, opt for concealer. Choose a shade that matches your skin tone and a formula that provides the coverage and finish you desire. You can also use primer and concealer together for optimal results: primer to prep the skin and concealer to target specific areas of concern.  

Using Concealer as Eyeshadow Primer

Using concealer as an eyeshadow primer is a common makeup hack that can effectively prep the eyelids for eyeshadow application. Concealer serves as a versatile base by neutralizing skin discoloration on the eyelids and creating an even canvas for eyeshadow. By applying concealer to the eyelids and setting it with a translucent powder, you can create a smooth surface that helps eyeshadows appear more vibrant and adhere better. 

Also, concealer can help eyeshadows appear more true to colour, creating a more precise and pigmented eyeshadow look. This technique is especially useful for those with oily eyelids or those looking to intensify the colours of their eyeshadows.

See also: Using baby powder as setting powder

Primer Or Concealer First?

I recommend you apply primer first as it creates a smooth base for makeup application. Applying primer before concealer ensures your makeup stays in place throughout the day. 

However, if you’re dealing with specific imperfections like dark circles or blemishes that require targeted coverage, it may be beneficial to apply concealer first. This allows you to address those areas before applying foundation or other complexion products. Ultimately, the order in which you apply primer foundation and concealer can depend on personal preference and the specific needs of your skin and makeup routine.


Is concealer similar to primer?

Concealer and primer serve different purposes in makeup application. While primer creates a smooth base for makeup, concealer is used to camouflage imperfections such as dark circles, blemishes, and redness. Primer focuses on enhancing makeup longevity and application, while concealer provides targeted coverage for specific areas of concern. 

Should Primer and Concealer Match Skin Tone?

Ideally, primer and concealer should complement your skin tone, but they don’t necessarily need to match exactly. Primer typically comes in clear or neutral shades, so it blends seamlessly into any skin tone. Concealer, on the other hand, should match your skin tone or be one shade lighter for brightening the under-eye area. Choosing complementary shades ensures that primer and concealer seamlessly integrate into your makeup routine for a natural-looking finish.

Can you use primer without concealer?

Yes, you can use primer without concealer. Primer is often used as a base for makeup to create a smooth canvas, enhance makeup application, and extend its wear time. While concealer offers additional coverage for specific areas, such as dark circles or blemishes, primer alone can still improve the overall look and longevity of your makeup.

Can Concealer Substitute Primer?

Yes, you can use concealer as a substitute for primer, but it’s not as effective. While concealer can temporarily fill fine lines or pores, it lacks the ingredients in primer designed to extend makeup wear and improve its overall finish. It’s best to use primer and concealer together in your makeup routine for optimal results.

Is it necessary to set primer and concealer with powder?

Setting primer and concealer with powder is not always necessary but can help extend the longevity of makeup, especially in areas prone to creasing or oiliness. Setting powder can help mattify the skin, minimize shine, and prevent makeup from shifting throughout the day. However, it ultimately depends on your skin type, makeup preferences, and the specific products you’re using.

Final Verdict

When it comes to primer versus concealer, the choice isn’t about picking one over the other but rather harnessing their combined power. Use primer to lay the groundwork for a flawless finish and prolong makeup wear, while concealer targets specific imperfections with precision. 

By integrating both into your routine, you unlock a dynamic duo that ensures your makeup stays fresh and flawless all day long. 

So, should you use concealer or primer? Why not both? Together, they’re the ultimate tag team for achieving makeup perfection and embracing your most confident self.

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