Few of us are blessed with perfect skin. The cosmetics of evening out, brightening and hiding a blemish or two are some of the most basic in the makeup bag, and most of us know them well: cover-up, foundation, perhaps a color-correcting palette.
These tools are typically enough to downplay small inconsistencies. For larger challenges, though, like significant scars or birthmarks, more skill can be required.
A great makeup artist can make any scar disappear; but for the rest of us, it can seem our attempts at coverage are just drawing attention to it.
Here, some tips to help the rest of us look our best and feel more confident about the face we show the world. It doesn't take a beauty-school diploma to hide a scar. It does take knowledge of some specific techniques and products designed for the task.
The first secret to covering a scar is also the first secret to applying makeup in general: For great results, start with clean slate.
5: Remove the Old
Every face, scar or no scar, is sporting a top layer of dead skin cells. This is how our skin continually renews itself to look healthy and bright, through cell turnover -- as long as you regularly remove all the dead stuff.
Exfoliating is an important first step in makeup application, and when you're dealing with a scar, it's even more so. Scars can look and feel especially dry and thickened, which makes for a difficult makeup base. Any coverage you apply will absorb better, look smoother and hold longer if you use a gentle scrub before you start.
You can use an exfoliating cleanser with just a small amount of grit (not too harsh!) or an after-cleansing exfoliating cream. One with lactic acid is gentle yet effective.
Done exfoliating? Next secret: You're not ready to apply your makeup yet.
4: Make It Moist
Just as you need to exfoliate the surface of a scar to create a cleaner makeup base, you need to apply a moisturizer to create one most amenable to your products.
Moisturizer will further soften the scar as well as add the necessary moisture to create a smooth, receptive surface. This is always a crucial step in a cosmetics routine, but it's even more so when covering a scar. You may be applying some heavy-duty creams, and any dryness will mar the finish, make blending more difficult and cause the covered scar to stand out.
For many scars, though, heavy-duty coverage may not be necessary. Next secret: the right moisturizer ...
3: A "Tan" Might Help
Some scars are not going to respond to the subtle approach, but for fairly minor ones that have been around for a while, it's worth a try to lessen the color contrast with a simple switch: Trade your regular moisturizer for one with self-tanning properties.
The fake-tan aspect is absolutely crucial here. Not only will the sun or a tanning bed harm your skin in general and increase your chances of skin cancer, but exposure to UV light can also make a scar look worse.
Tanning lotion is not a good idea with fresh scars, which may absorb the lotion differently than the rest of your face. There are also some types of scars that simply won't "tan," so it's a good idea to consult a dermatologist before trying this. If your scars have been around for a while, though, and respond well to exfoliation and moisturizer, a subtle, sunless tan might help them blend in.
If you have a scar that's in an out-of-the-way location, try the tanning lotion there first to make sure the results are positive.
Subtle approach not for you, well you're not limited to the supermarket makeup aisle ...
2: Some Makeups Specialize
You can find some pretty heavy-duty coverage at supermarkets and drug stores, and that may work perfectly well to cover a scar. What many people don't realize, though, is there are lines of makeup designed specifically for this purpose.
Some cosmetics companies create products formulated to hide scars (and tattoos), often referred to as camouflage makeup. If you've not had much luck with traditional foundations or cover-ups, they're a great next step. These products are more highly pigmented than your usual cosmetics, so they provide far more substantial coverage.
Matching your skin tone is even more important than usual when applying all that extra pigment, so choose carefully. Many products come in kits that let you blend several colors to achieve exactly the right shade.
And finally, the secret to a great finish ...
1: It Doesn't Have to Slip
Guess what: Your scar coverage does not have to slide down your face by mid-day!
Anyone with oily skin can have this problem, but when you're wearing the kind of heavy makeup that can cover a significant scar, you're even more at risk for slippage. There's an easy fix, though. Just set it.
Camouflage makeup kits often come with a "setting spray" that can help hold the coverage in place. You don't need something so specialized, though. Any translucent finishing powder will do the trick. Just be sure to apply it with a good-quality brush, as opposed to the little puff that might be included in the package. You want a loose-powder brush, and one that's especially soft and fluffy so the powder goes on lightly and evenly, even (or especially) over the thick makeup covering your scar.
The goal here is complete, flawless coverage, and with some practice it's an achievable one. If you can still see the scar, though, and it bothers you, there's a handy trick that can make it seem to fade away: Create a diversion. If your scar is on your chin, highlight your eyes with fantastic shadow to draw the gaze upward. On your forehead? Try something bold on your lips. There's no better way to divert attention away from a negative than to beautifully accentuate a positive.
For more information on makeup, skin, and related topics, check out the links on the next page.
Lots More Information
- Using Makeup to Conceal Birthmarks
- Camouflaging Stretch Marks with Makeup
- Setting the Stage: Moisturizer, Concealer and Foundation Tips
More Great Links
- ABC News: Acne Scarred Teen Model Undergoes Amazing Daily Makeup Transformation -- Dec. 26, 2011
- Mayo Clinic: Acne treatments: Emerging therapies for clearer skin
- The New York Times: The Claim: Vitamin E Helps Remove Scars -- March 13, 2007
- Dunn, Lauren. "How to Cover Scars." Channel 4. (May 14, 2012) http://www.channel4.com/4beauty/make-up-skin-care/make-up/make-up-tips/how-to-cover-scars
- Kashuk, Sonia. "Secret Weapon: Powder." Ladies' Home Journal. (May 16, 2012) http://www.lhj.com/style/beauty/makeup/secret-weapon-powder/
- Khadija, Husain. "How to Cover Up Stretch Marks." Daily Glow. (May 16, 2012) http://www.dailyglow.com/how-to-cover-up-stretch-marks.html
- Treating scars. NHS. (May 14, 2012) http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Scars/Pages/Treatment.aspx