Normally, if someone told you to “lighten up” no one would blame you for shooting that person the stink eye. But if you’re sporting under-eye circles that make you look like you haven’t slept in days, maybe you’re getting some sage advice. By choosing your makeup wisely and learning the best way to apply it, you can brighten and banish dark circles, spots and hyperpigmentation.
The challenge: Brightening under-eye circles, covering dark spots and evening out hyperpigmented skin. “If you have a lot of discoloration, you might be tempted to apply layer upon layer of foundation, but that can end up looking like a mask,” says New York City makeup artist Sara Glick. “The most natural way to even it out is to lightly apply full-coverage foundation and then spot-conceal, so your skin still peeks through.”
The science: Hyperpigmentation is caused by hormonal fluctuations, skin irritation and sun exposure. All three can send melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) into overdrive, causing your skin to darken. Women of color are more likely to develop melasma (aka the “mask of pregnancy”), a condition that causes skin discoloration, especially on the forehead and cheeks. Under-eye darkness is made worse by sun damage or rubbing the delicate eye area. In fact, any kind of irritation—whether it’s cuts, scrapes, burns, over-exfoliation or a pimple—can cause your skin to produce excess melanin and leave a mark.
Perfect your complexion
1. Prep your skin Apply a brightening moisturizer with sunscreen like Clarins Bright Plus HP Brightening Hydrating Day Lotion SPF 20 right after you get out of the shower to lock in moisture. Or start with a hydrating spritz, like Jurlique Rosewater Balancing Mist, and then follow with cream. Wait a few minutes to let the cream absorb.
2. Add some sheen “My favorite trick for a convincing, hydrated glow is applying a pearly highlighter underneath foundation,” says Glick. This also helps give your face some dimension if you’re using high-coverage foundation. Dab it high on cheekbones, down the bridge of the nose and lightly across the forehead and blend. Glick swears by Gemma Kidd Dewy Glow All Over Radiance Crème.
3. Get even Using your fingers, apply a full-coverage foundation like Revlon ColorStay Makeup. Start at the center of your face and blend outward. Next, apply concealer (Glick likes Kevyn Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer) under your eyes, in the inner corners of your eyes and on any uneven or hyperpigmented patches or dark spots. “Make sure you match your skintone exactly—don’t try to offset shadows or dark spots with concealer that’s too light—it’ll look chalky,” says Glick. Set makeup with a light dusting of clear powder like Tarte Smooth Operator Micronized Clay Finishing Powder.
4. Warm up Pick an amber powder bronzer with a tiny bit of shimmer like Iman Sheer Finish Bronzing Powder, advises Glick. Using a large, fluffy brush, dust it where the sun would naturally kiss your face: your forehead, the bridge of your nose, cheekbones and chin. Sweep what’s left on the brush over your neck so it all blends in.
5. Go rosy Your most natural shade of blush is the color that you, well, blush naturally. (It’ll be in the pink family—nobody blushes tangerine or eggplant, notes Glick.) No matter your skin type, powder is easiest to apply and lasts the longest. Load up a blush brush, shake off the excess and sweep it over the apples of your cheeks. Soften and blend the color with a clean powder brush.