A makeup artist at work applying concealer under a model’s eyes
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Ever wanted to pick the brain of a beauty editor? Or get beauty product recommendations from someone who has tried them all? You’ve come to the right place. In our weekly series, beauty editor Hana Hong answers your biggest skincare, hair care, and makeup questions, all submitted by Real Simple readers. Tune in every Tuesday and submit your own burning beauty questions here for a chance to be featured.
Reader question(s): Best way to hide under-eye bags? —@bajash
-Under-eye bags, help!!! 🥴 —@krebsseven
-Is there any way to truly hide dark circles under eyes? —@teresarene1984
-What is the best product for puffy eyes? —@amyddev
-Born with under-eye wrinkles and nothing seems to help. Anything you’d recommend? —@elissagrace1
-Is there a product that REALLY shrinks under-eye bags? —@nursejudie
-I have the worst bags under my eyes and nothing helps! Not much discoloration. Help! —@cuzchica123
This is the question I get asked most frequently as a beauty editor. And understandably so—as human beings, our under-eyes are naturally darker than the rest of our face because the skin is thinner with lots of blood vessels. Plus, it’s the most sensitive part of our face, making it prone to puffiness after late-night Netflix binge sessions. In other words, the under-eyes can easily become an eyesore.
Fortunately, there are solutions—be it tea bags, slices of cucumber, or ice rollers, there are plenty of de-puffing and brightening hacks to be had with a quick Google search. But when you’re looking for a quick fix, the best solution for getting rid of under-eye bags and circles is also the easiest one: learning how to properly apply under-eye makeup.
The key word here is properly—for all the aforementioned reasons (thin skin, sensitive skin, blood vessels, etc.), it’s easy for makeup to look clumpy in this area, counterintuitively making your under-eyes stand out even more. If you’re looking for a seamless application that blurs the appearance of puffiness, strategy is key (and the strategy is more unexpected than you think). Whether you have perma-bags or just drank one glass too many last night, follow our step-by-step guide to eliminating under both under-eye bags and circles.
Prep the skin.
Like all things in life, everything starts with the foundation. And I don’t mean literal makeup foundation, which can overdo it and make under-eyes appear cakey. Instead, think moisturizer: Dry skin will look tired and dull, no matter how much concealer you pile on top of it. “Put a drop of eye cream on the tip of your ring finger (which has the lightest touch) and dab it lightly along the under-eye area, starting with the inner corner and working outward,” says celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose. Repeat with the other eye.
Tip: Be sure to use an actual eye cream, which is specifically formulated to treat this delicate area. Eye cream typically plumps the skin, thereby making the veins underneath a little less visible. You can choose one with light-reflecting pigments to further brighten the area, one with caffeine (it’s a vasoconstrictor, meaning it compresses blood vessels in the skin), or a gentle skin-lightening ingredient, such as vitamin K. If dark circles are due to sun damage, an eye cream with alpha hydroxy acid will help lighten the unwanted pigment. If your circles are very dark, see a dermatologist to ask about a prescription cream containing a lightening agent like hydroquinone.
If you’re dealing with puffiness, you may want to apportion some extra time to apply under-eye gels (a cold roller works, too). Keep them in the fridge for at least 15 minutes, then place them under your eyes for an instant cooling and de-puffing effect.
If you have dark circles, color-correct.
Under-eye bags are often accompanied by hyperpigmentation due to blood pooling in the area, which can appear purple or blue in color. If you don’t have dark circles, skip this step and proceed to step 3.
Priming the eyes with a color corrector can make concealer more effective. Unlike using just regular concealer, using a color-correcting shade will essentially neutralize whatever imperfection you want to hide.
A quick explainer: Use complementary colors (which are opposite on the color wheel) to cancel each other out. That means when it comes to correcting pesky under-eye circles, you should reach for sunny colors, like peach, yellow, and orange. “The key is to apply it only where there is darkness, so that you don’t see the orange hue,” says Quinn Murphy, a celebrity makeup artist and host of In My Chair podcast. Try: Fenty Beauty Bright Fix Eye Brightener Concealer ($26; sephora.com). Swipe the formula over your dark circles in a “V” shape (so the tops of the “V” are at the inner and outer corner of your eye), then blend the “V” shape into your under-eye area using a concealer brush.
If you have under-eye bags, contour them (yes, you read that right).
If you don’t have under-eye bags, skip this step and proceed to step 4.
Otherwise, pick a stiffer/thicker balm concealer, like KVD Beauty Good Apple Skin-Perfecting Hydrating Foundation Balm ($38; sephora.com), that is two to three shades lighter than your skin, but here’s the catch: Apply it only at the bottom of your under-eye bags, sort of like you’re tracing the shadows the bags create. Why under and not over? According to Murphy, this creates the illusion of lift, just like contouring does on your cheekbones. The visual trick will lift the surrounding skin to help recede any ballooned creases.
Apply a creamy liquid concealer.
Take a second creamier liquid concealer, like Hourglass Vanish Airbrush Concealer ($36; sephora.com), that’s a bit closer to your actual skin tone. Draw an inverted triangle right where your bags are with its point ending midway down your cheek. Wait about 10 seconds for the formula to get tacky, then tap and blend using your ring finger—the warmth of your body will soften the formula and make it easier to work with (take special care to avoid pulling or tugging the skin). Stop when you can no longer tell where the concealer starts or stops.
Optional: Powder to set.
If you have dry skin and/or don’t have bags, you can skip this step.
But under-eye bags are often textured, so part of the goal in concealing them is to minimize texture and fake a smoother appearance. Bags can be enhanced by creasing concealer (which is a result of oily skin), so a light dusting of translucent powder, like Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder ($39; sephora.com) can be helpful. Instead of dusting it on, use a brush or sponge to “stamp” it into the skin to prevent streaking.