Whether you have a serious case of acne or an occasional breakout, your self-confidence can be badly affected when you head out for the day with an acne breakout. It seems like it’s the only thing visible when you look in the mirror, right?

Make-up seems like a great tool for covering those pesky breakouts and blemishes on short notice, but often times, your cover-up attempts may leave your face with a cakey, artificial appearance.

Here’s a “Do’s” and “Don’ts” guide to properly covering blemishes in a way that still gives your complexion a fresh, natural look.

Prepare Your Face

Blemish Cover-Ups Do’s and Don’ts for Covering BreakoutsStarting with a clean "canvas" makes the entire process go more smoothly. It also reduces the possibility of dirt, oil and other debris becoming trapped beneath your make-up, allowing the pollutants to create even more acne and inflammation.

  • DO wash with a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser and pat dry to avoid further irritation.
  • DON'T squeeze or pick at your blemishes, which increase inflammation and can potentially spread the outbreak. At worst, it can result in bleeding and scabbing that will be difficult to hide with any technique.
  • DO use an ice cube to reduce any swelling. A drop of Visine can do the trick as well.
  • DO apply a lightweight moisturizer or clarifying serum to provide hydration as well as an additional barrier against exterior pollutants. The most effective moisturizers are high in water content and low in oils. For maximum benefit, choose one with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Apply Concealer to Blemishes

Using concealer is the step that can make or break your look. It should be applied generously enough to provide thorough coverage, but a heavy hand will result in that caked-on look you're trying to avoid.

  • DO use a non-comedogenic concealer with a yellow or green base. These shades are more effective at effectively concealing redness.
  • DON'T use a concealer in a darker shade than your skin. It's a popular misconception that darker tones create more effective cover when they actually make a blemish or imperfection appear more prominent. Choose a concealer that is close to your own skin color or one that is a shade or two lighter.
  • DON'T apply concealer with your finger, which contains oils that may be transferred to your face. If your concealer is not in stick form, use a fine-tipped make-up brush.
  • DO apply concealer in an "X" shape for maximum coverage. Use a clean make-up sponge to gently buff the spot in a circular motion, ensuring that the edges are blended in.
  • DO carry concealer in your purse for on-the-go touch-ups.

Finish with Foundation and Powder

Now you're ready to apply the products that pull your look together for a smooth, clean appearance.

  • DO match foundation to your natural skin tone as closely as possible. The rule about darker tones applies here as well.
  • DO use a clean make-up sponge to apply a thin coat of foundation. Again, the goal is to keep oil and debris from your hands away from your face.
  • DO use your fine-tipped make-up brush to carefully touch up any smeared concealer.
  • DO allow the foundation to dry and then gently buff your face with a cotton pad to blend it, using a delicate touch on the blemishes.
  • DON'T leave obvious edges around your hairline and under your chin. Your make-up will literally look like a mask. Pay special attention to these areas when blending.
  • DO finish with a dusting of translucent powder to set the make-up and remove any remaining shiny spots. The powder should also be a match to your own skin tone.

The right type of make-up product and application can be a very effective cover for blemishes, but it can also create more breakouts and inflammation if used improperly. Use a gentle but thorough cleansing routine at night to remove all traces. As always, your dermatologist can provide even more cleansing tips along with specific product recommendations for your particular type of skin.