At a fancy London beauty writers’ lunch this week, I found myself pulling my hair around my face the way I used to do as a self-conscious 14-year-old. I had woken up that morning with the worst breakout I’ve had in months. No fewer than four huge, swollen, red-hot and sore acne cysts had formed a little mountain range on the topography of my glum face. In beauty journalism, good skin tends to act as a synonym for knowledge of skin and products. Let’s just say I didn’t quite fit in at the table.
However, we’re all subject to the ungrateful mutiny of our hormones sometimes, and as a 5ft tall Irish woman with a bone-deep love of a baked potato, I’ll never fit the mould of a shiny London beauty editor anyway. I did my best to conceal the spots (you can cover tone but not texture – that’s just how it goes) and went about my day. I’ve developed a fool-proof technique over the years. It’s a bit of a process, and only necessary (if you want to do it) for the angriest of mountainous hormonal breakouts – I’ll never bother with this process for an ordinary, run-of-the-mill spot. This is strictly for the worst possible spot.
You want to pick it. I know you do. Just don’t. With these cysts, the infection is deep in the skin. Picking will spread it, cause scarring and will also break the skin on the surface, worsening that texture you already can’t fully cover. Instead, use a decongesting salicylic product like The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution (€6 at arnotts.ie) on clean skin before you moisturise your face.
While I generally only use primer on special occasions (because who can be bothered most of the time?), I will use a matte primer around the general area of mount spotsuvius. For me, these breakouts are generally around the chin and forehead, so I’ll apply something like Mac Studio Fix Mattifine Primer (€32 at Brown Thomas) just to that area to ensure the products I use to cover the spot will stay put, even with breakout shine and those waves of blinding heat radiating from the blemish like the fires of Mordor.
As an acne sufferer, I’m perfectly aware that layering loads of product on your breakouts isn’t ideal, but if you have to be somewhere important and you want to cover the spot (otherwise I find people direct all their conversation toward it), then cover it if you need to. It is worth seeing a dermatologist though if you’re constantly in a cycle of blemish-conceal-heal.
This isn’t my first rodeo and I’m not playing around. I use two concealers to get the precise, lasting coverage I want. First, Sculpted by Aimee Satin Silk Concealer (€18 at sculptedbyaimee.com) to flatten the darkness of the blemish and even my skin tone.
Then, I follow with Huda Beauty Faux Filter Concealer (€29 at cultbeauty.co.uk), which I like to describe as sufficiently powerful to cover up insurance fraud. It is a liquid but it sets without shine or dryness, and with the primer to hold on to, I trust it to stay put. Your application technique is crucial, though – you’ll need a clean, fluffy brush, and to pat the product on gently. Never swipe or rub, as this will only move the previous thin layers of product and expose the furious mound beneath.
Build your concealer by patting in small amounts in thin layers, and only blend the edges, which should extend beyond the blemish. I love the Vieve 119 Conceal and Prime Brush (€30 at vieve.co.uk) as it has the heft and fluffiness to cover a large blemish relatively quickly, and also doubles as a lovely brush for undereye concealing.
When you’re satisfied, setting your work with powder is essential. I love the Vieve Modern Powder Perfector, which I recently devoted a whole column to, because it is blurring, but you can use any set or loose powder you have. Load your brush and – this is essential – roll it gently over your concealed blemish. Don’t swipe, drag or brush it on, or you’ll ruin your work. Just roll without any pressure. The bump will remain, but the dark or red pigment won’t be visible at all.