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How I Cover Scars & Blemishes with Drugstore Makeup

 Pin it, baby!
Pin it, baby!

I have battled acne since eighth grade. I have tried all the expensive products, I have gone on medication, I have tried all the natural remedies, I have balanced my hormones, I have changed my diet a hundred times, and my skin just breaks out bad once every month. I also scar very easily, which has left me with permanent marks on my face from my teen years when my breakouts were far worse than they are now. I used to go to expensive makeup stores and get top quality products to give me the appearance of smooth skin.

I spent a lot of money. It came to a point where I realized the hundreds of dollars that were going into covering my scars and blemishes and I just wasn’t okay with it anymore. I decided to go on a hunt for drugstore products that would provide great coverage, natural shades that matched my skin tone, and didn’t give my husband a heart attack every time he checked the balance of our bank account.

After trying a bunch of different products, I was astounded to find that the drugstore makeup I settled on was actually, in my opinion, better than the high-priced makeup I had been using before.

Today I’m getting into a really vulnerable place with you all for the sake of maybe helping someone else with skin problems. I’m not looking to get emails about products that I should try or things that worked for someone else who needed to clear up their skin, I’m not looking for rude comments about what my face looks like naked, I’m not even looking for compliments. I simply want to inform and help others who might feel like I do about their skin, and just want to cover flaws (and be able to afford it) so they can leave the house with confidence.

Here is my skin without any makeup, freshly washed, on a pretty bad breakout day, without any filters or editing.

As you can see, there is a ton of scarring on my temple, where I once had extremely bad cystic acne in high school. Yesterday there was more redness, things are dying down today as I treated my breakouts last night. But this is a pretty typical day during my “breakout week”, as I call it.

Here is what my skin looked like the day before yesterday, on my worst breakout day, with makeup on, in natural light, no filter or editing of any kind.

Here’s what I use…

Primer: Rimmel London Stay Matte

I learned through experience that primer is a must-have. I use to skip it, but once I found a good one at a high-end makeup counter and saw how it filled in indented scars and smoothed out my skin, I never went back. Finding a good primer at the drugstore was a challenge since most of them are total crap. Rimmel London’s did not disappoint. In fact, I liked it just as much as the expensive one I was using before than cost me $30. This one rings up at around $5. 

Concealer: Hard Candy Glam Heavy Duty Concealer & pencil

This. Stuff. Is. Amaaaaaaaaazing. I cannot boast about this concealer enough. It changed my life, really. Use the little pencil to draw a circle around a blemish, then put a tiny dot of concealer over it, and it will be minimized almost completely. Some makeup artists say to use concealer under your foundation and some say over. I have found that using it both times is very effective for how marked up my skin is. I apply a dot of concealer to each blemish or heavily-scarred area of my face immediately after applying primer, then I use my foundation, then I do the pencil-concealer technique. I use a shade lighter than my foundation. I have only been able to find Hard Candy’s products at Walmart, which I hate, but it’s worth a quick stop for this magic. You can also buy it online once you know which shade looks best on you. My previous concealer was about $25. This one works 100% better and is only $6. 

Foundation: Revlon Colorstay Whipped

I’d say finding a foundation was the most difficult part of this process for me. I am very picky about my foundation matching my skin color exactly, and I need a lot of coverage, but don’t like to look like I’ve got pounds of makeup caked on. Revlon Colorstay delivers. It gives me a smooth, flawless finish, and BONUS: it stays on all day! I very rarely need to reapply to go somewhere at the end of the day. I have seen this foundation at Target for $10.99 and I’ve seen it for $12.99. Either way it’s a heck of a lot better than my old total, which was anywhere from $30 to $79. Ouch. 

Powder: Rimmel London Stay Matte Long-Lasting Pressed Powder

I had been using a translucent loose powder by NYC when a friend of mine mentioned how much she loves Rimmel London’s powder for the extra coverage it gave her. I tried it out and have been using it for over a year now. I once used a powder that cost $65 at Sephora, and in total honesty, I feel like this powder comes


 close to the coverage and finished look that powder gave me. This rings up at around $4.

Note: In my experience, what you use to apply your foundation makes a huge difference. After speaking with a makeup professional and trying different options, I have found that using a natural hair foundation brush gives the best and most flawless finish. I have used several different brands ranging from high to low prices, and I didn’t really notice a huge difference. The one I have now is one I grabbed at Walmart the last time I picked up concealer, and I love it as much as the expensive one I bought at Sephora last year. 

NOTE: This post was written years ago, and since then I have learned so much and have partnered with 13+ year makeup expert, Jaime McLaughlin, to help you confidently apply makeup.

she also joined me for a super fun episode of THE PURPOSE SHOW!


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Reader Interactions


  1. Thanks for being so transparent and real about your skin and makeup routine! Makeup can get overwhelming with so many choices and options. I ran out of my expensive makeup and Im looking for alternatives. Ill try a few of these out 🙂

  2. I recently found your blog and I have been spending my Friday evening reading through old posts. I have been challenged and encouraged by a lot of your posts. I love your tips here! I am so clueless when it comes to makeup, but have been trying for years to find something to cover up my acne and scarring. I am excited to try out some of these products!

  3. Thanks for sharing this! I battled acne, acne scarring and psoriasis all over my face. I just stopped even trying. I didn’t want to take the drugs for psoriasis because of the side effects and finally I found a Dr who had facial psoriasis and she prescribed a steroid foam that cleared it right up! So now I feel like its worth trying again to wear makeup that looks good (almost 40). I didn’t know where to start and don’t have the money to keep trying expensive products that may or may not work. Thanks for the tips on how to apply as well.

  4. My daughter has been using dermalmd blemish serum for a month and it has totally transformed her face! She had acne covering her entire face along with scars from the previous outbreaks, and now with the exception of a few pimples on her chin, she has clear skin again!!

  5. Hi my name is Angie I like if you send me all of your free mail Samples because I like to try it before I buy it like cover up in tan or sun tan color, winkle for the face and eyes and what you send free mail Samples. Thank You

  6. I am in my 50s and have rosacea. Also I am grandmother raising a grandson so money is tight. Do you think your makeup suggestions would work on my skin?

  7. You are SO brave, girl! I can’t imagine posting a pic of myself sans makeup! I am 38, had some cystic acne in high school that cleared up, then started breaking out again in my mid-twenties. I’m also a (really bad) skin picker, so most of my scarring is due to that. I already use some of the stuff you mentioned, but my go to foundation is Neutrogena Skin Clearing. It’s about $15 at most drug stores. I just bought some NYX pore filler and concealer to try out, so hopefully those will help fill in some of my pitted scars. Fingers crossed!! Another trick I’ve found for current outbreaks is to cover then with hydrocolloid bandaids. They sell some tiny round ones made for your face, but I just buy the drugstore brand of the regular sized ones and cut them into pieces. These things are amazing! Especially if you have a blemish that’s oozing badly. I sleep in them at night or wear them around the house. It helps heal my acne, reduces scarring, and also keeps me from picking. Hope some of my tips will help and I’ll definitely be trying some of yours. Thanks for posting!

  8. What do you use for blush and what kind of brush? Also, what tools do you use to apply the concealer and the primer? Lastly, what do you use to apply the powder? Thank you!!!!!

  9. I just had skin cancer removed from my face. I have a scar that is from my left temple that is from there then comes under my eye to under my tear duct then down along the side of my nose then to the smile line to where my mouth/lips ends. Insure hope this will help me cover up this scar. I thankful that I am cancer from from this basal cancer. They cut me like this to cover a huge hole almost the size between a quarter and a fifty cent piece and over 1/2 inch deep. I can start wearing makeup and sunscreen on March 2nd or close to this.

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