Camouflage Makeup for Severe Skin Discolorations

Camouflage makeup is used to even skin tone, compensate for hair loss, and, particularly in the case of burn survivors, redefine features.  The makeup artist may be hired for a one-time application; for example, for the camouflage of a bride’s tattoo on her wedding day.  On the other hand, individuals with skin conditions, such as vitiligo, melasma and hyper-pigmentation, may come to the makeup artist on a regular basis to learn how they themselves can best apply their makeup.

Camouflage makeup can be very rewarding.  When a makeup artist is able to color-correct the skin, and the result successfully mimics “real” skin, the client’s confidence is immediately boosted. Camouflage makeup can also be extremely frustrating. In the case of uneven skin texture, the makeup artist will only be able to color correct, but will not be able to even out the texture of the severely affected skin, and the result will fall short of looking like “real” skin.   In the case of textured skin, both the client and the makeup artist must be realistic and lower their expectations.

Image courtesy  of Lauren Elyse @laur_elyse

Image courtesy  of Lauren Elyse @laur_elyse

Important Considerations:

  • Excellent sanitation practices are an even greater consideration than usual; the last thing we want to do is to make the client’s condition worse by cross-contamination.
  • The foundations selected should be opaque.
  • The makeup should be durable and long-lasting; however, in no case should any alcohol-based products be used on skin grafts.
  • There should be no need to use more than two foundation colors, and both should be found within the same product line.
  • Finally, the client’s dexterity is also a consideration: in the case of burn survivors, the hands/arms may be constricted, making it difficult for the client to finesse the makeup application.

 Foundation Selection

Foundation for the Surrounding Skin: Regardless of the reason for or area to be camouflaged, the first thing that the makeup artist should do is find, and set aside, the foundation color or colors that will match the skin surrounding the affected area.

Skin Prep: To the extent possible, the skin should be moisturized and hydrated.  Silicone primers, which provide “slip”, will work well with foundations that are silicone or wax-based.  If there is some silicone in a crème-based foundation, by using a silicone primer, the foundation will also work to make the skin look more life-like. 

Color Theory: Assess the undertone/value/color of the affected skin when working to camouflage bruises, birthmarks, and tattoos.  Sparingly apply thin color corrector foundation to cancel the discoloration.   Examples:  unresolved scar tissue and skin grafts are usually red, therefore green will help cancel the red.  If the affected area looks sallow (yellow, green), then lavender and pinks will be a good choice.  For sallow, deep complexions, orange in the correct value, will work to diffuse the affected area.  After the completion of color correction, apply the foundation product that matches the surrounding skin tone and cover-powder-cover-powder.


Product Camouflage: In their makeup kits, makeup artists should have a wide color selection of opaque, camouflage products, to ensure that all skin tones can be camouflaged. As stated above, the goal is to find no more than two shades to successfully camouflage the discoloration and/or the surrounding skin.  Sometimes “moles” are added to make the area look more realistic.

Product Consistency:  Try to use the most lightweight camouflage makeup possible, in an effort, to create a more natural look.

Product Durability: Set Powder, either in various pigmented shades, or translucent, is highly recommended (unless the skin is severely dry) to create a water-resistant finish.   When satisfied that the area is successfully camouflaged, and following the powder application, the artist may wish to lightly spritz ionized water to “bring back” the look of skin. If the client seeks a waterproof finish, such as on the hands, following the last layer of set powder, the artist can spray the area with an alcohol-based setting spray – However, alcohol products should never be used on skin grafts.

Brows: Loss of hair may be due to alopecia, chemotherapy or other reasons.  The artist must use a waterproof, durable makeup product, together with a small brush to draw individual hairs; some artists also find that using stencils is helpful. False brows, using human hair, can be custom-made and then applied to the brow bone with medical surgical glue, such as pros aide.


Eyes: The makeup artist may need to apply the principles of highlight and contour to redefine a natural shape to the eyes.

  • For durability, it is important to first prime the eyelids before adding any powders. 
  • On uneven, textured eyelids, the artist should always avoid adding more textures, such as shimmer, frost, and glitter.
  • If the client seeks lashes, the artist can usually add false lashes, using latex-free glue.

Lips: First, to recreate symmetry and balance, the makeup artist should use a long- wearing, silicone-based lip pencil, followed by a long-lasting liquid lip product that will not dry out the lips.

  • If lipstick is applied following the lip pencil application, the makeup artist should set the lipstick with a setting powder through a one-ply tissue, this can be repeated up to two times or more.
  • It is advisable to avoid the use of bright, heavily saturated color; instead the artist may wish to apply a more neutral tone.
  • Men should typically avoid any lip color, with the exception, if necessary, of a brown pencil to redefine the border of the mouth.

Male Facial Hair: Men can find false beards/mustaches to recreate facial hair; they can also use a stipple sponge with a cream, followed by powder and spray, to create beard stubble, or to recreate the look of hair on their fingers.

Other Considerations:

1. Use alcohol to clean a stainless-steel palette knife and palette.

2. Before using any products, be sure to spray products with a sanitizing spray, such as FIRST Sanitizer.

3.Prep the skin by cleaning and moisturizing according to skin type.

4. Use a silicone based primer.

5. Using the stainless-steel palette knife and palette, select a color that will match the undertone of the skin, then set that color aside. If the color cannot be found, two colors may need to be mixed. Next, select another cream color or colors, if necessary, to color correct or diffuse the discoloration.

6. Apply the camouflage cream, using a soft, latex-free sponge.  Starting in the middle of the area and blend out the edges; make sure to apply the cream that matches the undertone both over and around the scar.

7. Liberal use of the powder, either clear translucent or with some pigment, is necessary – brush away excess and then add more camouflage cream; repeat the entire process two or three times.

8. To achieve a more natural look, “moles”, “freckles”, or hair follicles can be painted on the camouflaged area with either a brush or stipple sponge.

9. To bring “life” back to the camouflaged skin, apply a sheer spray of ionized water

10. If the hands or neck is the area to be camouflaged, and must be waterproofed, apply a sheer spray of an alcohol-based spray, except in the cases where the skin is grafted.

11. For pitted scarring on small areas, a topical silicone product, such as Dermaflage, may be used.

12. Avoid the use of blush over the camouflaged area. The blush will bring back the color that the artist/client was trying to camouflage.

13. If the client is willing and able, airbrush makeup is a quick and effective way to camouflage skin discolorations and tattoos.

Product Removal: Apply a liberal amount of cleansing cream (Cerave, or Cetaphil are inexpensive options) on the entire area.  Wipe off the makeup/cleansing cream with a non-irritating moistened cotton square or non-scented baby wipe.  For the eyes and lips, a gentle makeup remover, such as a micellar water is recommended.


  • Clinical Cosmetology:  A Medical Approach to Esthetics Procedures, Victoria Rayner (1993)
  • Milady Standard Makeup, Michelle D’Allaird (2003)

This writing is created for and owned by Make Up First, LLC, and cannot be copied or otherwise duplicated without express written consent of the owner.