Style

Colour correcting 101: The why and how of this technical makeup step

Two beauty pros on how to try it out yourself, even using what you've probably got at home.

Two beauty pros on how to try it out yourself, even using what you've probably got at home

Side by side portraits of 2 women. Left: Basma Hameed in front of a blue sky, wearing a black blazer, smiling and looking away from camera. Right: Deepica Mutyala in front of a red background, looking to camera and wearing a yellow sweater.
L: Basma Hameed, founder of Basma Beauty; R: Deepica Mutyala, founder of Live Tinted (Source, left: Basma Beauty; right: Live Tinted)

I'll never forget my first encounter with colour correcting, even though it was 10 years ago. My mom had a wedding to get glammed up for, so though she'd normally just grab a foundation at the drugstore, she agreed to come to the MAC Cosmetics counter with me — the brand was all the rage at the time. The beauty adviser recommended first applying a colour corrector to neutralize some discoloration before using a foundation in a shade that was totally different from what my mom was used to using. The results were shocking: the combo was much closer to my mom's skin tone, and she is still using the same approach to this day. 

That visit is also what got me to use correctors — and therefore makeup — more efficiently. It's all about technique, as the two experts I spoke to for this article explain. I reached out to Los Angeles-based Deepica Mutyala, the founder and CEO of Live Tinted, and Canadian Basma Hameed, founder of Basma Beauty, to have them break down how colour correcting works, who it's for and how it should be done.

Is it for you?

According to Mutyala and Hameed, the technique is beneficial for anyone looking to neutralize specific areas of their skin. 

Hameed notes that while colour correcting is not an essential step, it can be beneficial for a wide range of makeup goals. "It's commonly used to address specific areas of concern like uneven skin tones, dark under-eye circles, acne scars and blemishes, redness and rosacea, and dull or tired-looking skin." 

Similarly, Mutyala emphasizes the benefits of colour correcting for "anyone who has … [darker areas due to] hyperpigmentation or discoloration on their skin that they're looking to neutralize for an even makeup look." 

For Hameed, who uses colour correcting to conceal a childhood scar from third-degree burns to half of her face, it's about feeling good as much as looking good. "Colour correction truly empowered me to take a more personalized and precise approach to my makeup routine," she said. "I gained confidence in my makeup application skills and the ability to express myself in my unique style." 

What is colour correcting?

Colour correcting is a makeup technique based on the principles of colour theory that helps to neutralize or balance out skin discolorations (for example, using green, the complementary colour to red, to address redness). It makes use of makeup products in "hues that are … effectively cancelling out or neutralizing unwanted undertones or imperfections," said Hameed.

The concept can sound complicated, but according to Mutyala, it's a matter of three simple steps. "One, apply light layers of your corrector where there is hyperpigmentation," she said. "Two, blend — you can even use your fingers. Three, apply concealer and you're done!" And if you don't have a corrector, Mutyala is proof that you can use what you have on hand: in the viral video that became the catalyst for her cosmetics brand, she used an orange-red lipstick to balance out her dark under-eye circles. 

"Ultimately, you don't need to use as much of your complexion product to cover any discoloration," she said.

How to colour correct 

According to Hameed, before actually colour correcting, you first need to identify the skin concern you want to correct, which can range from cancelling redness and dark circles to sallowness, and then pick the colour that will help correct the concern. 

The beauty adviser at MAC recommended an orange corrector for my mom, which is in keeping with Hameed's advice. She suggests orange to tone down any deep blue or brown areas, such as with discolorations like hyperpigmentation. Green can be used to neutralize redness and blemishes, and peach or salmon will balance out blue or purple undertones, such as with dark circles. Choose lavender for sallowness or yellow undertones, and for purple or blue bruises or veins, use yellow. 

Use a gentle hand when applying the corrector, Mutyala cautions. "You'll want to apply the colour corrector in light layers anywhere you have hyperpigmentation, then you can blend it out with a brush, makeup sponge or even your fingers."

After that, simply continue with your concealer or foundation and the rest of your makeup application as usual. 

Helpful tips

While many may think to use colour correcting for circles around the eyes or blemishes, both Hameed and Mutyala say other areas can also benefit from this technique. 

"A lot of people don't think to colour correct around the mouth area, but it's something I love to do to brighten up the area," said Mutyala. 

Hameed notes that skin concerns on other areas of the body can be addressed, too, if these areas have any discoloration, bruises, age spots or visible veins. Along with neutralizing imperfections on the hands and legs, said Hameed, the technique can be used on the neck, chest and even the ears to help create a seamless transition between the face and these areas, and a more uniform look overall.

Hameed emphasizes the importance of starting with well-prepped skin for successful application, which includes cleansing, moisturizing and using a primer if desired. She also suggests prioritizing skin care and removing makeup thoroughly at the end of the day to maintain healthy skin. And she stresses the importance of colour correcting overall: "[It's] not just a makeup trend," she said. "[It] contributes to the confidence, comfort and overall satisfaction of those who use it, making it an essential aspect of the makeup world." 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sidra Sheikh is a freelance journalist specializing in modest fashion, beauty, parenting and lifestyle. You can connect with her through her website (sidrasheikh.com) or follow her on Instagram @sidra.sheikh_

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