How to Cover a Tattoo With Makeup For a Lasting, Full-Coverage Finish

How to Cover a Tattoo With Makeup For a Lasting, Full-Coverage Finish

Close up of a tattooed forearm, a swatch of foundation down the center

@dermablendpro / Instagram

In This Article

Prime and Color Correct Apply Your Foundation Repeat the Process Set Your Work Removal

Long gone are the days when having a tattoo or two made you unemployable, but we’re not quite at the stage yet where being covered in tattoos is completely acceptable to everyone, everywhere. Because of that, there may be times when you want to cover up a tattoo with makeup. Maybe you’re visiting family and don’t want to deal, or it doesn’t feel right at your current job. Whatever the reason, concealment is possible—as long as you know what you’re doing.

To find out what products and techniques are necessary for flawless tattoo coverage, we tapped two inked makeup artists adept at concealing tats: Lauren Kunijo and Kenna Ehman. Ahead, learn all their tips and tricks for a DIY cover-up of your ink.

Meet the Expert

  • Lauren Ehman is the co-owner of and a master stylist at Kenna Kunijo, a hair and makeup salon in Charlotte, North Carolina.
  • Kenna Ehman is the co-owner of and a master stylist at Kenna Kunijo, a hair and makeup salon in Charlotte, North Carolina.

How to Prepare

You might figure that as soon as you decide you'll be covering up your tattoo, you can start adding makeup. Not so fast. You first need to make sure your skin is cleansed, then determine the type of color palette you're working with.

“First, you want to clean the area well so it is clean and dry, free from oils and dirt. This will help [your makeup] last,” explains Ehman. She has a process for readying the skin: “I clean the area with rubbing alcohol to ensure the skin is clean and dry. If they have dry skin, do a thin layer of Aquaphor first and leave it on for 20 minutes, then wipe [it] off.”

Then, determine how serious the cover-up is going to be. “Identify what colors you are covering up. Black is the most difficult. Colors are easier,” says Kunijo. Once you’ve done that work, it’s time to start.

How to Cover a Tattoo With Makeup

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Prime and Color Correct

Priming and color-correcting are the first steps to a tattoo cover-up (much like when putting makeup on your face).

“Priming is very important, especially if you don’t have thick makeup meant for [waterproofing tattoos]. Priming will help ensure longevity,” says Kunijo. “I like to prime the skin with a foundation primer to give it a lasting hold.” MAC’s Prep + Prime ($36) is Ehman’s go-to.

Once you’re primed, it’s time to color-correct. “I love KimChi Chic’s Undercover Hoe – 05 Universal Corrector Palette ($18), as it has six different color-concealing tones to help block unwanted pigments,” Ehman says. The colors include green, blue, yellow, orange, red, and purple, which balance out their opposites. “For example, if your tattoo is blue, you must color conceal by applying orange concealer on top of the blue to help neutralize the tone,” she says. “Orange will help cancel out the blue tone, so you can apply your foundation on top of that concealer and minimize seeing the tattoo through it.”

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Apply Your Foundation

You’ve readied the skin, primed, and color-corrected, so now it’s time for the main work: Foundation. “You have to use either stage makeup or specific tattoo cover-up makeup,” advises Ehman. “I’ve always used Ben Nye for makeup [on] tattoos because it has great coverage. You can also use Glossiva Tattoo Cover-Up Makeup ($23).”

Kunijo agrees with using a heavy foundation. “I typically recommend using only full-coverage foundations; anything sheer, buildable, or translucent will not cover a tattoo. A product like Dermablend is excellent because it’s a one-application foundation,” she says. “It’s thicker, meant for beyond full coverage, and waterproof.”

Cover the area completely with your product. "You want to use your makeup with a sponge and press (not wipe) it into place. This ensures a thick coverage," says Ehman.

You’ll also want to note if your tattoo is in an area of your body that gets different levels of sun exposure—because you won’t necessarily be able to use the same color for the entire piece. “You will need to have several colors on hand,” says Ehman. “You must use the color that matches the skin in each area of the covering. So if you have a tattoo that wraps around the arm, you will need a lighter color for the inside of the arm and then darker for the outside.”

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Repeat the Process

One layer of foundation might be enough to cover your tattoo completely if it’s faded and old, in which case you can skip this step. If your art is still showing through, don’t worry; a full cover-up is still possible!

"To achieve full opacity, you will have to use setting powder, another layer of foundation, and finishing powder," says Kunijo. Ehman tells us that technique during this repetition process is crucial. "Be sure to feather the makeup out from the tattoo so that the coverage doesn't stop abruptly," she advises. "Use a powder that matches your skin to blend away from the tattoo." She also says to be patient and let each layer dry before repeating the process.

The foundation you chose will also impact your need for layering. “If you’re using a foundation that has less coverage or is not as thick and opaque, you may have to use your concealer, then your foundation, setting powder, and then another layer of foundation and finishing powder,” says Kunijo.

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Set Your Work

Now that your tattoo is covered and you can’t see it, you’ll want to keep it that way. A setting product is key here, as it’s how you ensure your work won’t be wasted. “It is important to prep the skin and set the makeup… for the coverage to not come off and last all day long,” says Ehman. “This will keep it from rubbing off as well.” Both of our artists use Urban Decay’s All-Nighter Setting Spray. “It lasts and doesn’t smudge or transfer,” says Kunijo.

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After a day of successfully covering up your tattoo, you’ll want to remove the makeup over it. Ehman says that this will take a few products. “You will use a makeup remover and a disposable cotton pad or washcloth based on the space you are cleansing, and then I suggest using an exfoliating washcloth and body wash to remove the rest,” she recommends.

The type of makeup remover you choose is important, Kunijo warns. "When removing makeup, you should use an oil-based makeup remover to break down [the product]," says Kunijo. "Most tattoo foundations need oil-based… to break up the product and remove."

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