A Tale of Two Concealers – Part 1 Cake Concealer, MAC Studio Finish

I’ll try my best.  This post is my first attempt at a pick-me-up.  Eyes are puffy, dark circles are worse than they’ve ever been, so I figure now’s the time to do it.  Don’t ask me why they are, let’s just take a few steps to look and feel better given the circumstances.  It’s actually quite hard to write but a lot of titas and moms have asked me in the past about this so I owe it to them coz I’ve never done it.  I think I might show more than tell (but if writing proves therapeutic you can flush my disclaimer later on).  I’ve decided to begin a two part review series on two forms of concealer, cake and liquid.  “Concealer is the secret of the universe…” says Bobbi Brown, and I agree with her, but sorry, Bobbi, the cake product in this post is by MAC.


 I own two pots of the Pixiwoo sisters’ pride and joy MAC Studio Finish cake concealer in the shades NC30 (left) and NC35.  One pot of studio finish concealer costs Php1000, you get 7 grams of product in the pot, but a little goes a long way.  I’ll explain why I own two shades in a minute.  As you can see below I nicked NC30 by accident with my fingernail yesterday because these pots are sometimes a bit of a pain to snap open.

The product looks darker in the pot than when applied on the face (plus I’m against the light in this shot) and sometimes the surface of the cake tends to oxidize on top making it appear darker than the unused product underneath.  MAC’s color system is different from others as Sam Chapman of Pixiwoo YouTube explained before.  Shades referred to as warm are the shades with pink and red tones in them which are the NW’s and the shades referred to as cool are the shades with undertones that range from Yellow towards blue or the NC’s.  I’m a very yellow medium toned Asian girl so naturally the NC shades suit me.  Continue reading to see swatches and both these concealers at work on my weary eyes.  I’ll also mention why I have two.

Here are arm swatches not to show skin matching (never try and match something for your face using your arm) but to show the difference between NC30 on the left and NC35.  NC35 is the half step between NC30 and NC4O, but it’s a big half step I have to say.  Plus, NC35 leans towards a warmer salmon tone.  I love that MAC studio finish concealer’s texture hasn’t got too much slip, it’s like a really dense paste, that feels like stage makeup without being uncomfortable, so I know it’s going to wear on really well throughout the day.  After applying concealer under your eyes it’s good to set it with a matte loose powder for longevity and for minimal creasing.  All concealers crease if you have fine lines or wrinkles, it’s just a matter of how long or when or what you’ve set it with.

NC30 and NC35

The immediately and technically correct choice would be NC30, because as the experts say a concealer should be “a shade lighter than your actual skin tone”, but may I remind you, this is a photo of my arm, not my face, and look…ok, sorry, next photo’s face is “misery” incarnate…wearing my Gary V. fan shirt.  As you can clearly see my face although it is still yellow toned it is obviously quite deeper and slightly warmer than underneath my forearm, which as I said is not the place to swatch a base product for your face.

Ok let’s see NC 30 applied on those dark circles, but first up is part 2 of Misery Incarnate, the unconcealed eye.

My undereyecircles have a purplish, bluish undertone.  So let’s see how both these concealers do the trick.  I apply my concealer with a flat concealer brush and pat on and swipe a bit of it outward away from the corner of my eye, only apply product where it is darkest and work it out.  For lighter undereye circles you may opt to use a fluffy MAC 224 brush or something similar instead for sheerer concealing.  Here is a collage showing both concealers side by side when brushed and patted on and then softly patted out with my finger.

So I’m thinking, why does NC35 seem to work better?  If you put color theory into practice, remember I mentioned that NC35 had a slightly warmer salmon/orange tone than NC30?  I think that NC35 also acted as a color corrector for me and not just a concealer because in the color wheel orange is the opposite shade of blue.  So NC35 properly helps combat my undereye circles better, at least in the daytime, I have yet to find out if it’s good enough for an evening out.  I’ve been using the slightly lighter NC30 sometimes to highlight my browbone and nose, as it is the perfect shade for that.  This is how I look with NC 35 applied…nothing else, no foundation or any other cosmetics.  I don’t look great but with MAC Studio Finish Concealer NC35 and my Gary V. Shirt at least it isn’t misery incarnate anymore.

It’s also important to remember that one of the keys to effective makeup is working in context, what’s it for? Are you eating out with a friend? Or are you attending an event with lots of flash photography?  My  photos here were taken by a HUGE window in daylight which is harshest, it’s the light that reveals almost “everything” and is hardest to cheat.  When I see women walking around in the daytime and I notice their “one shade lighter” attempt beneath their eyes the fact that I can spot it is just proof that they were technically correct but in the end visually wrong UNLESS they were on their way to a photo-shoot then I would’ve understood why.  I have two shades of MAC concealer because 1.  I adjust my makeup according to daytime or nighttime, I can cheat and wear a lighter base for evening events   2.  My skin tends to tan and pale so quickly so my tone slightly shifts every now and then (especially since I began walking my dog uphill) 3.  As a makeup artist having one more shade is more than half the time a safety net and is not being wasteful  4.  I really discovered that NC35 was a better match…if my skin lightens up I can easily mix the two shades together or use NC30.  And yes, you may now flush my “I won’t say much” disclaimer down the toilet.  Here’s a fundamental video by Lisa Eldridge on the proper use of concealer.

Style Snippet: Emma Watson, always lovely whether romantic or edgy
  • I must say, this is one of the most comprehensive concealer practical experiment I’ve read on blogs. Clap clap. Thanks for doing this and for taking a picture of yourself with those dark circles.

    Mine went better off with a thin layer of peachy corrector and a flesh-toned concealer that’s almost an exact match to my skin tone.

    Anyway, most concealers (even those without spf) tend to cast a white film under flash photography… Other than mac, is there any other concealer you’d recommend… and would you know why most cast the annoying white cast?


  • In part 2 I talk about a liquid concealer in a tube that I love. For a cheaper cake concealer like MAC Studio Finish you could try TimeBalm by The Balm, available at Beauty Bar. Practically the exact same consistency and coverage as MAC Studio Finish for only about Php700+ in comparison to MAC’s Php1000 price tag, but the catch is TimeBalm only has 4 shades and if you’re very yellow like me it’s unlikely you’ll find a match, but if you’re a natural beige you just might find that one of the four works for you.

  • Thanks! I have a strong yellow undertone. TimeBalm might not work for me too. Might just buy this one. The extra Php300 might just be worth it.

    P.S. I love that you made the font darker. 🙂

  • dashee

    hi julia! i was wondering lang kung bakit kaya yung moisturecover yung nirecommend sakin ng mac mua at hindi itong studio.. gusto ko pa naman itry to.. :'(

  • tigatee

    Hi, this post helped me so much but i still have a question. You say that you use NC35 in studio finish concealer but what shade are you (and that matches) in Prolongwear, Studio sculpt or Studio fix foundation? as i don’t have a mac in my country, i only have one sample of each one, so in order to make an idea, you’ll be a life saver if you could answer 🙂

  • nabiha

    thank you so much for taking the time out to do this. it was so helpful and comprehensive!

  • Casablanca

    All makeup looks good on you, you’re so pretty!! =)
    Wish I could have a magic wand for finding makeup matches, how do you do it?!?!?
    I’m worried if I go to the MAC Consultant I’ll get suckered into buying the whole counter, coz I am a sucker for makeup to begin with… :/

  • This was really informative. I am currently and NC35 but I don’t know whether its because of the summer or a general match for me. I get slightly more pale in winter so should I buy an NC30 and NC35 just in case or just stick to NC35?