While some tattoos are expressly designed and chosen to be proudly displayed for the world to ogle at all times, you might choose to have that body art gets kept concealed, either occasionally or consistently. The rationale for covering up could be a stringent office dress code or a particular professional function. Maybe it’s a tattoo that you got eons ago, loved for years, but are now a bit more ambivalent about revealing to strangers on the daily. Or, perhaps it’s an ink-averse relative (more on that in a moment).
Whatever the reasoning, good news: there’s extremely effective make-up options for achieving true full-coverage on the market these days. Another appealing route to covering up when you need or want to? Some equally successful styling hacks for concealing a design, no technical make-up application required, and probably involving some items you already have in your wardrobe.
Ahead, a beauty editor with personal insights on the ins and outs of covering up her multiple tattoos, make-up artist, and medical pro share savvy tricks. Whether you’d rather utilize an ultra-opaque concealer or a chic capelet to keep your body art under wraps when the situation or company you’re keeping merits doing so, one thing’s for sure: No one will be the wiser about your carefully concealed body art.
Top-tier foundations and concealers worth test driving when covering tattoos for work
Marie Lodi, an L.A.-based writer and beauty editor who has eight tattoos, suggests Kat Von D Beauty’s Lock It Foundation ($36; katvondbeauty.com), raving that it’s “the best foundation that I’ve seen thoroughly cover up tattoo work.” (Check out this how-to video for evidence of the magical formulation in action, and, for further proof, there’s this impressive before-and-after shot, albeit on a hickey, not body art.) “It is a full-coverage matte that is literally known for covering up ink,” Lodi says, noting there’s also a matching concealer from Kat Von D’s make-up line, too. As for proper application, “it’s just a matter of layering and finishing the cover-up with a good setting spray,” Lodi explains.
Another option? Medical-grade formulas, which are often used on scars or to mask skin disorders or discoloration, can also be utilized on tattoos. “Dermablend seems to be the gold standard for tattoo cover-up, as their products appear capable of concealing almost any tattoo and provides some degree of sun protection,” says Dr. Neil Tanna, MD, associate program director of plastic surgery and professor of surgery at Northwell Health. But some layering might be necessary, he notes: “Depending on your skin tone and specific tattoo, an additional concealer may be required.”
Layer up products when covering tattoos for work so ink stays (temporarily) invisible
Or, opt for a set that includes different hues in order to really customize coverage of a particular design, like Mehron’s ProColoRing Tattoo Cover ($18; mehron.com) which can be especially useful for body art that’s ultra-vibrant or involves deeply saturated black ink, and can then be topped with your go-to skin perfecting products. “It’s a perfect cream formula to mask tattoos, and comes in a palette of five shades, allowing you to layer or mix shades to completely hide the darkest black or brightest color,” explains Pamela Faller, the brand’s resident make-up artist. “After it’s set, you can also top it with your beauty foundation to get a proper match to your skin tone,” she says. “I love to apply this product with a brush for precise application to conceal all shading and heavy outlines: Apply by patting down into the skin rather than sweeping it across, which will help the cream set and provide opaque coverage.”
Ingredients and tattoo placement matter, too
In general, there are particular ingredients that can make a full-coverage concealer extremely opaque and therefore best suited when covering tattoos for work, per Tanna. “Oil-based or emollient-based concealers are denser than other formulations, and provide better coverage than powder, water, or silicone-based products,” he suggests.
Certain body parts could potentially harder to effectively cover a tattoo, says Tanna. “Tattoos near joints and other places where the skin is constantly moving or experiencing friction will be harder to cover up, as concealer may rub off or expose parts of the tattoo due to movement,” Tanna says. “Applying a translucent powder may help minimize the degree to which this happens.” Faller suggests Mehron Colorset Powder ($12; mehron.com) in order “to take away any subtle shine and keep the cream in place, and after that, a quick spritz of Mehron Barrier Spray ($22; mehron.com),” which means all that tattoo-obscuring handiwork is “both transfer and water resistant,” she says.
Or, strategize your outfits for stealth coverage
Don’t want to deal with intricate, multi-step make-up regimens to hide designs, or attempting to mask a tattoo in one of those trickier body regions prone to friction, as Tanna pointed out? Try obscuring neck tattoos with scarves (including airy, gauzy styles that are even bearable in sunny, humid climes) or, in cooler temps, turtlenecks, while capelets, cape blazers, and boleros for upper arm and shoulder work. Arm designs can be easily concealed with myriad lightweight layers: Think retro-tinged cardigans, cool bomber jackets, cropped moto toppers, oversized, boxy blazers, or a fluid floral kimono or robe. Bodysuits, wetsuits, and mock necks may work on the clavicle, upper chest, and other areas that a crewneck tee just can’t cover.
Beyond clothing, some strategically placed baubles (may) help
When I was still a teen living at my parents’ house, I used to cover up my wrist tats with giant bracelets so my mom wouldn’t see them, Lodi recalls. While utilizing jewelry to hide ink designs could work out depending on the placement and scale of your designs (for instance, a particularly chunky statement necklace that drapes over a tattoo on the nape of the neck or near the collarbone), that technique didn’t bode well for Lodi as she’d hoped. “It never worked, because she has eyes like a hawk,” she says, noting just how much of a game-changer excellent make-up formulations have been: “I only wish that kind of heavy duty foundation was around and accessible to me back then!”
If you liked Covering Tattoos for Work: If You Need to, Here’s Exactly How, make sure to check out Why Tattoos Should Be Allowed in the Workplace: An Argument in Favor of Body Art