How To Cover Up Tattoos With Make-Up

Since our individuality was not the focus of our piece, we had to tone it down for our big recital. That included removing all jewelry and nail polish – and covering up tattoos.

Whether you get tattooed or not is, of course, entirely up to you. For my inked brethren (and for my own future reference), I’m going to write down how I did it, because none of the instructions I found had provided the perfect solution.

Most instructions recommend professional camouflage products, specifically designed for covering up tattoos and scars. My local tattoo studio didn’t have any and I didn’t have the time to order online, making me resort to whatever was available at the department store. My first experiments were somewhat less than satisfactory, so I brought out the heavy artillery, i.e. my mother, who is a total make-up whizz and a saviour.

Here’s our method, which I tried out a small blackwork bat on my right shoulder during two rehearsals and three performances.

You Will Need

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  • A primer. If it is toned and/or whitening, all the better. I used my beloved Farmstay Snail Sun BB Cream, which is both.
  • A concealer palette, containing at least a green and several beige tones. Look for words like «camouflage« and «maximum coverage» on the box. I used L’Oréal.
  • A foundation, marketed with similar buzzwords as the concealer. If it matches your skin tone exactly, great. Mine was slightly darker and it didn’t really matter. You won’t be putting it on your face. (Unless you have tattoos on your face, I guess.) I used L’Oréal, the same line as the concealer.
  • A powder to set the foundation.
  • A brush for the powder.
  • One of those weird make-up sponges for the foundation.
  • A setting spray.

How To

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  1. Make sure the tattooed area is washed, appropriately moisturised and dry.
  2. Apply your primer or BB cream to the general area of the tattoo.
  3. Apply a thin layer of green concealer on the tattoo. It’s supposed to be anti-red, but it does wonders for lightening the ink for some reason. I used my fingers to lightly tap the concealer onto the skin.
  4. Apply beige concealer in your approximate skin tone on the tattoo. Blend it into the surrounding skin
  5. Apply the first layer of your foundtaion. Keep it relatively thin, or you might have trouble with the second level. You want to use a sponge in order to achieve total coverage. Let the layer dry, then set with some powder.
  6. Apply the second layer. You really need to use a sponge for this one, because we’re going to slather on that foundation. Make the layer even, but as thick as is necessary to all but completely cover up your tattoo. Let it dry, set with powder.
  7. For the last touch, I tapped on some more beige concealer. It hid whatever was still visible of the tattoo and helped to cover up the slightly darker foundation tone. Be careful not to smear what you’ve already accomplished and don’t forget your setting spray – voilà.

Limitations

  • Be aware that even with a setting spray, this amount of make-up will smear. If your tattoo comes into close contact with your costume, props, the floor or other dancers, various amounts of make-up will be transferred onto those items and people. The coverage will not suffer too much from one good smear – I found out by accidentally dragging the strap of my unitard all the way across it. But it will stain and eventually, enough of it will rub off. I’ve seen people use nude-coloured tape to cover up their tattoos in areas that were partially covered by their costumes.
  • Try the method out well in advance of your performance to learn how to apply the make-up and how long it takes. This way, you can also make sure it really covers enough and that you aren’t horribly allergic to any of the ingredients. Do this early  so that you still have time to find a viable alternative.
  • For a dance performance, you probably don’t need to bother with perfect blending (you can tell I didn’t). You will be in motion all the time and the tone difference is so small that no one will notice it.
  • Depending on the location of the tattoo, applying smooth enough layers on yourself can be difficult to impossible. Recruit help if you can’t comfortably reach or see your tattoo.
  • I have not tried this on large or coloured tattoos, because mine was safely hidden under leggings and I’m too lazy to do it without having to. I doubt size is much of an issue if you have enough foundation and lots and lots of time. You may want to try other colour-correcting concealers on coloured ink.
  • To test the coverage of the products at the department store, I tried them on a mole on the back of my wrist (because testing make-up on your shoulder looks really weird). If you don’t have a conveniently located tattoo or mole, you might wanna stop by the stationery and use a permanent marker to make a small test site. (Permanent markers can usually be removed with nail polish remover, ethanol or, you know, soap.)

There you go, I hope this proves helpful to somebody.

Also, thanks, Mom! ❤

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