25: Camouflage Techniques

Camouflage Techniques

Anne Bouloc

Saint‐Jacques Medical Center, Paris, France


Camouflage techniques are very helpful in patients who do not achieve complete or immediately attractive results from dermatologic therapy. Because appearance is one of the pivotal factors influencing social interactions, facial blemishes, and disfigurements are a psychosocial burden in affected patients leading to low self‐esteem and poor body image. Camouflage makeup normalizes the appearance of skin and improves quality of life (QOL). Training in camouflage techniques is essential because the application is different from regular foundations. This chapter discusses the use of camouflage cosmetics.


Camouflage cosmetics were introduced more than 70 years ago to improve the appearance of World War II pilots who had sustained burns. The products provided an opaque cover over the damaged skin areas. Modern high‐quality camouflage products provide an excellent coverage, but with a more natural appearance (Figure 25.1).

There are several brands of camouflage makeup on the market. They aim to conceal skin discoloration and scars and to impart a natural, normal appearance. Camouflage products differ from makeup products purchased over the counter. They contain up to 25% more pigment, as well as fillers endowed with optical properties. Camouflage makeups are waterproof and designed to cover and mask a problem but must be mixed to match the patient’s skin tone. The goals of camouflage cosmetics are to provide [1]:

  1. Color: Camouflage makeup must match all skin tones as it should blend into the color of the area on the face it is intended to cover evenly.
  2. Opacity: Camouflage makeup must conceal all types of skin discoloration, yielding as natural and normal an appearance as possible.
  3. Waterproof: Camouflage makeup must be rain and sweat‐resistant, remaining unaltered with athletics (e.g. swimming).
  4. Holding power: Camouflage makeup must adhere to skin without sliding off.
  5. Longer wear: Camouflage makeup must provide the assurance of long wear with easy reapplication, if necessary.
  6. Ease of application: Camouflage makeup must be easy to apply. Too many steps and color applications may create patient confusion.

There are several different types of camouflage cosmetics:

  1. Full concealment: A method referring to complete coverage of the damaged skin and extending beyond the boundaries of the injured area. High coverage foundation creams or cover creams should be used for full concealment.
  2. Pigment blending: A method that involves selection of a cover cream that matches the color of patient’s foundation.
  3. Subtle coverage: A light application of foundation cream or fluid that conceals only moderately.

Contouring is used to minimize areas of hypertrophy or atrophy present in facial scars, using highlighting or shading to create the illusion of smoothness.

Schematic illustration of ideal corrective makeup: a compromise between coverage and cosmetic qualities. After Sylvie Guichard, L'Oréal Research.

Figure 25.1 Ideal corrective makeup: a compromise between coverage and cosmetic qualities. After Sylvie Guichard, L’Oréal Research.

Camouflage makeup application procedures

It is important to remember that camouflage makeup is most effective when applied over skin with color abnormalities or discoloration. The size of the defect is immaterial, because it is as easy to cover a large blemish as a smaller one. However, the camouflage of texture abnormalities is more challenging. Rough scars are more difficult to conceal than smooth scars because unevenness might be exaggerated after camouflaging [2].

This section of the chapter presents the steps necessary to complete a camouflage makeup application procedure for a given patient. First, patients should be asked about prior experience in attempting to camouflage their lesions with or without medical makeup. If they have no experience, the necessary steps should be discussed in detail. Second, the patient’s skin should be cleansed with a product selected according to patient’s skin type. For an optimal camouflage result, the skin should be well exfoliated and moisturized. If using a camouflage product without sun protection factor (SPF) protection, a sunscreen‐containing moisturizer should be selected otherwise a bland moisturizer can be used.

Third, the camouflage product must be selected to match the patient’s skin. The camouflage therapist should identify the underlying tones that contribute to skin color: hemoglobin produces red, keratin produces yellow, and melanin produces brown [3]. Thinner skin possesses more red tones while thicker skin appears more yellow. For this reason, it is almost impossible to mimic natural skin color with only one shade.

Fourth, the camouflage therapist must understand color. There are three color coordinates: hue, value, and intensity.

  1. Hue is the coordinate for the pure spectrum colors commonly referred to as “color name” – red, orange, yellow, blue, green, violet – which appear in the hue circle or rainbow. Each different hue is a different reflected wavelength of light. White light splitting up through a prism has seven hues: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.
  2. Value is defined as the relative lightness or darkness of a color. Adding white to a hue produces a high‐value color, often called a tint. Adding black to a hue produces a low‐value color, often called a shade.
  3. Intensity, also called chroma or saturation, refers to the brightness of a color. A color is at full intensity when not mixed with black or white – a pure hue. The intensity of a color can be altered, making it duller or more neutral by adding gray to the color.

Matching a color from one manufacturer to another one is a very difficult procedure because of the variety of shades that can be produced by combining various colors and the tints of the color that can be made by varying the amount of white. Judgment of color should always be made on the skin and never in the container because what seems to be the same shade may appear quite different on the skin.

The use of neutralizers in camouflaging is somewhat controversial. Some experts think it is possible to neutralize undesirable skin discoloration [2]. For example, green undertoner neutralizes a red complexion and lavender undertoner negates a yellow complexion. Other authors think that makeup undertoners do nothing but create a third color [4]. They consider that when two colors are mixed, the result is a third color. Mixing opposite colors on the color wheel (e.g. green and red or yellow and purple) will result in an unattractive gray–brownish color that must be concealed with a color that matches the skin, which adds an extra step and thickness to the makeup.

For contouring, several products have to be applied. Hypertrophic scars appear lighter than surrounding skin and have to be camouflaged applying a darker product than to surrounding skin. Atrophic scars, however, appear darker than surrounding skin and have to be corrected using lighter product.

Once the shades have been selected, the camouflage therapist may apply them to the back of the hand as a painter uses a palette to warm and soften the product (Figure 25.2a). Camouflage products are either applied with a sponge or a brush in a patting motion or with the fingertips (Figure 25.2b). The patting motion applies the product to the surface of the skin and does not clog pores, which allows the skin to retain its natural characteristics. Distinct borders are eliminated by blending the edges (Figure 25.2c).

Only gold members can continue reading. Log In or Register to continue

Nov 13, 2022 | Posted by in Dermatology | Comments Off on 25: Camouflage Techniques
Premium Wordpress Themes by UFO Themes