An unfortunate incident as a teenager quickly humbled me in the presence of blush. Today I’m here to impart my learnings onto you…
The first time I remember being horribly embarrassed by my mother was when I was 14 years old. I had somehow gotten my hands on a bunch of cheap makeup (thanks, suburban shopping malls!) and decided to experiment with it right before a family dinner. I thought I looked amazing; that I’d really nailed the whole no-makeup-makeup look before it was popular.
My mom, on the other hand, took one look at my face, grabbed a tissue with one hand and my face with the other, and proceeded to wipe off the roughly three pounds of powder blush I’d painstakingly applied to my cheeks. On its own, the wiping wouldn’t have been so bad had it not been accompanied by a playful lecture about being “too young for makeup,” having a “light touch” and something about “clown paint.” Oh, and it was also in front of my entire extended family.
For better or worse, I’ve never forgotten this early makeup lesson (if you can call it that) and now, despite it being my most favorite makeup product, I am uber cautious when it comes to blush application. After years of trial and error, here’s what I’ve learned. Hopefully it can help you avoid a rouge-based showdown with your own mom one day.
Choose a formula.
When it comes to blush, there are three main textures: powder, cream and liquid. The one you choose depends on how comfortable you are with blush and general makeup application and also the look you’re going for.
Powder is pretty traditional and typically requires a brush to apply. It’s also fairly fool-proof (unless you’re me at 14) since it’s dry and you can control the amount you pick up with the brush. That said, powder tends to sit on top of the skin so it can wear off after a while.
Cream is a “wet” alternative — oils and pigments make up a cream blush base — and is best applied with your fingertips or a makeup sponge. This makes it easy to layer and place since your fingers are doing all the application work and also ensures staying power as it melts into your skin. It also lends a nice glow and offers a skin-like finish. (If you tend to be oilier, stick with powder.)
Liquid blush is…liquid. The upside to this formula is that it’s super sheer and makes for a truly natural-looking flushed cheek. The downside is that since it’s liquid, it dries super quick so you only have a few seconds to place and blend the color before it sets, making it a little more difficult to correct if something goes awry.
Pick your color wisely.
The shade you use is totally up to you and the vibe you’re going for. But if you’re looking for a classic I-just-went-for-a-light-jog-and-saw-some-puppies flush, stick with pinks, plums and peaches. A good rule of thumb is to find a shade that matches one of the following: your lips, the color of your cheeks after you give them a light pinch, or your nipples. (Yes, you read that correctly. Sometimes it’s what’s inside the bra that counts when it comes to makeup.)
If you’re very fair, opt for a pale pink or a cool peach. Medium skin tones should stick to raspberries and plums (the latter applied with a very light touch and an eye toward building the color). And darker skin is best served by bright, bold pinks and corals that will stand out on a darker canvas, and warm plums and browns to add depth.
Apply it to the right spot.
As with all makeup, there are countless where’s and how’s to applying blush — it’s a personal preference, really. But for a tried-and-true, never-fail, will-always-leave-you-looking-great approach, simply smile. When you’ve got your blush picked out, look in the mirror and crack a smile. The bounciest, fullest part of your cheek is the apple, where you naturally flush, which means it’s where blush will look the most natural. So apply it there and then work out along the cheekbone, up toward the temple. You can also lightly brush some on the bridge of your nose and along the hairline of your forehead — anywhere the sun would naturally hit.