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Blush: How to Apply It Correctly



My best blush tips in one spot

Stone by Getty Images
Olivia Munn wearing blush

Olivia Munn

Frederick M. Brown // Getty

How to pick the right blush

Digital Vision for Getty Images

Many women avoid blush (according to InStyle Magazine, about 47% of American women today wear blush compared to 1948, when 66% wore it) but it can be your beauty secret weapon. For healthy, natural, just-from-the-gym color, nothing beats a pop of blush. A sweep of the right stuff can immediately brighten a dull complexion.

Blush can be daunting however, and many women have revealed to me that they avoid using blush because they can't figure out how to choose the right blusher and they have no idea how to apply it so they don't look clown-ish.

Here are my best tips for buying and applying blush.

But First: Do You Need Blush?

Blush is all about adding color. Depending on how much makeup you're wearing, or even the time of year, you might benefit from a pop of color to your cheeks.

I'm a blonde with blue eyes and a naturally ruddy complexion. This means I tend to avoid blush on a daily basis because I don't really need it.  But when I wear foundation and concealer, I almost always go for a pop of color to my cheeks. I have to add color back in because I covered up my ruddy bits with foundation. See? Even ruddy girls like me can use blush. 

Blush works especially well on brunettes with pale skin. If you have brown eyes and hair and pale skin and lips, you really need some color added in to brighten your complexion and break up the wash of browns and yellows. 

Aging women can get back a bit of dewiness with a cream blush, which blends easily, looks natural and won't sit atop any facial hair. For more makeup tips, see Older Women & Makeup: 25 Tips for Women Over 50.

Powder, Cream or Gel?

Choosing your blush formulation is very important. Blush tends to come in powder, gel and cream forms.

I really love creams on most skin types especially dry skin. It goes on silky and smooth and is very blendable. The only exception I would make is on oily skin or skin that tends to break out at the drop of anything creamy. For these skin types, powder is your best bet. Liquid and gel blushes are also good choices for oily skin, but they aren't very blendable.

Some women like to combine cream and powder together, which helps blush stay on longer. Apply the cream first and then the powder over it.

Keep in mind stains and gels should always be applied to well-moisturized skin. They tend to dry very fast, so blend well and fast.

See my list of the best blushes for every price point and find out which blush is the No. 1 beauty editor favorite. And don't miss How to Pick the Perfect Blush

Choosing the Right Color

Every beauty brand, whether it be a department store or a drugstore brand, has several blush color options ranging from light pinks and peaches to deep pinks and reds.

The trick when choosing the right shade for you is to use nature as your guide. Look for a shade that closely matches your natural cheek color when flushed from exercise or blushed from the cold (or embarrassment). Women like ruddy or pink skin tend to look best in pink shades, whereas women with olive or yellow skin tones look best in peaches. Dark skin looks great in apricot, dark pinks and even red colors. You can also match your lip color.

I always recommend trying before buying because the color in the compact will almost always appear differently on your skin. To test, you can try this trick: "spank" one of your cheeks and use the resulting color as your guide.  

Expert Blush Application Tips

A little goes a long way when it comes to blush. You want to start light and then build up if need be. Makeup artist Lisa Eldridge likes to apply a bit just after foundation. She then makes up the rest of the face and she might add more in the end, dependent on if the person needs it. Some makeup artists like to apply blush BEFORE foundation for a more "natural" look.

When applying blush, you want to consider your face shape. Women with long faces like me benefit the most from applying blush to the apples of the cheeks and then blending towards the hairline.

C-shape shading is the makeup artist's secret for applying blush to round or square shaped faces. According to makeup artist Shane Paish in InStyle magazine, apply blush in a c-shape from your temples to your cheekbones. It should go from the center of your brow bone to the center of your cheek, Paish said, "like the shape of a parenthesis."

For a sun-kissed sheen dab bronzer on your forehead, chin and nose BEFORE you apply the blush. To make sure it doesn't look like a stripe, use "a big brush and a light hand," suggests makeup artist Bobbi Brown in Lucky Magazine. See my list of the best bronzers.

For a sexy look, dab a little shimmery blush on the highest point of your cheekbone nearest your eye.

If you're using gel or cream, use your middle finger to apply, then blend with your ring and middle finger. The clean finger will pick up any excess blush. Dab a dot on the apple of the cheek and two smaller dots up the cheekbone. Blend the dots together up to the hairline.

Invest in a Blush Brush

Those "Barbie-size" makeup brushes that come with drugstore brand blushes are awful and useless.  Invest in an actual blush brush. I prefer brushes with real hair. I list some of my favorites here, but my absolute favorite is MAC - Powder/Blush Brush - 129 (buy it direct from MAC).

Clean your brushes with baby wipes or better yet, wash them with mild dish soap once a month. If you don't keep your brushes clean, they'll gather bacteria and transfer it to your skin. For more tips see How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes.

How to Apply Blush Correctly

While blush is usually your second-to-last makeup step (before powder), you can apply it at any time.

Here are some general tips:

  1. Put the blush on your brush, tapping off any excess or put a dab of gel on your fingers.
  2. Look into the mirror and smile. This helps you figure out where the "apple" of your cheek is.
  3. Apply blush to the apples of your cheeks. If you're using powder blush, always sweep it in one direction. Going over and over or around and around causes streaks and can hurt your brush.
  4. If you've gone a bit too heavy on the powder blush, a bit of translucent powder over it will calm it down. For cream blush, blot the color off with a tissue. Since gel and liquid blush "stain" the cheeks, the only way to lighten them is it wash your face, moisturize and reapply your makeup, this time more sparingly.
  5. Finish your look with a sweep of translucent powder.


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