Blush is one of those products that we grew up seeing on our mum's vanity and in the handbag of every glamorous woman we looked up to, but when we have it in-hand, we're "now what?" Let's talk about what it is, what it's for and how best to use it.
Illustration by Angelica Alzona.
What Is Blush, Exactly?
First, blush is a soft pigment available in powders or creams meant to mimic the natural flush of your face, making your complexion look more healthy and vibrant.
Now, I already have to put on the brakes because there's a flaw here. Not everyone has a natural flush in their face, including me. I don't blush! Because of this, it took me a longer time than most to get the hang of using blush, since I had no natural colouring or placement to mimic. If you're like me and are unable to naturally blush, then don't worry, you can still use blush to, well, you get what I mean.
Whether your face has natural rosy colouring or not, blush is also great if you're using a medium to full coverage base. Full coverage foundations are meant to mask imperfections, but in doing so, they also knock out your natural colouring, which is when you'll reach for a blush to put all that back in.
The Two Types of Blush, and When to Use Them
Before we get started, there are two major types of blush:
- Powder Blush can be used on a bare face or over your foundation. They are available in the widest range of shades with finishes that range from matte to satin and illuminating. Usually applied with a brush, they can be easily blended out for a soft flush of colour, or built for drama. If applying powder blush to bare skin, it's wise to first use a makeup primer to give the blush something to cling to and help make it stay.
- Cream Blush can be blended on top of your foundation and is especially good on bare skin. They have more staying power than a powder and don't need a primer to cling. They can be applied and blended out with your fingers, a brush or a sponge. Creams have a reputation of being too pigmented, but when you're starting out with a new product, everything should be applied with a light hand, so don't let that scare you.
I actually prefer creams. They tend to look a bit more natural, in that they appear that the colour is coming through the skin rather than sitting on top of it. They are also ideal for the winter months as they're a little more hydrating and won't accentuate dry skin.
The Best Way to Apply Your Blush for Your Ideal Look
Everyone tells you to smile and tap the blush on the apples of your cheeks, which are the most prominent parts of your cheeks, the parts that jut out when you smile.
This is a nice way to start, but blush, like eyeliner, like anything, differs with the shape of your face. Don't be afraid to play around with placement. Personally, if I apply solely on the apples of my cheeks, it puts too much colour on the front of my face and flattens it out, making me look like Thomas the Tank Engine. I tend to start the blush halfway on the apples on my cheeks, and brush it back and up toward (but not actually reaching) the top of my ears. This creates nice movement and shape.
I'm not from the "less is more" school of thought, not by a long shot. However, when we're starting out with blush, remember, it's a lot easier to add a bit of colour and then build it up than it is to diffuse too much of it by blending it out. Usually, you'll need next to nothing to get a nice wash of colour, so don't get too crazy from the start.
Pick a small to medium-sized face brush with bristles that aren't too dense. A stipple brush is perfect for this. This one is my favourite. It's perfect.
The bristles aren't too densely packed and they differ in length, so they blend the product softly without building colour too quickly. If the bristles are too tightly packed, you'll run the risk of laying down too much product that you won't be able to diffuse as easily and the brush will keep laying down more and more blush.
Tap the brush into the pan, flick the stem of the brush to knock off any excess product (a good rule for anything you're applying with a brush). Lightly tap on your cheek, and then blend using soft swirling motions. I sweep the brush back and slightly up while I'm blending, but you can determine what placement is best for the shape of your face.
If you aren't accustomed to wearing blush, you might think it looks a little weird on your face. It doesn't, you're just not used to it yet. Take a breath, walk away from the mirror and come back five minutes later. When you give your eyes a rest and then take in your whole look, you'll be surprised at how much you like it.
If you still feel like you applied too much, don't worry! Just pop some foundation over it. If you used a powder blush, use a powder foundation to mute the colour. This is the only thing I use powder foundations for but it never lets me down. If you used a cream blush, then a sheer layer of cream foundation will soften it nicely. Also, doing this makes it look more like your skin is naturally flushing, so it isn't a bad thing to keep in mind.
In terms of colour… There are a hundred articles that will tell you about warm tones and cool tones and what colours NOT to wear. Here's the thing: Do you. If you think it's a pretty colour, if you think it looks good on you, then wear it. I wear a purple blush every day. My hair is purple, so it's actually very flattering, but I'd still be wearing the same shade even if my hair was its natural colour, whatever that means. You're smart. It's your face. You call it.
Some things to remember: A light hand is always the best place to start. A good brush is just as important as a good product, and will do just as much good. There's no right way to do it, it's alright to play around with placement and change things up until you find what works for you. If you think you look great, then you do. You already look great.