Blush creates an optical illusion, drawing the eye wherever you dust it on. The best place to put it depends on the shape of your face.
To slim a round face: Sweep it along your cheekbones (suck in your cheeks to locate them) and extend the color out to your temples.
To balance a heart-shaped face: Apply blush below the apples (the meatiest parts) of your cheeks and blend out to your hairline.
To soften a long face: Blend blush beneath your apples, but not out to your temples.
2 of 6 Susie Cushner
How to Pick the Right Shade
Most makeup artists say that to find the blush that suits your complexion best, you should choose one based on your skin’s undertones. Of course, unless you’re a makeup artist, you may not be clear on the concept. “The idea is to use a blush that plays up or down—depending on the effect you’re after—all the subtle colors naturally found in your skin,” says Kate McCarthy, national makeup artist for GloMinerals, in New York City. Still need clarification? If you tan easily or your skin is olive, chances are you have gold or yellow undertones. If you blush readily, yours are probably pink or red. If your complexion is dark, you probably have plum or blue undertones.
Gold or yellow undertones: Pick orange or reddish pinks. They enhance brightness and diminish sallowness.
Pink or red undertones: Stick with light pinks to complement your coloring (for a natural look), or try peach or mocha to cut redness.
Plum or blue undertones: Opt for vivid oranges or pinks, which will stand out against your skin.
3 of 6Christopher Griffith
How Much Should I Wear?
“More than you think,” says Mathew Nigara, a makeup artist for NYC Color Cosmetics. (You want blush to show, not blend in like foundation.) So it’s best to be slightly heavy-handed—a swipe or two past what you think looks natural. “Once you’ve been moving around for a few minutes, your body temperature heats up, which makes even stains begin to fade a bit,” says Nigara. “So the contrast won’t be as jarring.”
What’s the Best Tool for Applying?
For creams, fingers work color into skin best. For powder formulas, a wide-headed loose-powder brush may be more user-friendly than a traditional blush brush, since it’s better at distributing color. Smooth on gels and stains with a synthetic makeup wedge.
What’s the Difference Between Blush and Bronzer?
“Blush gives your face a concentrated pop of color, while bronzer can be used all over your face for a healthy glow,” says makeup artist Paula Dorf, the creator of Paula Dorf Cosmetics. You’ll want to use a lighter hand with bronzer; apply a single sweep wherever the sun would hit: forehead, cheeks, chin, and down the bridge of your nose.
4 of 6Christopher Baker
To choose a formula, keep your skin type in mind, says Andrea Fairweather, a makeup artist in Los Angeles. If it’s dry, go with a hydrating cream (like the ones shown here). If it’s oily, pick a powder. Gels and stains are long-lasting options that can work for anybody.
1. Smashbox Cream Cheek Trio in In Lights (all three shades in compact are shown). To buy: $29, smashbox.com.
2 and 3. Face Stockholm Creme Blush in Paris (2) and Stockholm (3). To buy: $25 each, facestockholm.com.
4 and 5. Bodyography Crème Blush in Dahlia (4) and Navajo Gold (5). To buy: $17 each, bodyography.com.
6. Urban Decay AfterGlow Glide-On Cheek Tint in Fetish. To buy: $24, urbandecay.com.
7 through 9. Clinique Blushwear Cream Stick in Peachy Blush (7), Glow Blush (8), and Rosy Blush (9). To buy: $21 each, clinique.com.
5 of 6Christopher Baker
Powders absorb excess oil and won’t slide off the skin, so they can be layered over other formulas to extend their wear. But powders may also creep into—and exaggerate the look of—wrinkles, so you might want to smooth on a primer first.
1. Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-hour Blush in Adored. To buy: $25, sephora.com.
2. Buxom Powder Blush in Euphoria. To buy: $24, sephora.com.
3. Laura Geller Blush-n-Brighten in Pink Buttercream. To buy: $28, laurageller.com.
4. Chanel Blush Horizon de Chanel Glowing Blush Harmony. To buy: $58, chanel.com.
These color-saturated formulas suit any skin type. However, applying them takes practice. (Fail to blend quickly and you end up with two Raggedy Ann dots of color.) The payoff is a look that will last from sunup till sundown. Fun fact: The color is so tenacious, gels and stains can double as long-wear lip color.