Simple how-tos for creating the prettiest flush.
KEEP IT BELIEVABLE
“The whole idea of putting color on your cheeks is to mimic a healthy glow,” says makeup artist Laura Mercier. Though there’s room for variation, roses like L’Oréal Paris True Match in Spiced Plum are best for pale skin, apricots such as Yves Saint Laurent Cream Blush in 01 work for medium complexions, and muted brick reds like Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge for Lips and Cheeks in Pink Truffle flatter dark skin.
FIND THE RIGHT FORMULA
For normal to dry skin: Try a cream blush, such as Paula Dorf Cheek Color Cream. “It blends in more easily than other formulations and generally looks a little more natural,” says makeup artist Jillian Dempsey. “It’s almost like an added layer of moisture.”
For normal to oily skin: Go with a powder formula, like Nars Blush. It will last longer than a cream blush, which can migrate and fade.
For oily skin: A gel (which can be hard to blend on drier skin) stays put. Try Almay Smart Shade Blush.
CHOOSE YOUR TOOLS WISELY
“For bright powder blush, a good fan brush is a must,” says Dempsey. “It’s best at distributing color evenly and creating a soft effect.” We like Smashbox Fan Brush #22.
A fan or a big, fluffy brush (try the Kevyn Aucoin Blush & Powder Brush) works with other powder blushes, as long as it’s soft. “The bigger brushes can be too thick, giving you too dense an application,” says Dempsey. She likes both natural and synthetic bristles; Mercier prefers goat- and pony-hair ones for their softness. For cream or gel blush, the best tool is your fingers.
CREATE A BASE
Blush can exacerbate redness and look blotchy on uneven skin. The fix? A great primer, says makeup artist Mally Roncal. “That way you have a smooth base for your blush to go over.” We swear by the Best of Beauty–winning L’Oréal Paris Studio Secrets Professional Magic Perfecting Base.
Even if your skin isn’t oily, a layer of translucent powder (try Estée Lauder Lucidity Translucent Loose Powder) used as a primer for your powder blush will help the pigment go on uniformly and last longer, says Mercier. “If you like a dewy look and normally avoid powder, just powder the area where you’ll be applying blush.”
LEARN PROPER PLACEMENT
For the most natural look, begin your blush application at the top of the apple of your cheek. The idea is to deposit most of the pigment “where rosiness would first appear naturally, if you were simply flushing,” says Mercier. If you can’t see where that spot is, smile to push the apples up. Then, placing the color on the part that lies directly below your pupil, blend outward, toward the ear.
FLATTER YOUR FACE SHAPE
Skip the three-second swipe. Expertly applied blush can shape and define your face, creating the illusion of cheekbones that don’t exist—and it’s easier to do than you think:
To thin a round face: Start your blush at the apples, then brush it along the cheekbones all the way up to the temples, says makeup artist Pat McGrath.
To fill out a thin face: Using circular motions, apply your blush to the center of your cheeks and blend it along the cheekbones and straight back to your ears. On a narrow face, makeup artist François Nars likes a bright pink blush with highlighter on the apples.
To shorten a long face: Dust your blush from the apples up toward the temples, then a little across each eyelid and on the chin, says Roncal. Having the same shade on your eyes, cheeks, and chin will make your face look shorter.
To soften a square face: Apply a soft shade of blush on the apples and down into the hollows of your cheeks, says Roncal. Then lightly skim your brush over your temples to very subtly contour.
To create higher cheekbones: Choose a contouring powder or a matte bronzer a shade or two darker than your skin. Starting at the outer cheekbones, lightly sweep it over them. A dot of highlighter on the tops of the cheekbones creates a lifted effect.
PICK A FINISH
First, think of the lighting: “Certain lights reflect more than others—fluorescent especially—so skip anything too sparkly at the office,” says Mercier.
Then consider your skin: “Blushes with shimmer bring sallow skin back to life,” Mercier explains, while matte blushes are ideal for oily skin, eliminating shine and staying put longer. Sheer blushes, which tend to be creams or gels, look best on very dark or very pale complexions, since they allow the skin to show through.