Everything You Need To Know About Blush (No, Seriously--EVERYTHING)

Consider this the definitive guide to faking rosy cheeks.
Publish date:
December 26, 2013
blushes, nars, mac, How-To, Revlon, favorites, makeup brushes, contouring, Boots No 7

One of the key ingredients in my makeup uniform is a healthy application of hot pink blush.

After mascara, blush is truly my magical makeup product--there’s nothing else on the planet that can make me look prettier and more alive than the addition of some colour on my cheeks.

Being pale and slightly freckly, and now with darker hair than I had anticipated, blush is essential to giving my face some colour. Without it, I can easily lean into Loki-in-Asgardian-Superjail territory, and while Tom Hiddleston is undoubtedly a babe, I’d rather not look as drawn as someone who has been locked up for trying to take over the world. I mean, obviously I’m trying to take over the world. But I don’t want to LOOK like I am. It’s more fun if it’s a surprise.

You guys have been asking me about blush and faking rosy cheeks for a while now, so I finally put together a complete and exhaustive blush guide. We’ll be talking about application, blending, brushes, products I love, picking your perfect colour and every secret tip and trick I’ve come up with.

This is going to be a monster post, so let’s get going!

Blush Brush 101

Some blushes come with brushes. 99% of the time, you’ll want to discard those, because they are never as good as they could be--they’re usually flat and wide, with bristles either too thick (itchy, doesn’t blend well) or too thin (will hold the product in the brush, rather than putting it on your face).

The perfect blush brush is about as wide as the apples of your cheeks. It is neither too flat nor too rounded on top. The bristles are coarse enough to disperse the colour evenly, but soft enough not to irritate your face.

The blush brush I’ve used daily for the last 10 years (not even kidding) is one that I got free with an Estee Lauder purchase that I made in college. It is perfect.

You can see that it’s not super-flat on the top, which is ideal. Really flat-topped brushes tend to make blush go on in big round circles, which is then harder to blend out. The mixture of long and short bristles in this brush mean that the colour applies and blends really beautifully--the long bristles touch your face first and apply the colour, then the short ones add just a teeny bit more colour as you blend, so that the blush never washes out or straight vanishes.

My blush brush is also the only one of my brushes that I don’t wash every week (more like every other week). The reason for this is because my brush retains quite a lot of product, even as it blends it so perfectly on my face. I don’t even need to dip it into the pan most of the time--I just pull it out of my case, dab whatever is left on the brush on my cheeks and have the perfect flush.

This may or may not work for you, depending on the shade of blush you choose, how often you switch your colour up and how much of a tolerance you have for not washing your brushes super-frequently. I promised you all of my secrets, and this is one of them, so into the article it goes!


This is something that I know a lot of people struggle with, but I promise it is not very difficult. There’s a lot of wacky blush advice out there, but in real life, there are really only a couple ways you’ll need to apply it for everyday wear.

The first is under the cheekbones. This will enhance the angles of your face and for sure get you invited to a zygoma-polishing party. For this, you should use a blush colour that is a similar shade to the tone of your skin.

For me, this is a neutral apricot shade. I am using the top shade from the Revlon Photoready Blush Palette I wrote about a while ago, which is this colour.

Suck your cheeks in and look where the hollows of your cheeks are. This is where you want to put the blush. Using a light hand, apply the blush in a straight line underneath the cheekbone, right to where the apples of your cheeks get chubby. Imagine that you’re enhancing the shadows cast by high cheekbones--that’s the point here.

Now, blend well. Like REALLY well. You do not want a super-bright racing stripe down the side of your face. The secret to blending blush is basically the secret to blending eyeshadow: clean your brush on a towel so that there isn’t so much product left on it, then move the now-clean brush back and forth over the blush on your face until you can no longer see a harsh line of colour, but not SO much that it spreads out all over the side of your face.

Here’s how it looks in the end. This looks quite dramatic on me because I am an alien from Cheekbone Planet; your finished look may vary.

The second way to apply blush, and the way that I do it almost every day and in every article, is on the apples. The apples of your cheeks are the chubby bits when you smile, and because I happen to have extremely chubby cheeks, I am the perfect person to demonstrate where they are.

This blush style will give your face some extra colour, so you should pick a colour that makes you really happy. Think pinks, corals, even reds--anything that makes you look bright, vibrant, pretty and fresh. If you get the shade right (and use a light hand) there’s no colour that you can’t wear.

While you’re smiling really big, dab a very small amount of the blush onto the apples of your cheeks. Blend by moving the brush in tiny little circles. A light hand and a good brush are very important here.

I also always brush a tiny amount on the tip of my nose. This creates the illusion that the colour is “spread” more evenly across my face and stops the bright colour from looking clownish. It’s a trick I learned from my ballet days. Again, make sure you blend really well.

After blending, here is how it all looks in the end. I can report that, having done this style of makeup on all different face shapes (including Helena when I wrote about red lipsticks for redheads), it works on everyone, not just those of us with exceptionally chubby apple-cheeks.

After this, I will usually put a light dusting of shimmer powder overtop to make my skin glow like a glamorous angel...but that is a story for another time.

On Using a Light Hand (and a digression)

I’ve said this around eight times already and we’re not even halfway through the article. So what do I mean by “a light hand”?

Basically, don’t load up your brush with one hundred pounds of product and then blob it onto your face. Use a small amount of blush and apply it lightly to your cheeks. Blend it well. If you get a good-quality, well-pigmented blush--and these are available at all price points--you won’t need heaps of it on your face to get it to show up.

Some of you guys might be wondering about cream blushes. The truth is, I don’t mess with them and I never have. Because I always wear a light foundation or BB and foundation with my blush, as opposed to wearing it on naked skin, cream blush doesn’t work for me because it rubs all the pre-existing product off my face. It’s also harder to blend and way harder to diffuse the colour. If you are a ride-or-die cream blush user, I would love to know your secrets; until then, I am sticking to powder blushes.

Choosing a Colour

So here’s a fun fact about me: I cannot physically blush. For the longest time I thought that blushing was a figure of speech... and then I actually saw someone do it. I was briefly astonished, then annoyed as I realised I’d never be the girl who “colours prettily” like people did in books.

Instead, I fake the roses in my cheeks with my ultimate secret blush weapon: NARS Blush in Desire.

This blush is so bright, it defies photography. It is truly matte, allowing me to keep it that way OR make it as shimmery as I like with a separate sparkle powder. The formula is incredibly pigmented, which means I need the tiniest amount for gloriously rosy cheeks. It lasts all day without fading or smudging. And the intense, cool-toned pink works on so many skin tones, it’s insane. Whenever a friend asks me to do their makeup, I can be fairly certain that this is the only blush I’ll need to bring with me.

The first step to picking a blush that you love is to think about the finish you want. I prefer matte blushes because I can make them shimmery if I want to (and I almost always want to) but one can’t take sparkle OUT. Consider this carefully beforehand.

The second step is to think about the colours that you like and how you’ll be using them. If you want to define your cheekbones, you will probably be looking for a more neutral blush to create some light contouring.

If you’re looking for something to add colour to your face, well, the sky is the limit. Do you like pinks? Corals? Oranges? Reds? Mauves? Straight-up plums and purples? Pick your favourite colour and start there. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you find the right shade, ANY colour can work on ANY complexion.

Got some colours in mind? The third step is not to get intimidated by the colours in the pan. When makeup is compacted and stuck into packaging, it can look exceptionally BRIGHT and INTENSE--it will likely not look that way on your face.

You can also get a good idea of what the colour looks like by sticking your finger into the tester pan and rubbing it on the back of your hand, but it won’t be exactly right. You will never wear colour on your face in such a concentrated way. If you can, test it out with a brush. This will show you what the shade will look like when applied lightly, which as we know, is totally the secret of blush.

The final step is to get used to it. If you are used to wearing zero blush and then bust out a very bright shade, or if you change colours, or even if you just change how you position it on your face--it’s going to look weird to your brain for a while.

I’ve written about how making big changes to your appearance usually results in a temporary freakout, where your brain is all “THIS IS AWFUL I LOOK RIDICULOUS CHANGE ME BACK.” But that is a brain problem, not a colour problem. It takes a few days to get used to a fairly major change in your appearance--hair colour, haircut, new lip colour, even a different way of doing your eyeliner --but once you’re used to it, you will see how totally babely and awesome you look!

My Blush Product Picks

OK, so here are some of my favourite blushes at all price points. Use this as a starting point if you are looking to jump into a new colour or finish!

NARS Blush. These are the ultimate; truly the Platonic ideal of blushes. So many beautiful colours. So magnificently pigmented. They come in every finish you can imagine, stay on your face all day and blend like a dream. One pan of this will last you forever, and you will look gorgeous the entire time. (Seriously though, try Desire. It’s the best.)

MAC Mineralize Blush. If you’re looking for blush with some shimmer (rather than straight-up glitter), this is the product for you. There’s just enough variety in the shades to keep the line interesting, but not so many that you look at them and get overwhelmed.

Revlon Photoready Sculpting Blush Palette. I wrote about these a while ago and as far as I’m concerned, they are still the champions of the drugstore blush game. These palettes come with a contour shade AND a highlighter as well as a blush, which is totally awesome. The blush itself is really pigmented, with a soft but not powdery feel. Best of all, the shades I’ve tried are all truly matte. Yesssss.

Boots No.7 Natural Blush Tint Powder. The Target nearest my house carries a bunch of Boots products, and they pretty much all rule. This blush is no exception. It’s so pigmented that you definitely won’t have to add multiple layers to build colour, and in enough of a range that everyone will be able to find a colour they’re in love with.

Do you have any other blush questions? What is your go-to blush colour? Do you have cream blush application secrets? CAN you physically blush? Faz and I seem to be the only people in the world who cannot!