Everything You Need To Know About Blush, From How To Apply It To What Kind To Use

Plus, the best formulas to shop now.

A close-up of a woman wearing pink blush.

(Photo: Courtesy of Merit)

While blush is the key to a glowing, healthy-looking complexion, many still shy away from its benefits. Whether it’s for fear of messing up the application or not knowing which shade to pick, there’s a multitude of reasons why blush is often skipped. But, blush shouldn’t be counted out so quickly (in our humble opinion). We asked Stéphane Côté, the senior national artist for M.A.C Cosmetics Canada, and Jasmine Merinsky, a Toronto-based makeup artist and beauty executive, to decode the makeup staple for us.

Read on for their top tips on how to apply blush, tricks to help you pick the right shade for your skin tone and expert advice on how to navigate all the different textures on the market.

What does blush do?

Merinsky says it best: “Blush is everything!” Whether in powder, cream or liquid form, it adds a flush of colour to the skin, which gives it a healthy glow and helps sculpt features without resorting to heavy contouring. Côté notes that blush is especially beneficial for those who wear foundation as it tends to cover up the skin’s natural flush, leaving it looking flat and one-dimensional. He compares wearing blush to adjusting the brightness on a photo.

I’m naturally flushed—can I still wear blush?

Both Merinsky and Côté believe that even people who have a natural flush, strong pink undertones to their skin or rosacea can benefit from adding blush to their routine. If your skin is prone to redness, Merinsky recommends reaching for a colour that will help counteract that tone (like a neutral brown shade) and pairing it with concealer. Côté also suggests steering clear of pinks and reds, which can make already bright cheeks look feverish. “In that case, I recommend playing with highlighter and bronzing powder,” he says.

What is the best blush formula for my skin type?

From classic powder formulas to creams, liquids, mousses and gels, beauty aisles are overflowing with options. Good news: There isn’t a hard and fast rule when it comes to choosing a texture. Both Côté and Merinsky swear by the dewy glow and easy blending you get from cream formulas, but agree that powders have plenty of benefits too. Dry skin tends to love the moisture boost a cream provides, while oily skin typically fares well with a powder that helps sop up excess sebum. But as Merinsky notes, it really comes down to preference.

Pro tip: If you have dry skin and don’t want to swap out your powder blush for a cream, Côté recommends applying your go-to formula with a sponge dampened with a few spritzes of hydrating mist, like the M.A.C Cosmetics Prep + Prime Fix+.

How do I pick the right shade of blush for my skin tone?

Anything you like goes, but Merinsky and Côté both have tips to get you started on the search for your dream shade. “A great rule of thumb for finding the perfect shade is [matching the colour] to the natural tones found in your lips,” says Merinsky. From there, you can go for a softer or more vibrant hue depending on the desired effect. Côté also recommends looking to your natural cheek colour to find a shade that brightens up your complexion.

There are also a few surefire winners to keep in mind while scanning potential colours: dusty and rosy shades of pink work well with fair skin, corals and peaches pop on medium skin tones and rich berry and magenta hues look stunning on darker skin.

Should I apply blush before or after my foundation?

Blush is best used on top of foundation. “Think of it as the decorative icing on a cake,” says Merinsky. While your foundation evens out the skin, blush lets you strategically add colour to sculpt and brighten the face. If you want some of your natural colouring to come through, Côté suggests using less foundation over the cheeks so that your natural flush is visible when blush is applied on top. If you don’t often use foundation or base products, you can apply blush directly on fresh skin for a subtle hit of colour.

What is the best way to apply blush?

When it comes to blush, less is more. Start with a small amount of product on your brush or fingers and gradually build up your look, says Merinsky. This technique allows you to customize the intensity. Remember: you want it to look like it’s your skin’s natural flush, says Côté.

As for tools, your fingers, makeup sponges and brushes all work—it’s all down to your personal preference and the texture of your product. Côté loves using a big, soft-bristled brush to apply powders in soft layers, while he opts for a more densely bristled brush for cream formulas. Merinsky is a fan of using her fingers when applying cream blushes on herself as the warmth from her digits helps melt the product into the skin, which provides a beautiful, blended finish.

What’s the best way to apply blush for my face shape?

When applying blush, Côté always think back to a moment in a much-loved musical. “I think of Julie Andrews pinching her cheeks in The Sound of Music in order to look flushed.” Both experts agree that adding a splash of colour to the apple of your cheeks is a foolproof application method for all face shapes. If you’re unsure exactly where the apple of your cheek is located, Merinsky advises flashing a big smile and blending your colour right onto the high point of your cheek. Once you apply your colour, blend it upwards and outwards to give a soft, diffused finish, making sure not to bring the hue too close in towards your nose or up towards your eye, which can drag your features down.

While applying to the apples of your cheeks is always a good idea, there are a few basic rules you can turn to if you want to customize your application to your face shape. Oval and square-shaped faces are best complemented by the traditional application technique described above, while round and heart-shaped face shapes can benefit from applying blush along their cheekbones, starting at the outer part of the face. This will help to give the illusion of more sculpted features.

For a sun-kissed look, try applying blush to your nose. While this application technique has been making the rounds on TikTok recently, it’s nothing new according to Côté. “It gives the face a ‘bonne mine,’ meaning it makes skin look healthy,” says Côté. To achieve this flushed look, apply blush to your cheeks, then use the pigment that’s left on the brush to sweep over the top of your nose. “It will give the illusion of a flush that a cold breeze or light workout may naturally provide,” says Merinsky. She adds that if your skin tends to be on the oiler side, this technique may not be suited to you as your natural sebum could cause the colour on your nose to shift and look blotchy later in the day.


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