The right product can instantly make you look years younger.

By Kayleigh Donahue
Updated January 13, 2021
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Blush can be an intimidating makeup product. (Even as a makeup lover, I can get nervous applying blush.) But you shouldn’t be wary about swiping a beautiful hint of color on your face. You just need the proper information and a few tips and tricks on applying blush; like most makeup products, not all blush is the same. "A soft veil of the right color and kind of blush can give you the healthiest flush," says celebrity makeup artist Maria Verel. Here is expert advice on how to perfectly apply blush and avoid the unsightly clown-like look.

Credit: Prostock-Studio/Getty Images

Decide Which Blush You Need

There are two primary types of blush on the market: powder and cream. "Powder blushes are the traditional version because it's more subtle and easier to diffuse over the skin," says makeup artist Troy Surratt. Verel adds that powder is also faster and easier to apply for a novice "because you can always continue to blend and feather the product into place."

But if you find your blush is enhancing uneven skin texture issues or exaggerating the size of your pores, you may want to consider a cream formula. They sink into the skin instead of sitting right on top like a powder. Cream and gel blushes are usually more pigmented, so there's a little bit more of a learning curve, Surratt says—but it's worth it. "They oftentimes can give dryer skin a bit of luster and radiance," Surratt says.

How to Choose the Right Shade of Blush

The array of blush colors at the beauty counter can have some women feeling like a kid in the candy store and leave others a bit confused. But finding a shade that works best on your skin tone shouldn't be hard. A good rule of thumb: "The darker your skin tone, the deeper the pigment," Verel says.

Translation: lighter baby pinks are the best blushes for fair skin (cool complexions); warm, peachy shades flatter medium and olive skin tones; and richer rosy or red hues look like a natural flush on dark skin. But how do you know if you have warm or cool undertones? "If you have blue or green eyes, your undertones probably skew to the cooler side," Surratt says. "Brown or hazel eyes usually means you have a warmer complexion."

Credit: Courtesy of Ulta

Mulberry or plum is especially flattering on deep skin tones. The satin finish of this shade isn't quite a shimmer, but it's also not a full-on matte, which makes it the perfect in-between. It's made with anti-aging antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, and E, to help give skin a youthful look.

Buy It: LORAC Color Source Buildable Blush in Infrared ($23, Ulta)

Credit: Courtesy of Ulta

Use this cream alone or layer under powder blush for longer-lasting color. The vegan formula is free of Formaldehyde, phthalates, parabens, sulfates, making it a great eco-friendly option. The hyaluronic acid retains moisture and gives cheeks a dewy glow.

Buy It: Covergirl Clean Fresh Cream Blush in Sweet Innocence ($11, Ulta)

Credit: Courtesy of Walgreens

There's no need to worry about the dreaded cake face with this option. Thanks to hydrating Camellia oil, this silky powder blends smoothly on mature skin. Plus, the lightweight powder won't sink into wrinkles or fine lines.

Buy It: Radiant Satin Blush with Camellia Oil in Berry ($13, Walgreens)

Credit: Courtesy of Sephora

This pretty pink can actually be blended on much more than just your cheeks. We recommend trying it out on your lips and even your lids. Wearing the same tone in multiple places on your face creates allover radiance.

Buy It: ILIA Multi-Stick Cheek & Lip in All Of Me ($34, Sephora)

How to Apply Powder Blush

After you've put on your base makeup, Surratt says blush should be the very next thing you do. "It balances your face instantly, so you can assess what other makeup you might need afterward to look fresh and awake," he says. You should apply a powder blush with a brush—but toss the one that comes in the compact. "They're never designed to properly distribute the pigment," Verel says. Instead, look for a blush brush with synthetic bristles that are very fine and compact in a dome shape, like the Sephora Collection PRO Blush Brush #96 ($30, Sephora).

"It's the best investment you can make because a quality brush will transform a drugstore powder into a luxury product," she says. Swirl the brush on the powder, tap off any excess, and dust it onto the fattest part of your cheeks, sweeping it up to your cheekbones, creating the shape of a teardrop. Never use your hands—the oils on your fingers can change the shade of the powder, Verel says.

How to Apply Cream Blush

When you should use your fingers is when applying cream blush. "Dab a dot onto the apples of your cheeks, then buff in circular motions in the same shape as you would powder," Surratt says. Just make sure you're pleased with one cheek before moving on to the other; creams are set very fast, so there's less time to perfect the finish before it becomes completely budge-proof. And the golden rule with both formulas: always start with a little, and build up the color.

Whether you choose a powder or cream formula, a little blush can go a long way in waking up your complexion and giving it a more youthful appearance as skin loses color with age. With these expert insights, you'll be able to confidently walk into the drugstore or makeup department and find the most flattering shade for your skin tone.

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