LAST WEEK we asked readers for their blushing favorites and got nearly as many different responses as there are creams and powders on the market, which is a lot.
Stephanie Sedgwick, our brilliant Chef de Bird, said she rarely uses the stuff. That’s possibly because she keeps her head over a stock pot—the heat does bring a glow. Probably cleans her pores as well.
Several other commenters voted for Nars Orgasm, which could be wishful thinking. Powder blusher polled more popular than creams. Some moaned about discontinued favorites. One cheeky reader relies on a glass of wine to bring the color up. I’ll vote for that.
We took the most oft-asked questions to a pair of pros.
Shauné Hayes, whose clients range from Tom Hanks to blushing brides and possibly some grooms said, “My personal preference is cream blush. It brings a luminescence that looks great, particularly on mature skin. Unless powder is blended really well, it looks dry. With creams, the color appears to be coming from within, it’s more emollient, and blends into the skin better.”
Carl Ray, Michelle Obama’s official make-up artist, agreed. “Cream blush is more hydrating, making it a perfect choice for dry skin and looks great for that dewy natural fresh look.” Apply it, he says, with your fingers or a synthetic brush.
“Cream blush can also look absolutely beautiful applied on eyes, lips and cheeks,” he added. “Nars has multiple sticks that can be used for this monochromatic look.”
Both agreed with readers who said creams fade too quickly. “What I like to do is go in with a coordinating powder, just a little bit on top,” said Hayes. “I still get the luminous feel that I want, the hydrated look, but combining the two gives staying power.”
Ray agreed. “Lightly setting cream blush with a similar shade of powder blush—that helps keep it from budging.” But when dry, mature skin is not an issue he prefers powder to creams. “Powder blush is a great choice for oilier skin. Apply it sparingly—you can always add.
But, he cautioned, “it can make skin look and feel more mature than it actually is. Let’s face it—caked-on makeup is not a good look.”
Hayes, who often uses her fingers when working on her own face, has a hands-down favorite in cream blushers from Bobbi Brown. “It’s the ease, emollience and the payoff,” she said. “The color goes on as bright or soft as I need it to be. It can go from sheer to POP. It’s also multipurpose—you can use on your lips for a little color.”
For the fumble-fingered, she suggests trying color in a tube. “Clinique makes a chubby stick as does Charlotte Tilbury. Just put a dot on your cheek and blend. It’s easy to carry in your bag and refresh throughout the day.
Picking your perfect color can be tricky. For a natural look, think about your skin’s undertone and choose a shade of blush with a bit more oomph.
“The best way to determine your undertone is to look at the veins in your wrist under natural light,” said Ray. “Do they look slightly green? If so, you’re warm. If your veins have more of a blue tint or even a hint of purple, your undertones are cool. If you see a mix, then you may have neutral undertones.
“Grab a pure white piece of clothing or even just a piece of white paper. In bright, natural light, hold the item up to your face. If your skin looks pink or rosy by comparison, you’re cool toned. If your face looks more yellow, your undertone is warm. If you feel you look better in off-white or creamy hues rather than stark white, that’s another sign that you may be warm toned. If you can wear both colors without feeling like you look washed out, you may have a neutral undertone.”
In general, those with very fair, alabaster complexions, with blue undertones, look best in shades of baby pink, said Hayes. “If your undertone is more yellow, peach can be very flattering.”
Medium skin needs a little more warmth. “Apricot can be very warm and subtle,” she said. “You already have color, so we just want to accentuate it ever so slightly.”
Dark skin “can really hold the pigment,” she said. “Bright colors can look amazing… deep raisin, terra cotta or brick looks gorgeous on dark skin.” Watch out for colors that look ashy though, or those that make you look ruddy or muddy.
No matter your skin color, “Don’t be afraid to go bold, but blend it well,” she said, a caution she repeated many, many times. Hayes prefers a foam wedge for its ability to soften edges and make that blush look like yours, but better.
Bobbi Brown, Tilbury, and Clinique are on the pricey side, but you needn’t spend a fortune to get a great look and performance. “Often there’s not enough difference—or none at all—to justify the price,” she said. “A lot of brands are owned by the high-end companies, and they just repackage the product.”
Hayes likes L’Oréal, which also owns Lancôme, Saint Laurent, and Armani beauty products, but also–straight from the drugstore aisle—L’Oréal’s Visible Lift Color Blush, which costs less than ten bucks. Sadly, that one’s discontinued, but their True Match Super Blendable Blush claims to give a natural flush—and coordinates with their powders and foundations.
I happen to love Wet n Wild, another drugstore staple. They make powders in a great range of shades, including a ringer for Nars Orgasm. Even better are their creamy sticks in colors that range from pale pink to darkest brown that are excellent for giving subtle color and contouring, all for under $5 each.
Speaking of contouring.
The right shade of blush can slim a nose, sculpt a cheekbone and make the jaw a little less jiggly (looking). There are a million tutorials online. “Look for a brown without any red, which looks like it’s sitting on the skin,” says Hayes. “When you want areas to recede you want a cooler shade, like taupe, which defines while looking natural. And no shimmer, which highlights.”
Just make sure you blend and blend and blend and…
When not messing about with plants, Stephanie Gardens likes to tinker with beauty products and makeup.
Now, some thoughts from some of our staff and readers:
I use Nars Mata Hari, a powder blush. This one is applied differently than most blushes are, though. It’s a shocking, almost fluorescent pink! It’s to be applied very sparingly with a large brush, just lightly dusted high in the center of the apple of your cheeks, just under your pupils. Caution: apply too much and you look like Betty Davis playing Baby Jane Hudson. Apply just enough and you look fresh, glowing and instantly younger.
I have pretty much always used drug store makeup but I do like Clinique, too. I checked my blushes and I have one Revlon and one Neutrogena (pinkish mauve flavors). What I do know is that my good makeup brush is indispensable and goes with me always. The little brushes that come with blushes are pretty poor applicators. And, yes, I agree that cream blush doesn’t work for me either.
I am a powder blush fan. I can’t seem to put on cream without looking like a clown. I have been liking YSL (I like most things French), good colors and consistency, but I also happen to know someone at a store in Dublin who sends me YSL at a discount. Right this moment (actually just a few days ago), I went back to Nars Orgasm blusher. Very summer natural. I don’t often experiment with new brands—well, sometimes I do—but not lately. By the way, the cheek color I get from a glass of red wine often works just as well.
Laura Mercier’s Rose Petal was my favorite. But, of course, the old, sad story: discontinued! However, I begged a saleswoman at Bloomingdale’s in NYC to sell me all her testers, which were inserts for tiny compacts! I got about a dozen, now down to the last one and a half. So far, I haven’t found any more.
I use two Lancôme blushes. Powders. One a rosy pink, the other more on the neutral side and vary them depending on the color lipstick I’m wearing (either rosy or orange-ish). I’ve tried the cream blushes, and I swear they just sink into my skin and disappear, so I stick with powder. Sometimes it doesn’t seem to last long either. I must be doing something wrong. I just looked on Lancôme’s site, and my colors no longer are featured. Guess it’s been a while since I bought blush.
Kathy, I was waiting for your input! You more than anyone I know can wield a blush brush brilliantly (say that three times fast). You really transform a daytime look into something much more glam. Maybe it’s not so much about the blush as your sure hand in contouring. It looks great when you do it—not theatrical, just good.
I do nothing special. Just try to get it on before the dogs knock the brush out of my hand. Seriously.
Orgasm by Nars is a classic, and the best in my opinion.
Burberry discontinued my favorite blush in hydrangea. It was a cross between a powder and a cream and blended so nicely. Oh, well. Now I’m using Westman Atelier’s Super-Loaded Tinted Highlight, which does last a long time but is a little intense. I’m tempted to try the brand’s Baby Cheeks Blush Stick in Poppet because it looks a lot like the old Burberry color. In the meantime, sometimes I just use lipstick as a blush.
LEFT: For creamy blush fans, Westman Atelier’s Baby Cheeks Blush Stick ($50, Violet Grey) is a multi-tasker for velvety color for cheeks, lips and lids. RIGHT: Nars Orgasm ($30, Ulta) has a devoted following among makeup artists and the rest of us.
LEFT: The colors of Kathy Legg’s preferred Lancôme’s powder blushes have been discontinued. When she wants to resupply, she’d choose the label’s Blush Subtil Oil-Free Powder Blush in Rose Fresque ($32, Nordstrom) CENTER: Maybe Judy Robinson could be persuaded to try another shade of Laura Mercier blush, such as this Crème Cheek Color in Oleander ($29, Nordstrom). RIGHT: Chubby Stick Cheek Colour Balm (shown in Plumped Up Peony, $25, Ulta) is a quick, no-fuss, dot-and-blend solution for the impatient among us.
LEFT: Stephanie Cavanaugh stands by drugstore staple Wet n Wild’s Megaglow Makeup Stick Blush ($4.29, Ulta) for subtle color and contouring. RIGHT: A powder-blush fan, Linda Kastan’s go-to is Yves Saint Laurent’s Couture Blush ($42, Nordstrom).
LEFT: Can’t decide between a cream and a powder? MAC’s Extra Dimension Blush ($30, Ulta) combines a cream’s blendability with the finish of a powder. CENTER: A little Nars powder blush in Mata Hari ($30, Bloomingdales) goes a long way. Apply sparingly. RIGHT: True Match Super Blendable Blush ($11.99, Ulta) replaces L’Oreal’s discontinued Visible Lift Color Blush.
LEFT: Makeup artist Shauné Hayes likes Bobbi Brown’s cream blushers, like this multitasking Pot Rouge for Lips and Cheeks ($33, Nordstrom). RIGHT: For the fumble-fingered, a chubby crayon, such as Charlotte Tilbury’s Beach Stick ($45, Charlotte Tilbury), does the trick.