We’re not huge on ‘beauty trends’ at Beauty Bible (fact: you will never catch us wearing pink eyeshadow). However, there’s one make-up ‘fashion’ we couldn’t be more pleased to see make a return to the pages of the glossies, and the catwalk: after seasons of showing bronzer-brushed cheeks (or just pale, wan faces), there’s a re-birth of blush. Which is, frankly, good news for everyone – because there is nothing swifter for perking up a face than a hint of flattering pink.
Of course, blusher – not foundation – is for perking up your face, super-fast. But today, there’s a bigger-than-ever choice of textures, as well as shades, so here’s our guide to getting it right. In reality, blusher needs to contrast with skin to offer a real wake-up call. Peaches and pinks work best on fair tones, plums and berries flatter olive and dark skin. The exception: if skin is ruddy (for instance, if you flush easily or have rosacea), opt for a neutral, almost brown-toned pink.
So, before you invest in colours that turn out to be not quite right once they’re on, follow this simple rule of thumb.
Ivory skin tones (these tend to be pale, and therefore need subtle, rather than intense colours) should stick to light beige tones for contouring (see how to take off five pounds, below) and soft pinks and peaches for blush.
Pink skin tones also need pale beige for contouring, with a stroke of warm peach to highlight and play down the rosiness of the complexion. (This applies to women with broken veins, too, who should opt for more peach-y/apricot shades – otherwise the blusher picks up that redness and emphasises it.)
Yellow skin tones – perhaps a bit on the sallow side – do best with a honey-coloured contour, with a peachy/coral flush.
Black skins should choose a fudge-coloured blush for contouring, topped off with a brighter, but still dark, shade of berry of plum.
- Remember, when shopping for blushers, the only way you can tell if a blusher shade suits is by applying it on the cheeks, not the back of the hand. So you should really test it on a ‘naked’ face, or over foundation-only, otherwise the chances are it will end up in your cupboard. Always test with a cotton pad – or a brush that you’ve seen them sterilise in the store.
- To avoid obvious ‘stripes’ of blusher, apply it mostly to the apples of the cheeks, rather than all along the cheekbone. Smile – and the centre of your cheek will puff out; this is where to apply blusher, then blend outwards towards the hairline. According to our make-up friend John Gustafson, ‘if you can just see your blusher from about five feet away when you stand back, the shade is about right.’ If you overdo blusher, don’t rub; apply some pressed powder over the top to tone the colour down.
- If you’re feeling tired, you can use blusher to give your face an instant ‘lift': sweep it high on the outer part of the cheeks, near to the eyes and up towards the temples.
- According to the pros we know, women with oily skin should use a blush that’s a shade lighter than the one they want to end up with. (This compensates for the darkening effects of oil on the blush’s pigment.)
And now for coosing a blusher texture…
Gel blusher is best for flawless skins that don’t really need base, as it’s best applied just over moisturiser; but it doesn’t work very well over powder or foundation. Be aware that there’s very little ‘playtime’ and if you don’t blend it into skin super-fast, you can be left with circles of pigment.
Cheek stains are for the advanced face-painter only – they’re even harder to blend in, but are incredibly long-lasting. (Good for that just-got-back-from-a-windswept-walk look, on casual weekends – again, on already-flawless skins.)
Cream blusher is our top choice, these days: easy-glide formulations which can be dabbed onto skin – either bare skin (with a bit of concealer if needed), or over foundation – then blended outwards with your middle finger. There’s much more ‘playtime’ than with gel blushers – although the creamy formulation does slowly ‘set’ to a powdery finish. The great thing about cream blusher is that because these blend beautifully, you don’t have to worry so much about “placing” the colour. If you’ve time, warm on the back of your hand, then dab onto the centre of the cheek and blend. But because you’re heating the skin with the rubbing action, you can look pinker, so wait a minute before you add any more.
Powder blusher should be applied with a very light touch, always with a generously-sized, domed blusher brush. Sweep the brush across the colour, then tap it firmly against a hard surface (to get rid of absolutely all excess), before applying to your face; never, ever go straight from the compact to your cheeks because that’s what makes for the ‘pantomime dame’ look.
Bronzing powder is applied in the same way as powder blusher, but can be used to create a sun-kissed look elsewhere on the face. Follow the same guidelines as for powder blush – but when it comes to knowing where to put it, John Gustafson advises: ‘for a natural effect, apply the bronzer to the places that would catch the sun: take the colour up over your nose, the tops of your cheekbones, the brown and the chin.’
How to lose five pounds in five seconds
Make-up can also be used to slim down a less-than-svelte face, provided it’s used carefully, and the make-up artists’ mantra of ‘blend, blend, blend’ is observed at all times. As our make-up artist pal, Jenny Jordan, emphasises: ‘I can’t stress the need for careful blending enough. If you don’t do it right, it looks like you’ve got smudges of dirt on your face.’ It’s all about optical illusion: using make-up that’s a shade or two darker than skin tone can create cheekbones where there aren’t any and make double chins and flabby jawlines look more sculpted.
Jenny Jordan’s trick is to apply blusher in the usual way, and then use the lightest dusting of a light-toned matte bronzing powder in a sweep, just under the cheekbone. (Suck in your cheeks to locate this natural hollow.) The bronzer can be used under the chin, too. Alternatively, experiment with a shade of face powder two or three shades darker than you usually wear, applied in those same zones. And one last option: use a foundation that’s two shades darker than your usual choice, and apply to those same areas. It’s even more subtle, but just as effective – provided you’re careful to avoid any ‘tide marks’. Above all, contouring requires practice before you go out in the big, wide world with your new (subtly) sculpted face…