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Makeup Artists: The Strategic Way to Apply Blush to Accentuate Your Best Features

Plus, the blush shades that will flatter your skin tone best!

If you’re like us, you’ve been applying your blush the same way since high school: you smile, then swipe the color onto the apples of your cheeks to get that “just right” spot. However, while that may add a healthy flush to your skin, that placement doesn’t always flatter everyone or highlight the right facial features. In fact, makeup artists say that you should actually be applying your blush based on your face shape for the most youthful results. So we turned to the pros to learn where to apply blush based on your face shape, the best tools to use and how to select the best blush shade for you.

Why use blush in the first place?

Mature woman smiling in mirror while applying blush for her face shape.

Think of blush as adding paint to a pencil drawing: The pencil drawing is nice, carving out all the features of the picture, but it’s a little dull — it’s missing something. Add some paint, and your drawing all of a sudden looks more lively, interesting and vibrant. The same thing goes for our face. Your base makeup is like the pencil drawing and adding that pop of color with some blush is the paint.

Without blush, it’s easy for your complexion to look washed out, especially if you start with foundation or concealer. That’s because foundation gives the complexion an even base but with no dimension. Enter blush. “I like to think of blush as a way to give a natural flush to the skin, which translates into a healthy radiance,” says celebrity makeup artist Neil Scibelli, who’s worked with Elle Macpherson and Melissa Etheridge. “Blush can be a quick pick-me-up to the complexion, and it accentuates the apples of the cheeks, the facial structure and brings life to the skin.”

Plus, since most skin tones naturally have a hint of rosiness or color before any makeup is applied, blush looks very natural. And if applied properly and with the right shade for your skin tone, it can brighten up the complexion without looking clownish.

Where to apply blush based on your face shape

Top celebrity makeup artist Gita Bass, who’s worked with Laura Dern and Julianne Moore, shares the easy blush application techniques that will help you put your best face forward.

Where to apply blush if you have a round face

A rounded jawline can cause the eye to circle the face’s perimeter, creating the illusion of a wider shape. But adding some blush creates dimension to the face and “lifts” features upward, bringing in the eye. To get the benefits, “dust blush onto the apples of the cheeks, then move the color up and outward,” says Bass. “By pulling focus diagonally from mid-face out, this breaks up any fullness and subtly ‘stretches’ the face for a slimmer look in an instant.”

Where to apply blush if you have a heart-shaped face

Bass’ trick to harmonize the wider forehead and smaller chin of a heart-shaped face? Apply blush in a “kidney bean” shape. To do: Starting from the bottom of the cheekbone, sweep color up and around the outside of the eye toward the temple. “The subtle curve adds width mid-face, tricking the eye into seeing a wider jawline,” says Bass, while the stroke of color along the edge of the face creates a “shadow” that visually minimizes the brow so it looks more in proportion with the chin.

Where to apply blush if you have a long face

With a long face, the key is to add width, which helps to create the illusion of a shorter face. Bass’ pro tip: Start by applying blush just above the cheekbone, sweeping it out toward mid-ear. “This causes the eye to scan from side to side, adding width to the widest part of the face to counteract its length.” Then, finish with a swirl of blush up near the eyebrow’s tail. By placing color up at the farthest points on the face, it directs the eye up and in for a face-lift effect, rather than down which can sometimes occur with longer face shapes.

Where to apply blush if you have a square face

Since a square face’s cheekbones are often the same width as the jawline, it can make the overall appearance harsh and boxy, says Bass. She advises applying lighter strokes of color starting low on the apples of cheeks, then gradually going a bit darker as you bring the hue up and around the cheekbone toward the ears. This slightly upturned, curved motion helps cheeks appear rounder to soften and “slenderize” the strong shape, while also distracting from the jawline’s harsh angles.

How to apply blush based on formula

Now that you’ve learned where to apply blush to best suit your face shape, Scibelli shares the best ways to add the color to cheeks.

How to apply powder blush: Scibelli advises using a blush brush to keep the powder intact. It’s also best to start with a light amount and build from there. You can also pat the brush on the back of the hand before applying to cheeks. This will prevent too much color from being swept onto cheeks.

How to apply cream blush: The great thing about cream blush is that it’s easy to apply because you have the option of using your fingers, a sponge or a brush, says Scibelli. For blushes that come in stick form, he says “you can apply it directly to the cheeks and then blend it out with your fingers or with a blending tool like a sponge or synthetic foundation brush.” And for cream blushes that come in a compact, light dip a brush, sponge or fingertips into the color and blend onto cheeks.

How to apply liquid blush: “These can be applied similarly to cream blush, except they tend to have a bit more pigment,” says Scibelli. “So I like to use the top of my hand as a palette and apply the product to my hand first, and then pick up the desired amount to apply to the skin with either a brush, sponge or fingertips,”he explains.

For more blush tips based on formula, check out the YouTube video below from @MichelleFoxBeauty

How to pick the best blush shade for you

Keep reading to discover Scibelli’s favorite shades for different skin tones.

If you have fair or light skin

Scibelli says he opts for peach and light pink hues for those with fair or light skin. These soft shades complement lighter skin tones so they don’t overwhelm the complexion or look too harsh. He also suggests working with a lightweight formula “that are on the sheer side, or buildable.” This will prevent you from going overboard when applying blush so you aren’t left looking clownish.

Neutrogena Hydrating Hydro Boost Multi Use Stick in Soft Pink

Neutrogena Hydrating Hydro Boost Multi Use Stick in Soft Pink (Buy from Amazon, $14.97)

This light pink multi-stick truly does it all and brings out the rosiness in light skin tones. It’s easy to toss in your bag to pretty up cheeks on the go and can be used on the cheeks, lips and eyelids. Plus, as Scibelli suggests, it’s sheer and buildable. And best of all, it’s made with hyaluronic acid that hydrates skin at the same time.

Charlotte Tilbury matte beauty blush wand
Charlotte Tilbury

Charlotte Tilbury Matte Beauty Blush Wand in Pink Pop (Buy from Sephora, $42)

While this blush is a bit of a splurge, there’s a reason this liquid formula has gone viral on TikTok. Its pretty pink hue complements porcelain skin and the sponge-tip applicator makes it a cinch to swipe on and blend. Tip: Start with one dot on each cheek and add more if needed.

Product image of Saie Dew Blush in Rosy

Saie Dew Blush in Rosy (Buy from Saie, $25)

If you love blush with a radiant finish, look no further than this peachy-pink option that flatters lighter skin tones. Just use a small amount since a little bit goes a long way. Reviewers love how it melts into skin and creates an ultra natural rosy flush.

If you have medium skin

Scibelli says medium skin tones look best in rich berry and rose tones, or a deeper/darker peach. These shades all have warm tones that enhance the warmth in medium skin.

e.l.f. Halo Glow Blush Beauty Wand in Berry Radiant

e.l.f. Halo Glow Blush Beauty Wand in Berry Radiant (Buy from Amazon, $9)

This e.l.f. blush in a rich berry shade adds a pretty pop of color to cheeks for those with medium skin tones. And it has a light-reflecting finish that gives skin a youthful glow, which can also detract from any skin texture.

Maybelline Fit Me Blush in shade Plum

Maybelline Fit Me Blush in Plum (Buy from Ulta, $7.49)

The warmth of this deeper rose blush brings out a warm glow in medium skin. And for those with medium, olive skin, its hint of red cancels out any green undertone so the complexion appears more golden.

Flower Beauty Ultralight Liquid Blush

FLOWER Beauty Ultralight Liquid Blush in Poppy (Buy from Ulta, $14.50)

If you have a medium skin tone and prefer an orange-toned blush, then this gel-based one is perfect for you. It goes on lightweight and is buildable if you like your cheeks to be a pretty focal point.

If you have dark skin

On darker skin tones, Schibelli says, “I really like using wine tones, bright corals and bright berry tones.” That’s because a bright blush on darker skin creates a beautiful contrast that makes features stand out. And for deeper skin tones, look for more pigmented formulas, which will ensure the best color payoff.

Rare Beauty Stay Vulnerable Melting Cream Blush in Nearly Apricot
Rare Beauty

Rare Beauty Stay Vulnerable Melting Cream Blush in Nearly Apricot (Buy from Sephora, $22)

This blush has a cream formula which blends effortlessly into skin without seeping into fine lines and wrinkles. And in an eye-catching coral, it brings out the warmth in darker skin.

Pixi On-the-Glow Blush Tinted Moisture Stick

Pixi On-the-Glow Blush Tinted Moisture Stick in Ruby (Buy from Ulta, $18)

For another blush option that’s easy to apply, try this bright berry toned one that stands out on darker skin. It can be swiped onto cheeks, then blended with fingertips. Even better? This blush can be used on the eyes and lips for a beautiful monochromatic makeup look.

L'Oréal Infallible 24H Fresh Wear Soft Matte Blush in Legendary Berry

L’Oréal Infallible 24H Fresh Wear Soft Matte Blush in Legendary Berry (Buy from Ulta, $15.99)

The rich wine color of this gorgeous blush adds a more subtle flush to deeper skin tones. Plus, it’s long-lasting formula prevents the color from fading fast.

Related: Celebrity Makeup Artists: The 8 Best Blushes for Mature Skin That Give You Some Glow Without Looking Clownish

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