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A makeup artist’s guide to perfecting the art of blusher

Photographer – Kristina Yenko
Makeup – Kim K Pham
Stylist – Gem Brookes
Model – Crystal Russell at Kult Models

Nope, no blush fear here.

If you’re anything like me, you usually shy away from blush, opting instead for the simple matte bronzer and highlighter combo. I get it, blush can be overwhelming. Cream or powder? A matte shade or a shimmer? True pink or soft mauve? Oh, and where exactly do I apply it again? I’m flustered just thinking about it. 

But according to Aussie makeup artist Kim K Pham, “Blush is the quickest, easiest way to lift and brighten the skin.” And, unlike me, Kim keeps her cool when it comes to talking all things blush. Which is why I enlisted her help to answer all your pressing blush questions. Yes, this is the expert’s guide to blush you always wish existed. Here’s what Kim had to say.

On picking your perfect blush colour, even when shopping online

When picking a colour, it’s best to match the blush undertone with your skin undertone. To find out your skin’s undertone, look at what kind of jewellery you like to wear. Gold jewellery usually suits warm undertones. If that’s you, opt for shades with hints of orange or red, like peach, coral or dark magenta. 

People with cool undertones usually suit silver jewellery best and should opt for blushes that have a more blue or purple tone. So, if you have cool undertones, look for blushes that have hints of purple or light pink. In saying that, many blushes these days are universally flattering. If you want to play it safe, peach and rose tones usually match all skin colours. 

When shopping online, search for swatches of the blush that are blended onto a similar skin tone to yours, rather than just opaque swatches. We never put on blush like an eyeshadow, it’s usually a soft wash of colour. If you have dark skin, avoid blushes that have a white base and look for brighter blush pigments instead. For fairer skin tones, definitely stick to lighter blush colours or use darker blushes sparingly. 

On picking the right formula 

Powder blushes often give a softer, smoother finish to the skin, because essentially your foundation (usually a cream or liquid) sets with a powder applied on top. Powder formulas are also easy to build up when layering the colour. Cream blushes are amazing for the most natural flush to the skin. They’re beautiful to blend on naked skin or liquid foundation and create a glow that you can’t get from a powder. 

Powder blushes can be used for all skin types. If you’re concerned with larger pores or fine lines, I would suggest using a powder blush with no shimmer. Cream blushes are still beautiful for oilier skin types. I would just set the skin, or even the blush, with a translucent powder. For dry skin types, cream blushes will look beautiful and give the look of fresh hydrated skin. 

On breaking up with Nars Orgasm

Transitioning out of the Nars Orgasm club can be very difficult, especially considering it looks so flattering on everyone. If you’re wanting a change, the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blushes give a similar glow without the harsh sparkle. Benefit also provides a good range of glowy blushesFor those who want to change but can’t veer too far, try the Liquid Orgasm Blush from Nars, or its powder blush Deep Throat is equally stunning.

On her personal favourites

For myself, I love using the Hourglass Ambient Strobe Lighting Blush in Incandescent Electra. It makes my cheeks and skin glow from the heavens without the disco effect. The coral colour is also flattering for almost all my lipsticks and eyeshadow combos. For my kit, any of the RMS Lip to Cheek colours or the Nars liquid blushes. Hands down, they’re the easiest formulas to blend on the skin and give a healthy flush.

On the best budget-friendly blush (under $30) 

There are so many blushes out there. But to name a few, there’s Bourjois’ Little Round Pot Blush, a classic handbag favourite. Also, Luma’s Just a Touch line has beautiful cream colours for both lip and cheek. And if you want an affordable dupe for Nars Orgasm, try Hot Mama from The Balm. 

On the best blushes in order of skin-tone suitability, from lightest to darkest 

  1. Nars Sex Appeal is a great soft-pink blush for light skin tones as it won’t make you look too red or flushed
  2. Hourglass Mood Exposure is a pearly-pink and mauve blush that’s beautiful if you want something subtle
  3. Benefit Cosmetics Galifornia is peachy golden goodness for all skin tones, plus it applies really easily
  4. Mac Cosmetics Mineralise Blush in Warm Soul has a sheer undertone so it blends beautifully with tan skin, whilst leaving a golden glow
  5. Surratt Artistique Blush in Classique is such a rich formula that never leaves the skin ashy. It’s perfect for those with darker skin tones who want their blush to show.

On making it last longer, given how much we really touch our face during the day

A blush colour will always last longer if it has a cream base underneath. If you’re looking for longevity, try applying a cream blush first, then a soft wash of powder blush over the top. If you don’t have a cream blush handy, a little lipstick on the cheeks will work just fine. Also, makeup, in general, lasts longest on healthy, hydrated skin. So before applying any makeup, make sure your skin is well moisturised and that all your cream is massaged into the skin. It really goes a long way. 

On any nifty tricks and tips

Never apply your blush too close to the nose. Leave a two-finger distance between your blush and nose. And steer clear of brushes that are too big. A brush should be the size of the apple of your cheek (the round bump when you smile). And if your blush has bumps or grey parts where the colour doesn’t apply anymore, it means there’s a build-up of oil on the blush. Simply get a small spoon or cotton swab and scrape the top of the blush. 

For my mature ladies, avoid applying blush while smiling. When you smile your cheeks naturally lift, but as we age the skin tends to fall with gravity, and so does the blush placement. I find applying the blush a little bit higher on the cheekbone will always give the skin a good lift. 

On the little nudge you need

After applying blush, you can see an immediate difference as it adds a natural flush to the skin. Our skin is never monotone, so why stop at foundation and bronzer (which are all shades of beige). And don’t be scared of bright blush colours. Generally, they have beautiful pigment and, when applied right, can give the best finish to the skin. 

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