Blush and highlight are two controversial steps: Either you love them or you definitely, completely and utterly don’t. I for one never used to like blush. I have rosy cheeks and I spend much of my makeup routine covering pinkness with foundation and concealer and couldn’t imagine then adding a colour I just removed. The story only changed when I got sent a sample blush by Nars, and I thought “oh, why not?” and I immediately converted to a pro-blush stance. On the other hand, I’ve had a continued love affair with highlighters and it’s only going from strength to strength.
In saying that, I’m still on the hunt to find the best of the best (keep a lookout for that blogpost when it eventually comes around!). Even though I’m continuing my hunt to find the best formulas – those that sink into the skin, those that give a lit-from-within glow – over the past couple of years I’ve experimented with application techniques. It’s shocking how good a product can look using one brush in one area of your cheek, and how awful it can look, or how useless it can be, with another brush in a different area of your cheek. So I’m going to talk you through the techniques I’ve found to be the best in making your highlighter and blush look as flattering as possible.
WHERE AND WHY
When it comes to blush – DO NOT SMILE. 🙂
It is a common misconception that you have to smile when applying blush to the apples of your cheeks. But, when you smile, you also lift your skin higher up your face – you apply blush all over the ‘apples’, and then you drop your face back down to its natural resting place. But what happens here is that the blush that was at the bottom of the ‘apple’ when you were smiling, is now lower down on your face, creating a U-shape. This causes a dragged-down droopy effect, which no one wants. If you think about it, you can see where you would like your blush to be without smiling – the higher up your blush application is, the more lifted your face will look.
Personally, I prefer to keep my blush far away from the sides of my nose. Instead, I apply my blush on my cheeks starting at the halfway point of my eye, and then tapping it gently upwards and outwards along my cheekbone, but not too far back. This emphasises my cheekbones with a healthy colour while contributing to a lifted and bright look. Sometimes I’ll tap the excess blush left on the brush across the bridge of my nose as this adds to the ‘natural’ flush look.
HOW & WHY
Tapping, instead of buffing, is always the way to go, especially if you are wanting to retain a smooth and/or full-coverage foundation base. Buffing moves product around and can cause patchiness. A big, fluffy brush is preferred, such as the Real Techniques 201 Powder brush or the Fenty 170 Powder Puff Setting brush. Smaller brushes can dispense product too intensely in a small spot, meaning a lot of buffing will be needed to blend it out. Crucially, you must tap off any excess powder on your brush – too much product will make application harder and messier.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE RIGHT BRUSH
For highlighter, techniques vary depending on the formula. When applying pressed powder highlighter to the high-points of my cheekbones, I prefer a longer/bigger, softer, fluffier brush as opposed to a smaller, denser brush – but not for the same reason as for blush. Smaller, denser highlighter brushes are fantastic when applying loose powder highlighters, but they struggle to pick up pressed product, and so you get NO payoff on the cheeks. A fluffier brush, such as the 137 Long Blending by MAC picks up and disperses the product beautifully across the cheekbones. What’s more, the shape of this brush effortlessly allows for the highlighter to blend into your skin with no harsh lines. This is ESSENTIAL for flattering highlighter, as it gives you that ‘continuous’ look where everything blends together, so-much-so that you can’t detect when the application has actually finished on the skin. This brush can pick up a little or a lot of product, and can even be used to dust the lightest layer all over your skin to give you a really healthy glow. Side note: If you swipe the excess highlighter from your brush onto your brow bone it will make your highlight even more natural looking as it won’t just be applied in one place!
There are multiple different types of pressed highlighters. Pressed powder highlighters are mainly classed as ‘glittery’, ‘metallic’ or ‘satin’. Glittery and metallic highlighters require an exceptionally light hand: Pick up as little product as possible, tap-off the excess, and apply in fine layers. Satin highlighters can be used less carefully: they’re difficult to overdo, but still have a maximum point when you really should stop! Satin highlighters, such as the Nars Pressed Powder Highlighters, are the best if you want to have a more profound glow on the cheekbones and then dust a small amount everywhere else for a subtle shine. It is so important to use as little product as possible: This stops your highlighters looking cakey on top of your foundation and setting powder. Also, another great tip I’ve found is to allow your moisturiser to settle into your skin for a few minutes before starting your face makeup – this helps to prevent makeup from creasing, settling into fine lines and looking thick.
CREAM & LIQUID HIGHLIGHTER
Now, let’s talk about cream and liquid highlighters. Personally, my favourite way to wear highlighter is to, firstly, apply a cream version, using the Fenty 195 Sculpting Bronzer brush, and then set it lightly with a powder (normally a satin, such as Nars ‘Capri’) using the MAC 137, as mentioned above. This gives a gorgeous, naturally dewy look that doesn’t budge during the day. Cream highlighters on their own can fade after a few hours, so setting it with a light dust of highlighting powder makes all the difference. And because the powder is of a satin texture, it doesn’t overpower the appearance of the cream.
I always apply cream highlighters in a gentle tapping motion with the Fenty 195 brush. Again, tapping, rather than buffing, helps to retain the smoothness of your foundation and concealer underneath, especially considering you should not apply a cream on top of a setting powder, or any powder for that matter. Generally speaking, cream products on top of powders is a no go: They look cakey and it separates the powder, preventing that seamlessly blended look we’re all after! Another great tip is to make sure your cream highlighters do not contain oil, as oil will break up your foundation.
PRESSED GEL HIGHLIGHTER
FINALLY, let’s talk about pressed gel highlighters. This is the formula that I am the least experienced with, but are perfect for people who want a glow, but don’t want it to look like makeup. We can try to apply these with a brush as much as we like – we will not get anywhere, ha! Gel highlighters really can only be effectively applied using a finger – again, in tapping motions! I still like to blend out the edges using the aforementioned 137 MAC brush to ensure it looks as seamless as possible.
As I’m slowly working my way through different blush and highlighter formulas, hopefully at some point in the near future I’ll do a list of my favourites, and talk about why I love each for different occasions and which ones I’d recommend depending on your makeup preferences. In the meantime, I really hope this post was informative and that my tips and tricks work for you.
Love, T x