Basics Series: Blush, Bronzer, and Highlighter

It’s no secret that Kim K has mastered the art of contouring; with the perfect amount of bronzing and highlighting, it looks like her cheekbones could cut glass. Unfortunately, the bronzed-and-glowing look is not as simple as just the sweep of a brush. Luckily, there are tons of tips and tricks you can use to help further your knowledge of getting the perfectly sculpted face complete with rosy cheeks. This week’s installment of the Basics series focuses entirely on adding the perfect amount of color to your face using blush, bronzer, and highlighter. While the process of contouring may be undesirable for a few, blush is a staple product that everyone should have. A touch of rosy color to the apples of your cheeks can make you look that much more awake. Granted, the freezing winter winds provide us with “au-natural” flushed cheeks, but blush will allow those rosy cheeks to remain once you’ve warmed up.

There are three kinds of blush that you should be aware of: powder, cream, and liquid. Powder is by far the most common because it is the most pigmented. However, powder blush can emphasize dry skin and acne, so be cautious when choosing your blush. Use a dense brush to sweep the product on your cheeks. Start with a small amount and then build up; blush is supposed to provide a healthy flush, so too much product could appear unnatural. To apply blush, begin just in front of the top of your ear, and then sweep it down to the apples of your cheeks. By sweeping the product down, you’re coloring the area that would flush when you’re working out or otherwise blushing naturally.

Benefit Lip and Cheek Stains

Cream and liquid blushes are less popular, yet they shouldn’t be counted out. Cream blushes can provide, in my opinion, the most beautiful, natural-looking flush. They stain the cheeks and provide lasting color all day. The issue with cream blushes is that they can be difficult to apply. When using these kinds of blushes, make sure you blend them out, because a little goes a long way. Draw a thin line where you would apply powder blush and blend it out with your fingertips. Liquid blush, on the other hand, is used for an all-over flush of color. It can be very light and beautiful, but won’t provide a punch of color like the other types of blushes. Try mixing liquid blush with your foundation to get a perfectly blended glow!

You’re always welcome to end your makeup routine with blush, but for those who are aiming for further face definition, bronzer and highlighter are the next step. Bronzer is great when you want that sun-kissed look even when you have not spent countless hours outside. It's also used to emphasis your facial structure like your nose, jaw, and cheekbones. Contouring can be difficult to explain in words, so click here to see a visual of where to place bronzer.

For the basics of bronzing, you want to follow the “E” rule. That is, imagine your facial structure, from the side of your face, as an E. Starting from your hairline in the middle of your forehead, follow the hairline to your cheekbone, where you bronze in the hollow of your cheekbone, and then bronze your jaw line. The picture below demonstrates exactly where to bronze.


The light areas in the photo indicate the next step: highlighting. This step is necessary to contrast the dark colors that bronzing can bring to your face. Highlighting also attracts attention to the highest points of your face and adds dimension. When it comes to highlighting, you’ll want to follow the “C” rule. This letter traces from just above your eyebrow and curves along the highest points of your cheekbones. Make sure to highlight other areas of your face too, such as the middle of your forehead, the bridge of your nose, the middle of your chin, and a touch on your cupids bow!

When searching for products, NARS, Tarte, and Makeup Geek all create incredible blushes. NARS’s Orgasm blush is a huge cult favorite, and every makeup guru owns many shades of Tarte’s 12-hour Amazonian Clay blush. Makeup Geek has a wide array of powder shades that are as affordable as they are beautiful.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in Captivating

Purchasing bronzer can be pretty tricky. It’s imperative to find a bronzer that doesn’t oxidize—that is, it won’t turn orange after being worn for a few hours. Also, your skin tone plays a huge part in selecting a shade. When using bronzer, it is important to make it appear as natural as possible. If you have light skin, search for a light bronzer, and vice versa for darker skin tones. Try to avoid shimmer in bronzers and instead look for matte products. Two tried and true products for starting out are Benefit’s Hoola Bronzer and NYC’s Smooth Skin Bronzing Face Powder in Sunny. These are insanely pigmented and last ages without oxidizing.

Unfortunately, drugstore brands don’t exactly have a wide array of highlighter selections. However, NYX has a lovely liquid highlighter that can be applied before using powder and is very pigmented. One of my favorite cream highlighters is called H2Glo from Doll 10, because it lasts forever and doesn’t emphasize dry skin. But if you’re looking for some high-end favorites, definitely check out MAC Mineralize Skin Finish in Soft and Gentle or NARS highlighter in Albatross.

NARS Highlighting Blush in Albatross

Adding color to your face can be pretty complicated; keeping a “natural” look can be difficult at first, but with practice, the application of blush, bronzer, and highlighter can make a huge difference when applying makeup. I highly recommend that everyone use blush—you can’t go wrong with a little splash of color that provides a healthy glow! But while contouring may seem intimidating at first, practice will show you that you can easily master the craft of shaping your face and highlighting your best features.