Makeup of Makeup: Decoding Blush

From the WebMD Archives

Blush, which has been around since at least 3000 BC and now comes in powder, cream, gel, and liquid, adds color to your cheeks, giving you a rosy glow.

How to Apply Blush

"Perfect blush application is all about placement," says Raychel Wade, New York makeup artist and "colour ambassador" for La Prairie.

"Ideally you want the burst of color to be right on the apples of your cheeks. A foolproof way to find this is to nestle the brush directly under your eye pupil and across from the tip of your nose. Then blend up and out 2 inches."

Long-Lasting Blush

Looking for a blush that will last from breakfast to after-dinner drinks? Choose a cream, liquid, or gel. Because these formulations contain water or oils, they form a film on your skin and wear longer.

But once the product dries on the skin, which can be seconds in the case of liquid cheek stain, it’s nearly impossible to blend. Powders offer the most goof-proof application.

Blush Shelf Life

If your blush looks a little muddy, it's probably time to replace it. Cosmetic companies test blush to remain stable for about a year once opened.

"After that, the red pigment may start to break down, so your blush will go on more brown," says Perry Romanowski, MS, a Chicago cosmetic chemist. "It also won’t spread as easily, so you may end up with streaks."

What's in Blush?

Blush is made from FDA-approved colorants or dyes. These pigments appear on the label as a color and number, such as Red 33, Yellow 5, or Red Lake 6.

Typically, three or four pigments are mixed to make a single shade of blush. "Fewer than 100 colorants are approved by the FDA, but these can be blended in an infinite number of ways, which is how cosmetic companies are able to introduce new shades every season," Romanowski says.

By themselves, these colorants are so concentrated they’d show up as intensely vivid dots on your skin. Chemists add fillers, such as talc and stearic acid, a natural fatty acid, to dilute the pigment. Coverage or concealing pigments, including mica, zinc oxide, and titanium oxide, are also added to the mix.

"These ingredients block your natural skin color," Romanowski says, "so the blush color you apply will be bright and true."

WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 01, 2012



Raychel Wade, makeup artist; Colour Ambassador for La Prairie, New York, N.Y.

Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.

Soren, Noelle. The Art of Allure: Powder Compacts and Vanities of the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries (University of Arizona Museum of Art catalogue).

FDA: "Color Additives Permitted for Use in Cosmetics."

Perry Romanowski, cosmetic chemist; author, Can You Get Hooked on Lip Balm: Top Cosmetic Scientists Answer Your Questions About the Lotions, Potions and Other Beauty Products You Use Every Day, Harlequin, 2011.

© 2011 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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