Life is full of choices. Still or sparkling water? To be or not to be? Cream or powder blush? We know making up your mind can be hard, so we’re here to help you with at least one of these classic quandaries: Should you be using cream or powder blush?
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to building your personal makeup collection, but with complexion products like foundation and blush, you’ll want to keep your skin type in mind. Not all products play nicely with breakout-prone skin, and dry skin types might feel like some makeup formulations sit on top of their face rather than blending in seamlessly.
To crack the code and see which formula comes out on top (and for whom), we spoke to makeup artists Kate Synnnott, Nick Lujan, and Tobi Henney about the pros and cons of powder and cream blush, how they recommend applying them, and more. Read on to figure out which blushes should be on your vanity.
Meet the Expert
- Kate Synnott is a makeup artist and the creative director of RÓEN Beauty.
- Nick Lujan is a makeup artist and the director of artistry and education for Kevyn Aucoin Beauty.
- Tobi Henney is a celebrity makeup artist based in New York City.
Cream vs. Powder Blush: How to Pick
Start with your skin type. If you have oily skin or live in a humid environment, cream blush may add extra shine that you’re trying to avoid. Cream blush is also much heavier than powder, so if you’re prone to breakouts, the makeup could clog pores. Those with dry skin, however, may find that powder doesn’t blend well on their skin or maybe even draws attention to dry patches.
Then consider your aesthetic. If you want a dewy “I drink eight glasses of water per day” complexion, cream blush will go a long way. If you want something softer and more matte, powder can be a powerful tool to give you a “Who, me?” flush.
Ultimately, it may pay off to have one of each on hand. “I think everyone should have both in their makeup bag so they can choose what’s best depending on their mood,” says Synnott. “You can always wear them both together. Personally, I like to apply powder first as a base and then apply cream on top for a lit-from-within glow.”
What Is Cream Blush?
Typically found in tubes, wands, compacts, and twist-up sticks, cream blush is a rosy flush for your cheeks in an emollient format. “Whether or not you are a makeup wearer, cream blush is a great way to add a youthful warmth and glow to your complexion,” Lujan. Plus, because of the formulation, it can also carry a few extra skincare benefits like hydration or antioxidants.
There are tons of ways to apply a balmy cream blush—including simply using your fingers—but generally, a tapping and blotting motion is best. “Pat the product on and build up the level of coverage you want,” says Synnott. “If you use a rubbing motion, it will turn patchy. The same patting technique works whether you’re using a brush or your fingers.”
“Apply cream blush on the apples of the cheeks and blend upward toward the cheekbone,” says Synnott. “If you follow this guide, it will work for any face shape.”
"Cream blush is best applied on your clean skin or over a liquid or cream foundation,” says Lujan. “Avoid applying cream blush over powder foundation or powder-set makeup—instead, apply before you [use] setting powder.”
The Pros and Cons of Cream Blush
There's no imminent danger in giving cream blush a try unless you have finicky skin. But if you’ve got a cream blush sitting in your online cart right now and can’t bring yourself to hit “buy,” here are a few things to consider.
- If you don’t like wearing makeup, cream blush is an easy product to use on clean skin to give yourself just a touch of color.
- It’s easier to blend multiple cream blush colors together to create a custom shade than it is with powder.
- Many cream blushes can be used as a lip color for a monochromatic look, says Lujan.
- Most cream blushes offer a dewy and illuminating finish.
- If you use powder foundation or you’ve already set your foundation with a setting powder, a cream blush won’t blend as easily or seamlessly.
- There can be a slight learning curve to blending cream along the cheekbones. (But you will get the hang of it.)
- Creams typically have a shorter shelf life than powder blushes, according to Lujan.
- Cream blush may add more shine to oily skin types, says Henney.
What Is Powder Blush?
While cream blushes come in all shapes and sizes, powder blushes are mostly found in classic compacts. It’s an easy format to work with if you want to create buildable color on your cheeks and goes on a little more subtly than cream (it’s hard to overdo it on powder blush because you’ll see the color coming along slowly).
And while you can apply cream blush with your fingers, you’ll need a silky, fluffy brush to apply powder blush. “If you use light pressure, blush actually goes on much more flawlessly," says Synnott. "Start at the apples of your cheeks and sweep up and outward along the cheekbones—the spots you’d want to hit with a cream blush," Synnott. Henny notes that you'll want to tap off excess product before sweeping the blush onto your cheeks.
Your order of operations may also be a bit different. “The biggest difference between applying powder and cream blush is that powder needs to be applied over a veil of setting powder,” says Lujan. “If you skip the powder step, your powder blush can potentially stick to oils or a wet spot, creating a blotchy application.”
The Pros and Cons of Powder Blush
Thinking of swapping your tinted balms for a powder formula? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Powder blushes can be layered subtly, whereas cream blushes may need a little bit more finesse, says Lujan.
- While both powder and cream blushes are popular, you may find a wider range of powder colors.
- Powder blush lasts longer than cream blush—especially if you’re wearing cream blush alone.
- Powder blush isn’t ideal for dry skin types, and can even draw more attention to flaky or unexfoliated skin. “Make sure your skin is well nourished and set with a veil of loose powder before applying powder blush,” says Lujan.
- If not blended or placed properly, powder blush can look a little flat, says Henney.
The Final Takeaway
If you have to choose between the two, look to your skin type for guidance. The formula will play a big role in making your skin look healthy—so consider whether you have dry or oily skin to work around. However, if you have the luxury of using it all, keep a few of each handy. Layering powder on top of cream blush can really bring you from a mere mortal glow to an other-worldly radiance.