How to Never Buy the Wrong Shade of Blush Again

Updated 07/05/19
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From creams to stains, drugstore to designer options, and plenty of bright cheek inspiration from both the runways and editorial shoots, blush is not an afterthought; it's just as important whether you wear a natural look, a bold lip, or a dramatic cat eye. But how do you pick the perfect blush color for your complexion? It's surprisingly difficult—especially considering the wrong shade can leave you looking like a clown. We chatted with makeup artist Katey Denno—who works with Amanda Seyfried, Isla Fisher, Mindy Kaling, and more—for guidance.

“Blush is all about making the rest of the face brighter and fresher,” Denno says. “The goal is to pick a shade that matches the color of your cheeks when you have a natural flush.”

Once you determine the best blush color for your complexion, picking a formula is easy: If you’re prone to breakouts or have oily skin, go for a powder formula. A cream or stain is good for clear skin and darker complexions, but will need to be reapplied after a few hours.

If you want a bold, colorful cheek, try layering a powder formula over a stain or cream so it’ll last the longest.

Take a look at Denno’s recommendations for nearly every skin tone below.

Fair With Red Undertones

Amanda Seyfried
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

“If you’re extremely pale with red undertones (like Amanda Seyfried), you’ll want to choose a cool pink color,” Denno says. “Anything warm could make your skin look ruddy.” Denno’s top pick for fair skin tones is Ilia Multi-Stick ($34) in Tenderly.

Ilia Multi-Stick in Tenderly $34
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Fair With Dark Features

Krysten Ritter
Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images

“If you have pale skin with dark eyes and hair, you’re going to want something lively on your cheeks,” Denno says. She suggests a peachy-pink shade like Nars Blush ($30) in Orgasm as the best blush for fair skin and dark hair to flatter and brighten your complexion. We also love Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush ($40) in Magenta, which is a little brighter than Orgasm if you’re seeking a tad more oomph.

Shades with a flattering intermix of gold deliver a shimmery sun-kissed glow to the skin.

Hourlgass Ambient Lighting Blush in Radiant Magenta $40
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Fair to Medium With Red Hair

Isla Fisher
Jim Spellman/Getty Images

Denno knows a thing or two about red hair. She created this look on Isla Fisher, and has red hair herself. Redheads can wear a range of pinks and peaches, but avoid anything coral, she warns. Her selections are Alima Pure Loose Mineral Blush ($24) in Freja or Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush ($29) in Glisten.

Alima Pure Loose Mineral Blush in Freja $24
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Fair to Medium With Brown Hair

Alexa Chung
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If you have fair-to-medium skin and brown hair like Alexa Chung, consider yourself very lucky, says Denno. “You can wear so many different tones!” she says. For a rosy flush and a dewy, fairy-kissed finish, this duo from Kosås is sheer brilliance.

Kosås Color & Light Creme in 8th Muse $34
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Medium With Golden Tones

Blake Lively
Charles Eshelman/Getty Images

Purplish pinks and peachy-pink hues work best on golden blondes like Blake Lively because of the undertones in their hair. Denno’s pick is Nars Blush ($30) in Outlaw. E.l.f. Blush in Pink Rose ($3) is a great affordable option.

NARS Blush in Outlaw
NARS Blush in Outlaw $30
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Olive

Eva Mendes
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

If your complexion is similar to Eva Mendes’, the best blush for olive skin requires not one, but two formulas. Start with a cream bronzer to define your cheeks, and then top it with a peachy blush with red undertones, Denno says. She suggests Ilia Illuminator ($34) in Sway followed by Kjaer Weis Cream Blush ($56) in Sun Touched.

Kjaer Weis Cream Blush Compact in Sun Touched $56
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Beige Undertones

Lucy Liu
Desiree Navaro/Getty Images

Lucy Liu’s beige undertones look best with a touch of pale pink, Denno says. Try Bobbi Brown Blush ($32) in Coral Sugar. Then, to kick it up a notch in the luminosity department (if you feel so inclined), try topping off your application with Laura Mercier Face Illuminator Powder ($45) in Devotion. Trust us—it will make you look like an ethereal angel.

Laura Mercier Face Illuminating Highlighting Powder in Devotion
Laura Mercier Face Illuminator Powder in Devotion $45
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Dark With Warm Undertones

Mindy Kaling
Steve Granitz/Getty Images

Just like Chung, women with complexions like Mindy Kaling’s can wear a variety of colors. Denno’s suggestions for the best blush for dark skin include hot coral, warm reds with rich brown undertones, and purple hues. “Indian women need a lot of color, so I always start with a stain and then layer a powder on top,” Denno says. “Vapour Beauty Multi-Use Stains ($36) in Crave or Enchant are great—and so is Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush ($29) in Blissful.”

Vapour Beauty Aura Multi Use Stain in Crave $36
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Golden With Peachy Undertones

Chrissy Teigen
Robin Marchant/Getty Images

If you share Chrissy Teigen’s golden coloring, try a rose color or a pinkish peach hue like the iconic NARS Blush ($30) in Orgasm. It has a subtle touch of shimmer without looking sparkly—think fresh and glowing. (The shade is the go-to blush hue for both our features editor Amanda Montell and senior editor Hallie Gould—although Hallie actually prefers it in stick form!)

NARS Blush, Orgasm 0.16 oz.
NARS Blush in Orgasm $30
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Dark With Golden Undertones

Kerry Washington
Cindy Ord/Getty Images

“A peachy-pink blush would look great on Kerry [Washington],” Denno says, “but she could also rock a hot pink.” Westman Atelier Baby Cheeks Blush Stick ($50) in Poppet is gold in a tube. Plus, it’s filled to the gills with an entire host of skin-improving fares like BerryFlux Vita and jojoba oils.

Westman Atelier Baby Cheeks Blush Stick in Poppet $50
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Deep With Neutral Undertones

Lupita Nyong'o
Bauer Griffin/Getty Images

“Darker complexions look best with a super-pigmented cream blush,” Denno says. Currently, we’re having a major moment with any of the hues from RMS, but the brand’s Lip2Cheek ($36) in Beloved is out of this world.

RMS Beauty Lip2cheek in Beloved $36
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Shop even more of Team Byrdie's favorite blushes:

MAC Powder Blush in Raizin
MAC Powder Blush in Raizin $24
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“I have warm, reddish-orange undertones, and this blush from MAC is one of my favorites at the moment,” says assistant editor Maya Allen.

Nars Blush in Exhibit A $30
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Another favorite from Maya? This gorgeous hue from NARS. “Mr. Nars created this blush for Naomi Campbell, and it’s extra flattering on dark skin tones,” she says.

Glossier Cloud Paint in Dusk $18
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“My undertones are neutral and a little on the sandy side,” says wellness editor Victoria Hoff. “Therefore, I’m lucky and can wear pretty much anything. I do, however, love Glossier Cloud Paint ($18) in Dusk. It has a very pretty, very ’70s kind of vibe.”

Clinique Cheek Pop in Pink Pop $24
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“Not only is this blush cute as can be with its compact, flower-shaped palette, but it also delivers the perfect amount of color, so you’re not overly flushed or wondering if you even applied any in the first place,” managing editor Lindsey Metrus shared. “I have very fair skin and love the shade Pink Pop, a soft rosy pink that matches my natural pink undertones.”

This story was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated. Next up: The 8 Blushes That Match Our Post-Workout Blushes Exactly.

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