Up until recently, I had never put too much thought into the way I applied my blush. It wasn’t a product I reached for often, and when I did dab some on, I still followed the age-old trick: smile and apply it directly on the apples of your cheeks.
However, much like skinny jeans and side parts, TikTok is causing me to rethink my ways. Over the past few months, users have been sharing their preferred blush placements and showing how the product can be used to sculpt your face in different ways. It’s sparked something of a debate on the app, and my For You page is full of makeup pros and amateur beauty lovers alike declaring their allegiance to different blush techniques.
While some of the application methods offer similar benefits (a single product, after all, can really only do so much), two blush looks in particular really piqued my interest: a lifted, sun-kissed technique that promises a sculpted, glowy face and a full, flushed cheek technique that offers a rosy, youthful look.
Curious to learn more about the different methods, I asked two expert makeup artists to weigh in on their preferred blush placement—and it turns out, their favorites differ as well. Keep reading for their pro application tips and my honest review of both TikTok-famous techniques.
Meet the Expert
The Lifted, Sun-Kissed Technique
The origins of the blush debate can be partially traced back to Madison Beer’s much-discussed Vogue Beauty Secrets video. The tutorial immediately went mega-viral on TikTok when released back in February, with the #MadisonBeerMakeup hashtag racking up over 37.2 million views. But of all the tidbits the singer shared in the video, her go-to blush technique was the one that really sent the app aflame.
In the video, Beer swipes a generous amount of her blush of choice—the Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Light Wand ($38), which promptly sold out after her review—onto the apples of her cheeks before thoroughly blending it up to her temples. She also applies a bit of the cream blush on the tip of her nose, using a sponge to blend it up the bridge and onto the sides “like a cartoon character.” The result is a lifted, sun-kissed effect that I previously thought could only be achieved with contour and highlighter.
This lifting technique isn’t new—makeup artists have been using blush to sculpt and shape their clients' faces since Cher’s makeup artist Way Bandy first popularized the draping technique in the ‘70s. However, thanks to the contour craze sparked by Kim Kardashian and the YouTube beauty tutorial boom, the sculpting abilities of blush have been somewhat overlooked until TikTok helped bring it back into the spotlight.
Makeup artist Lauren D'Amelio says the lifted blush technique is undoubtedly her favorite. She recommends applying a cream blush about two finger widths away from your nose and then blending upwards to sculpt your cheekbones and give you an allover glow.
Eager to recreate the swoon-worthy blush looks that have been filling my feed since Beer’s video dropped, I decided to test out the technique myself. I grabbed one of D'Amelio’s favorite cream blushes—the much-hyped Rare Beauty Soft Pinch Liquid Blush ($20), which has already been elevated to cult status thanks to its amazing pigmentation—and followed her instructions.
As someone who’s naturally prone to redness, I was a little skeptical about applying a product that adds an intentional flush all over my cheeks and nose, as Beer does in the video. However, after dotting the Rare Beauty blush on the apples of my cheeks and blending it up towards my temples, I was sold on the technique’s lifting effect. My cheeks looked sculpted, glowy, and slightly sunkissed (but in a good way!).
The Full, Flushed Cheek Technique
After trying Beer’s technique myself, I was convinced I had found my new go-to blush method. That is until I saw a TikTok from @makeupbyalissiac, a makeup artist who regularly shares her favorite products and beauty hacks to her 167,000 followers.
“So I’ve been seeing a lot of those do’s and dont’s makeup tutorials where they say to apply your blush [on your cheekbones] and not on the apples of your cheeks,” she says in the video. “Honestly, I don’t really agree with that.”
Alissia makes the case for a different blush placement, referencing the preferred technique of Ariel Tejada, a celebrity makeup artist who is responsible for Kylie Jenner’s signature rosy flush. After first setting her under-eyes with a pink setting powder, which she says helps the blush blend in, Alissia applies a powder blush almost directly under her eyes. She then picks up a little more product on her brush and focuses it on the apples of her cheeks.
Unlike the sculpted effect preferred by Beer and D’Amelio, this technique makes the cheeks look full and flushed, and suddenly I was completely torn. Did I want lifted, dewy cheekbones or soft, flushed cheeks? There was only one way to find out.
To learn more about the full cheek blush technique before I tried it out, I turned to the expert himself: Ariel Tejada.
“I prefer applying blush to the apples of the cheek because it looks more youthful, like a baby doll,” he tells us of his tried-and-true method, noting that it works on most, if not all, face shapes. “When you look at a baby doll, their blush placement is dead center on the cheek, and to me, there is something really fun about it. It’s a big inspiration for how I apply blush on all of my clients.”
As for application tips, Tejada says he created the “most perfect blush brush” in his new Morphe collection. “The A22 brush really does all the work for you and applies the blush seamlessly to give you that glowy, perfect finish,” he says.
To test out the technique, I used the Dior Backstage Rosy Glow Blush ($37), a light pink powder blush that’s recently gone viral on TikTok and is supposedly a favorite of Kylie and Tejada (though he tells us the Chanel Joues Contraste Powder Blush in Rose Initial ($45) is one of his go-tos).
Unlike the lifting technique, Tejada’s preferred placement is similar to the traditional smile-and-apply trick I’d been using for years. However, the key difference is that this time around, I was using a lighter, less-pigmented blush instead of the bright reds and pinks I had tried before. A product like the Dior one, which reacts to your skin's moisture level for a custom flush, prevents the blush from looking clownish and leaves a natural glow behind.
Using Tejada’s recommended A22 brush—it really is the perfect blush brush—I swirled on a generous amount of product in the center of my cheeks. The result was a healthy-looking glow and a subtle airbrushed effect that made it look like I swiped a blurring tool across my cheeks IRL.
The Bottom Line
Despite the differing opinions, there is no right or wrong way to apply blush at the end of the day. Like every makeup technique, blush application comes down to personal preference, and D’Amelio notes that she considers a client’s face shape when choosing where to place the product. Besides, why settle on one technique when it’s so much more fun to try them all?