It must be spring. “Glow” is the code word for the cosmetics industry, which would have us believe that it’s all the best-dressed skins are wearing this fresh-faced season. After the selfie‑conscious facial architecture of late, this pendulum swing should come as a relief. Out goes the sculpting, strobing, shaping and shading espoused by social media. The effortless flush of healthy, youthful skin – whatever your age – is the look to cultivate now.
Having wisely eschewed the ageist “anti-ageing” tag, many skincare brands are almost militantly pro-glow. Lancôme’s Rénergie Multi-Glow (£64) is designed to rekindle the radiance of sixtysomething skin with its circulation-boosting schisandra berry extracts and encouragingly rosy pigments. Orveda’s deeply moisturising Prebiotic Emulsion (£280) aims to revitalise fatigued skin with hyperactive ingredients such as kombucha and marine enzymes. Orveda founder Sue Y Nabi notes, “Years ago, a tan was synonymous with luxury. Nowadays, the look is the dewy, rested rosy glow that only good skincare can achieve”.
There’s little arguing with that: but what if instant kindling is needed? Right on cue, blushers are back in the frame as the linchpins of the spring/summer make-up collections. According to trend forecaster Mintel’s senior beauty analyst Charlotte Libby, “draping” with blusher is overtaking contouring with bronzer as the more fashion-forward way of creating dewy definition. With my pasty skin and lifelong blush habit, I, for one, couldn’t be happier. Blushers are, of course, the easy way to glow – so much so, that make-up artists contend that when cheeks are flushed, less effort is needed to liven lips and eyes. Those of us who have embraced grey hair will have already experienced blusher as a firm ally: not only is a sallow complexion boosted, but cheeks are also lifted, eyes sparkle and even teeth look brighter.
“As we age, skin tends to have more of a grey cast to it. Blush can replace that lost, natural glow,” says Trish McEvoy, the luxury make-up innovator, now herself in her 60s. Mary Greenwell, whose red-carpet brushstrokes have coaxed many a famous glow, agrees heartily. “Blush can instantly make you look more youthful, but it needs to be subtle,” she warns – and here comes the rub: “Older women often worry that blush will make them look overdone and give them an undignified dolly look.” We’re ready to dial up the colour, yet the intensity in the palette is off-putting: those of us who need it most become blush-averse. The desired effect, after all, is rosy not rosacea.
“To achieve a fresh, modern glow you need a light touch and a regard for placement,” advises Nars UK make-up artist ambassador Andrew Gallimore. “Clients are often surprised how low down the cheek I apply blush, but are reassured by how natural it looks.” For flushed, healthy skin, Gallimore chooses raspberry-pink Loves Me Blush (£24) from the Erdem For Nars collection, picking up colour with a tapered powder brush (Dior Blush Brush No 16, £34.50, works well), then swirling it in his palm to work it into the bristles while removing excess before touching the cheeks. “Start the old-fashioned way by smiling, then buff a little of the blush onto the cheek apples. Use small, side-to-side sweeps so it’s evenly and seamlessly applied. Instead of swiping upwards, dance it out and downwards towards your jawline.” This is where you flush naturally, Gallimore points out. A final dusting of Erdem For Nars Blush in Loves Me Not (£24) whisked over cheekbones and round onto the browbone adds a subtle champagne sheen.
However, for maximum uplift, the only way is up, according to make-up maestro Sharon Dowsett. “I’ve started applying blush quite high on my cheekbones – a youthful-looking placement that enhances eye colour. And I love a touch of blush on browbones and temples,” she adds. “Now I’m older, I also prefer the freshness of cream blushers.” Her current favourites include MAC Cream Colour Base in Hush (£19) – a warm, sheer, slightly sheeny peach – which she applies with a small buffing brush (such as Chanel Petit Pinceau Kabuki, £40); it’s a counter-intuitive trick that I’ve also found to blend creams subtly and evenly.
Cream is certainly the prescribed texture for older, drier skins in need of a dewy finish, yet despite its “melt-in-the-skin” reputation, I never seem to get it right. “Dab it straight onto your cheek apples and blend with your fingers,” Greenwell encourages, adding that Laura Mercier Bohemian Flush Cheek Crayon (£25) gives a flattering hint of pearly colour. Not to be defeated, I’ve also evolved my own multiproduct flush, applying Perricone MD No Blush Blush (£29) – a sheer, fluid, pinched-cheek pink – or Zelens Active Colour The Blush in Apricot (£38) under foundation for a sub-radar glow, which can be topped up with powder blush if needed. It’s worth a reminder that you should apply face powder after cream blush, but before powder blush. Complexion-smoothing powder foundations like Clarins Everlasting Compact Foundation (£30.50) make excellent bases for powder blushers and will also dab-handedly tone down mistakes. So much the better if your blush is sufficiently diaphanous to be foolproof – Chantecaille Cheek Shade in petal-pink Bliss or deep-apricot Grace (both £35) come pretty close to perfection. Chanel Joues Contraste in Foschia Rosa (£35) is a silky, coral pink – this year’s “it” shade for sun-kissed cheeks.
On to the dimensional flush, vaunted by many as the most enlivening, uplifting booster. Legendary make-up maven Bobbi Brown was the first to coin the “pop” – the smidgen of intense colour on cheeks; the high point that brings the blush to life. “Apply a soft shade over the cheeks, sweeping upwards towards the tips of the ears to create a diffused veil of colour,” advises Bobbi Brown Pro Artist Zara Findlay. “Now take a brighter tone in the same colour family, give your biggest grin and pop it on the cheek apples for a super-fresh effect,” she says, adding that this is how to pull off a much-needed colour-punch without looking like a clown. Try it with Bobbi Brown Brightening Brick in Coral (£35.50), which grades the shades for you. Graduated blushers – such as the apricot tones of Suqqu Pure Colour Blush in Momodaidai and nude Ayakagerou (both £32) and Marc Jacobs Air Blush Soft Glow Duo in Flesh & Fantasy (£28) – also make easy work of achieving a dimensional flush.
The “pop” also provides a fresh injection of colour to bronzers that can look sallow on older skin. Tom Ford precludes this with its Soleil Contouring Compact in Nude Glow (£80), which teams subtle golden-bronze and shell-pink highlight with a translucent hot coral. Guerlain’s Terracotta Light (£37) combines rays of pink, coral and bronze in its silky-fine, orange blossom-infused powders, while Trish McEvoy Face Shapers Luminous (£58) partners bronzer with blusher, highlighter and finishing powder for a fully three-dimensional glow.
Should that still sound like too much hard work, one-pot wonders, such as Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge for Cheeks and Lips (£22), recreate the easy minimalism of the “lipstick on cheeks” technique without the pore-occluding stickiness. But should cheeks always match lips? “Coordinating is a foolproof way to create a polished make-up look,” says Findlay. Meanwhile, Dowsett adjusts blush and lip to eyes: a cool shade of blush with strong, smoky eyes and brighter blush with neutral eye make-up – whichever best flatters your complexion. To this end, Greenwell’s rule of thumb for grown-up looks is to eschew blue-toned pinks (too dolly) in favour of apricot tones (warmer and more forgiving). And never use blush as a contour – it ages instantly, Greenwell warns. Proof, should we need it, that the only way to glow is effortless after all.