Women have sought perfectly rouged cheeks since the days of Cleopatra. And nothing much has changed—except perhaps ingredients (no more toxic lead!)—and placement: You can often pinpoint the decade a face is from by the location and prominence of the flush on a lady’s cheek.

Today, bold blush is making a comeback. For spring, the look recalls the rebellious 1980s, when a racing stripe placed high on the cheekbone signified the decade’s more-is-more approach to beauty. (For proof, check out our “Spring Break” fashion feature in the March issue.) Here’s how to get the look.

The Basics

There are three major types of blush: cream, powder, and gel/stain. Which one you choose depends on your desired effect. Gels and stains look the most natural and are best worn with minimal face makeup (i.e., a tinted moisturizer). Cream blushes add a pretty luminosity to the face and, because they’re often made with hydrating humectants, are ideal for those with dry skin. Powders are the category to turn to for an eighties look.


So you’ve settled on powder. Now you need the right tool with which to apply it. A good rule of thumb: Never trust brushes that can fit into a compact, since the sparse, roughly cut hairs don’t blend properly. Some replacement options:

1) Jane Iredale’s Dome Brush. The rounded shape makes it easily adaptable to different styles and techniques of blush application. The high-quality (bristles are hand-tied) means it will last for the long-term if cared for properly. (My recommendation: Wash gently with a baby shampoo or brush-specific cleanser, like this one from London Brush Company, rinse well, reshape, and lay flat to dry). $41, janeiredale.com

2) Sigma F80 Flat Kabuki. This uniquely shaped tool is ideal for any product you want to blend into the skin really well. Plus, since it’s made of synthetic fibers, it won’t absorb your cream or gel blushes as you apply them. $21, sigmabeauty.com

3) Obsessive Compulsive CosmeticsBrush #001. One of the softest brushes I’ve ever encountered. Although the white handle can become chipped and dirty far more quickly (and more noticeably) than other similar products, it’s an aesthetic issue I’m happy to overlook. $24, occmakeup.com

Placement Options

High on Cheekbone: The look that defined 1980s makeup. Bold pink or reddish hues are applied from the outer edge of the apple of the cheek straight back to the top of the ear. It’s a dramatic effect but doesn’t reshape the face (like the following two ideas). Transition into daytime territory by lightening the color and lessening the amount of blush applied.

Apples of the Cheeks: This is where most of us tend to naturally blush, and it gives a youthful effect to the face. Be careful not to over-apply, as it can create the appearance of extra fullness.

Temples: Applying blush to the temples can help contour your face and emphasize your cheekbones even more. In the 1980s, women would use the same red or pink colors they had applied to their cheeks (sometimes even merging it with the cheek color), but you can take the look down a notch by adding a bronze tone instead.

Powder Blush Recommendations

Bobbi Brown’s Shimmer Brick in Rose (pictured, above) is a set of gleaming petal-pink hues that gives your cheeks the perfect amount of shine. If you choose to isolate one color with a smaller brush, use the lighter tones as highlights. $42, bobbibrowncosmetics.com

As the name suggests, Nars‘ blush in Orgasm gives you that kind of after-glow. A natural flush color, the tone can be made understated or bold with the flick of a brush. $30, narscosmetics.com

A winner for its high-performing natural ingredients, Tarte’s Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Blush delivers a powerful punch of color that lasts all day. $26, tartecosmetics.com