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Hannah Simone. Photo: JB Lacroix/Getty Images

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A Brown Girl's Guide to Rosy Blushes

The word "cheek" is more often than not preceded by "rosy." A rosy cheek is the epitome of beauty, so much so that even Taylor Swift fantasizes about "red lips and rosy cheeks’ in her "Wildest Dreams." (We’ve got you covered on the red lips.) It’s not surprising considering that researchers found a flushed cheek is considered by humans to be a sign of good health and vitality. But, it’s rare to be someone who walks around with a perpetual rosy glow.


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Sure, this can be achieved naturally through some light exercise — say through running half a mile or stretching to reach the secret cookie stash at the top of your kitchen cabinet. Reality is, however, that you can’t exist perpetually having finished a quick sprint for that constant fresh, slightly flushed, glowy look. That’s where blush comes in. If done right, it’s the secret weapon to always looking fresh and put together. If done wrong, which it more often is than not, it can look like an exercise at clown school gone horribly wrong.

[Blush is] the secret weapon to always looking fresh and put together.

Blush is finicky to master — a task made even tougher if you have South Asian skin, like me, or New Girl actress Hannah Simone. For me, the concept of blush evokes images of soft pink and red palettes. The problem is, as a brown girl, the colors that I think look the prettiest in its package, the most blush-like, rarely show up on my skin. I’ve had countless trips to the Tony Moly location in New York City where I’ve wanted to buy the cute little crystal compacts of blush they have on display, but every time I would use a tester, it was as if I was just putting invisible ink on my skin. No matter how many swipes I dusted across my cheek, nothing would show up.

It almost goes against instinct when shopping for blush to pick up a container that leans more orange, or golden, than bright pink. However, that is exactly what you are supposed to do for South Asian skin, says Jeffrey Paul, a Los Angeles-based celebrity makeup artist. Paul has worked with Hollywood actresses like Frieda Pinto, Priyanka Chopra, and Bollywood star Deepika Padrone, so he knows a healthy glow when he applies one. "I avoid a lot of pinks on South Asian skin. It doesn’t really do much, especially the light, dolly kind of pinks," notes Paul.

No matter how many swipes I dusted across my cheek, nothing would show up.

For those who have skin more similar to Pinto, Paul suggest picking a blush that is brighter with gold undertones, like Urban Decay’s Afterglow blush in Quiver, which helps to "enliven the skin and counteract the gray tones."

In addition to avoiding "dolly pinks," Paul is adamant that those with South Asian skin tones also eschew shimmer. "Shimmer just creates more shine and makes the skin look fake and not as appealing." Plus, it goes against the main purpose of blush: "Your true ultimate goal with any kind of blush is to make it look like blood is circulating in your skin... not to make it look shiny." For this reason, Paul recommends avoiding any packages that feature the phrases "shimmering, shiny, and illuminating."

Certain drugstore brands, like Physician’s Formula and Cover Girl, are worth skipping over because they mostly make "lighter blushes," warns Paul. "They look really pretty, but when they are on, they’ve got lots of skin enhancing benefits and shimmers and stuff like that." He adds, "You can tell because when you pick the up and hold them in the light, they’ve got lots of sheen. If there is a heavy amount of sheen in the product, then it’s going to make the skin looks shiny rather than rosy."

How it's applied is a major key, too.

Finding the right color is half of the challenge with mastering blush, but how it's applied is a major key, too. "Everybody is making so-called blush brushes that are curved or rounded, but my favorite type are brushes that fit into and underneath the cheekbone," say Paul. "If the head of the brush is bigger than the cheekbone, then it’s not really going to let the blush what it’s supposed to." He explains that blush not only should make the skin look more flushed, but it should also do a "slight contouring of the cheek" to help give the look of more pronounced cheekbones. But none of that really matters if the blush you’ve chosen is too light and not deeply pigmented and saturated enough.

Paul has his favorites (see below) but is very anti drugstore blush brands. "Drugstore brands have a lot of fillers in the product so it becomes a hit or miss depending on your skin tone," he explains, "They are usually a miss, because they are very shiny." This is the one occasion where you actually should dull your shine.

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