Beauty Edit
Cream vs. Powder Blush

Cream vs. Powder Blush

If you’re looking to refresh your makeup for the season, you may have sweet sun-kissed cheeks in mind. After all, a little blush can make give you a healthy and lively glow any time of year and without risking potentially dangerous sun damage. Cream blushes have been popping up on more and more shelves, but powder blushes are still an enduring favorite for many.

Maybe you’re wondering what the differences are between these two main blush types and which one would work best for you. We’ve compared the two and will walk you through some of the pros and cons of each to help you decide.

Cream Blush

First, let’s explore the good and bad qualities of cream blush. If you want a full run-down of some of our favorite cream blushes for a variety of skin types, check out this article.

The Pros of Cream Blush

Cream blushes can come in sticks for easy application, or in compacts —often with a sponge. You can even dab them on with your fingers instead of buying expensive makeup brushes. They typically use a combination of plant-based oils and waxes to carry pigment, similar to a tinted lip balm. In fact, many cream blushes are lip/cheek duos, which can be useful if you’re trying to stick to just a handful of versatile products instead of maintaining a whole arsenal of makeup.

Due to their formulation, some cream blushes are lightly moisturizing, which is ideal for someone with dry skin. Instead of caking into dry patches or gathering in fine lines, the way powder blushes can, cream blush gives a lighter, dewier finish that looks more natural.

Cream blushes give sheer coverage that you can gradually build on top of your other makeup. If you mainly use liquid products, like liquid foundation or a “BB” (beauty/blemish balm) cream, cream blush will mingle better with those products than a powder, in most cases.

The Cons of Cream Blush

The sheer, natural look of cream blush can sometimes work against it. Getting a bold pop of color can be a challenge with cream blush, since you will often need to layer it. Depending on the formula, there may be limits to how many layers you can apply until it feels a little too heavy.

Longevity can be an issue too, since, like lip balm, cream blush can be soaked up by your skin, or worse, melt off in hot weather.  People with very dry skin may find that they absorb cream blush throughout the day, gradually fading the color, so touch-ups may be necessary. In hot climates, if you wear a thicker layer of cream blush, it may smudge or run throughout the day, and carrying it with you could be messy, since your blush could soften up in your bag if you’re spending time outdoors.

Powder Blush

This old standby is something that most makeup artists and probably your grandmother swears by to put a little color in your cheeks. So how does it compare?

The Pros of Powder Blush

For a smooth, matte finish to your makeup, a routine based around powder products, like a powder foundation and powder blush can work well to control oil. Powder blushes also tend to have more concentrated pigments, so you can quickly get a bold look without having to apply many layers.

Since powder blush has been around a lot longer, there are also many options to choose from. Pretty much every cosmetics brand has powder blush options, typically in several colors so you can easily find one to suit your complexion. Shimmer and non-shimmer options abound, and most face palette samplers will offer a few powder blushes. It’s widely accessible.

Powder blush works well on oily skin to help reduce shine on your face. It also has pretty good staying power, lasting quite a while without fading and being largely unaffected by temperature changes.

The Cons of Powder Blush

While the oil-reducing properties and stronger pigments of powder blush can be a great asset for some users, they can also cause some issues. Many people with dry or mature skin can find that powder blush can look too powdery or streaky. The powder can settle into any dry skin flakes or fine lines, making your skin look less smooth.

Powder blush can also easily be too much, especially if you want a more natural look. Because the pigments are stronger, you need to use care when applying. While some blush compacts will come with a small brush, these often do a poor job of distributing color lightly and evenly. You’ll probably need to invest in a good blush brush to get the most out of your powder blush.

Finding the Best Blush for You

Obviously, there are a number of pros and cons for both cream and powder blushes. Really, it’s hard to say which one is better, because they each shine under different circumstances. Ultimately, it’s up to you to determine which works best for your skin type and effectively creates the aesthetic you want.

When to Use Cream Blush

If you have dry or mature skin, cream blush will be the best everyday choice for you. It will help you look fresh and glowing, rather than cakey. By making sure every product in your routine helps trap moisture in your skin, you’ll improve its overall look and texture.

Any time you’re going for a softer makeup look, cream blush should be your go-to. For just a kiss of color that looks natural, as if you just went on a refreshing walk or got a little sun, cream blush is a great choice. For barely-there feminine looks, cream blush is also the best option.

If you’re worried about longevity, you can always apply primer first, and top it with a translucent setting powder, if you’re going to be in the heat. Keep any powder layer super light, to avoid dulling your glow.

When to Use Powder Blush

For people with oily skin who have trouble combating shine, sticking to powder blush might be the best option. It will definitely stay in place better and won’t melt or look greasy if you start to develop oil on your skin during the day. For a more toned-down powder blush look, you may want to start with a very light application of powder.

Powder blush is undeniably the best option if your fashion sense leans more toward bold and glamorous styles than the natural look. For a night out, powder can make a real impression. With its wide range of shades and shimmers, you can craft a really unique look with a powder blush.

If you want to enjoy powder blush, but have drier skin, there are a few things you can do. Make sure you exfoliate to remove any skin flakes and then apply a nourishing moisturizer. You can use a primer or BB cream as the base of your makeup to help make your skin look flawless and seal in some moisture before applying your powder blush.

Tips for Applying Blush

No matter which form of blush you choose, applying it correctly will help you make the most of it. Here are a few of our favorite tips:

Choose the Right Shade for You

It’s not just about how light or dark you are, but also about what undertones your skin has. Many people choose the wrong shade of foundation or blush because they don’t take warm and cool tones into account.

One of the easiest ways to gauge your skin tone is by seeing how you look in white. While wearing a bright white tee-shirt, look at yourself in natural lighting. If you have a rosier hue, by comparison, you probably have cool undertones. If you look more golden, you have warm undertones. And some people are right in the middle, with neutral tones.

Once you know which tone you have naturally, you can choose complementary shades of blush. Coral or peach shade with a slight orange cast looks great on people with warm skin tones, while pink and violet shades look best on cool skin tones. If you have a neutral undertone, you can play with almost any shade.

You can also play with how dark you want your makeup. While many fashion magazines advise you to choose blush and lipstick based on how dark your skin is (pastel shade for fair skin, and very deep shades for dark skin), you can play around to create an effect that’s unique to you. Dark skin tones can rock rosy pastels to give a sweet subtle vibe and pale people can choose bright reds and purples for a touch of gothic glamour.

Where to Apply Your Blush

For a universally flattering look, you can apply blush to the top of your cheekbones. If you aren’t sure where that is, smile while looking in the mirror. The part that lifts up when you smile is your target area for blush. Sweep blush back toward your temples, moving out from the center of your face.

While this method is going to look good on most people and give a more natural effect, there are some other methods of applying blush that you can experiment with.

Some people enjoy applying blush in a circular manner right on the apples of their cheeks. This is a vintage, 1920s inspired look that pairs well with red lips and black eyeliner for an evening look. If you’re hoping that the 2020s will be the new jazz age, this bold throwback style could be for you.

Japanese street fashion popularized the “me no shita chiiku” blush look around 2015. To achieve this look, a light pink blush is spread from the cheeks to underneath the eyes. It’s supposed to give the impression of being flushed from a fever. Many people find that it’s just the thing to give them a sweet, innocent look that disguises undereye bags and dark circles.

There are hundreds of makeup trends that might have you using blush in new ways to give all sorts of stylized effects. Don’t limit yourself to one.

Be a Blushing Beauty

Before the world of contour, blush was the main way to help add definition and color to your face. Nowadays, there are more options than ever. Whether you embrace the world of soft and dewy cream blushes or stick with the more familiar world of powder blush, you can craft fun and exciting looks that express your true self.

We hope this guide has helped you determine which type of blush will work best for your skin type and personal style. And maybe we’ve given you a few ideas for picking and applying blush, no matter which type you pick.

About the Author

Odessa Denby

Odessa Denby is a writer and editor born in the wilds of Pennsylvania. After studying abroad at Oxford University she caught the travel bug and ended up living in South Korea for 4 years. There, she learned about the wonders of skincare and started blogging. Now living in New York, she maintains a YouTube channel where she demonstrates how to create clothing and costumes by hand to have a more sustainable and personalized wardrobe. Encouraging more educated and conscientious consumption is one of her main passions. Her creative writing work has been published in a number of literary journals including Slipstream and Outside Culture. You can find more of her non-fiction work on Medium. When not writing, she fills her hours with tea snobbery, bubble baths, and period dramas.

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