Blush and highlighter are two staple beauty products that can change your entire look with just a few taps and swipes of a brush. Although mostly thought of as independent of one another, blush and highlighter combinations can be one of the most effortless pairings in beauty, regardless of your skin tone.
But one common problem with blush, especially for those with darker skin tones, is that they're sometimes too soft. According to makeup artist Timothy MacKay, who works with Samira Wiley and Yara Shahidi, your foundation plays a big role in how your blush appears. “Depending on your foundation’s undertone, go with a more yellow or pink-toned blush,” he says. Light and neutral tones do well with lighter and yellow-toned blushes, while deeper tones require pink shades. “If a client has a neutral tone, I love to mix two shades or go with a rose color,” he adds.
Another common concern with blush is texture — don't you just hate when your pretty peach liquid formula becomes oily as the day wears on? (I can't be alone, here.) But Los Angeles-based makeup artist Leah Pike notes that the best color payoff comes down to two factors: formula and technique. If you’re wearing a liquid or cream blush, Pike recommends applying the product to the back of your hand first, then tap it on with your fingers. And with powder formulas, “I like to use a fluffy domed or flatter blush brush to apply powders," she says. "It gives you the perfect wash of color and intensity while also diffusing the product, making it easier to achieve a seamless blend."
Unlike its blush counterpart, a highlighter is easier to apply and match to your skin. “Highlighting is all about reflecting light to the face, creating an illusion of brightness,” Pike says. As long as the highlighter is two shades lighter than your skin tone, it will create a dewy skin effect when layered with blush — this rule applies to all skin tones.
When applying your highlighter, "add the highlight to the highest point of your cheekbone to really get that sculpted luminous look," editorial makeup artist Hayley Kassel explains. "I will combine my blush and highlighter to create a flushed, glowing cheek."
Ahead, see the most foolproof (and prettiest) blush and highlighter combinations that the pros gravitate towards.
When selecting a highlighter for fair skin tones, iridescent shades are the way to go. "Avoid choosing shades that are too warm or ones that contain red undertones because they could look quite dark, taking away from the highlighting effect," Pike says.
For blush, stick to pink undertones or baby pink shades. Choosing shades that are too warm or ones that contain red undertones can look a bit dark on the skin, taking away from the highlighting effect, Pike says.
Medium & Olive Skin
"Medium and olive skin tones look great in virtually any shade of highlighter — however, I recommend a champagne or gold finish which looks the most natural," Pike says. Complete your pairing with a peachy or apricot-toned blush, as both colors add a touch of warmth to your complexion.
For darker skin tones, a golden or bronze-toned highlighter will provide the best pigment. "Golden and bronze tones always work for darker skin, but a highlight with some color saturation also looks stunning," Kassel says.
For your blush, grab a very saturated color. Even though the shades seem loud, it will make the cheeks pop.
Most highlighters with a bronze base work well for deeper skin tones, too. There's only one rule to remember, though: "Stay away from frosty highlighters because they tend to look a bit chalky," Pike warns.
She also notes that blushes in deep terra cotta, purple, vibrant oranges, reds, and pinks look stellar on deep skin tones.