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.
These drops illuminate your skin and leave a dewy glow.
"If you're on the pale side, a pearl toned highlighter looks amazing on the skin," Kassel says. This one from BECCA adds an iridescent finish that leaves the skin looking dewy.
Pike suggests using this shade if you have fairer skin. A few swipes will add a natural flush to your skin.
Kassel suggests this peachy-pink blush for fair skin. The color is a subtle pink that adds a light touch of warmth to the complexion.
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.
"A favorite of mine for medium skin is the Bobbi Brown Highlighting Powder," Pike says. The powder is soft to the touch and leaves the skin with a strobing glow.
This blush and highlighter duo is creamy. The peachy tones leave your skin looking awake and fresh. Pike recommends blending the creamy formulas with your fingers, right across the cheeks.
Another favorite of Pike, this blush contains a hint of shimmer for an extra glow.
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.
Kassel suggests using this highlighter if you have a darker skin tone. And don't be intimidated by the orange — it appears bronze-y on skin.
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.
Pike says that the formula is "a hyperpigmented, rose gold shade."
Pike suggests an orange shade to stand out. This one by MAC offers an intense color payoff with only a few swipes across your cheeks.