The rise of blush

Blush has seen a massive comeback in the 2020s, and is now one of the most popular makeup products — it’s actually my personal favourite! However, across the 2010s, blush was largely abandoned in favour of more dramatic looks like bold brows and contouring. The massive jump that blush sales have taken therefore prompts the question of what happened; how did blush come to be so popular again after the sharp decline it took in the past decade?

The statistics speak for themselves: according to the NPD Group, blush sales increased 39% over 2021, and Klarna reported that cream blush purchases increased 89% and powder purchases 37% from 2020 to 2022.  Selena Gomez’s company Rare Beauty sold around $70 million of blush in 2022, and according to the Daily Mail is on track to triple their sales this year. Canada also saw a huge 1,408% increase in pink blush sales between April 2022 and April 2023.

What is the reason for this resurgence? While it’s difficult to pin down the exact causes of trends, there are a number of points that come to mind. One big influence on the popularity of blush is its frequent appearances on TikTok, which has boomed during the 2020s. Creators on the app demonstrate the many different ways that blush can be applied to achieve different effects, for instance applying it high on the cheekbones, towards the temple, for a lifted look. These new, modern ways of rethinking blush and bringing it into the 21st century make it seem like blush has only just arrived on the cosmetics market, thus explaining its viral popularity. Blush can also be placed on the cheeks, for a youthful round-faced appearance, or across the nose for a sun-kissed look. This gives people the creative freedom to play around with makeup and find their personal style, rather than adhering to the rather restrictive expectation of the past of applying blush just to the apples of the cheeks.

Another potential reason for the revival of blush is the introduction of new formulas such as cream blush, forming a stark contrast with the hyper-powdered blush of the 1980s. Creamier formulas adhere to the more natural look that has become popular in recent years, the dewy, ‘clean girl’ trend of makeup circulating on social media. Rare Beauty launching their cosmetics range with their viral ‘Soft Pinch Liquid Blush’ is evidence of this; the company was clearly aware of the need to adapt formulas to the way makeup is now being applied. The common method used to apply Rare Beauty’s liquid blush is actually to use one’s fingers, thus demonstrating the buildability and potential for a natural-looking result desired from makeup products nowadays. Mega-retailer Ulta Beauty has confirmed that while powder formulas are still their top blush sellers (and likely will remain so, in my opinion), sticks, creams and tints are gaining popularity. Newer formulas, like cream and liquid blushes, that are more buildable and allow you to achieve different effects, have massively contributed to the jump in popularity that blush has seen. TikTok has certainly enhanced this too by teaching women how to wear their blush in different styles — blending, for example, makes a great difference to the modern style versus heavy 80s blush. These different techniques, coupled with the various formulas widely available now and in great quality, give people the flexibility to wear sheerer or heavier blush depending on their preference. The blush trend isn’t just about the natural look: heavy blush has also seen popularity due to its youthful aesthetic, albeit with newer techniques of placement. This is particularly identifiable in the Douyin makeup style, which has seen international virality. Therefore, the fact that the makeup product can now reach wider audiences and be adapted in various ways makes the growth in popularity understandable.

The desire for greater creativity in makeup is also significantly displayed not only in the range of formulas available now but also in the greater range of blush colours, such as reds, oranges, and dark purples, to suit various skin tones. Blush is also now being applied with more tools: sponges tend to be good for creams, fingers for liquids, and brushes are great for powders. These wider ranges of colours, formulas and tools make the process of applying blush far more fun and creative, which explains the sharp rise in blush sales after the pandemic. When people started to go out and show their faces more, blush became a way to add a bit of colour to their life, and transform makeup into something fun.

Another explanation, tying into the impact of the pandemic, is the association of blush with health. Blush products give flushed, rosy cheeks, indicating a healthy lifestyle. It is for this reason that blush has such a long history, dating back to ancient Egypt, when blush was a mixture of red ochre and water. In ancient Greece and Rome, natural ingredients such as crushed berries and even crushed insects were used. During the Renaissance the flushed look was popular to emphasise pale skin (which was the beauty standard of the time) and to indicate health, therefore women pinched and slapped their cheeks to achieve colour. Blush eventually fell out of favour when it became associated with prostitutes, but resurged in popularity at the turn of the 20th century. Blush has therefore always been a product people have reached for and desired the effect of in numerous ways; it gives you a bright, healthy appearance that has long been associated with attractiveness.

Blush has endured a long history, and is now back and better than ever, with new formulas and colours that allow you to achieve a variety of makeup looks. The natural look that’s trendy right now perfectly opens the market for blush to continue to grow. It has become a go-to favourite of many — a fact that would have completely shocked us in 2016.


Featured image: Ron Lach on Pexels

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