In November at a Chanel Beauty event, we watched, jaws dropped, as makeup artist Kate Lee dusted neon pink blush onto a model's cheeks for the most delicate, wind-tickled flush. How? Whaa? We strained our eyes, trying to understand how such a brash color could have such an understated effect. We usually avoid bright blush out of fear of looking like we're en route to Clown College. But Kate (and Nars Exhibit A-wearing New Girl writer Camilla Blackett) got us wondering if we'd been looking at the colors all wrong. Then the Nars Guy Bourdin collection arrived at the Gloffice. And then we saw American Hustle. And then we thought, "Dammit, where’s the glamour in being subtle?" So we reached out to Nars' Director of Global Artistry, James Boehmer, to teach us how to cause a quiet riot with intensely-hued blush.
First things first, why go bright?: “Bright blush instantly makes your skin look healthier—it mimics blood circulation! A brighter blush can create so many different effects: sun-kissed, flushed, wind-burnt... and it has a tendency to immediately change your mood and make you feel more awake, the way that bright lipstick can."
Sleight of Hand (and Brush): "Bright blush can absolutely look subtle; it's all in the application. In general, if you're using a softer, loose-hair brush—like the Yachiyo Kabuki Brush—strong, highly pigmented colors will appear more transparent and sheer on the skin. And, if you want to soften the look of a matte blush, you can also apply a highlighter with a bit of a pearl finish under or over the blush."
Match the Texture: "For powder blushes, it's important that the skin texture is also powdered and matte. This will ensure that the blush goes on smoothly, without skipping, dragging, or applying too much pigment. If you are afraid to really go for it with a bright color, try using a cream blush instead. François Nars created The Multiple to create a transparent wash of color on the cheeks as well as the lips and eyes. It's basically foolproof! You can apply a cream blush with your finger for extra control, and they work on top of any finish—on bare skin or on foundation and powder."
AutoCorrect: "Translucent powder hides a multitude of sins. One of the first things I learned from working with François Nars is to apply a bit more blush than you think you should—especially for a photograph. And if you've actually applied too much powder blush, you can soften it with loose translucent powder and a large, fluffy powder brush. If you've gone overboard with a cream blush, keep blending and dabbing with your finger. And if you've really gone too far, you can always wash it off and start over!"
[1-2] Riley photographed in Nars Exhibit A Blush by Emily Weiss in New York on December 12, 2013;  Photo by Mathea Millman.