Following Eva Chen on Instagram is a little like enrolling in an adulting college. The only difference between a four-year university and a tap on her account’s “Follow” button is that it’s free. I’ve learned so much from tuning in to her daily diaries, and it’s all applicable to my daily life: how to pose for a mirror selfie, how to actually use a jade roller, how to distinguish a sumo orange from a heap of common citruses. No one can say that about Intro to Basketweaving.
In my favorite glimpses at her life and travels, Chen posts product-by-product makeup and skin care application stories on her account. Last season at fashion week, makeup artist Nikki Makeup joined her for a series of videos where she shared the ins and outs of perfectly-applied blush and highlighter. I foolishly forgot to write down the products they used for Chen’s glowy skin in the video, but I did remember one specific tidbit of wisdom. According to Nikki, the best blushes give you the appearance of having just come inside from a brisk walk. Translation: When applied and blended just so, blushes can give you a light, lit-from-within glow.
My prior experience with blush has come nowhere close to that precisely described look. What I wanted was the delicate flush of a Jane Austen heroine after she’s arrived at a great manor on horseback. What I often got was a garish pink or red that threw my naturally paper-white skin into sharper contrast. Granted, that’s mostly my fault. The bulk of my exposure to blush came from caking on deep pinks and orange-reds for dance performances until my mid-twenties. The look made sense under heavy stadium lighting, but it was startling and unflattering up close. Maybe my expectations were a tad dramatic, but there was nothing natural about the blushes I’d tried to wear before.
After seeing the potential for a rosy, light cheek on Chen’s Instagram, I felt compelled to give blush a second chance. I knew it would be more than re-incorporating the product back into my makeup routine, though. It’d also be a matter of tracking down a pigment that could liven my pale cheeks while avoiding clown territory. I found just that in less time than I expected, at the corner of my favorite lipstick brand, Charlotte Tilbury, and Glamour‘s latest Beauty Awards winners.
Charlotte Tilbury’s Pretty Youth Glow Filter is more low-key than its name suggests. It’s a blush-highlighter duo in two complementary, semi-sheer pink shades. There’s a natural element to the ingredients too. Instead of a powder, it’s a paraben-free cream blend. (This doesn’t mean that much for the average user, other than that it’s extra smooth to the touch and lightweight to wear.)
I followed the award-winning suggestion to try the “Pretty Fresh” shades, described online as a “coral pink” set. “Coral” sounds harsher than the blush appears. The shade looks like more light pink than pink-orange after applying. When I want the lightest of flushes, I’ll dab some of the coral color on a blush brush and swipe along my cheekbones. For days that I’d like a hint more color, I apply the blush on the apples of my cheeks with a finger before blending it with a brush.
On either occasion, my favorite part of the set is the highlighter portion. This isn’t the thousand-watt glitter bomb that you’ll find at a Fenty or an Urban Decay, but that’s why it’s great. Instead, it’s a soft gold that shines brightest under direct light. My cheeks have the slightest sparkle, but it’s not at Twilight-vampire levels.