The numbers don’t lie: Blush is back. While makeup sales understandably dramatically dropped during the pandemic, they’re finally recovering and, in the case of blush, soaring. Marketing research firm NPD Group reported that blush sales increased 39% over the course of 2021, with sales of stick and cream blush specifically doubling from 2020, and growing even from prepandemic 2019.
According to all-in-one shopping app and payment service Klarna, purchases of blush overall increased by 17% from 2020 to 2022. However, purchases of cream blush increased a whopping 89% over the same time period, while powder sales jumped 37%. Sephora declined to share specific sales data with Glamour, but David Razzano, beauty director at Sephora, confirms the retailer has noticed a growing popularity in creams as well.
“We’ve seen more and more clients gravitate toward cream blush because its creamy texture creates a smooth, natural, and skinlike finish that blends seamlessly into your complexion,” Razzano tells Glamour. “Cream formulas also often have the added benefit of creating a dewy glow and flushed appearance, which is so covetable—and trending—right now.”
The trend has made its way off TikTok to real life as well. Anecdotally, most of my friends skip daily face makeup, but don’t leave the house without a swipe of cream blush (or lipstick as blush) on their cheeks—even if they’re still wearing a mask. Bright blush has popped up on the runways and red carpets, with celebs like Selena Gomez and Lily Rose Depp making a pink flush their trademark beauty look. Gomez even launched her brand Rare Beauty in 2020 with liquid blushes—a bold move that has paid off, considering the product is a staple of BlushTok, and one of Klarna’s most shopped blushes.
“Selena wanted to launch Rare Beauty with products that reflected her makeup philosophy,” Joyce Kim, Rare Beauty’s chief product officer, tells Glamour, “so it was important for her to create products that are easy to use, buildable in coverage, and can be used on the go—like liquid blush. Selena has always loved a healthy, natural flush of color that blush adds to your complexion, and Soft Pinch Liquid Blush has become a staple for her when she wants to add some dimension to her look.”
Mega-retailer Ulta Beauty confirms that its blush sales are booming as well. While the brand didn’t share specific sales data, a representative did reveal that blush sales have increased steadily over the past year. “Blush is certainly having a moment at Ulta Beauty,” Jordan Pious, senior director of merchandising, strategy, and insights at the company, says. “Excitement for the category has only been amplified as mask mandates loosen across the country. We’re encouraged by the incredible growth we’re seeing and are proud to have maintained increased blush sales year over year since 2019. This strong trajectory indicates blush will continue to be a meaningful part of our guests’ makeup routines and a significant driver within our cosmetics assortment.”
Interestingly enough, Pious says that powder formulas are still the retailer’s top sellers—including favorite’s like Nars Orgasm and Tarte’s Amazonian Clay Blush—but that sticks, creams, and tints are gaining popularity. Particularly, multitasking formulas that can be used on eyes and lips like Chanel’s new No.1 de Chanel Lip and Cheek Balm and Undone Beauty’s Lip to Cheek Palette are gaining steam.
Celebrity makeup artist Patrick Ta, who has made hyper-bright blush looks his calling card, says that these newer, sheerer formulas have directly led to blush’s jump in popularity. “For a long time, the application method around how to use blush has been too heavy-handed and outdated for the current beauty landscape,” he tells Glamour. “In recent years there has been a lot more education about what points on your face to emphasize, and how to use color to highlight natural beauty.” He says that he kept that in mind while formulating the cream and powder blush duos for his own line, Patrick Ta Beauty, which are other Klarna top sellers.
Ta also credits TikTok for educating women on how to wear blush in a more modern way—for example, high on their cheeks for a “snatched” look rather than on the apples, as our moms taught us. “People who are tapped into the makeup artist side of TikTok can see how these creators are moving through and reviewing product to find the very best of each and share with their networks,” he says. “In terms of the techniques and hacks, TikTok is a great resource for newer consumers that are looking to find the best makeup routine for them or people who are looking for inspiration.”
NPD’s data supports this theory, and Natallia Bambiza, NPD’s makeup category analyst for beauty, recently wrote a blog post directly linking the increase of blush sales to TikTok, in particular a technique called “underpainting,” whereby a heavy amount of blush is applied under your foundation for a more natural look.
Not only has TikTok educated younger women on how to use blush in a fresh way, but it’s home to subcultures and micro trends that have made blush part of their core looks. Back in early 2020, we saw the rise of “e-girl” beauty, which included two bleached streaks of hair and excessive blush across the bridge of the nose, accented with faux freckles. Now we’re in the era of the “clean girl” aesthetic—think Hailey Bieber and Kendall Jenner—the key pillars of which include fluffy brows, clean glowing skin, and a healthy but subtle flush. There’s also the coquette community, an update from Tumblr’s nymphette subculture, which prefers a rosy, doll-like blush.
It’s also important to note that rosy cheeks are a sign of health, and we’re still in a pandemic with no clear end in sight. But celebrity makeup artist Allan Avendaño has a much simpler (and more cheerful) explanation.
“I think people really missed some color in their lives,” he says. “With the pandemic, we were inside a lot. Now that we have much more freedom to go out, it adds color and brightness to the face. Also with a lot of people working from home, I think blush is a way of dressing up the face for zoom or virtual calls.”
Ta has to agree: “I think a lot of people during lockdown went natural because there wasn’t much to dress for, but now that life is getting back to normal, people seem to be loving blending the natural look with a glowy, dewy, highlighted chic It-girl beat. Embracing the blush is the way of the future—masks or not!”