Friday, July 18, 2014

Battle of the Blushes! Nine Contenders....Does Price Really Equal Quality?

Cosmetics marketers are famous for their skill at seducing us with sky's-the-limit promises, claims of superior quality and often, gorgeous packaging.  Most of us fall for the hype at one time or another in the vain belief that only THIS product or THAT product really delivers what we need. Somewhere deep in our prefrontal cortex, we KNOW our buying decisions are mostly about perception.

I recently saw a blush from a not-so-well known but high end label on a major department store's website for $85. $85!!! How can a blush deliver ANY benefit worth that amount of money?  Is an $85 blush really that much better than a $10 blush?  I decided to conduct my own focus group (membership of one) and see for myself. The results might interest and surprise you!

Face color products include blushes, bronzers and highlighters as well as a few hybrids. They come in many forms...creams, loose powders, pressed powders, stains, sticks and liquids. For my little experiment, I decided to focus on pressed powder blushes only, using a range from well known department store labels to inexpensive drugstore brands. I wanted to find out if there is really any performance based reason that warrants spending $20 or $30 more for a particular product.

The nine products I chose for this test range in price from $5.00 to $30.00.  There are a lot of pressed powder blushes above that price range but let's face it....if you're paying more than $30 for a blush, more than half the price is paying for the name and the packaging.  I didn't want prestige brands or extravagant compacts to influence the outcome.  (It should be obvious why the $85 blush was not included in this test!) Having said that, some of these blushes DO come in very attractive and/or innovative packaging.

Let's see how these products perform!  Three layers of each blush were applied to my arm with a MAC 129 blush brush.  I worked in groups of three with product photos and reactions under each swatch test.

Clinique Cheek Pop Blush Pop - "Ginger Pop", .12 oz., Retail $21.00.  This one wins hands down for cute packaging with its clear lucite case and embossed daisy.  Light buildable ginger mauve color with good pigmentation and subtle shimmer, goes on smoothly and easily. Very little product for price paid.

MAC Powder Blush - "Well Dressed", .21 oz., Retail $21.00.  You get a good amount of product here but it was quite hard to get it to show up on my skin at all (probably because of the very pale shade).  It is very blendable, almost to the point of invisibility. This is a very natural looking light blush with some shimmer to it. 

Maybelline FIT Me! Blush - "Light Mauve", .16 oz., Retail $5.99.  An annoyance with cheap blushes is getting past all the retail store security features.  The sticker on the front of this package would not come off and there is a security tag on the back that tore the packaging when removed.  This one goes on easily and gives a soft natural glow.  The included brush is quite stiff and just barely gets the job done; I would only use it in an emergency.

With the next group of three, I'm starting to realize that my pale skin tone and color choices do not lend themselves well to this type of test.  But I'm committed, so onwards......

Michael Marcus Blush - "Lavish", no weight given, Retail $20.00.  This is an extremely loose powdery blush with product flying everywhere during application.  (Because the powder is so loose, I wonder how long this blush will last?)  It goes on easily, is very blendable and gives a nice light color with a bit of shimmer. Just to give an idea of how much of the total price is attributable to packaging, refills for this blush are sold for $6.00. So...fully 70% of the retail price for the original product is attributable to packaging, which in this case, is sleek but very simple.  Keep that in mind if you're considering purchasing a medium or high end blush.  

NARS Blush - "Orgasm", .16 oz., Retail $30.00.  I don't have access to sales data but if I had to guess, this is probably one of the all time best sellers in the blush category. Of course, the provocative name has a lot to do with it but this is also a very nice blush. I was surprised that it went on much lighter than it looks in the pan. Because of that, I think this would make a great layering product...even a good highlighter.  This has a silky, creamy feel and is very subtle on the skin.  I think a major benefit of the more expensive blushes is that they do not look harsh on the skin...just blend in beautifully, leaving a nice glow. One this price, there should be more product.


NYX Blush - "Dusty Rose", .18 oz., Retail $5.00.  NYX is well known for its beautiful array of affordable and easily accessible blushes.  This one is so close to my own skin tone that it barely shows up at all.  It is definitely darker in the pan than on the skin. It sweeps on easily and gives a nice smooth effect.  Next time, I'll try a more adventurous shade! Overall very nice quality and blendability for the price.

The last trio contains two of my most used blushes, Tarte and Physician's Formula. Tigi is a new brand to me and one I don't know much about.  

Physician's Formula Happy Booster Glow & Mood Boosting Blush - "Natural", .24 oz., Retail $11.99.  I think this is the third or fourth Happy Booster blush I've owned.  The claim is that this blush contains plant extracts which "boost happiness".  I'm not sure if that's true or not but the combination of the beautiful product itself, with all its sizes and colors of hearts plus the way the different shades fuse to form the perfect glow...well, it does indeed make me happy!  The pigmentation on this one is not strong because it's in the "Natural" shade; however, the other two shades I've used (Pink & Rose) give a more pigmented glow. The packaging is also ingenius; the pan lifts out to expose a well underneath in which a tiny 2-tone pink brush is stored.  A mirror is on the back of the pan.  An absolutely beautiful product in every way!


Tarte Amazonian Clay 12-Hour Blush - "Frisky", .20 oz., Retail $26.00.  This is the blush I've been using most often lately.  The color is darker in the pan and for some reason, is darker on my cheeks than it looks on my arm in the photo above.  This is an elegant blush with quite a bit of shimmer and strong pink tones.  As the name suggests, it also has good staying power.

Tigi Glow Blush - "Awaken", .07 oz., Retail $10.00.  This one has the least amount of product of any of the blushes shown, which is certainly not justified by the price. The blush has an interesting domed shape and comes in a sleek silver compact.  Although the matte color is lovely, I think it's lacking in pigmentation.  It does blend out nicely to a natural glow.

So that's my battle of the blushes!  When you consider quality, appearance, price and quantity, my top three would be:  

  • First Place - Tarte Amazonian Clay ($26.00)
  • Second Place - Physician's Formula Happy Booster Glow & Mood Boosting Blush ($11.99)
  • Third Place - NYX Blush ($5.00)

  1. Great blushes can be found at every price point.  Price does not necessarily denote quality.
  2. It is extremely difficult to differentiate quality and value within the same shade category.  (Obviously, all of these blushes were chosen with my skin tone in mind. Even so, there were considerable variations in color in the pan.  So I was really surprised at how little color difference there actually was when applied to the skin. Much of the time, shimmer intensity was more definitive than actual color.)
  3. Both the Clinique and NARS blushes would have been in my top three if they had had more product in relation to the price paid.
  4. Packaging accounts for a significant percentage of the retail price.  That percentage increases dramatically as the retail price increases.  Above $15 or $20 for a blush, I don't think there is much room for improvement in product's ALL about the packaging.
  5. The same can be said with regard to a provocative or even shocking shade proven repeatedly by NARS and Urban Decay.

I hope you found my little experiment interesting and beneficial and would love to hear your feedback!

Thanks for reading,


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