A Brief History of Blush: Why We Love Rosy Cheeks

Mark Twain as soon as wrote, “Man is the one animal that blushes — or must,” characterizing the bodily operate as proof of our personal self-awareness, a pure response to embarrassment and disgrace. Charles Darwin agreed, describing the act of blushing because the “most human of all expressions.” To each of these towering intellectuals, to blush is to dwell – a flushed face is an indication of vigor, of emotion, of the very blood that runs by means of our veins.
Humans have tried to imitate blushing — the peculiar bodily operate that causes blood to hurry to the face, leading to reddened cheeks — for hundreds of years. Blush, the wonder product, was most probably invented by historic Egyptians, who blended fats and pink ochre pigment to realize a rosy look. A Bronze Age fresco portray present in Santorini depicts ladies with pink cheeks, proof that Greeks ruddied their faces with a paste made of crushed berries. In China, blush was favored as early because the Shang Dynasty and maintained recognition by means of the Tang Dynasty, when imperial concubine Yang Guifei — one of China’s Four Great Beauties — repeatedly wore heavy blush at courtroom.

An commercial from 1926; courtesy of Makeup Museum

But why, precisely, can we gravitate in the direction of pink cheeks? Hillary Belzer, make-up historian and curator of the Makeup Museum, explains that blush — each the product and the involuntary response — expresses two long-standing signifiers of magnificence: youth and well being. “Cheek coloration signifies vitality,” Belzer states. “While I don’t assume any dwell particular person not sporting blush could be mistaken for a corpse, blush heightens one’s pure coloration, additional emphasizing a wholesome circulation of oxygenated blood — a literal life drive — to the face,” she elucidates. Just as different fascinating traits akin to clear pores and skin and glossy hair are markers of good well being and subsequently magnificence, a delicate flush is related to bodily health, diet and relaxation. “Cheek coloration can also be related to youth, which has been a pillar of magnificence requirements for millennia and one which persists as we speak,” Belzer provides. (For extra on the hyperlinks between well being, youth and sweetness, the skilled recommends studying Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty.)

An commercial from 1935; courtesy of Makeup Museum

In addition to signaling vitality, blush additionally bears historic hyperlinks to social class. For Romans and Greeks, berry-tinted rouge heightened the whitening impact of lead face powder used to realize pale pores and skin, a standing image that recommended one didn’t must work exterior within the solar. Eventually, blush fell out of favor as noticeable make-up, together with rouge, grew to become related to prostitutes. Like most developments, blush would later resurge in recognition, rising once more as a widely-embraced product on the flip of the twentieth century (it was significantly in demand through the ’20s and ’80s).
While magnificence lovers may hesitate to sexualize the make-up they use every day, the erotic undertones of blush lengthen far past the product’s hyperlink to prostitution. The act of blushing is one borne out of our personal self-consciousness, an consciousness that, in European historical past, is first documented within the bible’s Book of Genesis (you understand, when Adam and Eve notice they’re bare and begin sporting fig leaves). Standing in stark distinction to the correlation between disgrace and blushing, the act — and make-up product — additionally mirrors the flushed look we frequently get after intercourse. (It’s no coincidence that one of historical past’s hottest blushes is François Nars’ Orgasm.) This dichotomy between embarrassment and sexual expression is one which Belzer says is yet one more manifestation of the virgin-whore advanced. “Looking flushed might level to embarrassment on the notion of intimate relations, signaling a dainty, demure and virtuous girl, or it might be overtly sexual. Either method, blush’s sexual connotations helped solidify its standing as an important beauty,” she argues.

According to a latest report by The New York Times, blush gross sales are surging. Brands akin to Hermès Beauty and Pat McGrath Labs are cashing in on the hype, introducing blush to their product lineup. Most just lately, the latter launched the “Divine Blush” assortment, a spread of 9 powder compacts that span the spectrum of coloration from subtly peachy to electrifyingly fuchsia. McGrath herself notes that blush was “the MOST requested class that PMG followers have been asking us for years,” including that she has all the time liked the product for its versatility and freshness.
According to Rachel Weingarten, former superstar make-up artist and creator of Hello Gorgeous! Beauty Products in America, ’40s-’60s, the coronavirus pandemic might be contributing to the latest spike in blush gross sales. “After over a 12 months trapped indoors, many of us regarded wan or washed-out,” she explains. “Blush helps us really feel like we glance higher and of course, more healthy.”

Dior Fall/Winter 2004; Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP through Getty Images

Echoing Weingarten’s statements on quarantine’s dulling impact, Belzer additionally believes the pandemic has one thing to do with our curiosity within the product. “Cheek coloration represents vigor and liveliness…On a non secular degree, the applying of blush might assist us awaken from the trauma and upheaval unleashed by the pandemic,” she posits, arguing that making use of rouge capabilities as “a solution to really feel extra vibrant and a reminder that our well being is comparatively intact.” In addition, the pandemic has prompted us to pivot from elaborate make-up appears, akin to time-consuming contouring and seamlessly blended eyeshadow, to quick and easy fixes for Zoom conferences and FaceTime events. Blush is exclusive in its quite foolproof software — with one swipe, wearers immediately look refreshed.
Today, the best way we put on blush is markedly totally different than the appears flaunted by historic Chinese concubines and Nineteen Twenties flappers. On TikTook, influencers akin to Bella Poarch have popularized a sunburnt impact achieved by making use of blush underneath the eyes and onto the bridge of the nostril. Similarly fashionable on social media is a make-up method akin to draping, wherein the rosy powder is swept atop the cheekbone and prolonged up in the direction of the temples.
@bellapoarchHow I placed on blush? ib: @benjikrol♬ construct a btch – gabut woi

McGrath shares her personal ideas for making use of blush. For a traditional but modern look, the legendary make-up artist suggests making use of rouge to the apples of the cheeks and mixing it upwards in the direction of the ear. “Then brush what’s left on the [makeup brush] throughout the highest of the brow, middle of nostril and chin.” For a of entirety, swiping blush up the perimeters of the temples provides the face an instantaneous carry.
Looking forward, Belzer muses on what the longer term may maintain for our hero make-up product. “Whether or not low-maintenance make-up sticks round as quarantine life fades away is anyone’s guess,” she begins. “In some situations, folks shall be piling on the make-up as a solution to rejoice the top of the pandemic. Now that our faces aren’t obscured we are able to put on as a lot as we like with no masks rubbing it off,” she says, acknowledging the truth that, for vaccinated Americans, face masks have gotten a factor of the previous. “If the same old quantity of cheek coloration signifies bodily well-being, within the age of COVID-19, maybe extreme software will reinforce the notion of well being. The tremendous flushed look might find yourself as an exuberant image of survival.” In that case — right here’s to life, well being and blush.

Recommended For You

About the Author: Jessica