Stain is an unfortunate word for a beauty product, dontcha think? I mean, beauty mavens don’t want stains — we want an alluring tinge of color that highlights our bone structure. We want a subtle flush that speaks of youth and vibrancy. Stain as a descriptor doesn’t paint that picture.
Even so, the right cheek stain really does deliver that youthful glow we love so much. If you’re into the natural makeup look, you absolutely need a good cheek stain.
Stain or blush?
Here’s a confession. I didn’t wear cheek color, blush or stain, for years. I didn’t really see a need for it, until I got to my 40s. At that point, my youthful complexion lost its natural vibrancy pretty fast and I was suddenly looking at a paler me in the mirror.
Since then, I’ve favored cheek stains over blush. Blush, in my opinion, can look unnatural, because it sits on top of the skin. Unless you’re really talented with a makeup brush, your cheek color can be either invisible or way too aggressive. Blush comes in powder and cream forms.
Stain, on the other hand, is a liquid or semi-solid. Either form is easily blendable and generally has a more transparent, dewy quality relative to blush. It does temporarily stain the skin, rather than sitting on top of it as a blush would. Depending on the product, a cheek stain generally stays put longer than powdered blush and also may have moisturizing properties.
Applying cheek stain
To apply a liquid cheek stain, you squeeze a bit on to your fingertips and gently blend from the apples of your cheeks back towards your head. You could also dab a bit onto a high quality makeup brush and then use the brush to blend.
Semi-solid cheek stain comes in a stick — like a big lipstick — that is applied directly to your skin. Swipe it on from the apples of your cheeks backwards and then blend with your fingers or a blending brush.
If your stain isn’t blending well or going on splotchy, try exfoliating first.
You know you have the application right when you can see just a dewy flush on your cheeks. It’s a risk with any cheek color that your application looks way more aggressive under different lighting. Avoid this by making sure your bathroom lighting is very bright — a vanity mirror will do the trick. And on sunny days, take a quick peek in your compact mirror when you step outside.
When to wear cheek stains
The right cheek stain looks gorgeous in natural and more done-up looks, any season of the year. Pair cheek stain with BB cream, mascara, and lip gloss for an easy beauty look that’s still pulled together. Or, use it as a subtle backdrop for smokey eyes on a night out.
Best Premium Cheek Stains
This list of best cheek stains is based on popularity as indicated by product reviews and search frequency. For examples, lots of people search specifically for Tarte Cheek Stain and so that product is pretty high on the list. I also include my own favorite as the editor’s pick, since I use this product daily.
It’s pricey, but ladies love it. At nearly $70, Tarte Cheek Stain is the most expensive option on this list. Fans say it has a nice, creamy texture, with a soft color and just a bit of shimmer. Use the wide applicator directly on your cheeks, and then blend gently with a sponge, brush, or your fingertips.
The Body Shop Lip and Cheek Stain
The Body Shop’s stain is a liquid formula that you dab on and blend. Fans say it’s long-lasting and just as beautiful on the lips as on the cheeks. It’s also cruelty-free and vegan.
jane iredale Just Kissed Lip and Cheek Stain
Just Kissed by jane iredale is a lush formula that contains olive butter, avocado butters, rose wax, and bees wax. These ingredients soften and deliver moisture to your lips and cheeks. If you have oily skin, you may find this product too moisturizing to use as cheek color. A thin applicator gives you precision, whether you’re wearing it on the lips or on your cheeks. Fans love the sheer, long-lasting colors.
Benefit Cosmetics Benetint Rose Lip and Cheek Stain
Benetint is the original lip and cheek stain, and has developed a cult following since it was developed way back in the ’70s. The kiss-proof, sheer color has an alluring, sexy vibe — which may be why so many women swear by this product.
Vincent Longo Lip and Cheek Stain
If this is your first leap into cheek stains, try Vincent Longo. The price point is fantastic for a proven product that women love. A small applicator works well for the lips and can easily dab color onto your cheeks. Just blend quickly and you’ll have that sheer wash of color that lasts all day.
My local Target does carry lip stains, like L’Oreal Paris Rouge Signature Lip Stain. But unless the product is labeled as lip andcheek stain, it’s likely not designed for cheeks. That means it won’t blend well on your skin. Don’t try to turn a one-trick pony into a multitasker. You’re better off investing in the Vincent Longo cheek stain for $10.
Since I don’t have any drugstore cheek stains in my area, I have to defer to you. Do you buy cheek stain at the drugstore? Share your favorite products!
As a Southern California transplant now living in the Midwest, Catherine has turned layering into an art form and accepted that UGGs actually do have a place in the stylish lady's wardrobe. She's been featured in Woman's World Magazine, DrLaura.com, Refinery29, Wellness.com and has made appearances on ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis, KCAL9 Los Angeles, Fox19 Cincinnati, WGN TV Chicago and WCPO TV Cincinnati.
Thanks for stopping by! I'm Catherine, your Budget Fashionista style editor. I'm a bargain shopper at heart, as I love nice things but hate paying for them! I'm also a personal finance writer who's been featured on USA Today and MSN Money.