As always, I'd like to thank everyone who posted their answers in the comments or sent them via email; while I don't have room to post every reply, I appreciate them all!
And now, a few tips and tricks from your fellow readers:
On Selecting Brushes:
From commenter certainlynotrosemary:
A word about brushes: if you use powder foundation, a blush, and a bronzer, you need a separate brush for each one. The brushes may or may not be identical in shape—that has to do with your taste—but you need separate brushes because otherwise you'll end up mixing up all the makeups and colors, and being unable to get exactly the same color coverage or type as what you initially bought the makeup for. I know it seems obvious, but I had to learn this the hard way when my powder was suddenly too tan and my bronzer was kind of pink.
From commenter joannabobanna:
Because I lack the skill to apply blush without having it look off, I use a big powder brush. This makes it appear a lot more subtle.
From commenter BrynnTherePlumThat:
Always use a big bushy brush like a kabuki brush because it distributes the blush more evenly across the bristles and therefore across your face. Smaller brushes or tightly packed brushes deliver more concentrated color and this produces that streaky "clown" look. Since most compacts come with the latter, you can pretty much throw out that dinky little brush as soon as you get the blush home. Also, it's a good rule of thumb to shake/tap your brush a little bit after you put it in the bronzer/blush to get rid of excess makeup. Remember: you can always add more, but once it's on, it's a bitch to get off.
From commenter FrederickFronkensteen:
The brush isn't as important as blending. My method is to draw a line with my blush from my ear to the apple of my cheek, underlining it. Then, just stroke the brush upward in little strokes along the line you've drawn. This blends and adds definition to your cheek bones. The trick is to start light and just add more if you think you need to. It's much easier to make it darker than to make it lighter.
On Gel/Creme Blush:
From Andrea, via email:
I've found that I have a much better result with gel blushes rather than powder blush. Whenever I've tried to use powder blush I feel like I look very made up and powdery, whereas gel blushes look very natural. I feel like I have more control with the amount of product I'm applying to my face with the gel blushes; I can't ever tell exactly how much product I have on a blush brush, hence the resulting clown cheeks. Stains like Benetint are also good, but you have to make sure you blend it pretty quickly so that you don't wind up with red stripes on your cheeks. I am also convinced that I would surely knock the bottle off my sink one morning and my bathroom floor would look like a crime scene.
From commenter bowleserized:
Put tiny smear of cream blush on tips of index fingers.
Grin like a loon.
Rub tips of be-blushered fingers vigorously into "apples" of loon-grin cheeks with all fingers (not just index)
Continue until it doesn't look like you're wearing blusher
From commenter dreamharder:
If you have difficulty applying or your skin dries easily. Even those like me who have combination skin. I find my covergirl cream blush works fabulously. It looks like it goes on dark, but as you blend it around it almost disappears. It looks SO natural.
Regular blush is nice too. But the shimmery look does tend to stand out if you dont wear full face make up. Cream blush is great for those not in the mood for foundation/lipstick.
From commenter callmecate:
"what exactly is bronzer and how does one use it. i got it in my makeup caboodle along with blush and i dont think there's enough room on my face for both. please advise. also can you use it if you are brown (as i am) and how?"
in short, yes you can use it. Everyone has different ideas so I sort of pick and choose from these basic tips as it suits my mood or outfit:
Bronzer only: i have pretty brown skin and my bronzer is matte and pretty close to my skin colour when i'm looking healthy and well-rested. If i look pale or tired I just take a huge brush and put bronzer all over as though it's powder. Tread lightly though, if your bronzer is the wrong colour you will look like an oompa loompa.
Bronzer in moderation: Make a 3 on the side of your face with the bronzer. Start with your brush on the cheekbone then sweep up in a C motion (with the C opening towards your eyebrows) then back down along your jaw in another C motion. I don't put bronzer on my nose normally since it's easy for that to look unnatural. I read somewhere that you want to get sort of a "halo" effect going where the edges of your face are darker than the middle.
Bronzer + Blush: make the 3s on each side. Smile at your pretty self, put just a teeny hint of blush on the apples of your cheeks. This is my personal favourite because it looks the most natural.
The 3-3-W method for foolproof powder bronzer application:
Make a 3 on each side of your face. Start at the temple, swoop the brush to your cheekbone, then swoop again along your jawline.
Make a W across your nose area. Start with one cheekbone, swoop down and back up to the nose, then swoop to the other cheekbone.
This highlights the areas that would be most affected by natural sunlight, making you look lightly sunkissed.
From commenter Chamalla, barren crone:
I can do blush! I'm the color of skim milk, with red hair, so I empathize with my fellow pale ladies. The trick that works for me is to mix my powder with a little of the palest pink/peach blush I can find. Tap the brush to get off the extra, than sweep over the apples of your cheek with a really light touch. It gives a healthy glow without looking garish. To find your apples, grin like Jack Nicholson's Joker.
From commenter doogiedinosaur:
I ALWAYS wear blush, and it's usually the only makeup I have on, so I'd like to tackle these questions.
Blush is not like foundation or pressed powder in that it doesn't have to "match" your skin tone. It's job (like bronzer's) is to enhance. That's it. So pick a color designed for your undertones. Most drug-store displays say things like "warm" or "cool" at the very least, and ladies at the department store counters can help you with this, too. For example, I can't wear truly "pink" blush because I have olive skin and it comes out looking too tweeny, so I wear darker, berry-colored or golden-hued shades.
As far as bronzer is concerned, I'm of the opinion that it should never, ever go all over your face, unless you are using a tinted moisturizer. It should be applied to the apples of the cheeks just like blush, with a big, full makeup brush (if you're using the power kind, which I recommend.)
You should never wear too much of either, so it's really up to you how much you want to spend. I like cheek stains, and Smashbox makes a really neat one that goes on clear and changes colors to match your skin tone.
As for highlighter: skip it, unless you want to look like a local tv news anchor. You should also probably stay away from any "illuminating" or "light diffusing" blush or bronzer if you have oily skin like I do - it makes you look even shinier.
From commenter lodown:
5. What's the difference between liquid/powder blush/rouge?
There are actually way more types of blush than that. First, rouge is just an old timey name for blush. Second, there are liquid, gel, cream, and powder blushes.
Powder blushes can come either pressed or loose (e.g. Bare Escentuals). What you want is something that's very finely milled and feels silky or creamy to the touch. That's how you'll know it will look natural rather than dry and powdery.
Liquid blushes (like BeneTint) are like colored water or food dye. They tend to be very long-lasting because they're highly pigmented and basically stain your skin. You can use these as a lip stain as well. They also look very natural if you apply them correctly. However, it takes some skill and speed to avoid clown cheeks. Not for beginners.
Gel blushes (e.g. Pixi Cheek Gel) are like liquid blushes, but in gel form. They offer the benefits of liquid but are easier to use because they don't dry so quickly and are a bit easier to blend. They add a transparent wash of color to your skin.
Cream blushes (e.g. NARS Multiples) are my favorite kind. They are easy to use because they're more forgiving of mistakes than liquid or gel, but give you a more natural look than powder. They're also great for dry skinned girls who want to fake a dewy look. Oilier girls might have a more difficult time finding a cream blush that won't fade away, but I've found that Bobbi Brown's Pot Rouges have excellent lasting power because they're dryer and more pigmented than typical cream blushes.
General Application Tips:
From Wendi, via email:
When I apply bronzer, I only place it on my nose, forehead, and the tops of my cheeks slightly below my eyes (aka the top of the "apple" of my cheeks). One should apply it with very light strokes in a vertical or horizontal direction, but usually not in circles. Leave the circles to blush! I use a full, rounded brush (i.e. if you look at it from above, the brush bristles form a full circle when not in use) to apply blush. I always smile and apply to the bottom section of the apples of my cheeks, working in a quick circular pattern from that point up around the apple. I then drop my smile, then look to make sure the blush looks natural and doesn't overwhelm my face. I start with the bottom of the apple of my cheeks generally because that's where I seem to get the most red when I am hot, working out,dancing, etc. I simply mimic the natural pattern, with the color heavier on the bottom and dissipating toward the top.
1: Apply your powder or cream bronzer in a '3' pattern on either side of your face starting in the middle of your forehead and working toward your chin. This means! Plop the brush into the middle of your forehead and, heading to the left, brush it around your eye to your nose, and then down to the center of your chin. Make sure the movement of the brush makes a '3'. Then go back up to your forehead and do the same to the right side, reflecting the '3'. Use a light hand for this! And then run your brush over the bridge of your nose.
2: Apply your powder or cream blush to the apples of your cheeks, blending up your cheekbones, and then run a bit of the color over the bridge of your nose, your jawline, and your forehead. Think about how you look when you're naturally flushed; it's not just on your cheeks, so keep it light but give this a whirl and I guarantee you'll look a bit more natural.
3. I like to put blush on, then do bronzer, and then touch up the blush to make sure I've got some roses coming through. I like to look like I've got a tan AND like I've got that healthy flush. I feel that solo bronzer looks a bit flat.
Keep in mind that this is all done with a very light touch.
And When All Else Fails:
From commenter magnets:
Didn't get the answer you were looking for? You should check yesterday's thread, which has hundreds of tips and tricks from your fellow readers. Disagree with something you see in this post? Feel free to set the record straight in the comments. And don't forget: suggestions for next week's topic are always welcome.
Earlier: Beauty 101: "I Cannot Apply Blusher—I Always End Up Looking Like A Clown"
Beauty 101: Your Skincare Questions, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Eye Queries, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Nail Questions, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Lipstick Questions, Answered
Beauty 101:Your Hair Questions, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Waxing/Shaving Questions, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Foundation And Concealer Concerns, Answered
Beauty 101: Your Eyeliner Woes, Solved