Red blush is one of those products that can make even the most color-lovin' cosmetics fans shy away, but with a delicate hand (and a duo-fiber or perhaps fan brush) it can give one of the most natural-looking flushes that makeup can offer. These aren't really dupes, but they are all blushes most people would call red.
Clockwise from top left: NYX Red (new) available here for $4.50
Maybelline Limited Edition Baked Blush in Ravishing Rouge (I've still seen this in some drugstores) for about $7
Sleek Blush in Scandalous $6.50
Tarte for True Blood Limited Edition Natural Cheek Stain $30
Sorry, I don't have that limited-edition Byzance de Chanel Joues Contrast powder blush in Rouge or NARS Exhibit A to compare.
Left to right: Maybelline Ravishing Rouge, NYX Red, Sleek Scandalous, and Tarte for True Blood Cheek Stain. All red, all really different! Edit: please note these were swatched lightly, then heavily, and all over Boscia BB Cream.
Smell: Maybe you wouldn't normally consider this aspect of a blush, but some out there (such as Benefit's boxed powders) smell sugary-delicious! In this case, the Maybelline smells like paint (however you have to sniff it intentionally and with gusto; it doesn't reek). Inhale powerfully as I might, I couldn't smell anything from the NYX blush. The Sleek blush has a slight floral scent, and the Tarte cheek stain smells like a citrus gummy candy. To me Maybelline is the loser, but none of these smells strongly enough to be disliked for it. I think NYX wins because no detectable fragrance increases the odds of this not irritating sensitive skin or noses.
Texture: Maybelline is the velvetiest, much to my surprise! I believe it is a baked blush and in my experience baked blushes and eyeshadows are hard and difficult to blend. This Maybelline blush is far, FAR smoother than any other baked blush OR Maybelline powder blush I've ever tried (i.e. Fit Me didn't fit me :-P). The Nyx is only slightly chalky, but the Sleek feels quite like chalk to the touch but blends out just fine somehow. I don't really like the texture of Tarte cheek stains (kinda sticky), but they also blend nicely with fingers and don't dry as fast as other stains which gives you ample time to apply them properly. The texture winner is Maybelline!
Color: This is going to depend on your undertones. NYX Red leans cool, Maybelline Ravishing Rouge is almost brown/plum/wine, Sleek Scandalous is a warm or orange-red, and Tarte is a sheer true-red likely to suit the largest variety of skintones. Tarte is the sparkliest, but not a glitterbomb at all. The sparkles don't translate to the cheeks on me. It feels unfair to crown Tarte the winner in the color category because swatched it is clearly the least-scary red blush. I think for universiality it wins, but for my warm skintone the Sleek Scandalous is the winner. You can see it will make the most natural flush on me because it almost looks like a rash (gross, but that means it's matching colors from my own skin). NYX Red and Maybelline Ravishing Rouge are likely to look the least natural, but blush doesn't always have to look like it came from a jog!
Pigmentaton: Tarte is the loser because the other three reds are super-pigmented (so much so that you have to be extremely careful applying them and be sure to blend! Luckily, all these blushes blend very easily).
Wear: All of these have fantastic lasting power even on my oily skin. I would expect as much from powder or gel blush. To be honest, though, the Sleek and NYX are drier and possibly more pigmented than the others so they hold up at full intensity for longer. So, our lot is split!
Winner: Marketing considered, (I am absolutely in LOVE with the fact that Tarte did a True Blood tie-in. I get a kick out of the "Glamour Me" on the side of the tube) I would want to crown Tarte for True Blood the winner, but without factoring that in I would personally get the most use out of Sleek Scandalous. It doesn't feel dreamy to my fingertips like the Maybelline, but I apply it with a duo-fiber brush anyway... and I just don't want the Tarte blush to win since it's turned out to be completely unintimidating once you swatch it because it's so sheer.
NYX Red is a bit too cool on me, so even sheerly applied it just isn't as flattering as the Sleek. It might be the winner for a cool-skintoned person. Maybelline Ravishing Rouge is a great statement color for Fall and would probably look incredible on a dark-skinned girl and/or with a plum gloss like MAC Plum Fun (I am adoring it right now, too bad it's LE).
Which red do you think looks the best?