Contouring with makeup. Sounds like an intimidating professional technique that makeup artists use on models and Hollywood actors, doesn’t it? At least that’s what I thought when I first heard about the technique that is sweeping through the makeup industry. It sounds advanced, but it’s not all that difficult once you understand two simple principles:
Light brings forward.
Ask any woman what color is most slimming and 99 out of 100 will automatically answer “black”. We’ve heard of the miraculous slimming abilities of dark colors in clothing, but did you realize that makeup has the same effect? Specifically, darker makeup gives the illusion of making a facial feature look smaller. That’s principle number one.
Secondly, light colors make an object look larger (sadly, this is why I own exactly ZERO white pants). In makeup terms, that means lighter foundation or eyeshadow has the ability of making the area it’s applied to appear larger, visually bringing it to the foreground. Enter principle number two.
Now that you are armed with this technical knowledge, you can apply these principles to your face using slightly lighter and slightly darker products than your skin, and miracles can happen. If you have a round face shape (like I do), contouring can help create higher cheekbones and a less… cherubic appearance, shall we say? If you have a double chin, darker makeup can make it recede into oblivion. If you have a broad forehead, a few expertly-placed swipes of dark makeup can make it less one-dimensional.
Now, before I go any further let me just say that there is probably a third principle that you must keep in mind: the power of blending. If you apply darker makeup and do not blend well, you can end up just looking like you have dirt on your face. Or something went horribly wrong at the spray tanning salon. Either way, not cute. Blend, ladies; blend!
So let’s talk specifics and get into some simple step-by-steps to basic face contouring.
Start by cleansing and moisturizing your face. Always, always apply makeup to a fresh canvas; your makeup will go on more evenly and perform better than if you apply it on dirty or oily skin. Now get out your contouring makeup.
- Your usual foundation
- Matte bronzer, or a foundation in a deeper shade than you usually use. General rule of thumb is to go about two shades darker than your skin.
(I’m using our Warm Bronzer, Pinky Pink blush, and our Champagne Pearl eyeshadow as my highlighter.)
The tools I’m using are a foundation brush, a blush brush (found in our seven-piece brush set), a mini foundation brush, a flat brush, and my good old-fashioned fingers.
Alright, let’s dig in.
First, apply your usual foundation all over your face, as you usually do. (Have you seen our tutorial of the various methods of applying mineral foundation? If not, stop now and watch that first to get the best application possible.) We’re creating the even, smooth, creamy backdrop upon which our magic will shine.
Time for Principle Number One: Dark Recedes.
Beak out your dark color and the small brush. Take a look at your face and notice your ears… see that little nub on the inside nearest your cheek? It’s called the tragus. That’s where you want to start with your dark contour. Suck in your cheeks and aim from the tragus toward the hollow, using downward strokes and lighter pressure as you go. Don’t be shy; at this stage you want to SEE that color on there. We’ll blend it later.
At this point you can also put some contour on the outside corners of your forehead; this will narrow a broad forehead. Sweep some on on your neck right underneath your jawline, which will sharpen your jaw and recede any double chin you may have. If you have a wide nose, run a little along each side of your nose. You can even dab a little under your lower lip to give the illusion of a fuller lower lip. Pout: perfected!
Next step: BLEND. This is important. Do not skip this. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars. The last thing you want are racing stripes running down the sides of your face. Rather, you want everything to look like “maybe she was born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline”, you know? So break out the fluffy powder brush (no powder necessary) and give it a good swirl over everywhere you applied the contour, just barely blurring the lines, leaving the shadowy illusion of depth where you applied the dark makeup.
Now it’s time to use Principle Number Two: Light Brings Forward.
Grab your shimmery, light colored makeup (I’m using our eyeshadow in Champagne Pearl; it’s not just for eyes only!) and a flat brush. You can use a large one like our Flat Brush, or a smaller one like our Large All-Over eyeshadow brush. Or you can even use your fingers! Dip your instrument of choice into your light makeup and dab it onto the tops of your cheekbones, almost into the eye socket, but not quite. You can also run it down the length of your nose, dab it in the cupid’s bow of your upper lip, and touch it along your browbones. These areas will now subtly catch the light, bringing them forward visually, and making your skin glow.
Lastly, apply blush to the apples of your cheeks and you’re all set. (What are the apples, you say? The part of your cheek that chubs up a bit when you smile. It’s cute.)
That’s it. You’re contoured, baby! It sounds slightly more complicated and advanced than just using foundation and calling it a day, but once you get the hang of it, it takes about a minute, tops. It’s not supposed to be a dramatic difference, but one of those things where people will wonder what’s different. (Did she lose weight? is it her haircut/color? There’s something subtly different…!)
Have you used these two principles of light and dark to enhance your own natural beauty? We’d love to hear your feedback!