Contouring and highlighting have gotten lots of love (and hate!) lately. They can subtly alter your face to create higher cheekbones, a slimmer nose, a less defined jaw, or a thinner forehead. Done incorrectly or overzealously, however, and it will result in unflattering, obvious streaks. Here’s some tips and tricks on how to create the perfect contour.
One key is to match your highlight and contour formulas to your foundation. If you’re going to be using a liquid or cream foundation and setting with anything other than a translucent powder, choose liquid or cream sculpting products. Prefer powder foundation? You’ll want to look for sculpting powders.
From there, you’ll need to choose your perfect color. For everyday wear, stick to a contouring shade that is only a shade or two darker than your skin tone and a highlighting shade that’s two to three shades lighter than your skin tone. The dark shade should always be matte and mimic a shadow (so skip the rosy bronzers and choose something neutral-or-cool-toned), while you have your pick of finishes for the lighter shade. Reflect all the light you want from the high points of your face, keeping in mind that matte will look the most natural. Don’t be afraid to consider eyeshadows when you’re seeking out just the right tone, either.
Shop your stash for products in your current makeup collection that would achieve the same results as a new kit. If you need something new, there are sets specifically designed for contouring and highlighting. Products to try:
- Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Cream Kit, which is available in Fair, Light, Medium, and Deep (each kit has six shades)
- Kevyn Aucoin The Contour Book The Art of Sculpting + Defining Volume II, which comes with two highlighting shades, two contouring shades, and four neutral shadows
- Smashbox Step-by-Step Contour Kit or Contour Stick Trio
Sculpting cheekbones is one of the most common ways to enhance your beautiful face. Are you familiar with the “fish face” (sucked in cheeks) method of finding where to contour? Well, you’ll use it, but not in the way you might think. Don’t apply the dark shade to the areas that get sucked in. Instead, go just above those with a gentle, back and forth motion, applying color from mid-ear to about an inch from the corner of the mouth to create more of a gradient and a realistic shadowed effect. Use only a little color at a time and build it up to reach the intensity you want. Depending on the pigmentation of the product, you can use a small stippling brush or an angled blush brush.
With the light shade you’ve chosen, mimic the slant of the line you already made with the dark shade, but do it one to two finger widths above it, from the top of the ear to the point on your cheek that’s even with the outer edge of the iris. Apply blush as you usually would and lightly blend the shades with a stippling or blush brush to ensure that there are no obvious lines.
Shaping the Nose
Use the same colors you did for your sculpted cheekbones, but a small, dome-shaped shadow brush or an angled shadow brush. With the dark shade, go down each side of the nose, from the inner corner of your eye (or just above, at the edge of your brow) to the nostril. Blend with short, quick strokes. If your nose is long, stop before you reach the very end (leave about half an inch contour-free). Take a shade two or three shades lighter than your skin tone and apply a stripe down the center of the nose, from between the eyebrows to the tip. Blend softly on either side so there’s no obvious line.
To slim the tip of your nose, experiment with taking the ends in to a point just between the nostrils, which will form a V-shape at the end of the two lines you already made, or try curving the lines out instead, to hug the sides of the nose at nostril-level. If you feel like the end of your nose is too wide, stop the highlighting shade just before you get there.
Forehead and Jawline
The same concepts apply when you want to slim your forehead (darker color at the temples, fading up toward the center along the hairline with the lighter shade in the center) or make your jaw more or less prominent (put the dark color in spots you wish to recede and lighter ones where you want the illusion of width).
Wherever you sculpt, just remember to diffuse the edges of the stripes so they aren’t so obvious, and set with translucent powder once you’re done. Enjoy the effect!