Contouring can be a tricky business. Done properly, it adds real refinement to a makeup look, but done incorrectly and it can look like someone’s colored you in with a Crayola set. Whilst I wouldn’t personally recommend incorporating a contour into your everyday makeup routine, it’s a great addition to a special occasion look that calls for amazing definition and an almost professional-looking finish. If you’ve never tried the technique before, the abundance of products and different ways to apply everything can make it seem a little daunting. Believe me, ladies, I’ve been there! So, these are my tried and tested tips for those of you who are curious about giving it a try but are unsure about how and where to begin.
Step One: Powder, cream or both?
When it comes to contouring, you have two basic options: powders or creams. The choice is entirely yours and for the indecisive ones out there that are looking for a particularly bold look, you can even combine the two. The powder set I’m currently using (and loving) is the Smashbox Step-By-Step Contour Kit, which is amazing, albeit a bit of an indulgence. The big pro about this kind of palette is that it’s clear which shades need to be applied to each part of your face. For those on a budget, prior to treating myself to this kit, I used a bronzer from H&M (you know, from the makeup section they always have by the registers?) along with one of their highlighters and that worked perfectly well for me too. If it’s creams you’re after, you can always find cream-based palettes much like the Step-By-Step, but you can get just as good a look from using a couple of different shades of foundation and concealer. I’m currently using, on top of my normal foundation, an illuminating concealer and a foundation which is a few shades darker than my natural skin tone.
Step Two: What do I put where?
Contouring looks best with a full coverage look. Prior to applying whichever type of contour you prefer, ensure you’ve properly prepped your skin with a moisturiser and primer to lock in your look and applied a suitable foundation for your skin type. The number one rule to remember is that darker shades diminish and define, whilst lighter shades enhance and enlarge. As a general rule, therefore, the best places to position the darker shades are in the hollows of your cheeks, down the sides of your nose, across your forehead and along your jaw, whilst the lighter shades can cover the centre of your nose, your under eye area, chin and forehead. Of course, you can tailor this to your face and the look you’re after. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what looks best on you because it’s not the case that one technique works for all, given that each one of your faces will be different. For precision, you’re best using a concealer brush to initially apply the cream shades. For powders, a contour brush will best help you to carve out the darker shades and I’d recommend leaving the lighter shades until after you’ve blended. Yes, at this stage it’s highly possible that you’ll look utterly ridiculous. It gets better, I promise!
Step Three: Blend, blend, blend!
Once you’re happy with the positioning of each shade, it’s time to blend. If you’ve decided to combine creams and powders, my suggestion is to first apply and blend in the creams and then go over your work with the corresponding powder shades. For creams, the best method is to blot the colors into your skin, essentially blurring the harsh lines, using a beauty blender or a stippling brush. For powder fans, I’d opt for blending using circular motions for the darker shade with either a contour or angled brush. At this point, once the darker shade is applied and blended, you can then go in with your highlighter shade and sweep it across the areas you’re intending to enhance. Take your time with this step, the longer you spend on blending, the more natural the finish.
Step Four: Seal it in.
Ok, you’ve made it to the finish line. Can you see the difference? To make sure all your hard work doesn’t fall down your face within the first hour of it being applied, set your contour in place with a powder. I alternate between my Clinique and Rimmel Stay Matte powders, depending on my budget. At this point, you can finish by adding blush and any other makeup you’re thinking of applying, which I wholeheartedly recommend, otherwise your face can end up looking half-done.