What is Contouring? …in a few words
“Contouring is a technique used during the application of makeup, that can enhance or define your natural facial structure. This is achieved by applying highlighting powders for lighter areas and dull bronzers for shading. The subtle application of light and dark powders, creates visual illusions that can make your facial features, such as the nose, chin or jawline, appear more or less defined than they really are”
And in a few more words…
Even among the most fashion-oriented consumers, full facial contouring is often regarded as a technique reserved only for those with really deep pockets who can afford the required arsenal of cutting-edge products and talented make-up artists. So much so in fact, that this make-up artistic trend has become synonymous with the beautiful elite and unquestionably many have benefited from its perceived exclusivity. But here’s the news, contouring is no more than a make-up technique (a very effective one I’d like to add!), and despite what many celebrity stylists would like you to think, with a bit of dedication, practice, and an artistic eye, anyone can start blending their imperfections away.
The Contouring Stages
At its most basic level, contouring is a process that subtly enhances and perfects your appearance by manipulating how light and shade is perceived by others. So, if like us you want cheekbones a supermodel would be proud of, contouring is the clever beauty trick you need in your life. This is achieved through the application of shading and highlights to either accentuate or diminish the depth of various surfaces on your face. While applying make-up for this technique, your face essentially becomes a canvas, and like a painter you must illuminate the areas where light should hypothetically hit in a perfect world. For example, if you desire higher cheekbones or a taller nose, you would accordingly apply your highlighter to the tips of your cheekbones and down the ridge of your nose. Likewise, you must also shade the areas that ought to be on a slope or slightly concealed from light. Common areas darkened for added depth includes around the nose for additional perceived nasal depth, and along the perimeter of the face for a slimming effect. Essentially, the trick is to give the illusion of prominent or depressed features through the application of light and dark make-up, where no prominent or depressed features exist naturally or to at least enhance your natural features using this technique. Blush, a product that almost everyone uses, is an example of contouring to a lesser degree, since it is used to accentuate the cheekbones in addition to adding color to one’s face.
Pick a Brush, Any Brush!
Contouring does require some special supplies, though fortunately a broad range of products can be used for this process and can be purchased for a relatively low cost. The most common contouring technique uses highlighting powders for lighter areas and dull bronzers for shading, though any matte powder that is consistent with your skin tone is acceptable, including varying shades of compact pressing powder. More advanced techniques actually use multiple layers for the contour, including foundation, though this is far more complex and not recommended for everyday wear. When selecting your materials remember you’re ultimately going to have to match the natural fluctuations in skin tone after blending, so don’t go more than two shades away from your normal foundation tone. To apply, put on your usual make-up and save the contouring process for last. Blend subtle amounts of powder in the areas you want to make prominent or depress, using the lighter and darker powders respectively. After you’re done, double check to ensure that the tone gradient is not too drastic or appears obvious.
Tools checklist – What You Will Need:
- Angled Brush
- Blusher Brush
- Bronzing Brush
- Cream Highlighter
- Flat Brush
- If you usually wear foundation, begin with this to give yourself a good base to work onto
The main difficulty with contouring is that the exact process must be adjusted for each individual’s face, so there isn’t a clear-cut formula that’s guaranteed to work for everyone. Naturally there are general traits that are considered beautiful, such as high cheekbones and thin faces, but for some the supposed universal techniques will fail, so it’s extremely important to experiment. Before your first attempts at contouring, analyze pictures of your favorite celebrities with similar facial features to your own and notice where the light hits their faces. Understand that you’re basically trying to replicate that through art, but at the same time appreciate that you can’t walk around looking like a living canvas and not be ridiculed. And while this might seem like a terrifying prospect, at least you can rest assured that no one knows your face quite like yourself!
A Quick How To:
- Facing the mirror, gently suck your cheeks in. Using an angled blusher brush sweep some Bronzing powder into the now pronounced hollow of your cheekbone. Sweep diagonally towards your ear lobe using firm but light strokes to blend the bronzer into place.
- To define and soften the profile of your face, work the blusher brush across your jawline. If you’re worried about your double chin, sweep the darkening contouring bronzer under the chin to create a slimming shadow.
- Finally, to slim the appearance of your nose, apply the bronzing powder to each side of the nose to slim and sculpt the width of the bridge.
- Now for the highlights. A cream highlighter should be applied above the bronzer to give contrast to the features you are sculpting. Blend the cream into the areas where sunlight would naturally fall. Starting with the center of your nose, your forehead and the arch of your brow none. Gently blend in the cream with your fingers.
- For a wide-awake look, blend a touch of highlighter in the corner of your eyes. Applying highlighter cream just above your upper lip (Cupids bow!) will make lips look fuller.
- Finish by highlighting the top of the cheekbones for the ultimate sculpted model look.
- Give yourself a little smile and apply a little blusher on the bits that are now rounded and puffed out to give you that fresh-faced look.
Contouring does have some limitations in addition to its strengths. It can make your face look slightly slimmer, your nose less flat, arch your cheekbones, flatten a protruding chin, or just even out your general proportions. It can even make shallow wrinkles less profound by highlighting crevices such as the nasolabial folds, and is known to give wearers a radiant glow. Overall, this technique can tweak features slightly and push your looks to the next level, giving good-looking people that ethereal appearance the public is so used to seeing in photographs of celebrities. It cannot fix all of your flaws, and it’s certainly not a substitute for cosmetic surgery if that’s your ultimate aim, but contouring can add a touch of glamour to your make-up routine and who amongst us doesn’t need an extra boost to our confidence? Even if you include contouring into you special occasion make-up routine, at least give it a go.
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