Sunday, April 03, 2016

Contouring Explained: Understanding the Concept + Tips for a Natural Contour


For a makeup beginner, contouring can sound a little intimidating, but if you understand the concept, you'll be contouring like a pro in no time. If you're just starting out, I recommend going for a natural contour, or lightly shading areas of the face to give it subtle shape and definition. But once you've got the basics down, nothing's off limits (not even that super chiseled look à la Kim K). Remember: there are no hard rules in makeup; it's meant to be experimented with until you find something that fits your style.

The Contouring Concept

The easiest way to understand contouring is to think of it as creating shadows on the face. Just as shadows serve to obscure or conceal things, contouring areas of the face will push them back, adding depth and allowing the eyes to be drawn to the lighter areas. You've probably noticed that almost everyone contours the hollows of the cheeks, and that's because contouring there will create the illusion of more lifted cheekbones, which is flattering on pretty much everyone. (Tip: Angle your contour from the top of the ear to the corner of the mouth, depositing most of the product at the top and tapering off to create a soft gradient.)

Still having trouble wrapping your head around contouring? Try thinking of it as a way of making certain facial features appear smaller by minimizing space. For instance, I contour the perimeter of my forehead since it's larger than I like. Similarly, let's say you have a wide, square jawline; you'll want to contour the sides of the jaw to make it appear more slim and narrow.

Cream or Powder?

You can use either cream or powder (or even a combination of both) to contour, but for a beginner, I'd recommend starting with a powder because it'll give you a more natural, diffused contour. Plus, it's easier to blend powder away if you become too heavy-handed. (Tip: If you apply too much powder, take the same brush or beauty blender you used to apply foundation with and dab it over your contour to pick up the excess and blend it out.) My current favorite powder to contour with is Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Matte Bronzer ($29).

Keep it Cool (or Neutral)

When it comes to color, choose one that's one to two shades darker than your skin tone. Your safest bet is a cool or neutral brown, or one with a gray undertone (if you're darker in skin tone, test out the color first to make sure it doesn't appear ashy). While you can contour with bronzer, be careful not to use one that's warm (orange-y) and/or one that contains shimmer, which can work against you by drawing attention to the areas you're trying to shade away.

Bottom line: don't shy away from trying your hand at contouring. It's simply a way to add a little depth and dimension to the face and can be done in a natural way. And just like any other skill, practice makes perfect. Happy contouring!

xo – Sc

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