How to Contour Like a Pro: Defining Your Features

If you’ve ever watched a makeup tutorial and marveled at how dramatically a few swipes of color can completely transform someone’s face, chances are contouring was involved. Contouring is a makeup artist’s secret weapon – it adds dimension, sculpts cheekbones, and can even create the illusion of a slimmer nose or more defined jawline. But, with all the techniques and products out there, it can seem pretty intimidating.

Don’t worry, though! With the proper guidance and practice, you’ll be a contouring whiz in no time. Let’s dive in and get started.

Understanding the Basics of Contour

First, what exactly is contouring? It’s all about using strategically placed shadows and highlights to enhance your natural features. You’ll use a darker shade (your contour) to mimic natural shadows on your face and a lighter shade (your highlight) to emphasize areas where the light would naturally hit. When blended skillfully, the result is a gorgeously sculpted look.

As celebrity makeup artist and Mary Kay ambassador Jaleesa Jaikaran puts it, “contouring is a way to transform your face shape” (DeSantis, 2023).

Let me tell you, when I first started experimenting with contouring, I made the classic rookie mistake of using a shade that was way too warm. The result? Not those enviable cheekbones I was after, but rather a pair of bright orange stripes down my face. Lesson learned – cool tones are your friend for natural-looking shadows!

Choosing the Right Products

There are two main types of contour products: cream and powder. Cream contours provide a more dramatic, chiseled look, while powder contours are generally better for beginners since they’re subtler and easier to blend. Experiment to find what works best for you and your skin type.

When picking your contour shade, make sure it’s cool-toned, about two shades darker than your natural complexion. Anything too warm or orangey will look like bronzer instead of a natural shadow. Your highlighter should be a couple of shades lighter than your skin tone and can have a subtle shimmer, but avoid anything too glittery.

Essential Tools

Besides the products themselves, you’ll need a few tools:

  • Brushes: A fluffy angled brush applies contour to the cheekbones, while a smaller tapered brush works well for the nose and jawline. For blending, a dense foundation brush or a beauty sponge will make your life much easier.
  • Beauty Sponge: A damp beauty sponge will ensure they blend seamlessly if you’re using cream products.

Prepping Your Face

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of contouring, ensure your face is a clean canvas. Start with your usual skincare routine (cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen), then apply a primer. Primer helps your makeup last longer and creates an even base for your foundation and concealer.

The Art of Placement

Where you place your contour depends on your unique facial features and the look you want to achieve. Here’s an essential guide:

  • Cheekbones: The most common area to contour. Suck in your cheeks to find the hollows, then follow that natural line with your contour shade from mid-ear toward the corner of your mouth. Stay within a reasonable distance, or you’ll look gaunt!
  • Nose: Draw thin contour lines down either side of your nose bridge for a slimming effect. It’s important to blend these lines out very carefully.
  • Jawline: Contouring your jawline will help define it. Apply the contour shade below your jawline and along the sides of your chin, blending into your neck.
  • Forehead: If you want to make your forehead look smaller, apply contour at the temples and along your hairline.

Highlighting: It’s Not Just for Glowing Skin

After blending your contour, it’s time to add highlights to the high points of your face. Apply your highlighter above your cheekbones, down the bridge of your nose, on your brow bones, the inner corners of your eyes, your Cupid’s bow, and the center of your chin.

The Magic of Blending

Blending is the absolute key to flawless contouring! Use your brush or beauty sponge in circular ‘buffing’ motions to soften harsh edges. The goal is for the contour and highlight to melt seamlessly into your foundation, creating natural-looking shadows and dimension.

Practice Makes Perfect

Like any new skill, becoming a contouring master takes practice. Be encouraged if your first attempt looks red-carpet-ready. Watch online tutorials, practice in good lighting, and take photos to see what works and doesn’t. The more you practice, the easier it becomes.

Rebecca Silver

Hello there! I'm Rebecca Silver, a beauty aficionado with a diploma from the International Beauty Institute. I've devoted my time to crafting articles that break down the world of beauty into easy, actionable tips. Whether it’s about nurturing your hair, caring for your skin, mastering makeup, or pampering your nails, I make sure each piece of advice is simple to follow and effective. My mission? To guide you through enhancing your natural beauty with routines that are tailored just for you. Beauty is a journey, and I'm here to navigate it with you—one fun, confident step at a time. Let's embrace and celebrate the beauty in all of us.

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