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Monday, August 8, 2011

Contouring 101: How to Slim, Sculpt, and Create What's Not Even There, With Makeup!

We've all heard of contouring right? Well, at least we have seen it on others whether we are aware that that's what they've done or not. What I mean is, we've seen the illusion of slimmed down noses, higher cheek bones, and more sculptured jawlines . All created with the use of a few items that most of us have in our makeup collections: bronzer, powder, highlighter, etc. These tools can be very useful in aiding in the minimization of our flaws without having to go under the knife or get any other type of procedure done. But how do we do this contouring thing? Basically we are using a few products that most of us already have, to create strategic light and dark areas on the face. We use "light" to bring things forward and fill things in and we use "dark" to suck things in or pull things back. I'm going to share a few easy ways (because I don't know how to do or explain the complicated ones) to enter the world of contouring.
What You Will Need:

Matte Bronzer or a face powder that is at least 2 shades darker than you are
Highlighting product, either matte or shimmer, cream or powder
Concealer that is lighter than your skin tone
Powder that is 2 shades lighter than your skin tone 
    A palette especially made for contouring

Slimming Your Nose:
Take a small brush of some sort, it can be an eyeshadow blending brush or something similar. Whatever brush it is, it needs to be able to create a defined line down either side of the bridge of your nose. Do you see where that location is in the photo below? You can either use a MATTE bronzer or a foundation or powder that is a couple of shades darker than you are to create this look. You must try not to create a harsh line though or this draws too much attention and takes away from the original purpose which is to make your nose look slim.

Now that you have done this, take either a matte highlighter, concealer, powder (that is lighter than you are) or something similar to create a straight line down the bridge of your nose in the middle of where you just created the bronzer lines. Make sure your lines look soft and not like you're a lifeguard whose just applied a thick layer of zinc to his nose.

What does this do? By bringing attention to the skinny part of your nose with the light powder, you are fading away the excess with the bronzer. Light brings things FORWARD and dark sucks things in. Same with cheekbones.

Three basic areas of the face that are popular for contouring and/or bronzer placement
Defined and Heightened Cheek Bones:
Look again at the diagram. Do you see how she has a strip of light, a strip of dark, and then another strip of light on the below? Once again, we are using light and dark powders to bring parts of the face forward while sucking in other parts. I would prefer you use a matte powder or highlighter for that bottom strip. Shimmer that far down on the face just doesn't sit well with me.

First, if you can't really see where the natural hollows of your cheeks are, then suck them in and take a look in the mirror. This is where your darker shade goes. You can choose which type of product you use to create this look. The easiest way to go is with the matte bronzer again. This way you know its going to be dark enough to create the right look. I'd go with a blush brush to apply the product. Reason being that you are going to need to apply the powder in a concentrated location. If the brush is too fluffy or large, you run the risk of not having enough definition. Contouring is creating definition! Take your light shade of powder and apply it above and below your bronzer. I think you can either choose a matte or shimmer highlight for the strip across the cheekbones. The higher you take that lighter shade across the top, the higher your cheekbones will look. Once again, remember to blend so it doesn't turn out to look like three stripes. See the diagram for proper placement.

Camouflaging a Double Chin:
Bronzer (or, darker than you, powder foundation) along the jawline! By doing this, you are creating a more structured look and, esentially, directing the eye where to look. It's kind of like drawing an outline of the shape that you want. Bronzer can not only streamline that double chin, but it can help you to slim your face overall. Take the bronzer down on to your neck like in the picture below so it doesn't look like you have put someone else's head on your body.
Another tip for diminishing that chin area is to place more emphasis on the eyes rather than the lips. If you are trying to take the heat off of your double chin, why ruin it by drawing extra attention to an area that is dangerously close to where you are trying to draw the eye away from? And if you could care less than you have a double chin, then by all means, bring on those red or fuschia lips!

Look at this photo for contouring that jaw and neck line.
Using the Forehead to Create Structure/Balance:

Once again, we want to create a slimmer and more sculpted face by using bronzer and a highlighting powder, concealer, etc. You want to apply the bronzer on either side of the forehead at an angle. You know how you used to draw houses when you were little? With that triangle roof? Applying bronzerbronzer. Again, we are bringing the center of the forehead, forward to create not only create the illusion of a slimmer face, but to balance your forehead area.

Lift the Brows! Take a Few Years Off....

Old eyes are sagging eyes, unfortunately. Happens to the best of us. We wake up one day, only to find that our arches aren't as high as they once were. So let's fake it for as long as we can! Most of us highlight under the brow bone as a part of our every day makeup routine right? I find that using a matte highlight color rather than a shimmery one creates a more natural and lifted brow look. And a really good brow arch helps too so make sure you are grooming those brows! It does wonders for how young (or old) you can look. After we have done that, let's take a highlight cream or light concealer and apply it directly above the brow arch. Doing this just adds to the lifting process and further directs the eye where to concentrate. Its probably best to not use one of your eyeshadows to create this illusion but rather, something liquid or cream.

Sagging Or Drooping Eyelids?

Some of us either experience sagging eyelids due to age and some of us just naturally have hooded eye lids. What this means is when you have skin that hangs over your eyelid in a way that diminishes the look of a defined crease. There isn't a whole lot you can do about this, short of a surgical procedure. But if you use a really light and/or shimmery eyeshadow color in the middle of the eyelid, you can create the look of having larger lid space and ultimately looking brighter and younger. Make sure you are already choosing a lighter shade for the eyelid area anyway because dark can make your eye appear more closed. Then go back and place an even lighter shade (like a champagne or something in the ivory family) on the center of the eyelid. Again, we are using light to bring the part forward that we want the eye to concentrate on.
Another way to achieve this is by taking an eyeliner in a really light shade (like Stila Topaz or another pinky/beige) shade that some people would use to line their waterline, and instead use it on the top lid. Plenty of brands like Benefit and even Maybelline make one of these "highlighting" sticks for that lower lash line to create a look that is fresh and awake. You are going to borrow this concept but use it on the upper lid, either by applying it on your entire lid space or just in a really thick line like you would line your eyes.

This photo will give you an idea of the general areas of our face where we use light and dark
Alternate Highlighting Areas:

Cupids Bow: Highlighting this area slightly creates a more defined lip area. All you have to do is put a little of your highlight shade in your finger and dab it in that little "v" above the center of your top lip.

Chin: Dab highlighter on center of chin area. This works in combination with that jawline bronzer, face slimming exercise.

Tops of Cheekbones: This is the area that was mentioned with the cheek contouring above. The higher up you apply the highlight shade on the cheekbones, the higher your cheekbones will look. Either shimmer or matte both work for this task.

Inner Corner of Eyes: Applying even a really light eyeshadow to the corner of your eyes will just make you look awake, bright, and beautiful. Even if you don't have time for much eye makeup, don't skip this little trick.

Above and Below the Corners of the Lips: In the second diagram from the top, she has concealer or some type of light cream under the corners of the lips. I've actually seen makeup artists do this trick above and below rather than just below. This creates a lifted appearance and is especially useful for those whose lips are starting to kind of droop downward. This is also where the use of the lighter shade is filling things in and bringing the area forward. My choice is to use a concealer for this part, of course a liquid one.

Anywhere You Have Lines: And finally, just start throwing a light concealer anywhere that you want to fill some lines in. Especially those marionette lines, or smile lines. Make sure if you are using a concealer to do this  that you don't choose a really thick one that can appear cakey. An alternative product that is excellent for this job is a highlighting or illuminating cream that isn't too shimmery. These have a thinner texture than a concealer and can create the same look.


  1. Thank you so much for the contouring tips! I can never really get it perfect, my face is too round :(

  2. You are quite welcome! Thanks for reading!

  3. Thanks for all the info. Been looking at It contouring pkg. they say put the contouring on top of foundation. This just doesn't sound right to me. Shouldn't the contouring colors be under the foundation?