Contouring Tips For the Clueless

How To Contour and Highlight

One of the biggest beauty trends in the past year has been contouring, but I find that it’s a technique that still mystifies a lot of women.  You don’t have to be a makeup pro or a Kardashian to make contouring & highlighting work for you!  You can use contouring to define your cheekbones, slim your nose and sculpt your jawbone, which especially helps your facial features standout in photos.

Contouring can be a great technique to add definition to your face and warm up your complexion. Not sure if you can master contouring?  Follow these four easy steps to get a natural, bronzed contoured look:

1.       Pick a Shade
For contouring, you’ll want to choose a face powder —cream or even foundation if you prefer; I stick to powders as they are easiest to blend— or a bronzer about two shades darker than your natural skin tone. When I’m taking  photos, I opt for non-shimmery bronzers such as MAC Bronzing Powder, and sometimes I’ll even use two different bronze shades. If using multiple shades,  I recommend using a kit such as Smashbox Step-By-Step Contour Kit (also comes with a highlight and brush!). On the budget side, I really like to contour with Physicians Formula Nude Wear Nude Glow Bronzer (four shades in one palette!) and e.l.f. Contouring Blush & Bronzer Powder duo.

2.       Brush Up
For the easiest application and best results, I recommend using an angled brush as it will greatly help to precisely apply the product in specific areas for definition  with the most even application. I recommend IT Brushes for Ulta Live Beauty Fully Flawless Blush Brush #227, MAC 168 Large Angled Contour Brush, or Sonia Kashuk Angled Contour Brush.

3.       The E-3 Technique
Now that you have the right product and the right brush, it’s time to get contouring! The basic rules for contouring are that you want light in the center of your face and shade at the edges to frame your face. Think about where light will naturally hit your face and what you want to emphasize and define.

By far, the easiest technique is to use the E-3 (sometimes just known as 3’s). No, this is not some weird Star Wars reference. Start by sweeping the bronzer at your temples, along your hairline, lightly down by your ears and then under your cheekbones (it helps to make a fish face!). To define your jawline, sweep bronzer under your chin along your jaw. Repeat on the opposite side. To slim your nose, you can apply bronzer down the sides of the nose.

How to Contour

Contouring Tips

How-to Contour

Contour and highlighting

Be sure to blend, blend, blend! Here's a general guide to help you determine where bronzer (brown), blush (pink) and highlight (beige) should be applied:

How to Contour

4.       Lighten Up
I’ll be honest, I’m a bit of a highlight nut but I’ll try to tone it down for this post. With contouring, we added the shade but now we need to add the light. Use a powder (or again, cream or foundation) that is a shade or two lighter than your normal complexion. Matte tends to be best for photos, such as Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Baked Powder but for my cheeks, I am a sucker for shimmery highlighters such as Physicians Formula Powder Palette Mineral Glow Pearls in Translucent (all-time favorite!) or IT Cosmetics Hello Light Anti-Aging Crème Illuminizer and even MAC Beauty Powder—I could go on... and on.

 You’ll want to apply the highlighter on cheeks above your blush (which should be on the apples of your cheeks) or on apples on top of blush. Sweep the highlighter on tops of cheekbones up around edges of eyes. You can also highlight your brow bone to help open your eyes, add highlight to your chin, middle of forehead, as well as your “cupids bow’ above lips, as well as on top length of nose, although I don’t recommend shimmer highlighter for the nose or forehead.

Makeup contouring

Think you got it?  Let me know how  your contoured look turns out!

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