Q: I love the idea of highlighting, but highlighters tend to look too noticeable on my skin. What are some more subtle options?

A: Just as foundation one to two shades darker than your skin provides a subtle contour, you can use foundation that is one to two shades lighter as highlighter. For even more subtlety, very lightly dust pale, matte yellow eye shadow in the areas you wish to highlight. Some companies make highlighters in a wide range of tones, like Too Faced’s Glow Powder, so you don’t necessarily have to use a white, pearly highlighter to get a brightening and lifting effect.

Q: I want to accentuate the hollows of my cheeks, but they aren’t naturally visible. How can I find the hollows of my cheeks so that I know where to apply contour?

A: To find the natural hollows of your cheeks, make a fish-face. Suck in your cheeks while pouting your lips. The sucked-in lines that naturally form under the cheekbones are the hollows of your cheeks. Apply your contour along this concave line and blend well.

Q: I love the look of a svelte, contoured face. However, most contour colors available are too warm on my fair skin, making it look more ruddy than natural. What are some other options?

A: Instead of solely looking for products marketed as “contour,” consider taking a walk down the foundation aisle at your local pharmacy. Look out for cool-undertone based foundations a shade darker than your current tone. Many brands categorize their foundations based on the undertone concept of cool, neutral, and warm. Compare some of these foundations--liquid or powder form--to your current contour products. Do they look less pink or red? Are they closer to your skin tone? If so, these are the contours for you.

by team
Curious about contouring? This makeup application method is designed to enhance your natural bone structure so that your features look more stunningly defined. This is especially useful for photographs, when you want to look your best without being overdone. Find out how to use makeup as a tool for shedding the appearance of unwanted weight in your face and making the most of what you’ve got.

Not everyone is born with the striking bone structure of a supermodel – but you can learn how to flatter your features with makeup. Through contouring, you can effectively create a slimmer nose, sharper jawline, higher cheekbones and even the illusion of larger eyes and lips. Play with the widening and shrinking effects of contour by understanding where to place shadows and highlighters. By incorporating this three-step contouring technique into your makeup routine, you can create a more sculpted appearance for any occasion.

1. Prep and prime the skin

First, apply your favorite primer to clean skin. Using a primer will help lengthen the lifespan of your makeup layers so that your contoured look won’t wear off quickly. Next, create an even base by applying your usual makeup. Since contouring involves adding layers of makeup, consider using a product with a lighter formula such as sheer BB cream or tinted moisturizer, and cover any blemishes with skin-matching concealer. Make sure your base layer is well blended into the neck, ears and hairline.

2. Apply shadows in key spots

For best contouring results, consider using cream product rather than powder “because you can pat it on with your fingers and it has a natural finish that doesn't look like makeup,” makeup artist Ashleigh Ciucci tells Allure. Read on for tips on contouring specific areas of the face.

  • Cheeks: Contouring the hollows of the cheeks gives an overall face-slimming effect. However, if done incorrectly, the results can look harsh and unrealistic. For a natural, distinguished look, editors from the Beauty Department suggest a foolproof method: Using an angled powder brush like bareMinerals Precision Face Brush, lightly buff the contour in an “E” shape along the peripheries of the face. Begin at the forehead and, traveling along the hairline past the temples, dip inward along the hollows of the cheeks. Reverse the brush back in its tracks, then dip the brush downward, again following the periphery of the face. Finally, brush along the jawline and just under the chin. You can repeat this motion until you’ve achieved ideal definition, but be sure to blend the final product.
  • Nose: To slim the nose, use a flat concealer brush, such as Jane Iredale Sculpting Brush, or a small blending brush to lightly apply contour down the sides of the nose. Since the nose can be the most prominent feature of the face, be sure to blend in that contour extremely well; otherwise, it might look like you have dirt on your nose!
  • Chin: For a more chiseled chin, use your rounded foundation brush to buff contour into the space underneath the chin and along the jawline.
  • Eyes: Contour used in the crease of the eye can create the appearance of larger, more deep-set eyes. To achieve this look, use the Jane Iredale Crease Brush or other small blending brush to apply contour into the creases of the eyes in a windshield wiper motion. Concentrate the contour at the very top and outer corner of the crease for best results.
  • Lips: While lip liner generally goes a long way in defining the lips, you can enhance a pouty mouth with a touch of contour directly underneath the center of the lower lip.

After all contours are placed, go over all areas to ensure so that there are no obvious dark patches on the skin. The finished effect should look as though natural shadows are being cast on the face.

3. Brighten and highlight

  • Center of face: Reintroduce some brightness to the face by using a creamy brightening concealer like bareMinerals Correcting Concealer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 - Light 2. Apply this product in the central triangular plane that runs under the eyes from the inner to outer edges, diagonally down the side of the nose, then back up toward the inner part of the under eye. After filling in this area with concealer, blend well. The key is to use a creamy formula to help ensure a seamless blend into the surrounding areas without looking stark.
  • Nose: In addition to the contours on the side of the nose, you can trace a thin line of highlighter down the center of the nose to further accentuate a slimmer effect. After drawing this line, lightly blend out with your pinky finger.
  • Cheeks: Enhance and heighten cheekbones by swiping highlighter along the top of them. The Beauty Department editors suggest using a “C” shape swiping motion to complement the “E” shape used for contouring. With a small blending brush, start from the area right above the brows and trace downwards onto the height of the cheekbones under the eyes.
  • Chin and jaw: A dot of highlighter applied to the center of the chin draws attention to the lips and gives the skin a dewy effect. For a defined jawline, run a thin trace of highlighter directly along the jaw, above the contoured areas, and blend.
  • Eyes: Open up and widen the eye area by adding a touch of highlighter to the tear duct. Then, trace highlighter up and down the center of the lid, starting at the lashes and stopping just before the crease. Lastly, add a touch of highlighter just underneath the brows, along the brow bone. Blend all areas lightly.
  • Lips: You can further enhance lips by adding highlighter to the cupid’s bow, as well as the center of the lips (after applying lip color). This will help the lips catch light, which is what naturally occurs in fuller lips.

Now that you have the completed look, make sure to set the makeup with translucent powder by using a big, fluffy brush. This will seal in the makeup and help ensure the colors don’t stray from their placement.

Contouring has become a popular makeup technique because of its ability to transform facial structure without going under the knife. To perfect any contoured look, just remember to blend, blend, blend! A well-blended face ensures that the contours resemble actual shadows so that the overall effect is natural, gorgeous and glowing.


See also:

Makeup Tips for Mature Skin

5 Tips for Achieving the Natural “No Makeup” Look

10 Skincare and Makeup Secrets from Top Beauty Pros


Too Faced Sweetheart Beads Radiant Face Glow Powder These heart bead colors work together to create the perfect combination of color and light shimmer. Inspired by nature’s most flattering pink and golden-light at dusk, these multi-colored heart pearls blend to impart a lit-from-within radiance. Colors illuminate and brighten for a romantic finish. "
bareMinerals Correcting Concealer Broad Spectrum SPF 20 - Light 2 This lightweight, long-wearing, creamy formulation contains superior SPF protection and blends seamlessly to conceal blemishes, dark under-eye circles and other skin imperfections. More than a concealer, it also works to decrease the appearance of dark spots and discolorations for a radiant, even-toned complexion. "
Jane Iredale Sculpting Brush The Sculpting Brush is a small, flat headed, dense brush made from Taklon Nylon. This brush is used to evenly distribute a small amount of liquid, cream or gel based product onto the skin. This brush is recommended to be used with the Jane Iredale Lid Primer, Eye Glosses and concealers."
Amazing Cosmetics Amazing Concealer Light Golden Say "Au revoir" to dark circles, blemishes, sun damage, broken capillaries, redness and more. Amazing Concealer is a highly pigmented, super emollient waterproof formula that blends seamlessly into the skin, creating a flawless complexion that looks and feels natural. This concealer erases dark circles, blemishes, broken capillaries, sun damage and redness with only using tiny amounts of product. Called the "magic eraser" by beauty insiders, Amazing Concealer will transform your skin... into Amazing skin. "
3LAB Perfect BB SPF 40 - 02 Medium Infused with 3LAB’s signature bio-engineered growth hormone and apple stem cell technology, Perfect BB SPF 40 is a sheer tinted moisturizer designed to firm and lift the skin, regenerate new skin cells, brighten, moisturize, and protect. Conveniently in three shades to match your skin tone."
Jane Iredale Smooth Affair Facial Primer and Brightener Smooth Affair has anti-aging properties that even skin tone, minimize the appearance of pores and increase luminosity. This product allows makeup to go on more easily and makes it last longer. The light, fresh fragrance is uplifting. Smooth Affair leaves skin nourished and smoother in appearance. "

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