How to contour with ease
Claudia Renford seeks expert advice on how to put your best face forward by adding light and shade to highlight your favoured features.
It’s been a make-up artist’s secret weapon for years, and now the world of contouring has become an internet sensation. Many online tutorials show us how to enhance our facial features through the art of sculpturing with shadow and light, but they often look quite daunting. So is there an easy way to master the art of contouring? We asked expert make-up artist Owen Allison for his step-by-step, easy guide to contouring.
“I think women may have been very confused by the concept of contouring, and have often dismissed the idea of even trying, simply because the images they see on the internet or on tutorials look very complicated and scary – but it doesn’t have to be,” says Owen.
“When bloggers or make-up artists are doing these step-by-step tutorials in front of a camera, they often use darker shades than they, you or I would normally use in our everyday make-up, and that is what I think scares people – seeing heavy, dark strokes of shaded colour on the skin.” But just as a camera has been known to add a few kilos, it also soaks up colour, which is why people are often told to wear bright colours on film, or in this case, use heavy, dark shades of colour.
To eliminate the scary, we show you a step-by-step guide to contouring, using shades of colour you would use every day. As the results will show, contouring can be subtle, yet still effective in accentuating your features.
Step 1: Prep your skin
Prepping your skin is vital for the smooth, flawless finish you want from your base foundation, so prep your skin with a primer before applying a good natural-finish foundation. Choosing the right foundation is critical, as your contouring shades are reliant on that – they should be two shades darker than your natural foundation for shadowing and two shades lighter for highlighting. If you are unsure of the foundation shade that best suits you, Owen suggests matching it to the colour of your décolletage. He also recommends changing your foundation seasonally, as skin tones can dramatically alter between winter and summer. If you are unsure, seek professional advice from your local beauty counter consultant.
Step 2: Shadowing
Contouring can also be compared to ‘Photoshopping’ – it’s a chance to alter the things we don’t like and enhance the ones we do. With the simple placement of a powder or foundation, we can effectively transform our facial features to play up our best features and slim down others. “Start by tracing the outside of your bone structure using the darker contouring shade and sculpt an ‘E’ shape to define the face,” says Owen. “Sweep the shade across the top of the forehead, down the side of the temple then under the cheekbone and down along the jawline.” This reduces and sculpts the face. “In essence, we want to make the ‘interior’ pop and the ‘exterior’ pull back.” If, for example, you want to reduce a larger nose, you can use the darker shade along the sides and tip of the nose, or if a double chin is your concern, try using the dark shade along the jawline as before, but also just under the chin line. Then ‘fill in’ with the highlighter.
Step 3: Highlighting
Now that you have ‘reduced’ or pulled back and defined, the next step is to highlight or bring forward your features. Highlight areas such as the middle of your nose, centre of the forehead, cupid’s bow (top of lip) and under your eyes. “Eyes will pop when you apply a little highlighter to the top and bottom of the brow bone, after you have applied eyeshadow,” says Owen. If pigmentation, redness or uneven skin tone are a concern, then stipple your highlighter into place and press the shade in, but don’t rub or wipe – then you can come back and apply concealer if needed. Don’t worry about being too precise in steps 2 and 3, because blending ultimately becomes key to finishing off this look.
Step 4: Blending
“Once steps 2 and 3 are done, you will see two defined shades of colour. Blend these lines together using a blending brush and blend, blend, blend,” advises Owen. “It’s important to pay attention when blending to areas such as your hairline (you don’t want to see paleness in the hairline), tip of nose and the jawline. Often, the spot we can’t see well, others can,” he warns. A beauty blending brush or beauty sponge is a wonderful tool for pressing foundation or powder into the areas that can be hard to blend easily, such as the corners of your eyes and nose. Or use your fingers – the warmth from them helps blend more seamlessly. Apply your eyeshadow, mascara, blusher and lipstick to complete your look. Set with a finishing powder. “This method is ideal for everyday contouring,” says Owen. “For a glamorous evening, don’t be afraid to go heavier with your application.”