Shaping beauty We show you how to contour like a Kardashian
Before contouring was #contouring, it was an obscure technique for photo shoots. Now, face sculpting has infiltrated Instagram, Youtube, fashion runways – and your makeup routine.
Is everybody contouring? Call us nuts, but the more we lurk on Instagram or fall down Youtube rabbit holes, the more we’re convinced that at least every third woman in the world under 30 has turned into a master of makeup subterfuge overnight. As with any trend of any kind right now, the usual suspects can, of course, be fingered.
“I call it the Kardashian effect,” explains Amy Chance, an LA makeup artist who works with the likes of Lily Allen, Sky Ferreira and Chloë Sevigny. “You can’t flip open a magazine, log on to the internet or turn on your TV without seeing one of the Kardashians doing normal things, like shopping, carrying a baby or walking out of the gym, with a fully contoured face of makeup, looking perfect.”
As a result, Amy finds herself fielding requests for contouring all the time. “Seriously, I can be doing the most natural, no-makeup makeup imaginable, and I’ll still be asked for cheek sculpting,” she reveals.
Corrective makeup has been around since the dawn of celluloid. But, with a meteorite-level collision of aroundthe-clock paparazzi, reality TV and the fact that we’re all constantly surveilling each other via selfies, social media and online videos, the fine line between our public and private-facing selves has become increasingly blurred.
It’s one thing to let someone take your picture; it’s another thing entirely to trust them to bust out an imageburnishing app, like Facetune (R40 on Android; R80 on IOS). This makeup technique leaves nothing to chance; it’s like having your own real-life, customisable Instagram filter.
Despite the time and the expense (a decent sculpt-and-powder brush can cost R300), there’s a seductive quality to how attainable it all feels. Anyone who has watched the sped-up part of a Youtube contouring video knows how satisfying it is to see upside-down triangles of taupe, grey-brown and white turn into brighter eyes, lifted cheekbones, a shrunken chin and pert nose. The idea that strategic blending and tricks of light can mimic the effects of tasteful plastic surgery is enormously appealing. Why wouldn’t you try it?
And it doesn’t look like the trend is going to fade away anytime soon. “I took a masterclass with Kim Kardashian [West] and her makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic,” explains Arabelle Sicardi, a fashion and beauty writer. “There was a lot of money in that room – everyone had travelled from afar to attend the event.”
For someone like Amy, who has watched her fair share of makeup trends come and go over a 12-year career, this relentless pursuit of flawlessness can be a bit of a bummer.
“Everyone’s contouring away the little perceived imperfections that make their faces unique,” she says. “You end up with a bunch of 18 year olds looking 35. I miss the natural, healthy glow of skin. I like freckles!”
It can take a solid 10 minutes to get through a contouring tutorial on Youyube – and that’s with time-lapse. “To be honest, contouring is quite extreme,” admits makeup professional Diane Kendal. In real life, “contouring can be flattering and pretty, but less product really is more,” she explains.
1Stickwith powders Almost all video tutorials use creams that show up well on camera, but if you’re new to contouring, matte powders are easier to blend, explains makeup artist Troy Surratt. Pick a powder that’s two shades darker than your skin; a bronzer or taupe blush works, too, says Kristen Stewart’s makeup artist Jillian Dempsey.
2Don’t draw dark stripes In fact, don’t draw any stripes. Suck in your cheeks and use circular motions to buff taupe into the hollows below your cheekbones, says makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury, who contours Cara Delevingne and Kate Moss. Buy a fluffy fan brush for the soft shading.
3Go easy with the highlighter Remember, it’s your face, not a geometry project – you don’t need blocks of highlighter on your cheekbones to create a flattering glow! Lightly dust a champagne powder “on the tops of your cheekbones, down the bridge of the nose and on your Cupid’s bow,” recommends Charlotte.
The next generation of contouring is one part face shaping, and one part clever marketing spin on anti-ageing. “Film formers are a new approach to facial sculpting: they tighten skin and smooth wrinkles until they’re washed off,” says cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller. You’ll find formers in Estée Lauder New Dimension Expert Liquid Tape (R805), which is a lightweight, sticky serum that helps tighten your skin and smooth lines. Follow the directions correctly and hold your skin taut when applying.
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