Professional makeup artists and stage performers have long relied on contouring to add definition and sculpt the face. Like all makeup techniques, contouring helps women play up the features they like best while drawing attention away from those they don't. Applied correctly, contouring can change the entire shape of your face, bringing it closer to the "ideal" oval or egg-shaped facial structure.
If you have a classic heart-shaped face—think Jennifer Aniston or Reese Witherspoon—contouring is a tried-and-true means of giving your face a greater sense of proportion and balance. Not sure if your face fits into this category? Think of the heart-shaped face as an inverted triangle. It's widest along the forehead, and gets narrower as you move from the eyes to the jaw, ending in a relatively pointed chin. Using makeup, you can narrow a wide forehead, soften a strong jaw line and draw the eye away from a strong or prominent chin.
So how does contouring work? Makeup artists start by adding bronzer or foundation to the skin in order to create a shadow effect in certain areas. Then they add lighter foundation or highlighting powder to other areas of the face to attract light and draw the eye to desirable features, such as a pair of fabulous cheekbones or gorgeous baby blues. Done correctly, this technique will also make a face appear less tapered and more proportional.
Ready to give contouring a try? You'll need a contour or shadowing product, such as a matte bronzer or a foundation that's one or two shades darker than your skin. Next, you'll need a highlighting product, which could include anything from foundation that's a shade or two lighter than your skin to a traditional highlighting stick or powder. You can make it easier by purchasing a sculpting kit, which contains two complementary powders designed just for contouring. Finally, get a contour brush or any angled powder brush, or just use your fingers.
Start by applying primer and foundation or a tinted moisturizer to your face. Next, apply your dark powder or contouring foundation to your temples, which will help to narrow your forehead. Suck in your cheeks and apply more contouring to the hollow just below your cheekbones. Extend this line at an angle starting at the ear and continuing halfway to the corner of your mouth.
Now, it's time to bring on the highlighter. Apply your light foundation or highlighter to your jaw line, but skip the chin. Add a dash of highlighter to the center of the forehead, then rub a bit more onto the area between the bottom of your eyes and the top of your cheekbones. Follow up with blush applied to the apples of the cheeks, if desired, then blend the contouring powder, highlighter and blush to create a smooth, polished look. Concentrate on the areas where two or more of these products meet, such as the cheekbones, in order to avoid obvious lines or transitions.
- Campo, Riku. "Best in Beauty." New York. 2010.
- Total Beauty. "How to Contour your Face." Date Unknown. (Sept. 13, 2012) http://www.totalbeauty.com/content/gallery/contouring-face-shape/p105672/page3
- Yi, Sharon. "6 Secrets I Learned at Makeup Artist School." MSNBC. Jan. 12, 2012. (Sept. 13, 2012) http://thelook.today.com/_news/2012/01/12/10098289-6-secrets-i-learned-at-makeup-artist-school?lite