Use contouring to make your makeup stand out

Photo credit: Sonia Kumar

Imagine your makeup routine as a work of art, because it absolutely is. You have all your tools lined up, your brushes are ready and your face is a clean slate to start your magic.

Foundation isn’t always enough to truly transform your canvas, though. After applying foundation and concealer, your face has so much more to offer than just an even tone and consistency. Eye makeup is added, and maybe some blush here and there, but something else is missing. Where’s the dimension? That’s where contouring comes in.

“Contouring is a technique that helps define facial structure and sculpt features by using light and dark shades to imitate the play of light across the face,” said Laura Geller, founder of Laura Geller Beauty, according to the Forbes magazine website.

Contouring defines your cheekbones, hairline, jawbone and even nose. The Beauty Department said, “Remember in art class how you used darker shading to push an area away and lighter shading to pull an area towards you? That’s all we’re doing here. It creates the illusion of a stronger jawline, more chiseled cheeks and a slimmer face.”

Conturing is simply adding an illusion of more dimension in your face by refining your features.

Contouring began in the 1930s and resurged in the 1950s, but is certainly not new. Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Lynda Carter’s makeup routines all consisted of natural contouring. Now celebrities like Kim Kardashian-West and Jennifer Lopez are the ones partaking in game-changing contouring that chisels their faces and makes them have a glow like none other.

Now why should you add dimension back into your blank canvas? Well, contouring is superb in “tricking the eye in a believable way,” according to Stephanie Saltman, in an online article in Allure magazine. Contouring can create several illusions, including sliming your face and making your cheekbones stand out. It also can be done as natural or as extreme (think Shahs of Sunset star Lily Ghalici for extreme).

According to an article by Phillip Picardi in Teen Vogue, Beau Nelson (Kristen Stewart’s makeup artist) said, “It’s not supposed to be noticeable – just a subtle definition.” On the other hand, some like their “contour game” to be very strong depending on their level of cheekbones. Personally, my contour is much simpler because my cheekbones are pretty undefined.

So, what do you need to create the illusions of hollower cheekbones?

A good angled or contour brush

First, get a nice angled or contour brush to apply your bronzer evenly and sparingly. Start at the middle of the hairline down in a “3-like” motion. I suggest watching some Youtube videos on how to contour, as well as playing with your cheekbones while sucking in your cheeks.

Beginner: Brush 84022 ELF Angled Blush ($3) from Target

Advanced: Sonia Kashuk Core Tools Large Angled Contour Brush – No. 113 ($9.99) from Target


Next, a bronzer is necessary, of course. Most makeup artists suggest a matte bronzer, but I think a bit of shimmery bronzer isn’t bad if used in moderation without a lot of buildup.

Beginner and advanced: Sonia Kashuk Undetectable Creme Bronzer ($10.99) from Target

This is a great and affordable cream bronzer which has a nice application and is easy to buildup.

Blending your contour pt. 1

Highlighter and blush are necessities for those who intend on contouring, although you may not require both of these depending on how subtle or dramatic you want your contour to be.

Benefit offers a great highlighter called Watts Up ($30) which really helps illuminate your contour. You can also blend it into your contour with the “soft glow” blender. Another superb Benefit product for contouring is Benefit’s Fine One One ($30), this is a multiple which can be used on the cheeks or lips. For those who want a more natural glow in a contour, I highly suggest this multiple.

Blending your contouring pt. 2

Finally, more advanced beauty enthusiasts will use a combination of all these products. A highlighter, blush and a pressed powder like NYX’s Mineral “Set It and Don’t Fret It” Matte Finishing Powder ($9.99) to blend it all out with a matte finish.

Taking it a step further, a beauty blender ($5.99), blending brush or cosmetic sponges ($1.99) are a good idea as well to blend it all together. Especially if you bring your contour down to the jawline. Blend, blend, blend!

Although makeup certainly seems scary at first, especially to those who are new to it, contouring is a great tool that can help you add dimension to your face in a natural, beautiful and modern way.

Sonia Kumar is a sophomore in apparel, textiles and marketing.