While the art of contour has only gained a lot of attention over the past few years or so, it’s actually an old makeup artist trick that has been around forever. Contouring consists of shading, which makes an area of skin recede from view, and highlighting, which creates the illusion of bringing a feature forward. Now with the increase of social media and online “how to” makeup videos, contour has made its way into every day makeup routines and turned into one of the hottest trends.
Originally contour was only used in runways and glossy editorials because sharp cheekbones and perfectly chiselled faces had to look totally imagined, not natural. It consisted of two different but dramatically opposite hues of strategically applied face products that were harshly layered to either minimize over strong features or accentuate weaker areas of the face. The result looked amazing in studio lighting and even better after hours of photo editing.
However, today contour requires more than just buying bronzers and carving any random dark colour into the hollows of your cheekbones. It’s more about creating synergy where there is a perfect balance of skin that's not too flat with beautiful defined features and natural looking contours. And the only way to successfully achieve this is to follow your natural features and choose colours based on your true skin tone. So where do we start?
CREATING A NATURAL CANVAS Knowing your skin tone is the first step towards getting your contour right. Once you know your skin tone, it will dictate what contour colours are best for you. Did you know that our MY SKIN TONE MATRIX mobile app can identify your true skin tone colour, allowing us to formulate your exact foundation shade for you? Download it for free on iTunes.
YOUR CONTOUR COLOURS The most common contour error is not choosing colours that are based on your foundation colour, which should be accurately matched to your natural skin tone. The aim of contour is to create the illusion of noticeable light and shade on the skin but make it look completely natural. The only way to achieve this successfully is to choose colours that best mimic how your skin looks when natural shadows and light are added to your face. Get this wrong then everything else will be a mismatch of unwanted patches of colours.
For example, if you have been assigned a skin tone code Y266H (see BEAUTY APPS), you would choose a shading colour that also starts with Y2 (yellow undertone). You would not choose a shading colour that starts with R2 (red undertone) because you may end up with harsh red to orange lines on your face.
TO SHADE AREAS OF THE FACE like the sides of your nose to make it appear slim, one needs to add a natural looking shadow to that area of the face. This can be achieved by starting with your natural skin tone and reducing the colour intensity and lightness level of it. Keep in mind that light skin tones need less of a contrast between the natural skin tone colour and contour colour while darker skin tones require more of a contrast.
TO DRAW ATTENTION TO AREAS OF THE FACE (down the bridge of nose, chin or cheekbones) one needs a highlighting colour that is very close to your natural skin tone but a couple of shades lighter.
So for skin tone code Y266H, we would recommend as a shading colour Y258E or lower and for your highlighting colour Y268H.
KNOW YOUR FACE SHAPE The trick to good contour is following your natural features. Using your fingertips, find your cheekbones and the area just below (the hollows) of your cheekbone. You may need to suck your cheeks in a little to find this spot. Follow your cheekbone diagonally up towards your hairline and stop where your brow ends. This is where you shade your temples. Trace the sides of your nose to see if you will need to reshape this area. Next, determine if you want to add more definition to your jawline. All these areas are usually where shading is applied.
MANIPULATE YOUR CANVAS Do you have the right foundation shade; know your face shape and have selected the right contour colours? If you answered YES to all, you can begin sculpting and redefining your features. Remember: Darkness recedes and lightness enhances. Keep it subtle when contouring during the daytime and always contour in good lighting.
Contouring your face - To shape the face inwards pick up your shading colour and blend seamlessly. To emphasize the angular qualities of your bone structure blend upwards into your temples and around the hairline. Sweep along jawline for more definition. To help downplay the width of your face for a slimmer look, pick up your lighter shade. Start by highlighting the centre of your face, between your brows, down the bridge of the nose, on the Cupid’s bow above your upper lip, and at the centre of your chin.
Shaping Cheekbones - Using a blush brush (or foundation brush for cream products), pick up your shading colour and apply under the fleshy part of cheeks blending around the jawline and concentrating the colour towards your hairline and ear. Blend until you can’t see any visible lines. Next pick up highlighting shade and lightly dust across top of the cheekbones.
Streamline or thin your nose - Lightly sweep the dark shade down each side of the nose, stopping before you get to the nostrils. Blend lighter shade down the bridge of your nose in a vertical line to complete the effect.