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 most popular makeup looks.
However, today contour requires more than just buying bronzers and carving any random dark color 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 colors 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 colors are best for you. Did you know that our MY SKIN TONE MATRIX mobile app can identify your true skin tone color, allowing us to formulate your exact foundation shade for you? Download it for free on iTunes.
YOUR CONTOUR COLORS The most common contour error is not choosing colors that are based on your foundation shade, 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 colors 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 color.
For example, if you have been assigned a skin tone code Y266H (see BEAUTY APPS), you would choose a shading color that also starts with Y2 (yellow undertone). You would not choose a shading color 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 color intensity and lightness level of it. Keep in mind that light skin tones need less of a contrast between the natural skin tone color and contour color 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 color 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 color Y258E or lower and for your highlighting color 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 colors? 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 color 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 center of your face, between your brows, down the bridge of the nose, on the Cupid’s bow above your upper lip, and at the center of your chin.
Shaping Cheekbones - Using a blush brush (or foundation brush for cream products), pick up your shading color and apply under the fleshy part of cheeks blending around the jawline and concentrating the color 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.