Facial contouring has become the beauty trick of the moment thanks in no small part to Kim Kardashian's love for the flattering technique, but it's a trick make-up artists have used for years. Using two different hues of strategically-applied, thoroughly-blended make-up, you can define and enhance your bone structure.
While it can feel like the work of advanced make-up magicians, Kim Kardashian - considered the queen of contouring - says she learned about beauty's biggest secret on the job. "I didn’t really start learning about contouring until...we started going to events, and we would get our makeup professionally done. When I was in high school and college, I didn’t really know about contouring," said the star to refinery29.com.
Below, we break down everything you need to know about contouring and how to achieve the perfect look.
Kim Kardashian famously uses contouring to define her features
You will need
2 concealer brushes - Sigma Concealer Brush F75
1 foundation brush - Sigma Beauty F60
1 angled contour brush - MAC large angled contour brush
Light and dark concealer or foundation (one shade lighter and two shades darker than your skin) - Zoeva Concealer Spectrum Palette.
Contouring powder set - Urban Decay Naked Basics
What to do
Step 1: Moisturise and prime your face
Step 2: Identify your face shape. There is no one set pattern for contouring as you must follow the natural lines of your face, but the below illustration will help define your contour lines.
Click to enlarge. Image: bluegala.com
Step 3: First paint the highlighted spots using lighter foundation and a concealer brush. Draw an inverted triangle under your eyes, bringing the two triangles together under the nose to diminish redness in that area. Next, draw a line down your nose, bringing it up to the forehead and across it. Then do the same for the chin. Remember that highlighting is all about drawing light to the areas of your face you want to bring out.
Video still: GlamBooth
Step 4: Next apply the shadow areas using the second concealer brush. Start by drawing a line along the side of your forehead, down your hairline, across your jawline up to your chin. Then paint a line in the hollow of your cheekbones. (Do this for both sides of the face.) Next create a line on either said of the highlighted area on your nose and continuing the line underneath your brow bone. Remember contouring does the opposite to highlighting and brings shadows to the area where you apply it.
Video still: GlamBooth
Step 5: Use a foundation brush to buff out the highlighted areas as close as possible to the darker lines.
Video still: GlamBooth
Step 6: Take the same foundation brush and blend the colours together, working from the outside of your face inwards, pushing the darker tones into the lighter areas.
Dos and don'ts
DON'T contour on a daily basis. Most make-up artists don't recommend contouring on a day-to-day basis but if you are attending a big event it's worth the time. "Makeup works with light," says Nick Barose, make-up artist to Lupita Nyong'o. "For me, I can contour in a photo shoot, because I know the light is going to be controlled. Contouring for every day just isn’t realistic unless you are Kim Kardashian and can hire people to follow you around, like a camera crew with a light. But light conditions change throughout the day."
"Just as you’re not going to wear stilettos to the beach (unless maybe you are on a TV show), it’s the same with makeup. In real life, if you walk around with too much contour, it will cast a shadow under your eyes. Too much white concealer under the eyes is too bright, although it’s meant to be correcting," added Barose.
DO use colours that complement your skin tone. Most make-up artists suggest using one shade lighter than your skin for highlighter, and two shades darker for contour.
DON'T use any make-up with noticeable glitter or with a chalky finish
DO use contouring selectively. Do you want to define your cheekbones? Do you want a slimmer nose? A softer jaw line? Or a shorter chin? Use contouring to accentuate or slim down selective features. Kim Kardashian recently admitted, "I’ve seen photos of myself where my nose will be too contoured, and it looks tiny! I guess some makeup artists just have a style where they heavily contour a nose. I'm like, ‘Wa-wa-wait! It really looks like I got a nose job with that contouring!"
DO apply make-up sparingly. "When I personally do my own makeup, I pretty much will only contour, and then I don’t like to wear a lot of foundation," said Kardashian. "Most people slap on too much highlighter and look like the Tin Man," says make-up artist Mally Roncal. Her technique is: "Lightly coat my pointer, middle, and ring fingers with highlighter, and then rub them against the same fingers on the other hand. Tap your fingers up and down your cheekbones, and then dab whatever's left over on your brow bones, the center of your chin, and just one tap on the tip of your nose".