Facial contouring: It’s that thing you’ve seen all the A-listers do with their makeup, but you aren't really sure how you are supposed to pull it off.
“A beautifully contoured cheekbone is everything in my opinion,” says makeup artist Joyce Bonelli, who is known for her amazing cheekbone work on Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj. She defines contouring as sculpting the face’s natural shadows to create shape and light. “It will help to define the shape of your face and give you an overall polished look.”
Great news: Perfectly sculpted cheekbones are achievable, once you know five things the pros know:
1. There are 2 steps.
When the pros talk about contouring, it’s really a two-step process: using darker shades to create shadows, and then using highlighters to illuminate. The dark shadow "recedes areas of the face, whereas highlighting brings features forward,” explains Gregory Arlt, makeup artist to celebs like Victoria Beckham and Dita Von Teese.
2. Your face has shadow zones and light zones, and you should know them.
He breaks it down: “The areas which get contoured are the temples, the hollow area just below the cheekbone, the eye socket, the sides of the nose and the jawline.” Then to bounce light off of those areas, highlighting is applied to the upper cheekbone, down the bridge of the nose, brow bone and cupid’s bow (the curve of your upper lip, just below your nose).
3. Priming is key.
Before you do anything, though, Arlt sets out the skin priming standards. “After washing your face, let your moisturizer sink in well, as the contour and highlight can move around too much on an overly hydrated skin,” he explains. “Use a primer as well, as it will ‘grab’ the product and hold it in place all day.”
4. Contouring doesn't require much makeup.
Jessica Alba’s makeup artist, Lauren Anderson, has a simple way to accomplish the contouring or shadow-creating part of the process. All you need is your regular foundation shade and another foundation that’s one tone darker. She suggests applying the foundation that matches your skin tone first, while leaving the hollow of your cheekbones bare (find this by sucking your cheeks in and feeling for the sunken, spongy part underneath the bone). “Then apply the darker shade along that hollow area. Using a brush or your fingers, blend the shades together for a seamless contour,” she explains.
Highlight with an illuminator that works with your skin tone, or for a really natural look, Arlt suggests a concealer that’s two shades lighter than your skin. “Lightly tap on with either your fingertips or a small brush along the upper cheekbone,” he says.
5. It didn't used to be this easy.
Most of us have seen the above Instagram photo of Kim Kardashian’s pre-foundation contour face. This is an old school method that was used by makeup artists before beauty brands started to come up with ultra-light formulations that could be applied and worn over the top of foundations (even Kim admits she doesn’t go to all of this effort everyday anymore).
“It’s too difficult for the everyday girl to do this method of applying the contour and highlight first and then adding foundation over it,” Arlt says. “It’s much more of a natural, everyday look to lightly contour on top of your foundation, plus it gives the product something to hold onto.”