Contouring is one of those techniques that can be pretty difficult to master. Between it still being relatively new in mainstream makeup and being a technique that depends on your face shape and features, there are plenty of ways to make some common contouring mistakes, even when following a tutorial. But fear not. I emailed with three makeup experts who let me in on how to make contouring work for you — regardless of your face shape or skin tone.
Ashlee Glazer, Smith & Cult Beauty Ambassador; Monika Deol, founder and CEO of Stellar; and Natalie Soto-Carlisle, Global Educator for jane iredale cosmetics, all revealed some mistakes that tend to be made when contouring, and how to fix them so your features look naturally carved. One of the most important things you can do before you even think about contouring though, is to assess your face. Understand your features and how you want them to look. Understand your skin tone and skin type, so you know which types of products and colors of products may or may not work with your complexion. Then, don't make these seven common mistakes. And your contour game will totally level up.
1. Using The Wrong Tone Depth
Try: Anastasia Beverly Hills Cream Contour Kit, $40, Anastasia Beverly Hills
According to Glazer, the most natural-looking contour should be about two or three shades darker than your skin tone. Go any darker than this, says Soto-Carlisle, and your contour may turn out muddy.
2. Using Shimmery Formulas
Try: jane iredale So-Bronze Bronzing Powder, $39, jane iredale
Because contour should look like a natural shadow, all three experts recommend using matte colors rather than shimmery ones to carve out your features.
3. Not Blending
Try: Black Up Contouring Stick, $42, Sephora
"When it comes to contouring, the most common mistake is harsh, unblended lines," says Soto-Carlisle. To avoid this, Deol says to look for blendable formulas, and Glazer says to look at your contour in different lighting to make sure it's totally blended.
4. Using The Wrong Color For Your Skin Tone
Try: Kevyn Aucoin The Sculpting Powder, $44, Nordstrom
Choosing the right contour color can be tricky, says Deol. To make sure you select the most natural-looking shade, she says fair to light skin-tones should look for taupe shades, while medium to deep skin-tones should look for true-brown shades. Generally, leaning towards neutral to cool tones will give the most natural effect.
5. Using The Wrong Formula For Your Skin Type
Try: Benefit Hoola Quickie Contour Stick, $28, Benefit
If your skin is on the drier side, says Soto-Carlisle, a liquid or cream contour may be easier to blend. On the other hand, Deol adds that combination or oily skin will benefit from powder contour.
6. Using The Wrong Tools
Try: Pixi Natural Contour Powder, $20, Target
If you choose a liquid or cream contour, Soto-Carlisle says the best way to apply it is with a small foundation brush, and to blend it out with a damp sponge. Prefer powder? She suggests using an angled brush to apply and blend. For more detailed contour like around your nose and mouth, Glazer says to try a smaller brush like an eyeshadow blending-brush.
7. Applying Too Much
Try: NYX Sculpt & Highlight Face Duo, $12 each, NYX
Contrary to many tutorials, not every area of every face needs contouring, says Soto-Carlisle. Because face shapes and features are different, it's important to first determine what areas of your face you want to appear slimmer, fuller, or more defined. For example, if you want to bring focus and light to the center of your face, Soto-Carlisle says to shade under your cheekbones, around your hairline, and around your jawline. You can also contour under your bottom lip, around your clavicles, and down the sides of your nose, says Deol. Just remember, says Soto-Carlisle, when it comes to contouring, less is more.