Contouring, a technique previously reserved for runway models and fancy photo shoots, is now becoming part of many women’s daily routines.
You know a trend has taken root when it goes from trend to anti-trend and back again. That’s certainly what’s happened with contouring, the make-up trick that amps up bone structure and definition, turning chubby cheeks into cut-glass cheekbones. Contouring kits are taking up as much shelf space as blushers and bronzers on beauty counters everywhere.
But what is contouring, what can it do for you and, crucially, how do you contour?
Soooo what is it, exactly?
“Contouring is giving shape to an area of the face and enhancing the facial structure through makeup,” says Beau Nelson, Kristen Stewart’s longtime makeup artist. “It’s not supposed to be noticeable—just a subtle definition.”
Did you hear the man? He said subtle. In other words, this is not the time to go dipping your blush brush into some bronzer and adding a brown stripe under your cheeks. It’s all about the artistry—and illusion!
That final question, the issue of getting it right, is in large part why there was such a backlash after the initial excitement. There’s a reason why the origins of contouring are photoshoots and backstage at fashion shows. The bright studio lights of a fashion shoot can knock-out the cheekbones on even the most angular model, hence professional make-up artists drawing them in so they don’t get lost in the flash.
It was a make-up trick that used exaggeration to mimic normal on camera. Then there’s contouring’s drag roots, where a skilled hand can turn a masculine jawline into something that appears feminine.
The new contour doesn’t need to stand-up against a photographer’s flash, and is there really any need to look sculpted on the school run or in the office? Overdoing your contour can make your efforts at sculpting look more like ‘dirt’, as observed by make-up artist Bobbi Brown, while celebrity make-up artist Patti Dubroff commented: “Every day you see girls with poorly blended stripes on their faces.” That’s a look even ‘the supers’ can’t pull off.
Achieving the best contour relies on being subtle, and when your cheekbones look like 80s Duran Duran blusher, you know you’re over doing it. Pare it back and try these tricks from celebrity make-up artist Ciona Johnson-King for subtle, but no less effective contours.