A Beginner’s Guide to Contour and Highlight

It’s been around for centuries but Kim Kardashian made it famous – contouring is a beauty technique that’s got women (and men!) all over the world channeling their inner artist and sculpting out the jawline and cheekbones they wish they had. It can really transform and elevate a makeup look, defining the features and helping certain areas of the face stand out. However, it can be a little daunting, especially for those just starting out on their makeup journey. Below, we break the contour game down for beginners:

Choose your products wisely.

Just like there’s no one way to paint a picture, there also isn’t just one way to contour your face – aside from there being several different methods of application, there are also different kinds of contouring and highlighting. Determine if you’d like to go natural and subtle or well-defined and cut to perfection. We recommend the former for daytime looks and save the latter for a dramatic night out full face.

From here, you can narrow down your products. Powder is the perfect choice for a natural daytime contour and highlight, as it is lighter and leaves a more subtle shading effect than a cream or liquid product would. Try Son & Park’s Face Lighting & Shading palette, an Allure Korea Best of Beauty Editor’s Pick for 2016. Koreans tend to go for a more understated contour, and this palette contains two perfect shades that help you define your features without looking too obvious.

Meanwhile, a liquid or cream bronzer is your best friend for cheekbones that really pop.

Mix textures for maximum longevity.

Expert makeup artists have discovered that the secret to keeping your cheekbones and nose looking like they’ve been chiseled by the gods is by mixing products together: using a liquid first and then sealing the pigment in with powder. If liquid is too tricky or hard to handle, try a contour stick or a cream formula to help you draw clean lines quickly.

As for which colors to use, you only need any product to be two or three shades darker or lighter than your natural complexion for contouring and highlighting respectively. For those who really want to go the extra mile, highlighter products with megawatt gleam and shine can make you look and feel like your favorite celebrity. You can opt for something with a subtler sheen, too; the beauty of highlighter is that you can go as bold or as faint as you want.

Color in the lines.

Contour goes on after foundation if you’re using liquid or cream, just before putting on powder. You can consult a guide on the internet on where to start drawing and how, but here are some basic guidelines: your contour should go just under your cheekbones, in the hollows of your cheeks, close to your hairline, and over the sides of the bridge of your nose going up to your brows. Of course, these instructions may differ depending on your face shape. Meanwhile, highlight should be applied to the high points of your face such as the peaks of your cheekbones, the bridge of your nose and forehead, and your cupid’s bow.

Blend, blend, blend.

In order to avoid looking like you’ve traced over your face with war paint, blend. Which tool you use to do so will depend on the product you’ve chosen. Use a makeup sponge to pat liquid or cream product in and keep the shade in place; swiping it all over your skin is a no-no, because this makes you lose the definition you’ve drawn on in the first place. Meanwhile, an angled or flat brush with densely packed bristles is your best friend when it comes to dealing with powder products, allowing you to achieve depth and dimension with just a few determined flicks of the wrist.

Or make the sun do the work for you.

If putting so much product on and drawing lines all over your face isn’t something that appeals to you, create a natural contour next time you go sunbathing by using sunscreen with different SPFs on your face. Sounds crazy until you try it yourself: apply a sunscreen product with, say, SPF 20 all over your face and then use something with SPF 70 or higher down the bridge of your nose and in the dip of your cupid’s bow above your top lip. You may be surprised at the results after you wash it off – you’ll look like you’ve put contouring makeup on, except you haven’t. Sunscreen, by the way, also makes for an excellent highlighter, delivering just enough flashback under light to make your features pop.

And that’s it for our guide! Contouring isn’t rocket science and there’s no need to fear it. Arm yourself with these tips and you’ll be on your way to being a pro in no time.

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