From Kim Kardashian’s cheekbones to JLo’s jaw—here’s how it’s done, the natural way
Everyone’s doing it, from Kim Kardashian to JLo, but nobody’s doing it the natural way. Contouring, that is.
What is contouring?
It’s a tried-and-true classic beauty technique that is super trendy right now. Contouring kits are flying off the shelves!
Every top makeup artist relies on contouring to strengthen the features on the face. Contouring relies on bronzer and highlighter (and sometimes blush) to help define the bone structure and bring out the cheekbones, deepen the eyes and strengthen the look of the jaw.
Makeup artists do a lot of contouring when they are working with models on editorial and advertising photo shoots. When I was photographed once for a magazine story, the makeup artist contoured one side and left the other untouched, to demonstrate the strength of the technique. Wow, was that a dramatic change! And, because it is so striking, it is not something you’ll want to do every day—unless, of course, you are a drama queen, like Kim or JLo!
Tip: If you use a natural makeup brand, you’ll be more likely to achieve a more natural result, without the potential pitfalls: striping, cakiness or a heavy-makeup look.
In my first book, Beauty: The New Basics (Workman Publishing), I wrote that “Contouring is based on a principle that any painter learns in art school: dark colors recede (shading), light colors come forward (highlighting).” And, any artist also knows how important it is to have a good brush. (I used to buy my makeup brushes at the art supply store!)
There are 2 main techniques to contouring:
Shading, which adds depth to an area, for example, under your cheekbones, to make them pop and Highlighting, which adds light to an area, for example, your jaw or the tops of your cheekbones, to bring it out more. The key to contouring is to make sure and blend well, so that your makeup looks natural and flawless, and your face doesn’t end up looking like a patchwork quilt!
With the help of Shirley Pinkson, celebrity makeup artist and co-founder, W3ll People—which is launching a Contouring Kit in October!—here is an easy three-step guide to contouring:
1. Start with a light to medium coverage tinted moisturizer or liquid or cream foundation, says Pinkson.
Apply with a good foundation brush, your fingers, or a dampened sponge to blend. The goal is to warm the foundation into the skin, creating a more naturally blended finish. Try: W3ll People Narcissist Foundation Stick.
2. Use your bronzer to contour. Bronzer is a staple in most of our makeup bags, says Pinkson, and we are already familiar with the finish and application.This is a way to use it differently.
To hollow out the area under your cheekbones and make them look more prominent, suck in your cheeks and apply bronzer to the hollow of the cheeks beneath the cheekbones. Bring color inward from the base of the ear towards the nose. Apply along your hairline, to the sides of the nose and to contour of the eye. Blend extremely well.
Tip: Use a cream bronzer, suggest Pinkson. Cream Bronzer is easier to control and renders a sheer and natural finish. Try: W3ll People Bio Bronzer
3. To finish, use a sheer, satin textured cream based highlighter for added dimension, luminosity and radiance. Apply to the top of your cheekbones to bring them out more. Be careful to avoid the area under your eyes (this can accent imperfections). Apply under the arch of the brow. Apply onto the bridge of the nose. Try: W3ll People Bio Brightener Stick.
If you want your chin to look more prominent, apply bronzing powder on the ball of your chin and outward in both directions. Blend well with a clean brush, dry sponge or your fingers.
If you want to attract attention to the center of your face, apply bronzing powder on the cheeks against the sides of the nose and outward, slightly, in a triangle that runs from the bottom of your nose to the corner of your eyes. Blend well.
And, if you don’t like foundation, no worries. Just skip it. If you want to use powder, apply the powder after you apply foundation.
Tip: Shake the brush off first, to avoid clumping, and to get the sheerest application, try a translucent powder. If you don’t like powder, skip that as well. But powder is a good option if your skin is a bit oily.
The main thing is, it can be fun to play around with makeup artist techniques. The best thing about makeup, I always say, is not to use it to be transformative, but to help you become a more beautiful version of yourself!