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20 Truths About Contouring: The Do's And Don'ts

Trust us, contouring is easier than it looks.

You’ve mastered the basics. You can do flawless lipstick, beautiful brows, and almost never glue your eyes shut when putting on falsies. What’s left of the makeup world for you to conquer? While your makeup game is probably on point as it is, there is a step that can elevate your face from great to goddess. Contouring is a trick that’s popular amongst movie stars, models, and makeup artists alike.

If you’re like any of us, you’ve probably heard about contouring but are a little too daunted to put it into practice. Contouring is easier than it looks, though! You don’t need to worry about ruining your look. This makeup technique will seriously up your game, and all it takes is some practice. We’ve gone through and grabbed 20 expert tips to help you achieve the perfect contour. We’ve found what beauty bloggers and magazines recommend you do (and warn you to not do!) in order to achieve your flawlessly finished look. Ignore the frightening stories (and less-than-appealing selfies) and pull out that contour palette, sit down in front of your mirror, and let’s get started! One more thing… Makeup, unlike permanent markers and tattoos, can be wiped off and restarted easily. Even if you think you messed up, just try again. You’ll get the hang of it with these tips.

20 Stick To Your Face Shape

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So many of us fall victim to this issue, especially when we’re trying to learn a new makeup skill. While contouring guides are great, they aren’t applicable for all face shapes. While some people might want to make their forehead appear smaller, others would rather make it appear bigger, or even narrower. Sticking to your face shape is rule number 1, no matter which beauty blogger you’re following. Notice where the cheekbones on your face rise and curve. Figure out if your forehead naturally gets wider or more narrow. Where does your face tend to tan? All of these are important factors to help you get a perfect contour, and they can only be answered by you!

19 Don’t Try And Change What You’ve Already Got

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All of the beauty bloggers and magazines out there should be saying the same thing: contouring is meant to accent your features, rather than totally turn you into another person. Trying to hide or manipulate what you’ve naturally got can give you that cakey, flaky mess of a look that nobody wants. Plus, it’s just going to be harder to get good at contouring if you’re too busy trying to change your face rather than embracing what you’ve got. If you don’t have Kim Kardashian’s cheekbones, don’t contour them like her! You’ll have more success working with your own beautiful face.

18 Hydrate Your Skin Before You Start

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This tip comes to us from Laura Lee, beauty vlogger extraordinaire and all around gorgeous woman. In her video talking about the do’s and don’ts of contouring, she starts off with a step that really will make a difference to your contour game. Make sure you’re hydrating your skin before you do anything else. She recommends adding some moisturizer as step one, before even touching your foundation. It’ll make a difference mostly in the adherence of your makeup. She says that creams and powders typically stick to the driest parts of your face, which will make your face look patchy and dry. Set yourself up for success by priming your skin!

17 Add Foundation First, And Then Build

CC Clarke Beauty / Youtube

Cosmopolitan is still the queen of beauty tips, which is why we’ve decided to quote them here. They created a step-by-step guide which outlines not only best practices but the reasons behind their choices. While different people have different opinions about whether to contour before your foundation or after, Cosmo says, “by [contouring after your foundation], it won’t mix with the rest of your make-up or become too blended (and virtually non-existent). You’ll also find you use less product and can be light-handed because the smallest amount will be visible.” Save on product usage and spend less time blending? Yes, please!

16 Buy A Contour That’s Close To Your Shade

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A good rule of thumb is given to us by Beauty Hooked, who has a fantastic contouring guide. They say that a contour palette doesn’t need more than a couple colors, and none of those colors should be darker than a shade or two away from your natural skin tone. By going too dark you run the risk of having it look unnatural. Our personal rule of thumb is to use a contour color that’s the same or a little darker than our deepest tanned shade. Any shades darker than that and you might find you’re going to look more like you're ready for Halloween than the Met Gala.

15 Stick To Cool Toned Contour

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Laura Lee says it best in her contouring video. While she’s speaking personally, we think most people would tend to agree. She says that sticking to a cool toned contour color looks more natural than the warmer tones. While we don’t know the science behind it, we think that this is a great rule of thumb to start working with. If your skin is naturally warmer, you might be able to get away with a warmer contour. However, we personally aren’t lucky enough to have that (and aren’t skilled enough to try). When you’re just starting out, stick with the cool tones. It’ll make it easier to blend, and it’ll look more natural.

14 Mixing Creams And Powders Is A No

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Beauty Hooked is adamantly against mixing creams and powders. Why? We assume that it’s because of the different qualities creams and powders have, and how they can cause each other to shift and rub off. Creams and powders were made for different things, after all! Beauty Hooked says that creams are best for those that don’t have dewy skin, as they can help make the skin look “dewy”. Powders are best for those that have a little more oil to their skin, as the powders reduce shine and keep your skin looking matte. Most of us know our skin types; after that, it’s just a matter of buying the right contour products!

13 Get The Right Tools For The Job

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Laura Lee is clear: the bigger the brush, the less precise your application. If you’re using a powder contour, you’re likely applying it with a brush. If you’re using a huge brush, it means that you won’t be able to get the sort of precision that contouring requires. Being able to control where your contouring is going is key for keeping the bright areas of your face bright. Contouring is basically adding shadow and highlight in a way that accentuates your cheekbones. While there are some makeup procedures that require a big, fluffy brush, contouring really isn’t one of them.

12 Using Too Much Product Is A Recipe For Cake, Not Contour

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Everyone loves a good slice of cake, and you totally deserve one after spending so long practicing your contour skills. Save your love of cake for dessert though, rather than during your contour practice. Beauty Hooked talks about how more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to makeup. They say that adding too much product makes it incredibly hard to blend, as well as increasing the visibility of your fine lines and wrinkles. A personal problem we struggle with is creasing. Concealer and foundation get so easily caught in the skin's creases as you’re smiling, laughing, and talking. Lighten up on the product and you’ll find that those creases disappear.

11 Highlight With A Small Brush

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Even if you’re not contouring, you’re probably highlighting. Everyone has jumped on this trend, likely because it’s so sparkly. While you don’t have to use a shimmery highlight, most of us choose to embrace the glitter. What’s the trick to getting it looking social media worthy? Cosmopolitan says that you need to use a small brush with short strokes, rather than trying to layer it on with a big brush or beauty blender. While this can change depending on the type of highlighter you’re using, it generally works the best to use their recommended small brush… Or even your finger! Don’t forget to highlight in the corner of your eyes, too.

10 Stay Away From Shimmer In Your Contour

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We know that the world loves shimmery highlight. Everyone photo ColorPop posts of their sparkly highlighters get at least a couple thousand likes; this means that shimmer highlight is in. Shimmery contour, however, is not in. Cosmopolitan clearly says that you need to stay away from any contour that has shimmer and shine to it. You want the light to hit the highest parts of your cheekbones. This is what makes them look outstanding! If the light is getting caught in your contour, not only are you going to have a confusing blend, but you’re not going to get as dramatic a look as you might have wanted.

9 Blend, Blend, BLEND!

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Jaclyn Hill is one of the top beauty vloggers out there. Not only is she totally gorgeous, but she makes makeup easy and accessible to everyone regardless of their skill level. Her beginner’s contour video gave us a lot of great advice, but one of the most valuable tidbits is her commentary on blending. She talks about how blending with a sponge is the preferred method for her, which we have to agree with. She says that brushes will drag the product into place while blending presses it into the skin. Blending makes for a flawless finish, with none of the marks you might be left with because of a brush or your fingers. One thing she mentions as well: don’t forget to wet your sponge!

8 But Never Blend From Dark To Light

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CC Clarke Beauty is a YouTuber who has a penchant for perfect makeup. Not only does she offer amazing advice, but her tutorials are clear and easy to follow. One of our favorite videos is her contouring tell-all. She talks about what contouring is, why you might want to use it, and (most importantly) the do’s and don’ts. One of her biggest don’ts is blending your contour and your concealer in at the same time. While you might be using the same beauty blender regardless, we think this tip makes sense. Dragging your beauty blender from the contour into the concealer makes for muddiness. You’re adding the dark to the light, which defeats the purpose of brightening!

7 Do Your Concealer Before Your Contour

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CC Clarke Beauty continues with the amazing advice, focusing on the fact that you should do your concealer before your contour. In showing us what not to do, she made it clear that dark shades can make light shades look muddy if you blend from the contour up into your concealer. Thus, it makes sense to do your concealer before your contour. Don’t even draw the dark lines on yet. Thoroughly blend out the concealer first, and then focus on contouring. Not only will you get cleaner lines, but you won’t have to work so hard when you get to your highlighting stage.

6 Blend Up Rather Than Down

Jaclyn Hill / Youtube

While CC Clarke Beauty says that you should never drag your contour down, there is a little space to tap up so you can “sculpt around that juicy cheek”. Juicy cheeks are all we’ve ever dreamed about, which means the time has come to embrace the blend. Blending down is a big no. The reason those contour lines exist, as CC Clarke Beauty reminds us, is that those are the places you want to darken. Dragging your contour down takes away the sharpness, and will make you look more sunken-in than sultry-and-sculpted. Tapping up helps to blend the contour, as well as keeping it localized to the one spot.

5 Set Before You Forget (For Cream Contour)

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Jaclyn Hill’s how-to contouring guide discusses something called “baking”. This isn’t exactly cookies, but it’s not much harder to do— we promise. Essentially, she puts setting powder (or translucent powder) in all the places she wants to “lock in”. This comes before her contour step and allows for her makeup to stay absolutely rock solid. It doesn’t shift at all. While it might look like a whole lot of pale powder, don’t worry. You will brush it off after you finish your contour, and you’ll be surprised when the concealed areas stay so perfect all day. Check out her video for more specific science behind this tip!

4 And Never Bronze Before Setting That Cream

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CC Clarke Beauty is one of the best cream contour how-tos we’ve found. While she’s talked about the differences between powder and cream, one of the tips that she gives for both is to set them. This is especially important for cream contour. If you use a bronzer and then try to set it all at once, you’re going to end up moving that bronzer around. It slides on the cream. However, if you set your cream with a powder first, and THEN bronze… You’re literally golden. That bronzer will stay exactly where you put it, and you won’t need to worry about anything moving during the day.

3 Top It Off With Blush

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Blush is a beautiful way to bring a flush to the face and to make your face have a bit of life to it. Every contouring video and how-to we watched and read suggested the same thing: top off your contoured face with some blush. While some celebrities like to load on the blush everywhere, that can have unfortunate consequences if you’re not careful. Cosmopolitan suggests adding blush just to the apples of your cheeks. They warn that adding too much blush below your contour or too close to your eyes can make you look much older than you are. Be careful with blush.

2 ...But NOT Too Much!

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Too much blush looks fake and unnatural. We’ve all seen the folks on social media (or even walking down the street) who look like they landed face-first in some strawberry jell-o. The best way to avoid this is to smooth out your blush application. Don’t take a huge amount onto your brush, and don’t feel like you need to make yourself look as pink as a Barbie convertible. Stick to something that’s close to your natural flushed shade, and make sure you’re not overloading. A hot tip for application? Jaclyn Hill suggests smiling, and only adding it to the apples of your cheeks.

1 And Last But Not Least, Think About What Looks Natural!

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Jaclyn Hill is finishing off our list of tricks with some generous wisdom. She points out in her video that there’s nothing natural about the full-face contouring look, which we have to agree with. However, she goes on to clarify that that doesn’t mean you should go overboard. Work to integrate the makeup you’ve put on. Blend your foundation, concealer, and contour well, enhance your own face shape, and don’t worry about what other people are doing. You need to enhance your natural features, and the way to do that is through merging and integrating your makeup into one cohesive (or “natural”) look. We hope that these do’s and don’ts helped you!

References: Jaclyn Hill, CC Clarke Beauty, Laura Lee, Cosmopolitan.com.au, beautyhooked.com

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20 Truths About Contouring: The Do's And Don'ts