Imagine the scene: you're scrolling through your feed and Kim Kardashian's latest selfie pops up. As per usual, she's contoured and highlighted to perfection - how does she do it? You'd love to be able to get that sharp-cheekboned, sculpted-for-the-gods look, but you have no idea where to start. Contouring can be intimidating if you've never tried it before, and even if you have, it doesn't always go to plan! It's a fine art, and there's a very thin line between actually achieving a clean contour and just smearing patches of product all over your face.
If you're a bit of a contouring newbie - or if you're an expert looking for some new hacks - then you're in the right place! There are a ton of sneaky little tricks you can use to make the entire contouring process a whole lot easier for yourself. It doesn't matter if you're an actual makeup guru or only wear these kinds of products occasionally - we've got the advice for you! From the tools of the trade to those clever little hacks that'll leave your highlighter popping, here are 18 snippets of contouring wisdom that'll give you cheekbones cut like a Greek God's!
18 Get Yourself The Correct Tools For The Best Results
Now, before you even think about highlighting your cheekbones and liberally dusting bronzer on your face, you need to make sure you've got the tools to do the job right.
A good-quality collection of contouring brushes is a total must if you're going to get those sharp edges!
Oh her blog, The Hills star Lauren Conrad has some tips for those looking for new brushes. If you're going for a cream contour, "a makeup blending sponge works best". However, if you prefer to use powder, get yourself a selection of angled and flat brushes - these are best for "giving your cheekbones that coveted depth."
17 Your Collection Of Makeup Products Is Crucial Too
Now that you've got the right tools of the contouring trade, it's time to think about what actual makeup products to use. Speaking to Elle, makeup artist Kurtis Dam-Mikkelsen - aka, the drag queen Miss Fame - outlined what you'll need. He recommends using your existing foundation, "plus two stick foundations" - one that's two shades lighter than your natural skin tone, and one that's two shades darker. This selection of products will allow you to create a contoured look that has depth but matches your natural complexion. Going too light with your highlighter or too dark with your contouring foundation is a recipe for disaster!
16 If You're Not Comfortable Using Multiple Foundation Shades, Try Bronzer
If the idea of using three separate shades of foundation on your face is utterly terrifying, don't worry: there's a simple solution. You can always replace the lighter foundation with a cream or powder highlighter, and the darker foundation with a bronzer.
As long as the bronzer you choose isn't too dark for your skin tone, you should be fine.
Remember, you wanted to look sunkissed, not like you've rolled around in Cheeto crumbs! While using bronzer doesn't quite give you the same level of blending options as using multiple foundation shades, it's a lot easier to work with for less experienced makeup users.
15 When Choosing Your Products, Try Mixing Up The Textures
When you're choosing your contouring kit, don't think that you have to stick with either powder products or cream products. Mixing it up is totally fine - and may even give you better results! Speaking to Makeup.com, L'Oreal Paris makeup artist Sir John advocates using both powder and cream makeup in your finished contouring look. This will avoid your face becoming either too oily from all of the cream products, or too "cakey" because of the powders! A great tip is to use a creamy base, then set your finished contour look with a sheer powder. John believes that this will help to "lock everything into place."
14 Work Out What Face Shape You've Got - It Matters!
When it comes to contouring your face, there is absolutely not a one-size-fits-all approach. Where you should place your light and darker areas depend entirely on your face shape! What looks good for someone with a rounder face will look very strange on someone whose features are more elongated.
Before you start to apply your products, do some research into what face shape category you fall into, and find a specific tutorial that matches your needs.
There are plenty of contouring face maps out there for all shapes and sizes: don't forget to find the one for you! If you don't take this into consideration, things could go very badly for your final contour.
13 The Less Noticeable The Overall Transformation, The Better
One of the frequent mistakes that a lot of people make while contouring is to go with a way too extreme look. We should still be able to tell it's you under there! Contouring isn't about totally changing your entire face: it's about enhancing the natural features that you already have. As Elle notes, you don't want a "witness protection transformation"! We just want something that's going to lift your cheekbones, show off the natural curve of your nose, and make your lips look that little bit plumper. Embrace your natural beauty, rather than using contouring as a mask to hide behind.
12 For An Easy Introduction To Contouring, Follow The "Neapolitan" Method
So, you've got your products and your brushes at the ready, you've researched your face shape... Now what?
There are a lot of different methods of contouring to appeal to makeup lovers of every skill level, so if you've never contoured before, it might be a good idea to go for one of the simpler routes.
The "Neapolitan" look is one of these! Named after the ice-cream of the same name, this technique uses three "flavors" - vanilla, strawberry, and then chocolate - to give you that perfect transition from highlighter to bronzer. As Good Housekeeping notes, you just pop the highlighter on top, the blush in the middle, and the bronzer on the bottom, and you're good to go!
11 Or, Try The "C" And "E" Technique - You Can't Go Wrong
If the Neapolitan trick isn't the one for you, maybe give the "C and E" technique a go instead. As you may have guessed, it involves placing makeup on your face in the shape of a letter C, and a letter E. According to L'Oreal Paris, the "E" should be your bronzer or darker foundation: this letter stretches right down from your forehead to your jawline. The "C", on the other hand, is for your lighter product, and it curves around your temples. Blend it all together with your usual foundation, and bam - you've got a simple yet sickening contour!
10 Work Out How Much Highlighter Is Too Much
Is there such a thing as too much highlighter? Well... Yes. There most definitely is, and in the current makeup culture of highlighter being the "in thing", this cardinal beauty sin is committed far too often. Even if you're going in with our highlighter as part of a contouring plan, you shouldn't overdo it.
You should be wearing just enough highlight to accentuate your cheekbones and catch the light.
If you're so shiny that you're blinding people around you, or if it's your entire face that's glittering rather than just select areas, you've probably gone too far. Remember: less is more.
9 Circular Brush Strokes Are Your Number One Contouring Enemy
This tip is relevant to all of the stages of a full-blown contour, but it's particularly pressing when it comes to blush. Do not apply your blush in circular brush strokes, guys. Just don't do it. You'll only end up looking like an old-fashioned doll with your two huge pink spots on the apples of your cheeks. That look doesn't suit anyone, and you should do everything you can to avoid it. As Lauren Conrad notes, it's always better to apply blush, bronzer, or any face product in a sweeping, back-and-forth motion. We want angles, not circles, guys. It's for your own good!
8 If You Need To, Get Yourself A Contouring Chart
There seems to be a lot of pressure on makeup gurus these days to essentially come out of the womb knowing exactly how to contour.
The thing is, that's just not achievable! Learning all of the ins and outs of the process is a long journey even when you're a grown adult.
If your first couple of attempts at contouring don't go so well, don't beat yourself up about it: it's a genuinely tricky technique to master. Instead, consider finding yourself a contouring chart online that you can follow. It'll show you exactly where each shade of product needs to be.
7 If You're Inexperienced, Don't Go Too Overboard
We've already touched on this in our discussion of transformative "witness protection scheme"-level contour, but it bears talking about fully. If you're new to the contouring world, don't feel pressured to complete an extensive, time-consuming routine the first time around. It's better to start simple and work your way up to the more technical contouring methods once you've gained a bit of confidence. As Makeup.com warns, you might end up "dazed and confused" by taking on too much of a transformation too early on. Be patient: before long, you'll be a total contouring wizard who can nail any look, but for now, don't rush into anything.
6 Try Using Multiple Shades Of Highlighter For Extra Drama
If you're looking to add some drama or uniqueness to your contouring look, why not experiment and use more than one shade of highlighter in one go? As Seventeen.com notes, using more than one highlighting product will add extra depth to your face, and prevent your contour from looking too "generic".
There are dozens and dozens of highlighter shades out there from a champagne pink to a deep peach, so experiment and find out what works for your face.
Seventeen recommends using different colors for your cheekbones and your nose. If you've mastered some of the simpler contouring looks, push the boat out a little!
5 Find Yourself A Straight Edge To Get That Sharp Contouring - Your Palette Is Ideal
We've all seen photos of beauty gurus and celebrities donning contours so sharp that their cheekbones could cut a diamond. But how can you master the art of such fierce lines if you're not a professional, or able to hire one? Luckily, there are probably hundreds of hacks out there for getting these straight lines, from using a spoon to sticking post-it-notes on your face. One of the less goofy tips comes from Seventeen, who recommend using the side of your contouring palette as your straight edge of choice. It does make a lot more sense than shoving cutlery all up in your face...
4 Don't Forget To Contour Your Lips - It's Any Easy Mistake To Make
You've highlighted those cheekbones to perfection, you're all bronzed and blushed up - but have you remembered to contour your lip area?
It's an easy step to forget in the extensive list of tasks that is a full-face contour!
Still, it's important if you want your lips to match your newly-sharp face. The easiest way to make your lips look a bit plumper is to dust a little bit of highlighter onto your Cupid's bow. It's easy, yet effective! If you've got a bit more time to spare, you can use a dark lip liner and a lighter lipstick to create an ombré-like effect on your lips. It'll give them that extra oomph!
3 Don't Be Afraid To Take That Contour Up To Your Ears
Before you call us crazy, we're not telling you to contour every inch of your ears like Kylie Jenner apparently does. However, when you're applying your bronzer or darker foundation, it might be an idea to take that product and dust it all the way up to behind your ears. According to Seventeen, this is especially important if you're planning to wear your hair in an up-do or have naturally short hair. If you take the contour all the way up to your ear area, it'll make your entire face look sharp and angular, rather than just your chin! Who knew?
2 Make Sure To Blend Everywhere - Including The Back Of Your Neck
If there's one rule that you should absolutely never forget when you're contouring, it's to blend. Blend your highlighter, your blush, your bronzer, your foundation... Blend it all!
If you don't, you'll end up with unsightly stripes across your face rather than a sharp and sleek contour effect.
Lauren Conrad can't speak enough about the power of blending, and not just on your face - make sure to blend down into your neck area too. If you don't, you'll risk being two totally different shades on your face and neck, which is a flattering look for approximately no-one. Don't risk it!
1 If You've Become A Real Contouring Pro, Try Body Contouring Too
So, you've totally cracked the art of face contouring... What now? Well, if you're feeling especially adventurous, you could give body contouring a try! Before you get scared, we don't mean the actual surgical procedure that removes parts of your body. Instead, we're just recommending a bit of casual powder and bronzer use to accentuate certain parts of your natural shape. For example, a bit of well-placed bronzer in the chest area can enhance or even totally give an illusion of cleavage. That's how drag queens do it, but it's not a technique reserved for them! If you're interested in learning how to body contour, InStyle has a great guide to its main components.