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How to Contour Like a Makeup Artist

I Thought I Was a Makeup Pro — Until I Learned This Contouring Trick From a Charlotte Tilbury Makeup Artist

There's always something new to learn when it comes to makeup application. We've partnered with Charlotte Tilbury at Nordstrom to introduce the new red carpet essentials and show you the makeup artist-approved trick to getting the Hollywood look all on your own.

As a beauty editor, I'm constantly testing the latest makeup and skincare products, picking the brains of experts, and researching industry news in order to discover the buzziest trends and best application techniques for our readers. After years on the job, it's fair to say I know a lot about makeup and beauty. But one of my favorite aspects of my role is diving deeper and gleaning nuggets of wisdom from those with even more years under their makeup tool belts. And if there's one area in particular that I'll admit I could always learn more about, it's red carpet makeup, especially contouring — after all, it's not like your girl is headed to a movie premiere or award show anytime soon.

When Charlotte Tilbury released its new Hollywood collection, available at Nordstrom, I knew the iconic beauty and skincare brand would be my best bet for breaking down the seemingly difficult application process and helping me get event-ready like a pro. I met with Barri King, Pro Artist West Coast at Charlotte Tilbury. With a roster of A-list clients such as Olivia Palermo and Suki Waterhouse, I knew I was in good hands as she proceeded to show me how to achieve a naturally chiseled look.

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"The good thing about Charlotte and her brand is that she's all about empowering women and demystifying makeup for the everyday person," Barri said. "I think there's a huge intimidation piece when it comes to breaking down celebrity and red carpet makeup into an everyday look, but it really is something that every woman can do. It's not overwhelming; there aren't a million steps to it. Charlotte's really broken the mold with coming up with products that are created to be on-the-go, very long-lasting, and easy to use." And, as Barri explained, this applies to contouring as well. "It's not as complicated and difficult as I think some people assume it is," she noted.

Indeed, as Barri worked her magic on me, two products stood out for their ease of use: the Hollywood Contour Wand and the Hollywood Beauty Light Wand. "These wands make contouring so simple — there's a sponge tip on the end, so you just squeeze the product out, lay down your line, and then buff it out with your finger or a brush."

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Now that I had the tools down, it was time to perfect my technique. Up until this point, I had been applying my powder starting from the top of my ear in a straight line down toward the corner of my mouth. And while there's nothing wrong with that, technically speaking, Barri suggested that the look may be too severe for my face. Instead, I should aim for a softer, more natural approach to better suit my bone structure.

"As Charlotte always says: suck in your cheeks and follow the hollows," she explained. "When you suck your cheeks in, it kicks out your cheekbones. Your tragus is where your cheekbone starts. So start applying back there, follow the line down, and loop it around at the end toward the apple of your cheek — kind of like a rounded checkmark shape — to give yourself a soft, feminine, lifted cheek. It makes the biggest difference." Sure enough, she was right. "That's the no-makeup makeup — the 'Oops, I'm sexy.' You still have that lifted structure and femininity to it, but it's really natural and not super severe or intense."

Another trick I was surprised to learn was to avoid turning my face to the side in the mirror when contouring each cheek. "A good thing to keep in mind is to place your product on your face while you're looking straight in the mirror," Barri advised. "Then, you can turn your head to buff in your line work." This will help ensure your work on each side is even.

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Since I like playing up my lips for evening, we decided to complement my chiseled cheeks with a soft, neutral cat-eye and a bold swipe of the Hollywood Lips Liquid Lipstick in Show Girl, a deep berry shade. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy and achievable the entire look was. As Barri was quick to point out, red carpet makeup shouldn't feel different from — or more difficult than — your average day-to-day makeup. "Honestly, any red carpet look starts off with a great day look," she said. "Once you have your skin perfected, it's just about accentuating your eyes, lips, and cheeks."

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Stephanie Nguyen

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