The Brilliant Contouring Hack That Finally Taught Me How to Master It
When it comes to contouring, I've always been a bit cocky. "It's easy!" I'd tell my girlfriends, while painting lines on their faces: one for highlighter, followed by a swipe of blush in the middle, and bronzer on the bottom. I had no idea how badly I was missing the point. That is, until Make Up For Ever artist Lijha Stewart came into my office and blew my mind. She showed me a makeup hack — comparing contouring to a bra holding up breasts — and since then, my cheekbones have been on point.
Let's back up: Lijha was visiting, introducing me to Make Up For Ever's new Pro Sculpting palettes. These cream-color quads are offered in four shades for light, medium, tan, and dark skin and will be available in March ($45). The lightweight tin hosts a matte base color, bronzer, highlighter, and blush. It's almost impossible to mess up using these formulas since they blend so seamlessly into the skin. Lijha, however, provided me with a sculpting technique that took my skills to the next level.
In the photo above, you can see how I contoured using the techniques I am about the describe. The left side of my face (which you see on the right) is contoured while the right is not. Though the makeup application is light, it's visible how much smoother my skin looks and how much more defined my cheek is. Oh, the power of makeup! Boom.
Find Your Cheekbones
Lijha instructed to me physically feel where my cheekbones are and make sure to put the bronzer exactly there (rather than eyeball it like I usually do).
"When you're very first starting out, it's really important to explore your face shape and use your hands," she said.
I used to bring my contour line almost to my lips, but now I know that it should extend about two thirds down from my hairline towards my mouth, because that is where my bone structure actually ends. And I never went right up to my hairline — I always started about an inch in. Lijha instructed me to go right up to the hairline, because if I accidentally put too much product there, it won't matter — my mane can cover it.
Apply the Color
Drop the sponge or brush. Lijha advised to use your fingers. Tap the color on with one finger, and then use another clean one to blend it.
"You don't keep depositing color," she explained. "A huge issue when you're highlighting and contouring is that you get all of this beautiful product on, and then you don't know where to blend it, so you end up with stripes on your face or a really muddy, patchy look."
Follow the Order
Go from light to dark when it comes to contouring. "A lot of time I think people focus on the dark, but think about adding your light first because once you add your light, the natural depth in the face will come forward on their own," Lijha noted.
About That Bra Theory
The next time your significant other pokes fun at your 20-minute contouring routine, explain this sexy idea.
"My theory on contouring when you're very first starting out, you want to think of your cheek as a boob and a bra," Lijha said. "Your cheek has three different parts. It has the underwire, which is the contour and extends from the top of the ear and goes down. So where does your blush go? Right in the center of your cheek, and that's the fleshy portion of your breast, where you want the most volume."
She went on to describe the secret weapon, the highlighter, aka your cleavage. "We have all tricks when we're buying a nice push-up bra — perhaps it's getting racer back or a front clip that brings your cleavage up a notch," she said. "That's exactly what you can think of when you're using a strobing color. It's taking your cleavage, or cheekbone, to the next level and really pops that highlight. Apply it on the highest part of your cheekbone, where you want a lot of volume."