How to contour your face in under five minutes — seriously

Mar 20, 2015 at 8:00 a.m. ET

Here's what you need to know about contouring that proves it's actually really simple.

Contouring simply means applying a darker color to areas of the face you want to push back, and applying a lighter color, a highlighter or light-reflecting product, to high points of the face so that they pop out. Contour equals "bye;" highlighter equals "hi."

We've likely all seen the complicated cream highlight and contour techniques a la Kim Kardashian but let's be honest — that isn't realistic for everyday life, and no matter how great the results, time is of the essence for most of us.

I like to use powder products to highlight and contour, as they are easily controlled and very buildable. I use a completely matte bronzer, a blush and a shimmery powder highlighter for an everyday highlighted and contoured look that doesn't look insane in the boardroom or for a date night. Proper placement of product and the right brush make all the difference and give results that are naturally stunning.


Contouring tutorial

Phase 1: Cheekbones and temples

I like to begin by creating a shadow beneath the cheekbone with a completely matte powder bronzer using a dense, small-head contour brush (I used The Balm's Bahama Mama). The guideline for placement is from the top of your ear, toward but not to the corner of your mouth. Stop at the edge of your eye. Now, place bronzer at your temples, moving in circular motions around the hairline and top of the forehead.

Phase 2: Jawline and nose

How to contour

You can define your jawline by sweeping bronzer below the jawbone lightly. Be careful here as too much bronzer can be obvious and look like you have a sweet chinstrap.

If you want to thin a wide nose, sweeping the bronzer down the sides of the bridge creates the illusion of a more narrow appearance. Bring the shadow in further than the natural sides of your nose and remember to connect up to the brows.

Phase 3: Blush and highlighter

Contouring tutorial

Now, add a pop of color to your cheeks with blush (I used Benefit Bella Bamba). Place the blush on the fullest parts of your cheek, blending back toward the hairline. The blush will be placed directly above the bronzer.

Then, it's time to pop out our features we love with a powder highlighter (I used The Balm's Mary Lou-Manizer). Sweep highlighter on the tops of the cheekbones and the small C-shape surrounding your eye. This will give the look of higher cheekbones and draw light to the eyes.

Phase 4: Finishing touches

Contouring tutorial steps

Dust highlighter down the very center of your nose in a thin line, and pop a dot on the end of your nose for a more upturned appearance. You can add a little above your brow's arch for some lift, as well as above your cupid's bow above your top lip and in the center of the chin. These are all small areas that when highlighted make a huge difference.

More on contouring and highlighting

How to highlight and contour like a pro (VIDEO)
18 Makeup brush tips for your features
The Korean beauty secret that could change your whole makeup routine