“Holy contouring” is probably what most of us think every time one of those slightly terrifying makeup tutorials passes through our Pinterest feeds. Then curiosity follows, usually dominated by the question: Who has time to put all that stuff on their face? As it turns out, it’s not all that complicated or time-consuming. I reached out to professional makeup artist and beauty blogger Ivy Boyd to help me break it down.
Rule No. 1? You probably shouldn’t use any ol’ bronzer. Most contouring tutorials will call out bronzing, including this one. In many cases, contouring kits even use the word bronze on their labels. However, contouring powder is slightly different than a traditional bronzer. “If it looks ashy and matte, it’s probably a contouring powder. If it’s warm or has shimmer, it’s a bronzer,” said Boyd. Go for the former.
Step 1: Start with your cheekbones
Apply bronzer (see note above) in a light sweeping motion just below your cheekbone. Aim your line toward your mouth, but stop before you get there. If you want to create a more youthful appearance, you may want to create more of a curve shape than a stripe. “I find from the top of the ear towards the side of the nose is better for some face shapes,” said Boyd.
If you have time for one step and one step only, this one should be it. According to Boyd, contouring under the cheekbones makes the most impact. So, if you need to run out the door now, consider yourself dismissed.
Step 2: Contour your hairline
Apply bronzer along your hairline from temple to temple in small circular motions. This helps start to shape your face and can create the appearance of a lower hairline for anyone with a forehead they want to minimize. If you already have a low hairline and/or a small forehead, Boyd says you make want to skip this step.
Step 3: Contour below your jawline
Continue to bronze lightly just below your jawline on both sides. A little goes a long way. All you’re doing is continuing to bring out your features and if you have a fuller face, this will begin to add more definition. However, this is one place you should be extra, super-duper careful about applying too much. It could result in a bearded appearance, Boyd warned.
Step 4: Now, about your nose
You’ll add a touch of highlighter later. For now, use a small brush to lightly bronze the sides of your nose. “Make sure to follow the natural curvature of your nose,” says Boyd. “If your nose flares out at the bottom, make sure your contour lines do too for the most natural look.” The goal here is to create a light shadow for a narrowed look.
Step 5: Switch to highlighter and start with your cheekbones
Now, apply highlighter along the tops of your cheekbones. This mixture of darkening (from step one) and highlighting creates the appearance of higher cheekbones. (Who said you can’t defy gravity?)
If you have a small forehead or a low hairline, skip any contouring on your forehead. According to Boyd, you’ll visually shorten and shrink it even more. You could add a bit of highlighter in the middle of your forehead, but avoid anything shimmery so your skin doesn’t appear oily.
Step 6: Highlight your nose (optional)
Read closely because not everyone needs to do this. If you want to accentuate a smaller nose, apply highlighter in an up-and-down motion along the bridge of your nose. If you want to give your nose a more upturned appearance, only apply highlighter to the tip of your nose. If you don’t want to do either of these things, skip this step.
Step 7: Last but not least
Finish the job by highlighting above your brow arches for more lift and in a thin line above your Cupid’s bow to create more definition. If you have a weak chin (not very defined), you can also apply some highlighter there as well. This will help bring it forward.
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