The 5 Rules of Contouring

Rachel Krause
Contouring Rules

Photo: iMaxTree

A good handle on contouring techniques is an indispensable part of any makeup aficionado’s morning routine, but it doesn’t happen overnight, that’s for sure. Whatever you do, don’t embark on a contouring mission without following these five key rules of the craft.

1. Never use shimmer.
Because the traditional use of bronzer is to create what we like to call a “healthy glow,” many of the ones you’ll find at any given drugstore or Sephora contain shimmer or sparkle. This is the opposite of what you should look for in a contouring product, which you’ll be using to create realistic shadow and depth. Opt only for a completely matte powder or cream for contouring purposes, and leave the shimmer to your cheeks.

2. Avoid too much warmth.
The tone of your contouring product should depend somewhat on your skin tone, but a good general rule is to avoid anything that leans too brown or has red undertones. Natural shadows have neutral undertones, and shades that contain too much warmth will give the face a muddied look, rather than add dimension.

3. Make sure to blend edges.
If you’ve ever seen what bad, unblended contouring looks like, you’ll know how important it is to avoid it. Proper blending is the variable that makes or breaks your contouring look. Whether you use an angled brush or a sponge, be sure to blend, blend, blend the edges into the rest of your makeup for a seamless finish.

4. Don’t forget to highlight.
The opposite of contouring is highlighting, and more often than not you’ll want to do both. Once you’ve contoured to create that depth and to downplay features you want to de-emphasize, it’s important to highlight to balance out the face. Without highlighting, you’re only creating shadows rather than defining the features through the contrast between light and dark.

5. Check yourself in natural light.
This goes for all makeup, but it’s especially important for contouring. So much of how we look depends on lighting, and the overhead lights in our bathroom don’t always accurately replicate what we’re going to look like once we step outside. Head outside with a hand mirror and make sure everything’s properly blended to spare yourself from a potential shock later on.

Read more: No Cheekbones? These Contouring Tips Create ‘Em for You