In the past few years, contouring has become a huge trend that infiltrated many women’s daily makeup needs. The popularity of the trend is especially evident on Instagram, where online “celebrities” show normal plebs like us how to beat our face into shape with tanned colour-sculpting, as well as more foundation products on our faces than tarmac on the roads.
The trend has also set off a whole lot of random contouring ideas that don't make sense, as well as triggering insecurities by making everyone think they have a massive face, and that a smaller face is a better one.
Random contouring steps like "clown contouring", where extreme colour correcting and contouring products are applied strategically to exact points of the face. The result is a clown-like mask that is usually blended out with a BeautyBlender (a popular makeup sponge) and dabbing everything into everywhere. #Messy
What does clown contouring look like to me? It’s like a face chart drawn by a three-year-old. Generally, colours are used for contouring and highlighting, in order to accentuate the depth and higher points of the facial structures. Other colours like red, pink and orange are correctors, used to remove greyness of your skin tone. And obviously, blush is applied to add a flush to your face. So why can't they simply choose to colour-correct lightly or use the right shade of foundation to even out their skin tone?
Clown contouring is nonsensical – although it looks good for some Instagram photos, it does not really work well in real life. The excessive accumulation of products on the face will cause makeup to slide off more easily. If your face has a bumpy texture, it will also bring more focus to the uneven skin.
Like I’ve said many times, it's all about the foundation. Foundation should be used to create an illusion of even skin tone, and not as a beige paper bag to hide your face in. Bring out your features, not beat your face in.
When it comes to nose contouring, I share the same peeve as New-York-based celebrity makeup artist Nick Barose (he is awesomely funny and blunt, and by the way, he is THE makeup artist that actress Lupita Nyong'o uses), who also hates it when people draw a phallic shape on their nose for "contouring". #NoseNotPenis
Nose contouring isn't new, but there is a growing number of people who want a sharper nose than the defunct Concorde. Some contour by drawing a phallic-like structure on the nose before trying to blend everything out – this step is strange because it brings Pinocchio (and the term "D*ckHead") to a new level.
Think about the makeup as it slides off the nose within the day (especially in our humid climate). Touching up means it will end up looking patchy, which can make your nose look like a blotched job.
There are also other crazy contouring steps that include drawing things on the face before blending it out. And then there's contouring with sharp knives, contouring with Louboutin heels, contouring with scissers, contouring with anything… These are just shams and spin-offs from basic contouring because people think they should be doing someone "new" and "strange" for click- or like-baiting. I'd like to say to these people: You have no talent, please flush your face down the toilet bowl. #B*tchPlease
Intense cheekbone contouring is also the full rage now as everyone wants to create a more sculpted looking face. To achieve this, you need to make sure that placement of the contour is at the right areas of your face. I’ve seen too many people who contoured at an area that’s too low, and it ends up creating a strange recessive dent in the face - it's like someone rubbed mud onto your face and you forgot to remove it.
Here's a cheekbone contouring trick that I’ve learnt from London-based makeup artist Lan Nguyen-Grealis while assisting her backstage for London Fashion Week in 2013: Place the contouring colour on the cheekbone and blend it out before it reaches the apple. I find that this gives a beautiful, natural sculpt to facial features that works in all lighting.
Remember, there is always a limit to contouring. You cannot contour an ‘O’ into an ‘I’ (unless you use a black marker to fill in the sides). Work with your features, instead of beating your face into a whole new shape.
Below is a list of some products that I find work stunningly well for contouring. Remember to select a shade two to three times darker than your natural skin tone in order to create a contour that resembles your face. Picking the darkest contour shade you can find does not help to sculpt your face – it’ll just make you look like a White Walker from Game of Thrones. If you wish to contour your face with powders, I find that the best finishes are still pressed powders of darker shades, which will stay sheer on the skin.
Sheer Liquid for all skin tones (Best for amateurs)
Cream for all skin tones (Best for drier skin types or those with dry cheek areas)
Gel Stick for all skin tones (Best for those who are heavy handed)
Cream to Powder for all skin tones (Best for exact placement of contour)
Powder Contouring for all skin tones (Best for those who want a wash of colour in depth)
For liquids, creams and gel, I find that it’s best to apply them with fingers before buffing out with the 13rushes Ultimate Shader 3.0. Make sure you brush and fade it out along the feature you wish to highlight.
Darker pressed powders are best applied with a luxe, synthetic fluffy brush, so it looks immaculately placed. I adore Marc Jacobs Beauty The Bronze Bronzer Brush No. 12 - just use it to sweep along the sides of the face where you want the face to be in the "shadows".
Most of the time, if you have beautiful ebony skin, contouring will work against you. Highlighting is better as it puts the emphasis on your dimensions. Urban Decay AfterGlow Highlighter in Fireball brings an extra dimension because of its redder undertones.
Let’s be blunt here. Not everyone's face is palm-sized for that small face that looks "great" in pictures. We should always embrace what we have and highlight our best feature. Your excellent skin that never broke out, your amazing full brows, your stunning single eye lids, your natural sexy pout of your lips, your lush lashes, or your beautiful olive skin that glistens in the tropical sun.
Focus on the best you have and embrace it, we don't need affirmation for features we don't like – others are out there ready to tear you down anyway.
Photos: @belladelune, @glit_glam and YouTube