It’s a make-up trick that’s existed since the dawn of time, predating Instagram and Millennials. However the look has evolved over the years, and (dare we say it?) not always for the best, leaving many of us are wary of trying it at home for fear of looking overdone. Happily that is no longer the case. According to top make-up artist Caroline Barnes, 2019 will see a new approach to the trend. ‘This year, contouring will be more about getting a real, pretty sheerness to the face,’ she confirms. ‘It’s still about definition, sure, but it’s more wearable, easier than ever to create and just darn right pretty.’
Want to take a crack at it? Here are her golden rules:
1. Make it wearable
Contouring this year is about letting the skin show through: it’s not about using five different shades and it’s certainly not about getting stripy. Try to think of it as a subtle smile on your cheekbone. There are so many wearable products launching, but my current go-to is Drew Barrymore’s new Contour Palette. It has beautiful nudes and gorgeous textures which are soft and silky, and sit beautifully on the skin. They’re also powders which I recommend for contouring novices as they’re much easier to blend. Try swirling them altogether, I guarantee this will make your cheekbones look super glossy.
2. Lip to ear is the rule
Your easiest way to remember how and where to contour subtly is to use the outer corner of your mouth and then imagine a vertical line up to the top of your ear – this is the straight line you want to contour. You’ll want to start by buffing colour down the line down from the ear and stop where your pupil meets your cheek, take it no further. It’s also worth noting that colour should stay underneath the bone, not above it, this is to lift but also so everything doesn’t become too flat and one dimensional. And remember, no one has completely straight bone structure, everyone’s is slightly curved, so try sweeping product on in rounded motions.
3. Find your line and stick to it
I hear so many people say ‘I don’t have cheekbones,’ I can assure you, you do. The easiest way to find them is with your fingers, start at your temple and just feel around, let them guide you. You can also suck your cheekbones in, this not only finds your facial structure but also your jaw line.
4. Don’t apply straight from the stick
This will just cause the colour to get stuck on any fine hairs on your face, making it much harder to blend. Always try and apply powder, or your cream onto a brush first before working it into the skin in buffing motions. Another trick is to get the product onto your brush, then wipe a little off on the back of your hand so you don’t deposit too much all at once.
5. Go easy with highlighter
Highlighter can still be used and is perfect for adding a bit of light, but you don’t need blocks of it when contouring. Instead, after you’ve contoured just dust a champagne powder on the tops of the cheekbones, down the bridge of the nose and on the Cupid’s bow – that’s all you need.
6. Choose your brush wisely
So many people get firm, solid brushes then go in with their contour, but these types of brushes compact pigment, so it goes on in clumps and looks dirty rather than elegant. Instead, invest in a fluffy fan brush or an oversize bronzer brush for the softest shading - these work best with powders — while buffing brushes work best with creams. I love Zoeva brushes for their final airbrushed finish.
7. Concealer is key
Underneath the eye should be kept flat so the definition is only on the cheeks. To do this, use a concealer slightly lighter than your natural base and go underneath the eyes. This adds another layer of light and radiance to the face so things don’t look heavy. Look for flexible concealers with a bit of bounce. SL loves: Laura Mercier’s Flawless Fusion Ultra-Longwear Concealer and Maybelline's Eraser Eye Concealer.
8. Try a cream
Cream consistencies are super sheer and flattering to all skin tones and textures. The key is to find one with minimal shimmer and use your fingers to dab it on, following your natural line as you go, tapping gently. This will gently catch in the light and is an ideal solution for a fuss-free way of giving just a faint nod to contouring.
9. Don’t forget your nose
So many people forget their nose! Go back in with the colour you used to contour your cheeks, but this time, with a smaller flat brush. Take it down from the inner corners of your eye sockets to the sides of your nose – but only halfway down. This is a tiny little adjustment but trust me, you’ll seriously notice the difference it makes to bone structure overall.
10. Believe in blush
In keeping with the new natural approach, I would recommend going in with blush after you’ve contoured. This will just connect everything altogether and add the extra warmth needed to prevent everything from becoming too beige. I go through a pot a week of Max Factor's Cream Blush in Soft Copper – I cannot recommend it enough and love to use it on my celebrity clients when I can.
11. Finish with a dusting of powder
And I do mean a dusting, so again, tap off any excess on the back of your hand. Too much results in a look that’s a bit, well, dead. Try Cover FX’s Perfect Setting Powder for its glass-like finish.
Shop Caroline's top contouring picks below...
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