Contouring for the novice

It turns out that, similar to painting, contouring is all about placement – where you put your colors is just as important as which colors you actually use. If you’re a talented painter (or makeup artist), you’ll know exactly where to place specific shades to accentuate shadows, angles, or certain features of an object, all of which are important techniques for effectively contouring your face. But what if you haven’t dabbled in either of these careers, but still want to learn how to contour?
Last week, as I sat in front of the mirror, I had this dilemma: I hadn’t even outlined yet, and I was three minutes away from missing a great dinner. While I usually apply a swipe or two of bronzer where I think I should, I’ve never tried to completely retouch my face …… And it’s not the right time to start. I want to touch up my makeup for tonight, but I obviously don’t have time to do much. I don’t need my cheekbones to look like I can cut glass – I just want to do something quick and easy.
My savior often comes in the form of Tiktok. I looked up “Contour Hacks,” where makeup theorist Megan Lavallie imparted such a wealth of contouring knowledge in just thirteen seconds that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.” You have a spot on your cheek, and if you poke a hole in it, it touches your teeth. If you softly smudge it out [after adding contour], you can create the softest high cheekbones for those who want to look good from the side and the front.” So, for the remaining two and a half minutes, all I had to do was find the spot on my cheek where I could feel my teeth, draw a little contour line on it, and then gently smudge it away. And that was it!
I grabbed my contour brush and my “contour that isn’t a contour” – Glossier’s “Dusk Clouds” – and got to work. I applied a little bit to each cheek and then gently smudged it away, following Lavalie’s instructions. Instantly, my face became more defined while still looking very natural. The effect was seamless, as if I had only tanned the hollows of my cheeks without realizing it. Whether the dinner was luxurious or not, I knew from the moment I saw my newly sculpted face that this trick had me by the throat.
Lavallie’s advice changed the way I look at contouring, which by the way has 7.5 million views. I realized that for beauty beginners and “no makeup makeup” enthusiasts, contouring doesn’t have to be daunting with multiple creams, powders, and makeup brushes. I used to think it was either Kim Kardashian-esque or unsuccessful, which led to more nightmares of trying “3’s” on my round face than I cared to admit. As it turns out, it’s still possible to get a fantastic makeup look with a simplified approach. Instead of drawing lines or dotted products all over your face like the Instagram tutorials, you can do the most basic contouring with just one dot! Not so scary now, right?
But Hannah, I hear you saying that I’m still afraid of screwing up. Yes, it’s easy to screw up contouring when you don’t know what you’re doing. But I’m confident that you know what you’re doing because you’ve read this far, and when (not if) you contour correctly, you’ll totally elevate your makeup look in just a few minutes. Plus, this tip is almost foolproof whether you use a cream or powder contour powder. Might as well give it a try! It doesn’t get any easier than this.
All photos taken by Elliot Duprey

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