Everything Old Is New Again: The Truth About Contouring

Published on April 2, 2015 by   ·   2 Comments

ContouringIf you’ve been paying attention to anything makeup related in the last few months, then you’ve definitely heard of contouring.  It’s been a thing for the last year or so, but in the last couple of months I’ve seen a lot more coverage of this makeup technique coming out of Sephora as well as a lot of the beauty blogs I peruse.  People are nuts about contouring and the way you can use it to shape and change your face.

Finally, I’m not the last one to the party!

Usually I’m the last one to know about anything but in this case, I’ve been aware of contouring and how it works for years.  As in, many.  And I didn’t get the 411 from an article in Elle, a special event from Sephora, or a blog post written by a makeup guru.  I learned it the old fashioned way: in the classroom.

Contouring 2Contouring, using shades of foundation lighter and darker than your natural skintone to highlight and shadow areas of the face is a technique that has been used in theatrical makeup for many a year.  It’s amazing what you can do to sculpt and shape a face using only a few different colors of makeup.  The principle is simple: when you light a 3-dimensional object from the front, the parts closest to the light source will have the most light and the ones furthest away will have the most shadow.  With this in mind you can use makeup to begin sculpting – areas where you apply darker color will appear to recede whereas the areas you apply the highlighting shade to will appear to come forward.  That’s why drag queens always seem to have such flawless cheekbones: we paint them on!

Obviously there are limitations to any makeup technique (no matter how hard I try, I just can’t paint my face into Beyoncé!), but you’d be surprised what you can do with subtle manipulations of color and a good deal of blending.  Nose slightly crooked?  Use a dark color on either side and a straight highlight down the center.  I have a whole Jabba the Hut situation happening below my chin, so I always paint a darker shadow underneath the jawline to help it appear as if it is receding…every little bit helps!

The same principles used for contouring are used theatrically to create wrinkles and help age the actor’s face – you just use stronger lines and less blending.  You can make someone look older, more severe, soften the face – all kinds of tricks to affect how people see you and how they interpret what they’re seeing.

Too FacedNow that contouring is all the rage, hot and trendy makeup brands like Urban Decay and Too Faced are taking their cues from tried and true theatrical brands like Ben Nye, Mehron, and Graftobian.  UD already has the line of Naked palettes, which put nude shades at the forefront for eyes, but don’t be surprised if every brand at Sephora is suddenly putting their foundation and concealer products front and center!  Even though I already do most of my contouring with “industrial” products, I still decided to get in on the craze: I picked up Too Faced’s Cocoa Contouring palette ($40 at Sephora.com) that features 4 great pressed powder shades (including Pop Of Light, which has an amazing sparkle shimmer to it!) and a mini angled “buki” brush.

So when someone asks you if you’ve heard of the hot NEW thing in the makeup world, you can put on your smarty pants and lay some history down on their asses.  Then let them know that Miss Jaye was the makeup blending diva who schooled you in this classical art of sculpting the face.

Wow, it’s good to be one of the cool kids.  For once.

Now Go Forth And Get Painted!

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Readers Comments (2)
  1. […] to this art it’s momentum seems to be continuing without slowing down.  As I pointed out in this post, contouring isn’t anything new – in fact, it uses principles that have been part of […]

  2. […] Makeup In High School” Challenge Cheap AF: The Dollar Store Makeup Challenge Making Up Edna Everything Old Is New Again: The Truth About Contouring Color Inspiration: The Placebo Effect Is Sexy & Saturated Make Your Look POP: […]





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