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As a makeup artist, the ultimate goal with my clients is to help them recognize and accentuate their best and most beautiful features. This objective has become difficult to achieve since Kim Kardashian’s contouring photos saturated the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I think Kim looks fabulous in her photos but what is portrayed in the images would not translate well in person nor would the same application techniques be appropriate for every other woman on the planet.
A makeup artist’s objective when working with any face shape is to create a more symmetrical appearance. In many cases, highlighting and contouring techniques are used to draw attention to or away from specific facial features. Contour and highlight techniques are based on color theory and are specific to each person’s face shape. In layman’s terms, what works for one face does not necessarily work for all faces.
In my opinion, contour has become an overused and misinterpreted term in the beauty industry. Physical attractiveness stereotypes that trigger feelings of insecurity for the majority of women already exist in today’s social culture. Now it seems that Kim Kardashian has managed to single-handedly elevate this stereotype to a new level sending girls and women alike into a contour-driven frenzy. Cosmetic manufacturers and retailers are reaping major monetary rewards as a result of this Kardashian induced makeup mania. Google reveals more than 14 million results when the words “contour makeup” are entered into the search engine and Sephora.com offers 61 “contour” products for sale on their website. In a nutshell, contouring with makeup has become the hottest trend in the beauty sector. Unfortunately, the majority of women purchasing makeup contouring products and palettes have no idea how to personalize this beauty trend. This post and the outline below is written for those of you that are smitten with the idea of using makeup to contour your face.
As a professional makeup artist, I approach the face much like a painter approaches his canvas. In every situation, other than make up applications for theater or special effects, the final canvas should appear natural. In order to reach this objective, all discoloration in the skin is neutralized before color cosmetics are applied to the face. Once skin imperfections and discolorations have been neutralized, a “flawless” canvas is created. A foundation to build upon by using color cosmetics, such as contour and highlight products to enhance specific, unique facial features.
The first step in teaching my clients to contour is to have them determine their face shape. In the world of beauty, the oval face shape is considered to be the most attractive as it is the most symmetrical of all the face shapes. An oval shaped face is approximately three-fourths as wide as it is long, and the distance between the eyes is equal to the width of one eye.
- The face is divided evenly into thirds
- The first third is from the hairline to the top of the eyebrows.
- The second third measures from the top of the eyebrows to the tip of the nose.
- The last third is measured from the tip of the nose to the chin.
When contouring of the face is required, professional makeup artists typically use two to three shades of foundation and two application techniques: highlighting and contouring.
Highlighting techniques are used to emphasize, increase in apparent size, or draw attention to a feature. Foundation that is one or two shades lighter than the client’s natural skin tone is used to highlight features, bringing them out and making them appear larger or wider.
Contour is the opposite. Contouring is a technique that is used to recede, minimize in apparent size, or draw attention away from a feature. Foundation that is one or two shades darker than the client’s natural skin tone is used to contour features, pushing those features back to make them recede and appear smaller or narrower. In color theory speak: light colors bring things forward, making them appear larger while dark colors send things backward or make them appear smaller or deeper.
Word of caution! YouTube videos and images on social media sites demonstrating how to replicate Kim Kardasian’s makeup look for red carpet events and photo shoots is not appropriate for every day wear. Instead, the goal with highlighting and contouring for the everyday woman is to strategically define and accentuate facial features with cosmetic products in a way that looks natural. Proper blending is always key in application of color cosmetics, especially when makeup is used to create dimension and change the appearance of facial structure. Diffuse lines of demarcation where color starts and stops, leaving behind a subtle transition of color that is hard to detect with the naked eye.
When teaching my clients to apply makeup, I challenge them to determine their face shape before applying any makeup to the skin.
Step 1: Determine your face shape.
- What is the widest area of your face?
- Is your face longer than it is wide?
- Is your jaw line square, pointed or round?
- Is your hairline narrow or wide?
The heart-shaped face has more width at the forehead and the cheek area then gradually narrows at the chin. The heart-shaped face will also have a widow’s peak at the hairline. The objective with a heart-shaped face is to shift the focus upward from the narrow jawline to the eyes by highlighting narrow areas of the face to make them appear wider while at the same time, contouring wider areas of the face so that they appear to be narrower. Examples of a heart-shaped face include: Eva Longoria and Courtney Kardashian
The oblong-shaped face is approximately twice as long as it is wide and has no angles or “corners”. The objective with the oblong-shaped face is to shorten the length of the face, create the appearance of greater width and a more defined cheek line. This can be achieved by contouring the top of the hairline, the jawline and beneath the cheekbones in the hollows of the cheek. To “widen” the face, softly highlight the highest point of the cheekbone then lightly swirl blush onto the apples of the cheeks in a shade that looks natural and is closest to the “natural flush” of the cheeks. Examples of an oblong-shaped face include: Sarah Jessica Parker and Gisele Bündchen.
The round-shaped face is typically widest at the cheek bones with a distinctly round chin and hairline. The round-shaped face does not have any angles or “corners”. The objective with a round-shaped face is to minimize fullness and create a thinner, longer appearance. This can be achieved by contouring the sides of the face and highlighting the forehead, sides of the lower jaw and the highest point of the cheek plane. Examples of a round-shaped face include: Miranda Kerr and Ginnifer Goodwin
The square-shaped face is very angular and is composed of “straight” lines on all sides and has equal width and length. The square-shaped face has even width at the forehead, jawline and cheek which are also the widest areas of the face. The objective with a square-shaped face is to soften the angles and create the illusion of a more narrow forehead and jawline. Emphasize the center of the face by highlighting around the nose, the center of the forehead, center of the chin and under the eyes. Contour the sides of the forehead, the lower outer cheek and jawline. Examples of square-shaped faces include: Oliva Wilde and Heidi Klum.
The diamond-shaped face is widest at the cheekbones with a narrow forehead and narrow, somewhat pointed chin. The objective with a diamond-shaped face is to minimize the width of the face in the cheek area. To create a more proportional appearance, highlight the forehead and chin and contour the sides of the cheeks and the area directly in front of the ears. Examples of diamond-shaped faces include: Ashley Greene and Vanessa Hudgens.