Walking the crowded aisles of the Makeup Show L.A. earlier this year, it was clear that face contouring is what nail art and pastel hair were in recent seasons: all the rage. Contouring was the focus of several convention-floor makeup demonstrations and a plethora of beauty brands' specialty kits. Sephora boldly declared the technique to be "magic."
Of course, contouring isn't new. At least since Old Hollywood, makeup artists have reshaped faces with shadow and light. But what works on the big screen or red carpet may look too heavy-handed for normal women going about their normal lives.
"All the celebrities do it," says makeup artist Rob Scheppy, whose clients include the Kardashian sisters. "But if you do a full contoured look and walk out in daylight — that might be scary to some people. I'm not saying it's wrong. If you feel comfortable, go for it. Just remember it's a painting on your face. If you feel best naturally gorgeous, this technique may not be for you."
The most important thing is to understand your face, he says. "Play, have fun and take risks but remember every makeup trend isn't right for everybody."
Still, he's all for experimenting. "Just like your wardrobe changes for different occasions, so should your makeup."
Here are some of his tips for contouring like a pro:
Use foundation that matches your skin tone, and apply a contour color one to two shades deeper on areas that you want to recede. The technique can make your face look slimmer. Scheppy recommends using a matte contouring color because "shimmer reflects the light, so it will cancel out what you just did."
"Use a lighter highlighting color on areas you want to bring forward," he says.
Making a "3" on the side of your face beginning at the temple and concentrating the color toward the back of the face is a great "quick and easy contouring guideline," says Scheppy. "You want to contour the temples, underneath the cheek bone and underneath the jaw line. Make sure you blend it out … you can also use contouring if you want your nose or forehead to look smaller."
Use your concealer or highlighting color underneath the eyes and down the bridge of the nose, center of the forehead and middle of the chin, depending on what looks best with your face shape. You can also add a touch of shimmer on top of the cheek, on the inside corner of the eyes and underneath brows.
Scheppy recommends that people with dry skin use cream contouring and highlighting formulations. "People with oily skin should use powder," he says.
Using the correct tools can be as vital as the right makeup. Scheppy likes the Tweezerman Brush iQ Contour Concealer Brush ($16, www.ulta.com).
Some contouring products to try:
Laura Mercier Flawless Contouring Palette ($50, lauramercier.com)
Kevyn Aucoin The Contour Book The Art of Sculpting + Defining is a color palette with detailed instructions ($59, sephora.com)
Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Cream Kit ($40, anastasiabeverlyhills.com)
Kat Von D Shade + Light Contour Palette ($46, sephora.com)
Clinique Chubby Sticks in Curvy Contour and Hefty Highlight ($21 each, clinique.com)
Filmstar Bronze & Glow Face Sculpt & Highlight ($68, charlottetilbury.com)
Nars Contour Blush ($42, narscosmetics.com)
Lancôme Le Duo Contour & Highlighter Stick ($36, lancome-usa.com)