Contouring for Dummies

There’s no denying that we all desire that red-carpet ready, Kim K-inspired look, especially when it comes to our complexion. Her famously flawless face, along with that of all of our other favorite celebs, seemed like a mystery for years. The magic of contouring, which is creating the illusion of facial symmetry through the shading and highlighting of skin to enhance certain facial features and downplay others, has been the best kept secret of the makeup world for a while—until now, that is. These days, beauty bloggers and enthusiasts alike have been trying their hand at creating that flawless look without the hefty price of hiring a professional makeup artist or spending hundreds of dollars on expensive products.

As a beauty blogger, I couldn’t help but want to try it out myself. I’ll admit I was nervous. Even though I love playing around with makeup, contouring is a whole other ball game. I also didn’t want to break the bank or spend three hours of my precious time trying to perfect my complexion. Sorry, Beyoncé, but we just do not wake up like this. But I decided to give it an honest try. What did I find out? Well, with the right products for your skin and budget, and a tad bit of patience, anything is possible, even a perfectly contoured look in less than thirty minutes. If I can figure this out, I’m sure the rest of you can too. Below are five simple steps, featuring my favorite products. We’ll just call it like it is: Contouring for Dummies.

Step 1: Makeup As Usual

The first step to simplifying this process is doing your face makeup as you usually would as a sort of base coat before you begin contouring and highlighting. Think of it as creating a clean and unblemished canvas for your final work of art. For my everyday makeup (for work, school, etc.), I usually stick to a simple routine: Bare Minerals Original Foundation in Fairly Light for overall coverage and Benefit Cosmetics Fakeup Concealer in Light to take care of blemishes and undereye circles.

Step 2: Highlighting

Before you start this step, you need to find a contour palette, or combination of colors, that will work for you and your skin. Basically, all you need are two shades: one that is significantly lighter than your skin tone and one that is significantly darker than your skin tone (think highlighter and bronzer). When I decided to do a tutorial, I began researching for a contour palette all over the place. I quickly realized I was about to spend a lot of money if I wanted to achieve the right look, until I came across the Sleek MakeUP Contour Kit, recommended by one of our trusty followers on Twitter who shall remain nameless. The Sleek MakeUP Contour Kit has everything I was looking for and more. It’s price-friendly ($9.99) and user-friendly, with two simple shades, and it even comes with a little instructional booklet that is perfect for first-timers.

Okay, back to the basics. So when it comes to highlighting, it’s all about slimming and playing up your features. The best place to start is the bridge of the nose. I used the Pointed Foundation Brush from my Real Techniques Core Collection brush set and the highlighting shade in my palette. I find that the smaller brush is best for smaller, more concentrated areas of highlighting. After highlighting the bridge of the nose, use a slightly larger brush (I used the Contour Brush from the same collection) and highlight up from the nose, in between the brows, and in a small circle in the lower half of your forehead. You can also highlight directly under the brow if you want to highlight this area before applying the rest of your eye shadow. Next, begin highlighting under the eyes, about halfway down the cheek and back to the hairline right below the brow. Continue highlighting, but this time do it directly in the center of your chin in a small circle. The last section you’re going to contour is directly above the jawline, leaving about an inch between the two highlighted sections on your cheek.
Note: Consistency is key when it comes to contouring. If you are already using cream foundation and blush, then you need to stick to cream products when it comes to both the highlighting and contouring, and vice versa for powder products, which is the way I usually steer when it comes to my makeup. Stick to whatever works best for your skin type and you’ll be golden.
Step 3: Contouring

It only gets easier from here on out, I promise. In this step of the process, you’re basically just using the darker shade to contour all the areas you didn’t highlight. Think the sides of the forehead, the sides of the nose, on the sides of your chin, and the cheeks in between the two sections that are already highlighted. At this point, it becomes sort of natural and you’ll have an instinct of where you need to shade, or touch up highlighting, to enhance and sculpt your features to your liking.

Step 4: Blend and Repeat 

So you’ve highlighted and contoured your face, and now you look like a circus clown. Relax, this is exactly how it should look at this stage in the process, and it’s nothing a bit of blending can’t take care of. For blending, I like to use to use my flat, round brush (CoverGirl Mineral Powder Brush) in a circular, buffing motion to start, and then use a smaller foundation with longer strokes and more pressure for any stubborn, concentrated areas. If at any time you feel like you need to tone down an area or you can’t seem to blend it out, don’t be afraid to apply a little bit of your regular foundation to calm things down. Blending takes time, so be patient. Again, like I said before, don’t be scared to do additional highlighting and contouring as you go through the process to perfect your look. If I learned anything about the contouring process, it’s that it’s about trial and error. Don’t freak out if you mess up a little or if you don’t get the right look right away. It’s all about blending and touch-ups as you go along.

Step 5: Finishing Touches

You took the time to perfect your complexion, so it’s important to use a finishing product to complete and set the look. I stuck with my favorite go-to finishing powder, the Sonia Kashuk Barely There Loose Powder in Colorless Matte. This is another price-friendly product with a high-end look.

contour 2

Products I Used:

Bare Minerals Original Foundation in Fairly Light ($27 at Ulta)

Benefit Cosmetics Fakeup Concealer in Light ($24 at Ulta)

Real Techniques Core Collection Brushes  ($17.99 at Ulta)

Sleek MakeUP Face Contour Kit in Light ($9.99 at

CoverGirl Mineral Powder Brush ($4.99 at Target)

Sonia Kashuk Loose Powder in Colorless Matte ($9.99 at Target)


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