Pialmost everyone who’s ever tried contouring has some horror story to tell—from not blending well enough so the product is still clearly visible on your cheekbones to taking the wrong course so you end up you look more scared than excited.
If you’ve always been secretly dreading learning how to contour after a failed attempt or watching others try, 2024 is your year to try again—but this time with the guidance of Elena Dukebeautician and certified makeup artist.
But before you attempt this technique, it’s important to understand what contouring actually does to your face. “Contouring is the art of skillfully manipulating shadows and shading to create a visual illusion of depth,” says Duque. “By strategically applying these techniques, you can effortlessly redefine and reshape your facial features, allowing certain areas to naturally stand out from the rest.”
The first step to correct contouring? Working with a product that blends easily and is a shade or two darker than your skin tone. Duque encourages people to experiment with different products to find what works best for them, but one product she recommends—especially for those who want their contour to last—is a cult favorite among makeup enthusiasts: tarte’s contour Shape Tape. Although one of these tubes would normally set you back $35, you can get two of them *and* a contour brush to easily blend the product for $43 on QVC until the New Year—meaning you’ll spend all of 2024 looking incredibly sculpted. for less.
How to outline
Now that you have a makeup artist-approved product in your hands, it’s time to start contouring. Duque says it’s important to start with a clean and moisturized face before applying any makeup so you can work on a smooth canvas.
Next, consider your face shape. A common mistake first-time contourers make is applying the product in a way that doesn’t suit their face shape, Duque says, which can accentuate the wrong features or just look awkward. Finding that sweet spot can take some trial and error, but Duque recommends watching YouTube tutorials from people with a similar face shape to yours or attending makeup workshops led by professional makeup artists.
“Contouring is a skill that takes time to master, so don’t rush the process,” says Duque. “Start with basic techniques and gradually experiment with more advanced methods. Be patient with yourself and embrace the learning curve.”
Once you’ve found a tutorial you want to follow, Duque suggests starting with a little product, especially the tarte Shape tape contour, since it’s buildable. “Contouring is all about creating subtle shadows and dimension, so it’s important to start with a light hand and build up the intensity gradually,” she says. “It’s easier to add more product than it is to remove excess.”
Since contouring is primarily used to create the illusion of shadow, Duque says to focus on the hollows of your face, such as the hollows of the cheeks, temples, jawline and sides of the nose. Once you’ve applied the product to these areas, you’ll move on to one of the most important contouring steps: Blending. To make the contour look natural, it’s necessary to blend the product with the handy contour brush that comes with the tarte Shape Tape contour, a wet beauty blender or your fingers to avoid harsh lines.
After blending the contour, don’t forget to highlight your face. “Contouring and highlighting go hand in hand,” says Duque. “After applying your contour, use a lighter shade or highlighter to accentuate the high points of your face, such as the tops of your cheekbones, browbones and the bridge of your nose.”
Finally, it’s time to set your makeup with a translucent powder or setting spray to make sure it lasts all day, says Duque. While it may take a few tries to find which contouring technique works for you, Duque says to keep experimenting and you’ll achieve the contour of your dreams.
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