Every generation has its big makeup trend, and in the 21st century, few things have been bigger than contouring. Contouring basically means using makeup to strategically sculpt your face. In a way, you’re manipulating the appearance of light and shadow to create subtle optical illusions: a narrower nose, fuller lips, a sharper jawline, or higher cheekbones.

Contouring can be intimidating, and not for nothing. With the wrong technique or the wrong lighting, heavy contouring looks crazy. No one wants to be caught with reverse raccoon eyes or brown-streaked cheeks! On the other hand, learning just a few basic highlighting and contouring techniques can make you feel like you’ve got a magic wand for your face. The first time I used a high-end highlighter pen on the shadows around my lips, I felt like I was hallucinating for a second. Suddenly my awkward jowl-lines were gone and my face looked smooth and polished in a way I’d never been able to accomplish before. As a result, my entire makeup routine expanded: I started wearing cleaner looks, with bright lip colors and minimal eye makeup (!). This is why people get so excited about contouring. With the right products and technique, contouring lets you take control of your features and appearance in ways you never thought possible.

So where does a contouring beginner start? To get us pointed us in the right direction, we went straight to MAKE UP FOR EVER. MAKE UP FOR EVER is a favorite among contour enthusiasts, and their new Pro Sculpting Duo compacts are perfectly designed for experts and amateurs alike. So we were beyond excited to get some contouring insights from MAKE UP FOR EVER’s Assistant Managing Educator, Yvonne MacInnis.

When did contouring get so big, and who have been the biggest influencers in the trend?

Contouring has been huge on social media over the last few years, and many makeup artist’s techniques quickly became beauty and trend buzzwords. Before and after shots helped women to see all the tricks of the trade, and celebrity references became the ideal. People started looking for ways to achieve the ‘JLo Glow’ or the ‘Kim Kardashian’ highlight and contour.

Today’s contoured face is a very modern look, but is this a trend we’ve seen before? How common was contouring in Hollywood and stage makeup?

Contouring has always been an essential part of corrective makeup for perfecting the face, but the shades, products and textures used to create this have improved with the changes in beauty trends and technology. The use of HD cameras over the past decade has resulted in an upgrade for products used in contouring.

In the past, makeup routines could be heavily powdered and then flushed out by bright studio lighting. But now they require seamless blending with light and dark. These new advances in makeup allow a beautiful appearance that looks like it comes from within the skin — not sitting on top of it.

Do you have to be wearing a full Kim Kardashian face to take advantage of contouring? What are some ways a beginner can play around with a lighter touch?

The newest trend in beauty and fashion for 2015 might be considered a more “daily-wear” version of the much sought-after Kim Kardashian look we’ve been seeing over the past couple of years. To achieve this look, start by choosing natural shades so they’re easier to blend. The easiest way is to start is with the highlight. Applying a luminous highlighter like the one in the Pro Sculpting Duo will help your eye to identify the natural contours of the face.

There is still a lot of information out there for those who prefer a “higher contrast” look. You can certainly play with your contouring product by simply applying extra when you want to go for a more dramatic look.

Where do you see people get the most excited by the transformative abilities of contouring? Nose? Jawline? Eyes? 

The biggest ‘a-ha’ moment is usually when people discover how simple it is to adjust or enhance a feature they have always wanted to change, but never knew how. Lightly contouring noses, shaving away the appearance of a ‘double chin’ or simply creating gorgeous cheekbones can really make a person feel empowered and beautiful- inside and out.

There’s something about a compact that’s very approachable. Would you say these Make Up For Ever compacts are a good intro to contouring for total beginners?

The new Pro Sculpting Duos from MAKE UP FOR EVER are perfect for beginners. The formula is talc-free and super bendable, so it’s easy to apply without going overboard. The compact is very convenient for the girl-on-the-go because of its ability to fit in a handbag. Much easier than if you were to have two separate product cases for highlight and for contour!

What’s the most important thing to be careful of when you’re practicing these techniques?

Some simple guidelines to natural contouring are:

  • Make sure your product is two shades darker than your natural skin tone (similar to the tone of your natural tanned skin).
  • Use a highlight and contour product that is a natural texture- something that gives you a healthy glow, rather than a sparkly look.
  • Ensure you have the right tools for the job.
  • Blend your products with control and apply your light before your dark.

What kind of brush would you recommend using with these?

The MAKE UP FOR EVER Artisan Brush #156 is the perfect pairing with the Pro Sculpting Duo. It has soft, wavy hair that helps swipe the product, apply and blend all at the same time for truly diffused definition on your face. This brush is also more flat compared to a typical ‘rounded’ blush brush, so you can use one side for your highlighting and flip it over to sweep on the contour.

What do you tell people who are afraid to contour? Where should they start?

There is a lot of information accessible (social media, Sephora, makeupforever.com) for people who want to learn more about how to contour based on their face shape. This is great for when they are ready to take the next step in intermediate contouring as well.

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