Contouring is such a powerful make-up skill. Get it right and you can really enhance your natural beauty. Get it wrong and you can look… well… like this.

(Okay, just kidding. That’s obviously a mud mask, but it made you laugh/ cringe right?)

From a pro make-up artist perspective, true contour colours should mimic the shadows of your face (e.g. under cheekbones etc).

Why? Well, look at your face in the mirror. Are the natural shadows of your face brown/ orange/ tan? Nope.

Shadows are grey in tone so look for contour tones that are ashy, taupe or grey based (but not actually grey as demonstrated above, you’ll look a bit mental).

Common contour colour mistakes

1. Looking for contour to match your pink/yellow foundation
Pink tones or yellow tones relate to skin undertone not contour tone. Contour tones replicate shadow on the face. Shadows are more grey in undertone.

2. Using warm tone bronzer… even a matte one
I can’t stress how wrong this is if you want a natural contour to sculpt your face. One of my favourite Stateside make-up artists, Mr Jordan Liberty has the perfect video demonstration…
Why You SHOULDN’T Contour With Bronzer!

3. Using foundation 2-3 shades darker than your skin tone

Natural highlight & contouring uses light and darkness (as in the absence of light) to bring areas forward (highlight) or make them recede (contour).

If you have a cool skin tone then using darker foundation or concealer as a contour might look fine, but please blend, blend, blend so you don’t see any visible, harsh contour lines.
If you have warm skin tone, using a darker foundation to contour won’t sculpt your face, it will just look like you have uneven skin tone. Warm undertone foundation often looks too red or orange as a contour.

So… how do I get it right?
Contouring looks most natural when using taupe tones. Watch the Jordan Liberty video again. He sums it up perfectly.

The contour powders I use most are:
– E.L.F Cool bronzing quad. Don’t use the bronzer/ highlight shades in the quad, use the 2 matte cooler taupe colours in the quad, and certainly don’t use the Warm bronzing quad.
MAC Sculpting powder
– Zukreat contour & highlight palettes. These are perfect for Indian or South Asian skintones.

The MAC powder in Sculpt is my favourite for fair skin, and the Zukreat or E.L.F. powders are by far my favourite on Asian skintones. I use the bottom left E.L.F. shade (matte) as contour powder.

If you want to use a cream product then I recommend something like the Illamasqua cream pigments, I use Hollow a lot on fair to light medium skin tones, and Delirium on medium skin tones. For ebony skin I reverse contour (different technique, will show some examples in a forthcoming blog post).

MAC also have the Sculpting Creams in their pro range. The shade Coffee Walnut is great for medium to dark skin tones but the darker shades in the range are a bit too warm for my liking. I haven’t tried the lighter shades because, to be honest, Illamasqua Hollow does the job for most of my fair skinned clients.

So… ladies & gents, if you’re still unconvinced, try it both ways and see which looks most natural. Most importantly, say no to stripes. Dammit Jim, I’m a human, not a zebra… [sorry… the Trekkie in me peeked out for a second]. Happy contouring!