I Think Contouring Is The Push Up Bra of Makeup (But I Tried It Anyways)


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No filter, friends. No filter.

I think contouring is stupid. Yep, I said it (cue my 4-year-old adding: “Stupid is a BAD word!” Noted). Why such a bold, controversial and life altering stance against contouring, you might ask? Firstly, it seems sort of disingenuous, to say the least. It’s almost like the push-up bra of makeup: we are metaphorically stuffing our training top with tissues and falsities, hoping an offshoot placement of bronzer will make our nose look slimmer. Secondly, it’s hard to maintain in the long-term. What happens if we get caught in the rain, thus causing our Paint By Number-color-blocking action to wash off? Will someone say, “I thought your jaw line was 0.00005 of a millimeter skinnier than that!” or “Wait… but your cheekbones aren’t always that high, yet gloriously sunken, at the same time? Blasphemy!”

Then again, if there is anything I’m good at doing it’s not taking beauty too seriously, and having fun with products whenever possible. Hypocrisy fully realized, I decided to try my hand at contouring once and for all (whilst carefully avoiding rainstorms or sudden water balloon warfare). Naturally, “baby steps” were in order, considering my hesitancy with misleading the public regarding my face. Smelling a hypocrite again? ‘Tis true. I cover freckles with mineral foundation, and conceal rosy cheeks with (spoiler alert) concealer whenever feasible… so what’s the dang difference? It’s time for me to embrace the beauty of beauty: being whoever you want to be in that moment… even if it’s not perfectly accurate with who you are waking up in the morning.

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Time to experiment! For starters, I tried “dipping my brush” into the concept of contour by using tinted moisturizer instead of full on product. I thought the stark white and dark bronze typically seen on Pinterest were rather terrifying, and using opposing shades of gentle tint far more practical for that mommalife. And guess what? I was right. If you’re a busy mother who wants a subtle change, try applying a light shade of tinted moisturizer (or CC or BB cream), and a darker shade in place of bronze.

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On the left: my tinted contour. On the right: blended result.

The easiest pattern to master goes like this: use the light color in a thin strip along your nose (fanning up towards your forehead), atop the length of your cheekbones (sweeping around your eye in a “C” shape), and a dab on your chin and above your upper lip. Use the darker color in the hollows of your cheekbones- sweeping towards your ears) and on the sides of your nose. You can also add it to the top of your forehead for a sunkissed look, or underneath your chin where your “turkey gobble” resides.

The key is applying, blending and then adding a soft, neutral foundation that melds the entire look together. Personally, I was super paranoid of leaving the house with a weird streak of color unnoticed, and thereby recommend triple checking your work in different lighting to be sure everything is seamless. The bonus of using tinted moisturizer is that zero paranoia is necessary. The downside is it’s only vaguely, subtlety effective (and if you’re like me, “subtle” doesn’t often enter your list of needs whenst primping. And yes, I just said whenst).

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In the end, I decided to be Bareilles-style brave and branch out fully. I used a super affordable, super light concealer as my “white” color, and straight up powder bronzer for the dark. Later, I switched from powder to liquid (specifically, a tiny, trial-size product from Tarte), because it blends easier and makes more sense. As you can hopefully see from the opening and closing photos in this post (= zero retouching or editing), using real product instead of tint makes for much more cheekbone-worthy results. In the future, I might buy white or bronze “sticks” (makeup pens, if you will), because the most efficient way to apply contour seems to be literally drawing right on your face- skipping messy fingers entirely. All in all, I didn’t hate my contouring experience like I thought I would (myth busted!) In fact, I’m a little obsessed with adding the extra shading to my nose and cheekbones specifically, and definitely think I’ll keep this as part of my “fully committed” routine. Yet, what about “lazy days” when I’m running errands or picking up tiny humans up from school? I’ll likely forego and save myself a few extra minutes to grab a latte. After all, it’s all about balance.

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No filter or editing… just cheekbones?

So, which trick will YOU use the most? Let’s chat!

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