Contouring For Dummies

Contouring is a trend that has proven major staying power in the world of makeup, and not just on Instagram.  Although contouring is a technique that professional makeup artists have been using for years on end, it really only surged into popular culture in the past few years (looking at you, Kardashians!) But here’s the thing… no matter how popular it is, it still isn’t easy.  Actually, it can be downright intimidating! To get over our fear, we turned to two of our most trusted makeup resources – Benjamin Ruiz, Director of Global Creative Artistry at Laura Mercier, and Matthew Waitesmith, founder of our beloved Artis brushes – for some guidance.

BeautyBanter: Do you think the contouring trend is here to stay?

Benjamin Ruiz: With the power of social media and its ability to be a big influencer of trends, I think contouring will be around for a long time to come. I do think in time, contouring will evolve into a more user-friendly technique rather than some of the more dramatic interpretations we see today.

BB: What is the most basic contouring application that even the most insecure makeup user can master?

BR: Apply a discrete amount of a cream contour product with your fingertips and blend it into the hollow of the cheeks and along the jawline to sculpt, or to the tip of the nose and chin to foreshorten. Currently, I’m obsessed with Laura Mercier’s Flawless Contouring Palette ($50).  I love that it has several contour and highlight shades that allow me to mix and customize.

BB: How would you differ a daytime contour look from a more special occasion-face?

BR: One of the best makeup tips I ever heard was, “know your lighting!” Always make sure to gauge the amount of makeup to the lighting, venue, and occasion. This will dictate how far to push the contouring, but be careful: don’t make the mistake of creating visible stripes!

BB: What brushes are best for contouring? 

Matthew Waitesmith:  Contouring today usually takes two approaches – either creating a soft, curving contour effect on cheekbones, nose, forehead, etc – or creating a more chiseled/severe contour.  For a softer contour [on smaller areas of the face], use a larger brush like the Artis Oval 6 ($56), Oval 8 ($72), or Oval 4 ($48).  To create a more chiseled contouring effect, use brushes like the Oval 3 ($42) and Oval 6 ($56).

Editor’s Pick: Armed with these tricks, contouring is quickly becoming less and less daunting.  When applying my current favorite contouring weapon, Tata Harper’s Luminous Definition Kit ($77), I always hear Benjamin in my mind: blend! blend! blend! 


-Casey Sharbaugh is the blogger behind

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