Contouring: the only time being shady is acceptable (insert Slim Shady joke here). Loved by many and hotly contested by, well, just as many, the subtle shading technique (keyword subtle) has taken on a life of its own in the past year and exploded into a full-on makeup phenomenon. Extreme contour queens reign on Instagram, with millions of worshipping followers dying to know their technique, contour converts sing praises about how it’s changed their life, and confused contourers—well, that’s where we come in. Though we gave a step-by-step tutorial on exactly how and where to contour, we know that it’s still a fickle beast, and one wrong move can leave you looking like a “before” photo (to which we say blend, girl!).
With this in mind, we caught up with makeup artist Rob Scheppy (he frequently contours the chiseled cheekbones of celebs like Kendall Jenner and Ciara) and asked him to share his shading and sculpting secrets. Keep scrolling to find out how to refine your contour technique, the celeb makeup artist way!
Tip #1: Stick to the Shade Scale
When we asked Scheppy for the number one mistake women make when it comes to contouring, he’s quick to point it out. “I’ve seen a lot of women choose the wrong shade to contour with,” he says. “Always stay within two shades of your natural skin tone. Too dark or too light will look terrible in natural light!” This goes for highlighting, to—Scheppy says to avoid too-white highlighters, which can end up looking unnatural, especially when paired with a contour. Not sure what “two shades” means exactly? Ask for a foundation shade scale next time you’re at a beauty counter and use that as your reference (or, print one from online!).
Tip #2: Matte Only
This might seem like a no brainer, but a natural-looking contour starts with the right formula—and Scheppy says he always prefers matte. “Stay away from sparkle and shimmer when contouring,” he warns. The palettes he swears by? Marc Jacobs’ #Instamarc Light Filtering Contour Powder ($49), Sephora Collection’s Contouring 101 Face Palette ($28), and Charlotte Tilbury’s Filmstar Bronzer & Glow ($68) (which contains a slight shimmer, but goes on silky-smooth with a matte finish). We think Jenner, who is the face of Estée Lauder, would opt for the brand’s New Dimension Shape + Sculpt Face Kit ($50).
Tip #3: Smile—Then Contour Accordingly
Here’s a crazy thought—did you know you should be contouring differently based on your unique face shape? If you’re having trouble pinpointing your face shape (hey, it’s harder than it seems), Scheppy suggests an easy trick. “To easily identify your face shape, just smile—it accentuates your natural bone structure,” he says. After you’ve done that (we’ve got a helpful guide here, too), just contour accordingly according to the below rules:
Oblong and rectangular face shapes: Contour along your hair line and down your chin to add more roundness to your face.
Round and heart-shaped faces: Add a light dusting of contour powder to your forehead and along your cheekbones, then right below the chin (start at your chin, then blend upwards along your jaw).
Oval faces: Contour below your cheekbones, from right above the corners of your mouth to your ear.
Tip #4: Blend, Blend, Blend
And finally, a tip for anyone who’s gone overboard with the contouring? Blend, blend, and blend. Scheppy, who is Tweezerman Brush iQ’s Brand Ambassador, swears by the brand’s Brush iQ Mini Face Contour Brush Set ($25). “You need brushes and sponges designed to hug your bone structure and deposit product exactly where you want it and give you the precision you’re after,” he tells us. Use a flat brush to lightly apply the contour where you want (Scheppy says under the cheekbones, sides of your nose, forehead, and jawline), then blend it with a larger brush or beauty sponge. His last word of advice? “Remember—the key to great contouring is knowing when to ramp up or pump the breaks,” he says. We’ll keep that in mind next time we’re tempted to add one more swipe in hopes of getting Jenner’s cheekbones.