When it comes to makeup, I prefer a less-is-more approach, so when heavy-duty contouring, the makeup technique to make the face appear more angular, started getting some buzz in the beauty world, I initially took a pass. But when I learned that contouring done right can lift the jawline, make sagging cheeks appear fuller and make those deep, pesky ‘smile lines’ that run from the side of your nose to the corner of your mouth look less prominent, I decided to give it a try.
Though I am still not a fan of heavy-handed contouring à la Kim Kardashian, I have discovered a few contouring tricks that can help lift the face and bring back some of the definition we lose as we age. There are lots of detailed tutorials about this on YouTube, but for those of you who want a contouring lite version, here’s a quick, minimal-fuss lesson on how to contour your 40+ face.
1. Start with a Primer
If you are serious about contouring, I recommend you first apply a primer to bare skin. Primers, which usually contain silicone, provide a flawless base for your foundation or tinted moisturizer while filling in fine lines, wrinkles and pores. I admit I was skeptical when they first arrived on the beauty scene many years ago, but they really do work! I have two favorites: Laura Mercier Hydrating Foundation Primer (I have dry skin, so I use the hydrating version, but you can get regular primer too), and the cult-hit Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer.
2. Apply Foundation or Tinted Moisturizer
It’s your choice, but I’ve heard from a lot of over-40 gals that they prefer a tinted moisturizer to foundation and I have to admit, I’m also on Team Tinted Moisturizer. For me, I prefer the natural look and sheer coverage it gives me. I never feel I look like I’m wearing a mask. My favorite is Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in Nude. For evening I rely on Bobbi Brown Foundation in Ivory which gives me a little more coverage than a tinted moisturizer.
3. Select the Right Brush
I like to get up and get going in the morning so fiddling around with a gazillion brushes each specific to some little aspect of applying makeup has never been my thing. That said, I’ve found that using the right brush for contouring can make a night-and-day difference when it comes to achieving a seamless, realistic finish and keeps you from looking like you’re wearing streaky makeup. This is one time when the right brush really is worth it.
4. Minimize with a Contour Color
The next step is to use a darker contour color. This helps minimize or recede the parts I want to downplay. Where you place the darker color depends, in part, on your unique face shape but in general, here are some things to keep in mind:
- If your cheeks are fuller than they used to be due to weight gain, bring out your cheekbones by brushing your contour in a narrow line just on the underside of your cheekbone, from where your ear meets your jawline and down towards – but not as far as – your mouth. (A good rule of thumb is to stop when your brush is parallel to your nostrils). Bring it up ever-so-slightly at the end so it almost, but not quite, ‘scoops’ your cheek.
- If your jaw line is sagging a) join the club and b) find where it sags and brush your contour shade just slightly above it and then along the jawline, almost like you’re trying to straighten the droopy line that the saggy part has created.
- If you have a broad forehead, starting at the outside edge, brush your contour shade up, over and slightly down in the middle, then repeat on the other side. Here you’re trying to ‘cut’ the outside corner and create a bit of a widows-peak in the center.
- If you have a thick nose and want to slim it down, run your contour shade down along both sides.
- If all of this seems like a lot of remember, one of the easiest tricks I was taught by a makeup artist was to pretend you were drawing an ‘E or 3’ on your face. So, starting with your brush at the center of your forehead and moving right, brush your contour along the perimeter of your face in the shape of the number ‘3’ on the right side of your face. Do the same thing on the left side of your face but in the shape of a rounded letter ‘E’.
These are all powder formulas which some gals don’t like as well because they tend to settle into fine lines, another reason to start with the primer I mentioned above. Another option is to go with a cream-based contour product like NYX Cream Highlight & Contour Palette.
Finally, use a highlighter to give your face the definition we tend to lose as we age and to hide shadows. Apply it to:
- the tops of your cheekbones
- the inner corners of your eyes
- the center of your nose
- your temples, where age-associated fat loss often creates hollows
- the center of your forehead, just above the nose
- the nasal labial line
- the shadows created by sagging lines that run down from the corners of the mouth
- the cupid’s bow at the center of your top lip
Lastly, use a makeup sponge to blend in any harsh lines. That’s it. You are done. This whole thing takes about 4 minutes!
Over to you. Do you use any basic contouring to bring definition to your face? What tips do you have to share?
Shop these favorite products for perfecting your contour: