02 Jun The Argument For and Against Contouring

The art of contouring is one of the biggest trends in makeup history.  Well before instagram selfies were a thing, contouring was used in the mid-1500s by stage actors who would use chalk and soot to make their expressions clearer for audience members. After making its way into film, contouring was an industry secret used by makeup artists on their clients, until celebrities began sharing their contouring process with the world. Seemingly overnight, the technique entered the mainstream of makeup application.

The instant gratification of contouring is what makes it so damn addictive. As Chrissy Teigen puts it, “you can have a nose job just with contouring”. Just a little dust of a dark shade in the hollows of your cheeks and down the sides of your nose can completely change your face and give you a big boost of confidence.

Recently there has been an anti-contouring movement, followed by the latest trend which is all the rage ‘strobing’. Makeup mogul Bobbi Brown told the New York Post “when I see contouring on people’s faces, it looks like dirt,” and she’s not entirely wrong. Makeup and bad lighting is a recipe for a very embarrassing disaster. We’ve all seen (or been) that girl who has no idea that she has obvious brown lines drawn on her face.  The trick is in a light, buildable application and a lot of blending.

Strobing is highlighting, and is the opposite of contouring. Rather than using darker shades to create hollows and carve your face, strobing is done by using lighter shades to bring areas of your face forward. If you use a dewy, sheer highlighter, it will brighten your face and give you the glowy skin of your dreams.

Strobing and contouring can actually be used together to bring out your own unique features. If your cheekbones are less than obvious, shade them in. Want to elongate your nose, apply some highlighter down the bridge. Whatever technique you use (contouring, strobing, or both) it’s personal and depends on how you prefer your own makeup to look.

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For tips on how to use contouring and highlighting to bring out your best features, here’s Bonnie’s tutorial on how to give yourself a ‘Facelift with Make-Up!’

Written by Sophie Howe.