There are few—if any?—beauty techniques that conjure ire quite like contouring. For makeup minimalists, it’s something of a dirty word. But for pros and celebrities, contouring is a secret weapon, a way to enhance what a face already has going for it without using a ton of bright color. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there: Contrary to popular belief, when contouring is done correctly, it just emphasizes the curves of your natural bone structure, rather than creating new shapes on your face (you know the look we’re talking about). Getting it right is not easy, but it’s also not impossible: And if the self-proclaimed gurus of YouTube can figure it out, surely we can too.
Since we’re not exactly going to a red-carpet event, though, we don’t need our contours to be super-dramatic. So, we asked makeup artist Janessa Paré to show us her favorite secrets for a contoured face that can be worn in the daylight—meaning as subtle-yet-effective as possible.
Click through to see how to do a daytime contour around your eyes, cheekbones, and your whole face.
Hair and makeup by Janessa Paré.
The easiest—and most instantly transformative—part of your face to contour is your cheekbone area. Start by using a flat brush to apply a bronzer directly underneath your cheekbone; the place where there's a slight recession in your cheek. "Use it like a paint brush," Janessa instructs. "After you've applied that first part, turn the brush the other way and use the clean edge to blend the edges of the makeup, softening the top and bottom without disrupting the concentration of color."
Once it's blended, use your index finger to find the highest point of your cheekbone by placing it diagonally on your face against the bone itself (it tends to be the kind of thing that you can feel more accurately than you can see). Once you've identified the angle and its highest point, pat highligher into that point, working it upwards towards your eye. Then, use your index finger again to figure out where your brow bone is, and pat highligher there, as well. Basically, you should be creating a sideways V around your eye, coming to a point at your temple.
Finish the look by combing your brows to give your face a nice frame. You don't need a lot of other makeup here—let your cheekbones speak for themselves.
The eyes are the windows to the soul, etc., so why not make those windows really stand out? Turns out, many a flawless no-makeup makeup situation hinges upon a subtle contouring of the eye area. It's the best of both worlds: Your eyes are defined but it doesn't look intentional. To begin, you're going to need to figure out where the natural contour of your eye actually is. Janessa's favorite trick is to look in the mirror with your chin tilted up—that'll reveal the recession of the bone right below your eyebrow. Use your thumb to make sure you know exactly where it's at.
Using a dome-shaped small brush and your current favorite seasonal eyeshadow hue, fill in that brow bone recession with color. "You can choose to leave the brow bone above it bare for a more modern look, or you could use a lighter, matte shade there," Janessa recommends.
Gently blend out the edges of the contour outwards towards the outer corner of your eye and downwards onto your eyelid. Then, highlight the inner corner of your eye with a shimmery luminizer, which will brighten the entire area. If you want to, you can bring some of the contour color below your eye for extra defintion.
Of course, you don't need to limit your daytime contouring to just one part of your face—if you're searching for a way to emphasize everything you've got, look no further. First, contour your cheeks using the steps from the cheek how-to on page one. Once your cheekbones are sufficiently sculpted, you're going to go for your under-eye area. Start with a brightening concealer in a warm hue and apply it only where you have the most darkness under your eyes, in a half-moon shape. Then, pat a bunch of translucent powder in excess over the concealer. Let it sit for a minute or so and then dust it away—Janessa says that'll allow the makeup to stay all day without creasing. "This trick is a total game-changer for women who wear under-eye concealer," she says.
For your nose, use a foundation or concealer that's one shade darker than your natural skin tone. "Use a cream to make it look more natural and better for the daytime," our expert instructs. Blend it down the sides of your nose if you want to create the illusion of length, but make sure you stop at your nosril. Then, take a highlighter down the center of your nose to mimic brightness and bring out your natural highlights, blending it in with a finger.
Finally, to set your whole face aglow, create several horizontal lines in the middle of your forehead using your concealer. Blend them in with a brush or your finger and it'll look like you're bathed in light all day.