Beauty for dark skin: contouring

Dec 11, 2016 @ 3:04 pm

Reshaping your face with makeup is a controversial topic. Here’s how to do it with minimal effort and time.

Contouring has had a pretty bad rep of late. It’s the Kardashians’ fault – when Kim K posted a snap of her elaborate contouring routine on Instagram, it led millions to admire and copy her chiseled visage. And for good reason – it takes a serious amount of skill and dedication to reshape every part of your face, each time you apply your makeup. Time that could, arguably, be better spent.
There are also the negative racial implications that come with contouring – wider noses, for example, are often slimmed to conform with Caucasian standards of beauty, especially on celebrities. And while it’s easy to join the backlash against contouring (it looks retro, it’s anti-feminist, it’s deceptive, it’s offensive etc), a little sculpting has been the secret weapon of makeup artists for decades – no matter what race you are, or skin tone you have – to manipulate the way light hits the face.
But contouring darker skins takes an entirely different approach to contouring paler complexions. It’s taken me years to hone this, and to step back with the realisation that less is more (I once used a black eye shadow with dire/comedic results). Of course you can go the whole super-sculpted route, and there are plenty of YouTube videos to show you how to do that, but there are a few tricks to add a little gentle definition without reshaping your entire face and losing several hours of your life. Think of it as contouring-lite
Think light, not dark
On paler skin, you add shadows via bronzer or a tawny blush to the face. With darker skin, you need to do the opposite (revelation!) to create definition. The easiest way? Apply your usual foundation or base first, and then use a concealer shade, one to two tones lighter than the darkest part of your facial skin tone, to the areas of your face where the light hits it. That’s your cheekbones, bridge of the nose (we’re not reshaping – that’s where the light hits everyone’s face), centre of the forehead, chin and cupid’s bow. Blend it like a pro – it should be barely visible – and set with blotting powder (I rate Cover FX Blotting Powder in Deep, $24, which is available from the US. It’s translucent so sets your hard work without caking more powder on top). Finish with a daub of highlighter with golden – or rose gold – particles that are finely milled, and never glittery. The finest I’ve found is Rouge Bunny Rouge Seas Of Illumination on Sea Of Showers, €38 by mail order. It’s so unbelievably finely milled and lasts for years.Illamasqua Gleam Cream in Aurora, $22 is available in the UK and also does a brilliant job.
Add shadow, but not too much or too dark
You’ve done the hard bit, but should you want even more definition you can add a little darker contouring powder just underneath your cheekbones, on your temples and around the outside of the forehead. Try Sleek Face Contouring Kit, $9.99, which is a cheap way to experiment with sculpting. But for a subtle and more modern way to shade, try Illamasqua Gel Sculpt Face Contouring Stick in Silhouette, $22, which is a translucent gel formula that adds a deep, deep bronze to the skin, but allows your skin’s texture to show through. I use this almost every day to contour out a little jowl without resorting to a full-on face-painting palaver.

Or, you can just strobe instead
Strobing is the newest catwalk-inspired way to bestow dimension upon the face – it’s essentially highlighting on crack. Use a light foundation base first and simply use your highlighter everywhere the light hits your face again, like you did above with the concealer. The effect is more halo-esque – like you’re post-spin class, mixed with being bathed in some kind of celestial light. Invest in the aptly namedMAC Strobe Cream, $24.50, which has been a backstage makeup trick for decades, and apply it with your fingers, using them to blend it in flawlessly – that’s it.


  • Train like a Victoria’s Secret Angel with Adriana Lima

    Feb 23, 2017 @ 15:08 pm
  • Milan fashion week: Versace comes down to earth

    Feb 22, 2017 @ 15:04 pm
  • Dolce & Gabbana brings sexy back for spring/summer 2015

    Feb 22, 2017 @ 15:04 pm
  • Fred Butler Fashion Film

    Feb 22, 2017 @ 15:04 pm