Contouring v. Bronzing

So.... my cousin has been asking me to show her how to contour for months now. And because I'm awesome, here it is! I thought I'd combine it with how to bronze your face as well. I've noticed that a lot of people seem to get confused with the difference between bronzing and contouring. Probably because many people use bronzers to contour and so it all gets a little mixed up. I'm going to try to take you through the difference between the two, what products you can use and how to place the product in the right spot. Here we go!

Contouring is all about creating dimension to your face. It's literally using color to shade your face and give the appearance of shadows. When something is darker/shadowed, it will appear to recede. You can use this illusion to make it seem as though your face is slimmer, more chiseled, etc, etc. Although you can use some similar products to bronze your face, this is a completely different concept. Bronzing up the face is all about looking like you've been in the sun. As though you've been sun-kissed and you're all bronzy and glowy like a Victoria's Secret model. Hopefully that clears up a few things. Let's get into products and the nitty gritty. Contouring up first!

Products for Contouring
Before we get started, note that the images above are shown dark to allow you to see where to place the product. It should not look this deep/noticeable when applied to your face. OK, moving on now. Because contouring is all about creating the illusion of a shadow, you want to use a color that is about two shades deeper than your natural skin tone. I also suggest using a product that isn't too orange cast. I think the safest thing to use is a powder foundation that is a couple shades darker than the color you wear. This will ensure it has the same tone of color as your skin and it will look more natural. I would also suggest using a matte color. You want this to look like a natural shadow which will then emphasize other areas of the face. These contour areas are the ones you want to recede so the whole point is to not draw attention to them. So, no glitter or shimmer for this. Can you use a bronzing powder for this? Yes. But! Try to find a bronzer that is cooler toned. Nothing too orange. I love using the Smashbox Bronze Lights in Suntan Matte. I find it looks very natural on my complexion. You could also use Harmony Blush from M.A.C or Blunt from M.A.C. Both are good depending on your skin tone. But like I said, if you want an easy way to do this, just look for that foundation powder a couple shades deeper than your usual one. 

How to Contour 
OK, let's jump in. There are several ways to tailor contouring to your face shape, but I'm just going to cover the basics and what seem to be the most popular here. 

Cheekbones: The most common contour is for your cheekbones. Most people want to have beautifully pronounced cheekbones that really pop, but not everyone is lucky to be born with that. So, we use makeup to fake it. Using a small contouring brush (I like RT Contour Brush), pick up some of the product and suck in your cheeks making a fishy face (yes, I'm serious). See that part of your face that gets sucked in? That's where you need to place your contouring shade - right under your cheeks in that hallow area. You always want to start at the back of your face by your hairline. Where you first place your brush is where you're putting down the most product. So, start there and sweep inwards about 3/4 of the way in fading it out. Be sure not to get too close to your nose! The key here is to blend. Blend. And blend again. You don't want this to be an obvious stripe across your cheek so once you've placed the color, just keep going back over it in small circular motions to blend it out well and get it looking as natural as possible. The image above is a bit dark so that you can see where to put what, but it should look seamless on your face. Repeat on the other side and you should notice that your cheekbones are looking more pronounced and chiseled out. yay!

Slimming: Next up, slimming your face! This is super easy. Just take a tiny bit more of your contour shade (although I often have enough left on my brush to just use what's left on it) and sweep it up onto the sides of your face/your temples. This creates a "shadow" on the sides of your face making it look slimmer. Because I have quite a high forehead, I also take a bit along my hairline across my forehead and blend. Remember not to use too much product. Always start at the outer part of the face and blend like mad. 

Lips: Now, do you want to make your lips look more pouty? Just place a touch of the contour powder underneath your bottom lip right where it naturally dips in using a rainbow shaped motion. It will emphasize the shadow and create the appearance of a more pronounced and fuller lip. 

Nose: Lastly would be contouring the nose. Kim Kardashian is well known for this as well as contouring in general. I generally steer clear of this one unless I'm really going all out as I think you have to practice and take your time to make sure it looks natural and not funny, but I'll explain how it's done. Take a smaller fluffy brush. Something like the M.A.C 217 eyeshadow brush. Dip it into the powder and take a little bit off by swirling it a bit on the back of your hand before applying. Then, right where the top of your nose begins to curve down is where you want to apply the product vertically. Do this on either side of your nose and it will appear slimmer. Like I said, be careful. Practice and use a light hand. 

I should mention that you can also create a more pronounced/chiseled jawline by just placing a bit of your contour powder right below your jawbone. It will shade the area and create a more structured line.

Products for Bronzing
There are a ton of products out their for bronzing. You can use shimmer for this, but I tend to shy away from anything too glittery. I still like this to look like a natural tan/glow. I like a satin finish for this kind of look. It helps add to the glow, but doesn't look completely unnatural. My suggestion for this is to also look for something that isn't too orange on your skin tone. I know a lot of fair skin tones have trouble finding bronzers that don't make you look like an oompa loompa. Not cute. Many brands do various shades of bronzers though. Revlon Photoready at the drugstore is a good option. Higher end, Guerlain is known for bronzers and have many shade options, but my personal favorite is Diorskin Nude Bronzer. But no one can deny the popularity and versatility of NARS Laguna Bronzer. Just remember to look for a shade, again, one or two shades darker than your skin tone, but keep in mind the color you naturally tan. Some people tan red, some tan olive, etc, etc. So, try to find a bronzer that will mimmick that tone you naturally are or turn to when tanned. I think the products I mentioned here are versatile enough and not too shimmery that you could get away with using them to contour also.

How to Bronze
This is actually much easier one to do and I'm less picky with choice of brushes. I'll generally pick up a blush brush, angled brush or powder brush. Whatever is handy at the moment. Now, as for where to apply, just think about being in the sun. When you're at the beach, where do you tend to burn/tan the most? All the areas that stick out and/or are closer to the sun, right? For your body, tops of shoulders always get it worst. For your face, the top of your forehead, tops of your cheeks, across your nose and the bottom of your chin that sticks out a bit. So, you want to apply your bronzing powder to all of those areas. The same concept applies, start at the outer parts of the face and work your way in. Have a light hand and just blend lightly onto your skin. For my nose and chin, I never apply extra product, I always just use what's left over on my brush from cheeks or forehead. And blend blend blend. You can see that this is less precise than contouring. Just be sure to blend cleanly in these strategic areas and not apply too much. You don't want your face to look muddy!

Hopefully this helps. Let me know if any of you have any other questions. Happy to walk through anything more specifically if you need. Now everyone can go out looking like a chiseled model or a bronzed goddess! Until next time.

p.s. I will talk about highlighting in the near future so you can combine those techniques with these to help enhance the entire look.


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  2. Thanks so much! And yes, I draw all the drawings myself. It entertains me :)
    I will definitely check that out.

  3. FINALLY! YOUR SHADOWING POST! I have been waiting for this for so long! Thank you thank you thank you!

  4. oops, it's called contouring. yikes! shows how much I know.. which is the reason why I need you!

    1. OMG, I love you. Shadowing?! haha. But, it's a good way to think of contouring as an illusion of shadows. You're on the right track. But, you have a beautiful bone structure. You don't need it.