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the art of contouring

When it comes to highlighting and contouring, there's a fine (bronzer-caked) line between enhancing your best features and looking like something out of the Rocky Horrow Show.

Here's how to bring out your cheekbones, slim your nose and sculpt your face the right way.

GET THE PROPER PRODUCTS: You only need a matte shading cream or powder and a highlighter. Contouring with a cream makes it easy to pat on with your fingers and it has a natural finish that doesn't look like makeup, but if you're more comfortable with powder, a sheer formula will give a softer contour. While the formula you use is up to you, make sure you're consistent. That means using all cream or all powder products—from your foundation to your blush. Layering different textures can cause a caked-on effect, and it won't blend as seamlessly.

KNOWING YOUR SKIN TONE: Anything that stands out too much against your skin is going to look obvious. "If you're fair, use a contouring cream or powder that's one shade darker than your skin tone. In keeping with the idea of shadows, look for formulas with a grayish cast and stay away from anything too red or orange, like most bronzers.

BANISH THE GLITTER: Highlighter should be just about the colour of your skin, with just a hint of shine. Avoid anything with noticeable sparkles. If you have fair skin, a pearly shade works well, but those with medium and dark complexions need a warmer golden highlighter for a glow that looks natural, not pasty.

USE THE RIGHT TOOLS: Using creams? Use your fingers. They warm the makeup so it melts and blends more seamlessly into your skin. If you're working with powder, use a brush with natural bristles. The shape of the brush also allows you to control placement.

SHADING: The best way to create instant cheekbones is to suck in your cheeks to find the hollows. Then, working from the tops of the hollows inward, shade along and just beneath the sunken area, stopping about an inch from the corner of your mouth, then blend well with your finger or a sponge. To slim your nose, blend two lines of the shading cream or powder from the start of your brows down the sides of the bridge of your nose with a small shadow brush.

HIGHLIGHT STRATEGICALLY: Highlighting is essential to successful contouring because it brings the light back into your face, but there is a technique to not overdoing it. Professional makeup artists recommend you lightly coat the pointer, middle, and ring fingers with highlighter, and then rub them against the same fingers on the other hand. Tap your fingers up and down your cheekbones, and then dab whatever's left over on your brow bones, the center of your chin and just one tap on the tip of your nose.

KNOWING YOUR FACE SHAPE: Not all highlighting and contouring rules are universal. It's vitally important to keep your face shape in mind. If you have a round face, contouring under your cheekbones can make it appear smaller but if you have a narrow face, it could make it look even longer. So shade along the top of the forehead and a bit on the chin, to soften angular features and create a more rounded effect.

BLEND, BLEND, BLEND: Blending is most important. Top tip is to hold your brush lightly and toward the end of the handle for a more seamless finish.

BLUSHING BEAUTY: Opt for a creamy soft peach or pink if you have fair skin, or soft plum for darker complexions and blend a cream blush formula on the apples of your cheeks for a natural flush.

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