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To Contour or Not to Contour? Beauty Pros Debate

Balmain Spring 2017 Ready-to-Wear.

When it comes to beauty, everybody has their own opinion. Hitting the mainstream back in 2015, contour was previously mostly seen in a makeup artist’s arsenal, on the set of editorial shoots, or on stage. Fast-forward to today, and most brands worth their buck holds some sort of palette or kit to their name. But, as with every trend, is the spotlight on contour coming to an end? It appeared this may be so – until Kim Kardashian West dropped her line of contour and highlighting sticks, which sold out in under three hours. We ask three beauty pros their opinion: should we continue embracing contouring or retire our blending brushes forever?

For: Sonia and Fyza Ali

Makeup artists and beauty and lifestyle bloggers

Courtesy of Sonia and Fyza Ali

“When it comes to contouring, Sonia and I are both for it. We feel that it doesn’t matter what kind of face shape you have, or where you’re from, everyone needs contour. Usually, contour is a word people are scared of because they think it means brown lines around your face, when realistically, all it’s doing is bringing dimension to your face. When you apply foundation, or any sort of BB cream, your face instantly becomes flat, because all the dimension on your face have been removed, so you need to put back warmth and add contour to your face.

People need to know the right way to do it. There’s a certain technique to doing contour without it looking like contour, and the point is to make your skin look like it’s already chiseled naturally, so you get the Gisele Bündchen high cheek bones. The trick is to use a product that is very cool toned, so it mimics the natural shadows on your face – for instance, the sides of the nose and under your chin, because who wants a double chin? Nobody. So all we do, is get a little bit of contour cream or powder and cancel that out.

Contouring is used to cancel out and highlighting is used to brighten and bring out. It’s such an easy way to transform yourself in the slightest way, so you’re still looking like yourself. It’s also a nice way to make yourself look different for pictures and events, or you could even use it in your everyday routine by using a cream contour, and then for events use a powder contour, as that’s more intense. It depends on how well you know your face, and what you want to cancel out. You have to be very lightweight, use the right products, and know what you’re doing when contouring.

Watching tutorials doesn’t really help when it comes to understanding the technique – the process is more about looking at your face and thinking of what you don’t like – for example, how round your cheeks are. Contouring can help make your cheekbones look more chiseled and sucked in. Or you may not like how square your jaw is, so you can soften it by using cream contour. That’s what we like to do, we love to really enhance cheekbones and cover any flaws, just for a while, and it’s such a simple, easy thing to do. There is no need to be against contouring. I like to call it sculpting, it sounds less scary and people aren’t so against it. Some people may say they don’t want to be contoured and covered in lines, when in reality, everyone needs a little bit of contour.”

Against: Teresa Karpinska

Stylist and founder of Style Drifter Shop

Courtesy of Teresa Karpinska

“Contouring goes against everything I stand for when it comes to beauty. Don’t get me wrong, my Slavic nose, with its bulbous tip, hugely benefits from a few dark lines at its voluptuous part. When executed skillfully, contouring does a lot for a face. However, I am yet to see one of the avid Instagram contouring advocates looking as appealing in person. In photos, they are all chiseled goddesses. In real life, however, I am amazed by the highly visible layers of makeup. It looks off-putting in daylight. That seems to be the tricky thing with the trend – it’s become “a thing you do” so whether your face actually needs it or not, on come the layers.

I have a friend who is a successful and skilled editorial makeup artist, who is great at bringing out your best features. The first question she gets asked when approached by private clients is, “Do you contour?” Her response is, “Only if I see fit, or if any areas of your face require some mild sculpting.” Needless to say, she misses out on the job, because the current trend seems to be more is more. We all know that in the long run less is more, which has proven to have longevity over hyped-up fads. All the contouring fad has done, in my eyes, is create a market niche driving increased consumerism, which goes against the global trends of decluttering and living in a more minimalist fashion.

I also firmly believe that your skin should be in such a good condition that a full face of makeup is a choice, a bonus, a treat, an ode to a special occasion. As women, we need to (with age at least) actively take responsibility in nurturing our self-esteem. No one loves La Prairie sun powder, red lipsticks (I own 200, most of them from Chanel), and Smashbox shimmer sticks like me, but does not wearing them prevent me from leaving the house or holding my own in professional gatherings? Truly not.

I would hate for makeup to become what borders on an emotional prison, meaning it limits my day to day actions. I think with contouring in particular it’s easy to get accustomed to your ‘new, visually enhanced features’ and to detox from it becomes harder. I’m on team ‘enhance and compliment’ as opposed to alter and cover up.’ Besides, it’s comforting to know that if I leave my makeup behind and need to go to work, my colleagues won’t give me strange glances. I’ll still look like me. Less wide-eyed, with an inkling of visible pores and the above mentioned bulbous Slavic nose, but still unapologetically and confidently me.”

So whether you’re for or against, or find yourself still undecided, the contour controversy continues.

Take your opinion on the contouring movement to @VogueArabia on Twitter.

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