Repeat After Me: Contouring is Not for the Real World

Real World Make Up

Repeat After Me: Contouring is Not for the Real World

Why facial contouring is not a good idea

I mean it! Stop it! Right now!

If I see one more ad for a contouring kit I am going to lose it.

Here it is in basic language; contouring is not for Real World Make Up!

Unless you are walking a red carpet, a runway or being photographed for the cover of a magazine there is absolutely no reason for you to be contouring your face.

Here's why:

1.  You won't be good at it. Yep; I said it.

Contouring is a full glam effect used by highly trained make up artists - like Scott Barnes (the man behind Kim Kardashian's make up ), the late, great  Kevyn Aucoin and Sam Fine (the go-to man for women of colour).

Scott Barnes uses this technique to create looks specifically needed for photography and filming. KK lives in front of the cameras and as such her make up needs are very different than regular Real World needs. Contouring for the camera takes years to learn and perfect. In fact, many professional make up artists don't even do it. There are specialized artists who do just contouring as a living - that is how good you have to be at it.

Kevyn Aucoin used the technique when he was literally turning one celebrity into another. Look at his book Making Faces to see what he was able to do with contouring. He was literally a one of kind artist - able to turn one person into another with only make up.

Sam Fine specializes in make up for Black women - where contouring becomes integral to capture light and allow make up to radiate without over application.  Again a singular talent who has perfected a very specialized technique.

None of us has the skill these artists have - and indeed make up artists don't have these skills. Contouring at home will never be done with the skill needed to actually make it look realistic.

2.  Light is everything.

Contouring is typically employed when lighting is highly controlled (films, photo shoots). In real life you may be able to create a great look in your bathroom but the moment you step out of that light the illusion is gone. What looks like a perfectly sculpted cheek bone in your bathroom light, can very quickly look like racing stripes in the office light.

You can't control the  lighting in the Real World. And without that control contouring just looks like a mask.

3.  Your face does not need to be "shaped".

Make up should enhance your features not contort them into something else. When I work I want the finished effect to elicit "wow, you look great!"  not "oh, I love your make up."

It's simple - you're already beautiful; make up is just for fun.

There are times to use contouring and here's the check list: if at any time you answer yes to any of these, then I say, by all means, employ contouring. If you don't answer yes to any of these please, please, please stop contouring now.

a) if you are a runway model

b) if you are being filmed for a television show or a commercial or movie

c) if you are a celebrity walking the red carpet

d) you can employ one of the six artists in the world who specialize in this effect (yes; there maybe 6) - professional make up artists don't even employ this technique.  

e) you are performing on stage

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