In the two decades since I started giving a what about my appearance (beyond deciding which Catstreet Boys shirt to rock on picture day), I’ve learned that style is what you make of it—or, in many cases, fake of it. Proof: I actually own booty-boosting infomercial panties and oversized circle contact lenses from South Korea.
Still, when I first learned of “contouring,” I was skeptical, especially with those weird stripey faces I saw all over YouTube.
That was in 2012, when Kim Kardashian (the kween of kontouring) first set the beauty blogs abuzz by posting an in-progress pre-blending pic of her face looking like a paint-by-number portrait.
More than 325,000 photos now exist with Instagram’s #contouring hashtag, and hundreds of products have followed. With the latest, supposedly goof-proof ones to hit the market, I finally got up the nerve to try it myself.
I’m testing new creamy contour kits and chubby sticks, which promise
a more natural-looking finish than cake-prone powders, as well as brushes designed specifically for blending and shading.
From left: Step-by-Step Contour Stick Trio (Highlight and Contour shown), $52, Smashbox. Shape & Shade Custom Contour Duo, $52, Stila. Brush IQ Mini Contour Kit (Foundation Sponge and Mini Foundation Blender Brush shown), $30, Tweezerman.
I diligently applied my splotches as per the best practices of Internet makeup gurus: dark brown lines across my cheeks (to make them pop), along the sides of my nose (to slim it down) and around my chin (to soften my jawline); white semicircles under my eyes and an upside-down triangle between them (to brighten my face, apparently). All said and done, I looked like I could be auditioning for The Lion King. After buffing the makeup into my skin with a thick brush, I came out of the bathroom to show my boyfriend.
“You look like Homer Simpson!” he laughed, referring to the five o’clock shadow I’d inadvertently created. Time to seek help. And who better to teach me the finer points of contouring than Kim’s actual makeup artist?
Rob Scheppy has been working with the Kardashian clan for years, gussying them up for red carpets, magazine covers and their various reality shows. I grilled the guru on a recent trip to New York, before he taught a full-on contouring class for Tweezerman. He was recently named the brand’s ambassador for Brush IQ, a line of makeup wands tipped with synthetic hair that promises to rival the feel of natural strands.
Don’t be Simba: “What you see on YouTube is not really how you do it,” says Scheppy, noting that separate layers of contour should be blended one by one—not scribbled all over the face and then mashed together.
There’s nothing you can’t fake: “You can literally take away someone’s double chin or, like, give a cheekbone implant with the right amount of paint.”
Find your match: When I asked how to prevent the bearded lady look, Scheppy determined that I was using a cream that was too dark for me. Stick to colours within a shade or two of your foundation. He also told me to start shaving. Ha.
Choose your tools: A fine line (say, from a pencil) is better for the sides of your nose, while a wide, rounded brush is perfect for diffusing darkness in the hollows of your cheeks. And a damp blending sponge is ideal for thick creams.
Don’t give up: I wish I could say Scheppy’s tips made my second attempt at contouring more natural looking, but, with a lighter shade, I’ve at least dodged the Simpson stubble. I’ll keep practising until I can contour myself a Kim Kardashian butt.