This Contouring Hack Will Save You So Much Money

As the unofficial contouring guru here at Refinery29, I've tried just about every type of face-sculpting product out there, from basic powders to long-lasting tantouring. But despite all the different formulas I've experimented with, the most natural-looking technique I've discovered isn't created with contouring products at all. Instead, it's done by sculpting with concealer and foundation.
This approach is a favorite among red carpet makeup artists for its subtle results and is done using two shades of face product. The first one should be two to three shades deeper than your natural skin tone (we used foundation), and the second one should be one to two shades lighter (we used concealer). Bonus? It's a great way to use face products that prove to be too light or dark once you get them home.
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How does it work? You apply the colors in a similar fashion to traditional shading, by swiping the product onto the contours and high points of your face. But once blended, the result is more natural-looking. Plus, since you're already using foundation or concealer there's no need to apply any other skin-perfecting products over or under your work, which also means you'll get a lighter result overall.
We admit that contouring in any fashion can be intimidating. Where do you put the deeper hues? How do you blend? To answer these questions and more, we tapped makeup artist Clarissa Luna to walk us through the basics on model Thayná Santos. Check out the step-by-step, ahead.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
First things first: Start with a clean, freshly moisturized face before reaching for any makeup. You can even swipe on a layer of primer if you want to improve the longevity of your base products.

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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Skin prepped? Great, let's begin! Carve out your cheekbones with your foundation (or any other face product you prefer) that is two to three shades deeper than your skin tone. Luna recommends using a stick foundation because you can apply it straight out of the bullet, but if you're using cream or concealer simply grab a synthetic brush to apply it.

To determine where to place your color, make a fish face in the mirror — the area that hollows out when you suck in your cheeks is where you'll swipe on the product. Draw or dot a line in the hollow starting at the center of your ear, going under the cheekbone and curving slightly upward until you reach the apple of your cheek.

"It's kind of like a backwards Nike swoosh," says Luna. "A little bit of a swoosh [will make] Thayná's cheekbones stand out, so you'll notice the apples of her cheeks."

However, curving your contour upward isn't a technique that's suited to every face shape, says Luna. If you already have prominent cheeks or a rounder face, stick with a straight line, which will add dimension to your face without emphasizing your cheeks.

Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Foundation Stick, $43, available at Sephora.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Now, it's time to move on to highlighting. Grab a concealer (or any other face product) that's one to two shades lighter than your skin tone, and draw a triangle from the inner corner of your eye down to the center of your cheek and then up along your cheekbone toward your hairline.

To create the most natural effect, Luna keeps the center of the triangle bare, as filling in the triangle would result in a heavy look. Finally, Luna warns against applying your concealer directly under your bottom eyelashes.

"When you add too much product next to the eyelashes, that's where most people crease," she says. "If it stays too creamy, your mascara will [break down, too]." Notice the concealer is not pressed right up against the lashline here.

NARS Creamy Radiant Concealer, $29, available at NARS.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Next up: the forehead. Starting at one side of your temple, trace the stick up and over the top of your forehead, stopping when you reach your other temple. Since you're placing the product where the sun would naturally hit your face, this will give your skin a sun-kissed glow. "Never put product on your hairline," says Luna. Instead, place the product just a touch below your roots so that you can blend it upward without the risk of getting chunks of it in your hair.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Once you've got your forehead contouring down, it's time to swipe on your lighter product. Using the same product you used under your eyes, draw a triangle smack-dab in the middle of your forehead.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Stop and admire your work — take a few selfies, you know the drill.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
To give your jaw a slightly more chiseled effect, use your darker product and apply it directly on your jawline, starting from under your ear and continuing to the center of your chin (repeat on the other side). Once you start blending, the downward motion will create a deeper shadow under your jawline, thus making it look sharper and more pronounced.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Then come a few more touches of highlighter. To enhance the look of your jawbone contouring, add a touch of your lighter product on the center of your chin. This will pull the chin forward, resulting in a sharper, more chiseled-looking jaw.

You can even highlight your Cupid's bow and philtrum (the vertical groove between the top of your lip and base of your nose). By applying a highlighting concealer over the top of your lips, and on the two lines that extend from your Cupid's bow to your nose, you will enhance the shape of your lips and make them appear fuller.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Here, Thayná is 75% done with her full-face sculpt. As always, you can pick and choose which areas you'd like to contour and highlight. You can most definitely stop here, but if you'd like to go a step further, read on to learn how to contour your nose.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Nose contouring is often the trickiest part, because it's such a small area of your face. You can use your deeper foundation to do this step, but Luna suggests using a concealer that has a doe-foot applicator because it has less margin for error.

With a concealer that's two shades darker than your skin tone, draw a U-shape starting from your eyebrow, down the side of your nose, under the tip, and back up to your other eyebrow. "The closer the lines are together, the slimmer your nose will look," Luna says. But be careful not to get any of the darker concealer on the bridge of your nose, as this will look unnatural — remember, contouring is all about creating shadows!
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
When it comes to nose highlighting, Luna says you can get away with using a very light concealer. Draw a line along the bridge of your nose using a concealer that is two to three shades lighter than your skin tone — this will create the illusion of a higher nose bridge.

Maybelline Fit Me Concealer, $6.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Now comes the fun part: blending.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Although you can obviously blend as you go, we like waiting until we have a full face of stripes and triangles before whipping out a damp sponge and going to town.

Luna used a damp Beautyblender to stamp the product into Thayná's skin. Be sure to start by blending the lighter concealer before your deeper foundation — if you alternate between the two you'll end up with dark foundation where you want to highlight, which would completely destroy all the hard work.

Bounce the sponge onto your skin, starting under your eyes and moving out toward your cheekbone. Then move on to your forehead, chin, and philtrum, buffing the product into your skin as you go.

Beautyblender The Original Beautyblender, $20, available at Sephora.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Finally, it's time to blend your contour shades. This takes a bit more precision, since you want to keep your faux shadows precisely placed.

Starting with your cheekbone contour, bounce your damp sponge in an upward motion. "You should be blending upward from your contour lines, because you want your cheekbones to look higher," says Luna. The color should blend seamlessly with your highlighting concealer to create a beautiful, airbrushed finish.

Now, blend upward and inward toward the center of your forehead. Be sure to blend the product into your hairline, so that you aren't left with any harsh lines.

Then set your sights on your jawline, blending the deeper foundation shade down your chin to create a shadow before moseying over to the pièce de résistance: your nose.

Using a smaller sponge (or, if you prefer, the tip of your existing sponge), blend down the center of your nose to diffuse the light concealer shade. Then, turn your sponge on its side and bounce it along the U-shaped contour lines you drew, being sure to buff and blend any obvious lines.

Beautyblender Beautyblender MicroMini, $18, available at Sephora.
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Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Once your face is fully blended, your base is done! Give yourself a pat on the back, because you just perfected your skin and sculpted your face in one fell swoop. Slap on a touch of blush, a little translucent powder for added makeup longevity, and a swipe of mascara — and you're good to go.

Sure, when broken down step by step, this routine may seem arduous. But we've found that with a little practice, we can contour our faces in 10 minutes flat! Plus, contouring with base products creates an incredibly natural, yet airbrushed finish to the skin. So much so, that at the end of our shoot day our model Thayná exclaimed, "I woke up like this!"
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