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THIS Is Exactly How You Apply Bronzer, Blush, & Highlighter

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    Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.


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    Sometimes the basics can be the hardest to get right. Factor in myriad product options — in an almost-infinite number of shades and finishes — and you have a serious challenge for even the most seasoned beauty pro. But fret not: We’re here to help! We’re breaking down the beauty basics to make it easy to create a flawless, customized look of your own. Welcome to Beauty 101.

    Everyone wants to put their best face forward. However, with the rise of Instagram and Snapchat — and the filters that make skin look so smooth, radiant, and defined that it's nearly superhuman — the pressure seems to be mounting. For many, everyday beauty looks have become far more detailed, going well beyond just a little foundation and concealer used to even out skin tone.

    It's the era of contouring and highlighting — but given the speed at which these beauty trends have taken off, it's easy to feel a little left behind. With all the contour palettes, strobing products (or are we still calling it highlighting?), and blushes in every shade under the sun, it's easy to feel overwhelmed — especially if you’re unsure of how to use them.

    Never fear, because we're breaking down the basics of contour, bronzer, blush, and highlighter in the slides ahead. As always, you won't find strict rules ahead; instead these are simply pro tricks that work for us — and a great place to start your exploration of the subject. Remember: Even makeup artists develop their own techniques through trial and error, so these “rules” are more like tips and tricks to get your look going before you add your own unique take.

    Click through to get the scoop on sculpting a perfect visage.

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    Powder Blush

    Blush is one of those magical products that you can swipe on in a hurry to instantly brighten your complexion. Apply powder blush after all of your cream products have already set (like BB cream, foundation, and highlighter). Simply load some onto your blush brush, tap away any excess, smile, and sweep a small amount onto the apples of your cheeks. Alternatively, you can also press onto the cheeks with a makeup sponge if you really want to make your cheeks pop. Blend the color up, out, and along the tops of your cheekbones.

    Try: E.L.F. Studio Blush, $3, available at E.L.F. Cosmetics.


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    Cream Blush

    Creamy blush formulas are often found in pots or stick-form (sometimes called "multiples"). They can be applied with brushes, sponges, or if you’re in a hurry, your fingers, to give yourself a rosy glow on the go. Use as the last step when applying your cream formulas (like concealer or foundation) and before any powder. You can use a duo-fiber brush (those traditionally found with longer white hairs and shorter black ones) for a very light finish, or just use a small blush brush — either will work! Then just dab and blend.

    Tip: You can set cream blush with a light dusting of powder blush for serious staying power.

    Try: NYX Cosmetics Rouge Cream Blush, $6.9, available at Ulta Beauty.


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    Contouring Cream or Powder

    Contouring is trickier to master than blush, but once you get the basics down it can work wonders to subtly sculpt and chisel your facial features. The key is to apply lightly and build gradually.

    Pick up a pea-sized amount of contouring cream with your fingers, a sponge, or a contour brush; alternatively, if you're using contouring powder, load a light tap of it onto your brush. The goal is to strategically (and subtly!) blend the product into certain parts of the face to create shadows. Typically, these are hollow points, like under the cheekbones, on the temples, under the jawline, plus the areas on side of the nose and along the hairline.

    Blend up and out and keep blending until it looks seamless.

    Try: NYX Cosmetics Highlight & Contour Pro Palette, $25, available at NYX Cosmetics.


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    Bronzer is used to achieve a warm, sun-kissed glow and is applied to the areas of the face where the sun would naturally hit your skin (think the top of your forehead, nose, and cheeks).

    Similar to the process of contouring, you want to apply a small amount (tap off the excess before application) onto the areas where your skin tends to pick up sun, like the the cheeks, on the nose, and a touch on the chin — all using a fluffy face brush.

    For shimmery formulas, stick to the higher points of the face, similar to how you would apply highlighter — and blend well!

    One thing to note: While bronzers can double as contour powders (when they don’t contain shimmer), the latter is designed to mimic shadows on the face, meaning the colors tend to be cooler in tone. Bronzers also have warmer, orange or red undertones, which make them ideal for lending a “fresh from the beach” effect to the skin.

    Try: Rimmel Natural Bronzer, $5.79, available at Walgreens.


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    Like contouring, highlighting can help subtly enhance your facial features and provide a beautiful, radiant quality to the skin. It's important to understand: Where contour creates shadows, strobing does the opposite, bringing forward the area you highlight.

    Highlighting is a slightly easier task than contouring, though, as you can tap any formula that fits your needs onto the high points of the face (think: the tops of the cheekbones, on your brow bone, down the bridge of your nose, on the Cupid’s bow of your lip, on the inner corners of your eyes, and at the point of your chin). Then, using a face brush, makeup sponge, or your fingers, blend from the high points of the face out (you want your cheeks to look glowy, not frosty).

    Try: Topshop Glow Highlighter in Polish, $16, available at Topshop.