What Happened When I Semipermanently Contoured My Face

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
My name is Mi-Anne Chan, and I'm addicted to contouring. Okay, that's a bit dramatic, but I'm pretty obsessed — so much so that I have a dedicated drawer full of creams, powders, liquids, and sticks that sculpt my face. So when I discovered tantouring last summer, I knew I had to try it.
If you're unfamiliar with the colloquialism, let me give you a crash course: Tantouring is a contouring technique that involves using self-tanner to semipermanently bring dimension to the face. To put it simply, you would strategically apply self-tanner that is darker than your skin tone to the areas where you would normally contour the face: under the cheekbones, on the top of the forehead, down the sides of the nose, and under the jawline.
Advertisement
Once this is done, you let the self-tanner sit for two to three hours before gently washing it off. The ideal result is a very natural-looking sculpt that mimics the effects of bronzer or contouring powder. Oh, and did I mention it lasts a couple of days?
But tantouring is no easy feat, so when it came to doing this on myself, I called upon Marissa Carter, professional makeup artist and founder of self-tanning line Cocoa Brown, to walk me through the steps. Curious to see how it all panned out? Check out the following slides for a how-to on the process and my thoughts on the look.
1 of 10
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
First things first: Always start with clean, exfoliated skin. You'll be applying self-tanner to the majority of your face, so you don't want any product (or flaky skin) getting in the way or making the application uneven (dry skin soaks up color).

Here's what you'll need:
1. An oil-free, gradual self-tanning lotion (we used Cocoa Brown's Gentle Bronze)
2. A buffing foundation brush (like this one)
3. A self-tanning mousse that's three shades darker than your skin tone (we used Cocoa Brown's Dark Tan Mousse)
4. A flat contour brush (like this one)
2 of 10
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Much like a primer preps your skin for foundation, a light layer of gradual tanner provides an even base for the darker self-tanner you'll be applying over top. "[Use] a lotion or cream as opposed to a mousse [for this step]," says Carter, "because you'll be able to work the product into your skin and you'll get the most even coverage. You want the whole face to have a light, sun-kissed glow."

Apply a quarter-sized blob of your formula of choice (we used Cocoa Brown's Gentle Bronze) all over your face and blend it in with your foundation brush.

Cocoa Brown by Marissa Carter Gentle Bronze, $9.99, available at Ricky's NYC.
3 of 10
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Now you can start sculpting. Apply the self-tanning mousse to the areas where the sun would naturally hit your forehead and down to your temples using your flat foundation brush. (Using a clean plate or makeup blending tray is ideal for beginners; don't try to pump the formula directly onto your brush unless you're a pro!)

"I like to use a mousse because it's oil-free and it's very easy to work with," says Carter. "If you were to use a lotion, the product might start to build up on the skin."

Cocoa Brown by Marissa Carter 1 Hour Tan Dark Mousse, $13.99, available at Ricky's NYC.
Advertisement
4 of 10
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Then, suck your cheeks in and apply the mousse to the hollows of your face using your flat contouring brush. For the most natural effect, avoid extending the color past the center of your iris.
5 of 10
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Next is the tricky part: the nose. Turn your flat contour brush on its side and draw two lines on each side of the bridge of your nose. Then, pinch your brush and apply your mousse in a "U"-like shape just under the tip of your nose. This will create a shadow that will pull the bridge of your nose forward.
6 of 10
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Next, set your sights on your jawline. Dip your flat contouring brush into the mousse and trace your brush along your jawbone, starting at the back of your ear and ending at your chin. Then, repeat on the other side of your face.
7 of 10
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Once your full face of self-tanner is applied, it's time to blend this stuff into your skin. Carter suggests blending upward and outward toward your hairline with your flat foundation brush, as blending in a descending motion can drag the face down.

If you're having trouble blending it out, add a blob of moisturizer to your foundation brush and blend over your tan. "That'll give you the most even tan," says Carter. "The emollient [ingredients] in the moisturizer pick up the active ingredient in the tan and disperse it evenly."
8 of 10
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
After you're done blending, leave the self-tanner on your face for two to three hours before washing it off. This will allow the tan to develop. The result is a naturally sculpted and sun-kissed effect.
Advertisement
9 of 10
Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
Carter points out that tantouring isn't meant to replace your usual contouring routine. "It's a way of waking up in the morning and just looking a little bit more sculpted," she says.

I couldn't agree more. Tantouring provided me with a slightly chiseled effect that's isn't too over-the-top for everyday wear. I found that I needed to use less foundation and concealer because my skin already had some warmth to it. During the day, all I needed was a touch of concealer and some blush, and my face was done. At night, though, I did add a swipe of contouring powder to further enhance my cheekbones.

To improve the longevity of your tan, Carter suggests steering clear of any skin-care products containing acids or exfoliating particles. Face oils and cleansing oils are also a no-go, because they'll break down all your hard work.

Although most tanning products last for about a week on the skin, my tantour lasted just two or three days, which was fine, because by that time my face needed a good scrub. Although I wouldn't say that tantouring is a technique I'd do often, I can see this skill being really useful in the summer when I want to avoid wearing too much makeup. Plus, if you love makeup as much as I do, you'll have fun experimenting with a new way to apply it.
10 of 10
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!
Advertisement