Beauty Test Drive: Contouring Is Wizardry (But It Only Sort Of Worked On Me)

How To Contour

Kim Kardashian’s face is a masterful work of art. Her cheekbones are always high and tight and the way the light plays off the ridges is mesmerizing. I realize that it is insane to want to look like a celebrity that has a retinue of makeup artists and humans to blot her every shiny spot away, but hey, we all have unattainable goals. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, and the brilliant minds of hundreds of YouTube beauty vloggers, Kim’s magic look can be mine. Supposedly.

Countless magazines and beauty bloggers insist in breathless tones that contouring is the new “trend” for fall, but drag queens and Kim Kardashian have been doing it for years. It’s a neat trick if done properly. Using nothing more than foundation and dark powder, you can supposedly narrow your nose, diminish your forehead and create cheekbones that could cut glass. Still, there are associations that instill fear. Magnolia Crawford, a contestant on this past season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” had contouring that made her nose look like a shark’s fin when viewed from straight on. Sometimes Kim’s face is so sculpted it’s hard to recall what she used to look like. Contouring was popular in the ’80s, when women wore suits with shoulder pads and Reeboks and nude hose to the office. It’s understandable that I approached this endeavor with trepidation.

I have a round face. It is as wide as it is tall. I don’t mind my round face. It is the reason that I sometimes still get carded at bars, even though I’m definitely over 21. It’s a nice face, it’s a great face, and I’m perfectly happy with it. But I wanted to know how to make it look different, if only for a brief while. After all, these tutorials I come across every day in my internet travails promise me that contouring is dead easy. I decided I’d be the judge of that. After losing myself down an Internet rabbit hole of fresh-faced beauty bloggers rubbing stick foundation on their unblemished skin, I stumbled upon the perfect tutorial. A beauty vlogger with killer eyebrows vamped in front of the camera, and in under 10 minutes, transformed herself into a goddess with cheekbones for days, a look that whispered, “I do porn, but I’m paid very, very well.”  I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Here is my journey.

The amount of makeup required to contour is kind of a lot. My usual makeup routine is pretty bare faced in general. Sometimes when I feel fancy, I smudge highlighter in the shape of the number three on the sides of my face because a beauty tutorial I read somewhere said it would give me the glow of a newborn. Aside from that, mascara, some eyeliner (if it’s not hot out) and a bold lip, I’m good to go. This time was going to be different. I bought the stuff that I’d need from Duane Reade, and bribed my sister to act as photographer with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. We were ready.

Contouring Is Wizardry, But It Only Sort Of Worked On Me

Conceptually, this is really simple. You put light foundation where you want it to be lighter and dark foundation in the hollows, and then blend the shit out of your face using a variety of brushes, sponges and the light but firm touch of someone who is confident in the fact that they will soon look like Kim Kardashian. For reference, below is my “bare” face:

Contouring Is Wizardry, But It Only Sort Of Worked On Me

As per the beauty vlogger’s insistent urging, I attempted to fill in my brows in a manner befitting of Mrs. West and I put on the amount of foundation I generally wore at dance concerts when I was in high school. Next was the part where I took destiny into my own hands. Following the advice of my intrepid guide, I drew in huge swaths of pale foundation on my face. My next directive was to find the “hollows” of my face, and gently brush stripes of foundation two to three shades darker than my actual face, to create shadows. It is at this point I realized that my cheekbones are an awful lot lower than I thought they were. Not an alarming thing, just something to know about my own face. I texted a picture to a friend, who told me I looked like an extra in “The Lion King”. He wasn’t incorrect:

Contouring Is Wizardry, But It Only Sort Of Worked On Me

There was blending. So much blending. Blending while I ate ice cream with my sister, and then when I thought I was done blending, she looked up from her phone and told me that there was a stripe on my left cheek that I should really take care of. So then there was more blending and then, finally, I finished. This is what I looked like:

Contouring Is Wizardry, But It Only Sort Of Worked On Me

Subtle. Enhanced? Something was certainly different, and maybe it was the tons of makeup that I had put on my face, but things looked both smoother and sharper. The girl in the video instructed me that I could stop right here for a “natural” look, but I wanted more. I wanted full Kardashian. I proceeded to brush a ton of bronzer into the “hollows” of my face and then once again with the blending. SO. MUCH. BLENDING. When I was done, my sister looked at me, then pulled up a picture of Kim from her phone. “You need to go big,” she told me. “Channel Kim. Do it up.”

Contouring Is Wizardry, But It Only Sort Of Worked On Me

I thought I was going to look ridiculous, but really, I don’t think I looked that much different, Yeah, there was the hint of something that seemed like a cheekbone, but when your face lacks any discernible angles to speak of, it’s going to be hard to achieve any sort of passable look. I wanted cheekbones that were hard like the edge of diamonds, drag queen cheekbones, or at least a hint of discernible bone structure that would make people whisper behind their hands about how envious they were. What I got was what happens when you attempt to make a sharp edge out of a mound of pizza dough — not much. The amount of time this took was daunting, and the three to four zits that blossomed under all that makeup are still lingering. Makeup’s transformative powers only go as far as what your physical face looks like, and that is why my dreams of making it big as a Kim Kardashian impersonator are dashed — but at least now I know where my cheekbones are.

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