Contouring: An Observation

This is a legacy post that has been given a facelift! Content has been edited for clarity and readability, but opinions are the same. Recent additions are noted in-line. Enjoy!

If I had to name a single beauty trend for 2015, I’d say it was contouring. (2018 Update: Agree with this assessment of the time. In 2018, people are still contouring a good bit, but it seems like the frothing-at-the-mouth quality has since transitioned to blinding, occasionally holo, highlight.)

Granted, people have been using darker-than-their-skin products to contour and enhance features – cheekbones, jaw lines, what-have-you for ages. I think the rise to prominence in the past few years is thanks to the artistry routinely done on a certain famous-for-nothing-really celebrity who I won’t bother naming (not Voldemort, I’ll say that). If you’ve seen her without her makeup, the difference is stark. So contouring has been trendy for a while, but the market for products intended for it exploded this year.

Most notable brands came out with something dedicated to it this year (unless they already had it). Cream sticks? Palettes? Special brushes? Name a brand and I can name you a product.

Here’s an observation about a lot of the products coming out, though, for you:

coverfx_contourCoverFX – Contour Kit

They’re warm-toned – like bronzers. CoverFX has several kits for different skin tones – but the pans are all quite warm.

toofaced_contourToo Faced – Cocoa Contour

Now, granted, many people do use bronzers as contour because they already own a bronzer – and that’s fine. But if you’re releasing a new product intended for this specific thing, then it should be formulated to do that thing well. Too Faced is riding their chocolate/cocoa wave still (2018: Still.), but Medium Cocoa and Dark Cocoa are warm like Chocolate Soleil is.

mufe_sculptMUFE Pro Sculpting Duo – Contouring Compact

(2018: This has been discontinued.) The purpose of contouring is not to make you appear sunkissed but many of the cosmetics companies are releasing warm, orange-toned products. Contouring is intended to cast shadow to emphasize certain features. This MUFE duo has a pretty highlight but that sculpting powder (I’ve swatched it in real life) is orange.

Smashbox Contouring Stick TrioSmashbox Step-by Step Contour Stick Trio

Really, it doesn’t make sense to me – but consumers are eating it up, even though warm, orange-toned contours are flattering on very few.

kvd_shadelightKat von D – Shade Light Contour Palette

People raved about the Kat von D Shade Light highlight-and-contouring palette – it is pretty warm. This was used on me during a VIB makeover at Sephora; although the quality of the powders is up there, they just need to be a bit more neutral to be flattering to a wider group of people.

The Bottom Line

Shadow is inherently cool-toned. Not everyone should slap on cool brown powder, but neutral would be good. Warm, orange-toned browns are simply not the ideal colors to create depth in the cheekbones, along the hair and jawline.

I’m just surprised that these warm tones are being commonly marketed (2018: Same.) for contouring because they really make no sense to me – true neutrals would be a far better choice. Evidently consumers don’t care because they’re buying them, but it would at least be nice to see more variety.

4 thoughts on “Contouring: An Observation”

  1. I was thinking along the same lines – something cooler, like taupe or even grey-ish would work much better. After all you are trying to imitate shadows, and those usually look grey, not brown.
    Ironically enough, earlier today I was trying to explain to a coworker why I would not discuss celebrity-that-should-not-be-named, unless it’s work-related. Which was a possibility. Thankfully that turned out not to be the case. Not sure if I managed to get my point across though.

    • Exactly. For a while I thought there was some secret that I was missing out on – nope. Just poorly-thought-out products.

      And indeed. No need to give any more attention than already is given. Even many people who aren’t fans don’t understand that by typing her name, even in a negative fashion, you’re helping her stay culturally relevant… ergh.

      • It’s just so odd that ALL of them seem to think that warm-toned contouring products are good idea. Surely someone should know better. Warm tones kind of work for me, but cool-toned ones look a bit more natural. I happily discovered that some indie companies like Pumpkin and Poppy, and Shiro Cosmetics do make cool-toned contouring powders.

  2. I’ve been contouring as long as I’ve been putting on foundation!! Which is like 3 years at least.

    I contour every single day, no skipping (it’s like brows for me) but not hardcore stuff, of course. I didn’t buy a single new fangled contour product because they are all rubbish – my weapon of choice has always been NYX Taupe. Perfect for paleish, neutral to warm people, can even work on cool people.

    This orange bronzing-Contour thing is incomprehensible!

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