Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Do I Need This? Highlighting and Contouring (plus highlighter comparison photos and review)

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.



Here is the latest installment of "Do I Need This?", a series about new and trendy beauty products (or just those that might be unfamiliar and baffling to both of us). I'll offer my experience and opinion about whether or not I think the product under consideration is worth shelling out for. Obviously, you don't need ANY beauty products, so the answer is always going to be no, a little bit. But is it going to change your life (or face)? Is it going to make things easier? Are you going to notice any difference at all if you use it? That's what I'm getting at. You may disagree with my verdict, because we all have different bodies/faces/brains/desires, but I'll try to give you a starting point at least.

Short answer: No, but if you want to play around with it, you probably already have something you can use.

What is it?
Contouring is a technique of altering the shape and, well, contours of your face by faking or intensifying highlights and shadows in certain areas. There are two basic methods for contouring that I've come across. Let's call the first one the Kim Kardashian method. You've seen these photos, right? With this technique, you use a lighter and a darker base (foundation, etc.) to create highlights and shadows. In this post, however, I'm going to focus on the second method: Here you apply your makeup as usual, and then add additional highlighter and contouring products to create highlights and shadows on top of it. These products are usually a shimmery, pale highlighter and a matte powder darker that is than your natural skin color for contouring.

This is not a contouring tutorial. There are many, many options out there, if that's what you're looking for. Check out my Pinterest board where I have pinned approximately 1 billion contouring guides. Even if you don't plan on ever doing this, it's an interesting process to learn about. You'll realize quickly that pretty much every celebrity is doing this to their face. Seriously, watch whatever TV show you usually watch, and look for the shadow makeup in the hollows of the actresses' cheeks. They all have it, with the possible exception of Lena Dunham, but when you consider that everyone else on Girls is contoured like crazy, that's a deliberate choice for characterizing Hannah. Once you realize that none of these beautiful women actually have those faces, you should also realize that you could look like that if you wanted to. But I mean, who wants to go to that much effort every day? Some people, I guess. Not me, but I think it's a fun thing to play with from time to time.

If you look up tutorials, you'll find that most of them instruct you to do the same thing, in an effort to mimic the "ideal" face shape. I say fuck that. Not everyone needs or wants the same face. Experiment! You can pick a feature and either play it down or play it up. Maybe you want to make your cheekbones look higher and your face thinner. Go for it. Maybe you want to have fuller cheeks. DO IT. And isn't is weird how we're always supposed to try to look like we have the opposite of what we have naturally? NO ONE IS GOOD ENOUGH. That's the message. Once again, fuck it. Make your cute round cheeks rounder, or make your gaunt cheekbones gaunter. Whatever you want! You can enhance, transform, or camouflage, depending on your mood. Your face is just fine the way it is. This is just for fun.

Okay, I'll stop preaching. I'm not going to really review different products for contouring/shading. I'd recommend a powder that is a few shades darker than your natural skin tone and absolutely matte. You don't want any shimmer or sparkle, because you are trying to create shadows, and if you attract light with something shiny, that defeats the purpose. I use Wet N Wild Color Icon Bronzer in Princess (which may be discontinued, but you can still get it on Amazon), but you could also use a face powder that is too dark for you. Watch out with bronzers, because they are frequently sparkly and also sometimes really orange. Something orangey might suit your skin, but I think as a general rule it's better to look for a brown. Something more grayish might work well for you too. There are creamy contouring products as well, but I personally think they are a little harder to blend. So that's that. There's not much else to say.

I do, however, have opinions about highlighter. I use highlighter much more often than I use deeper shades for contouring. Sometimes when I put on foundation-type makeup, I feel like I lose my facial features, since it's meant to even everything out. Everything just becomes flat. I have pretty blah pasty skin, so it's easy to get washed out. So then I like to highlight in some areas to bring things back, especially the bridge of my nose and my cheeks.

There are three mains types of highlighter: powder, cream/stick, and liquid. I prefer liquid, but I have less experience with the other two formats. According to this poll by Temptalia, most people like powders . . . so I guess I should check that out some more. The advantage of powder is that liquid highlight can settle into pores and lines and . . . highlight them. Not the idea. Powder is supposed to avoid that, for the most part. I know that the baked bronzers from Hard Candy are a favorite option for a cheaper powder highlighter. I've swatched one of these below, though it's a little too warm for me. It might work in the summer - we'll see!

My favorite liquid highlighter, of the ones I've tried, is Benefit High Beam. It is pale (not pinkish once applied to the skin) and reflects light without any sparkle. This makes it less obvious. I mean, the highlight is noticeable, but it looks more natural than something with glittery particles in it. On the downside, you only need to use a tiny bit of High Beam, and the package is pretty big. That doesn't sound like a bad thing, I know, but I've been using a mini for about a year, and it's starting to get thick and goopy. It still works, but it's on its way out. When it runs out, I will probably just start using Boots No. 7 High Lights Illuminating Lotion, also swatched below. It's very, very close and costs half as much. If I do replace the High Beam, I'll likely just get another mini. Better than spending $26 on a big one, and having half of it go to waste.

Anyway, if you do decide to play around with highlighting, you likely don't need to buy a special product to do it. Chances are, if you own a bit of makeup, you already have something that will work. You just need it to be light, sheer, and shimmery. I do in fact own a lot of light, shimmery powders - i.e. eyeshadows. Why the fuck wouldn't they work? e.l.f. Mineral Eyeshadow in Elegant works quite well, for example. Another option that I really like, if you want a multipurpose product and something more on the champagne side than the pale pink, is Maybelline Color Tattoo in Barely Branded (also swatched below). There are a million other things you could try. Test some things out - let me know what works and what doesn't!

Now on to the comparison swatches. First up are the liquids:

Liquid highlighters (natural light): Benefit High Beam, Boots No.7 High Lights Illuminating Liquid, e.l.f. Shimmering Facial Whip in Camilia
Liquid highlighters (with flash): Benefit High Beam, Boots No.7 High Lights Illuminating Liquid, e.l.f. Shimmering Facial Whip in Camilia
From left to right above (heavy swatch on left, blended out on right):
  • Benefit High Beam ($26): my favorite (see above).
  • Boots No. 7 High Lights Illuminating Liquid ($13): The closest dupe for High Beam that I own. Very close in color, shimmer, and consistency. The downside of this is that it comes in a pump container, which keeps it from drying out or getting contaminated, true, but you do waste some product, because you have to dispense a full pump on to the back of your hand or something and apply it from there. (ETA: Discontinued!)
  • e.l.f. Shimmering Facial Whip in Camilla ($1): This works as a highlighter, though it's a little more pink and the shimmer is silvery, so it's not ideal. You can also see the sparkle slightly more than in the two previous examples. This same product in Lilac Petal, however, is supposed to be a dupe for High Beam. It does have a tendency to separate (pigment from shimmer - see tube photo at the top of the post), so you should shake it well before using it.
Now the powders:
Powders for highlighting (natural light): Hard Candy Baked Bronzer,
 e.l.f. Mineral Eye Shadow.
Powders for highlighting (with flash): Hard Candy Baked Bronzer,
 e.l.f. Mineral Eye Shadow.
From left to right above (heavy swatch on left, blended out on right):
  • Hard Candy So Baked Bronzer ($9): I got mine in a gift set, and so the exact shade isn't labeled. They all look pretty light though. I'd choose the palest option you can find. This one is a little too dark for me to use for highlighting, personally, but my skin is so pale that often the lightest shade of foundation/concealer offered in a given line is too dark for me. If you have medium-dark skin, this would make a great, subtle highlighter.
  • e.l.f. Mineral Eye Shadow in Elegant ($3): This is a good option, because the shimmer blends subtly, and the shade is a nice, pale champagne. Any light, shimmery eyeshadow could work similarly, though, so long as it isn't powdery/chalky or glittery.
Finally, my lone cream option:
Cream for highlighting (natural light): Maybelline Color Tattoo Eyeshadow
in Barely Branded
Cream for highlighting (with flash): Maybelline Color Tattoo Eyeshadow
in Barely Branded
From left to right above (heavy swatch on left, blended out on right):
  • Maybelline Color Tattoo Eyeshadow in Barely Branded ($7): This is another of my favorites. It's a little more on the soft and subtle side than the liquids, but it does a nice job. It's easy to blend and doesn't have big, gritty sparkle in it. If you can't find this shade, there is another one called Barely Beige, which is almost identical.
To sum up: Contouring and highlighting can be fun, but you probably don't need to buy anything new to do it. If you do, but you're not sure how much you're going to get into it, I'd recommend starting with the e.l.f. Shimmering Facial Whip (in Lilac Petal), the e.l.f. Mineral Eyeshadow, and/or the Maybelline Color Tattoo Eyeshadow. They are all cheap and multipurpose. If you want to try a liquid highlighter, the Boots No. 7 option is nearly the same as the Benefit one for half the price.

Do you contour and highlight? What are your favorite products to use?

If not, do you think you ever will? Why or why not?

12 comments:

  1. I don't contour because I find it just makes my face look really dirty. I cannot figure it out. I have a really round face and chubby cheeks and no amount of makeup will disguise that so I just use highlighter, like, LOOK AT MY CHUBBY CHEEKS I GLOW LIKE AN ANGEL.

    My faves are Benefit High Beam & ELF Lilac Petal, but I'm transitioning into gold highlighters for summer and I love the lightest Wet n Wild bronze (which is not really bronzing at all but so good as a highlighter) and ELF Giddy Gold.

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    Replies
    1. I love round cheeks. That sounds nice! I wonder if one of the grayish things I linked above would work better for you for contouring. But then, I think contouring is some high-level frivolity, for the most part. It's something to do if you have a ton of time and you want to go crazy. It's not like you're missing out on anything without it.

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    2. I had a friend tell me once something alone the lines of "makeup isn't photoshop" there's only so much disguising you can do before you just have to own your own natural appearance ^_^. What helped me was a reminder contours are supposed to be shadows not magical erasers on my face. A good blended subtle realistic cheekbone contour, and flattering haircut that emphasizes the cheekbone should achieve what you want I think. I think chubby cheeks are adorable btw. I have them myself. The way I see it, it keeps me looking young.

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  2. My favorite highlighter is the PF happy booster powder in translucent. Very subtle, neutral in tone, rather sheer so it's hard to overdo. PF is pretty expensive for drugstore, but they are constantly having great sales so it's pretty easy to get one for cheap. Since I have oily/combo skin I tend to have a natural highlight anyway, so I only wear it for special occasions. I contour lightly almost every day with a powder product (current favorite is Revlon's photoready bronzer, but NYC sunny is cheaper and very good, Rimmel also has nice matte bronzers that are inexpensive), and I find it does make a difference. Makes my features look much more natural when I'm wearing foundation ...since I am quite fair I can look very flat with a medium to full coverage foundation.

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  3. I actually really like a cheapo, no name palette I got on ebay. It's almost identical to the 6 pan blush/contour palette from Coastal Scents, but with an extra bronzer-ish colour instead of one of the pinky blush colours and with a more coral colour than the blush in the bottom-right in the CS palette. Other than that, same quality, same packaging, half the price, works well for a multitude of skin tones. It is an all-matte palette, but I love it, as it's good for everyday. If I want a more "illuminated" highlight, I'll use a tiny bit of a white/nude loose pearlescent eyeshadow.

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  4. I do contour and highlight but i agree if not done right it makes your face look dirty. That has happen to me! Yikes! However it takes a crap load of time and really half way through I always regret it due to the time. However for highlighting I use YSL eclat touche pen that I got off a groupon for like $10 bucks! Cause I am cheap as all high hell as well and would never dish out 40 bucks for a small ass pen highlighter. I use Maybelline Fit foundation to contour with. However in powders I use Hourglass Ambient powder for highlighting which sadly cost a pretty penny. And Lorac duo bronzer for contouring that i bought for 10 bucks on sale in sephora. I mostly stick to these for liquids and powders.

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    Replies
    1. Those are all good options! There are just so many things that will work.

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  5. the picture above looks like shit. you didn't do it right. and any make up makes you look Like you have shit on your face. it always will. instead of hating on Kim how bout you get rich then you can talk shit. this society doesn't accept you unless you wear make up and Nice clothes. so since you have to wear make up do it right.

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    Replies
    1. People can be taught to hate and people can be taught to spell, but apparently it's one or the other.

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    2. It seems that way! I'm not sure where I'm "hating on Kim" here, so reading comprehension may be an issue as well.

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  6. The best dupe I have found for High Beam is NYX Liquid Illuminator in LI 01 Sunbeam. It is virtually identical. The e.l.f. Facial Whip in Lilac Petal is a close second as a dupe for High Beam, but it is just a bit thicker and pinker than I'd like. I love your blog. :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! That's good to know. Right now I have so many highlighters that I think I am set for a couple of years. Ha. But I will keep that in mind.

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