It’s that time of year when most of our complexions could use a bit of a pick me up! Obviously skincare should be your first port of call always and at any time of year (read about what I’ve been loving/ using recently in my updated Winter skincare routine) but there’re still times (lots of times, ugh) when you need that extra bit of help in the form of makeup and quick/ easy technique to add dimension and health. That’s the bit I want to focus on as well as talking about my favourite cheek/ complexion products…how to achieve that quickly, easily and effectively but with a natural believable finish!
I get so many questions from people struggling to get this bit of their makeup routine right…contour, bronzing, highlight and blush…what to use, where to put it and how to not have it look like a face full of harsh stripes! Especially when social media bombards us with super extra, long winded and extreme versions of this kind of routine…I can absolutely see where all that confusion comes from!
There’s four simple basics to follow when choosing the products you want to use and the rest is easy…
✖️ Contour – matte texture, cooler in tone…sculpts, defines/ adds depth and corrects.
✖️ Bronze – matte/ low pearl texture, warmer in tone…warms complexion.
✖️ Highlight – high pearl reflective texture…adds glow to and projects (pushes forward) high points.
✖️ Blush – any shade or texture you fancy…adds a pop of healthy colour and melts the whole look together.
These can be all cream, all powder or a mixture of the two…all you need to remember is to apply any cream products before your powder ones as a general rule. This just makes sure everything sits as well as possible and prevents creams lifting up any powders and anything going patchy.
You want to start with base, eye makeup, brows…whatever else you want to wear done. Just remember to set your under eye with a little powder before doing anything else to prevent creasing and make it last. You might find that’s the only area you need to powder or you can go on with more setting powder anywhere else later.
Day to day, I always find it easier to go in with my contour first. As well as giving your face that initial shape, it also acts as a guide so you can see where to apply your other things! Let me know if you’d like me to do a more in depth ‘how to’ post focusing on contour/ correction etc by the way, I can absolutely do that…today though I’m going to keep it quick, simple and applicable to all, regardless of face shape/ concern! That’s another thing that confuses people no end from these extreme Insta contour routines…when it comes to more advanced contour, not everyone has the same face shape or concern or needs to contour/ highlight the same way and to the same degree/ with the same placement as everyone else!
In my opinion, everyone benefits from a little cheek definition so that’s the perfect place to start! I always go in with a cream contour stick first (even if I use a little powder later)…it’s easier to control and blend out if you want foolproof contour fast! I have a few in my regular rotation, but the one I reach for most days is the Fenty Beauty Match Stix in Amber. It’s the perfect natural cool tone contour for my fair skin, blends out really nicely and lasts all day. Fenty has such a wide shade selection too, so you’ll definitely find something for you even if Amber’s a bit light (I’d say it’s suitable for fair – medium skin tones, anyone medium plus would need a shade with more depth). Use a light hand (similar with anything, you can always add more) and starting at the top of your ear, draw a line approx 2 inches long (no further than the outer corner of your eye…this will stop you coming in to far and dragging your face down/ blending down too low) as if you were heading to the corner of your mouth. Carefully blend out with a brush or damp beauty sponge, keeping your movements small (so as to keep your contour where it should be and not blown out and out of control) and always in an upwards motion, up and out towards the side of your nose (so you don’t pull the contour down too far). You can apply a little bit more anywhere else you want to slim/ add definition…sides of nose, forehead, chin/ jawline. But cheeks are enough, especially day to day and when you’re going in with bronzer too anyway. If you want to cut your routine down further…skip this step and head straight for bronzer!
Speaking of, I like to warm up my face with bronzer next. There’s loads of really good bronzers out there but one of my favourite formulas of all time has to be from Anastasia Beverly Hills (I normally use the shade Rosewood)* …pretty much undetectable texture on the skin, really easy to blend, buildable and layers perfectly with minimal chance of going OTT! Using a medium sized fluffy brush (I actually hate a too big or too small bronzer brush…somewhere in the middle will mean you’re not going to get a harsher line or cover your whole cheek and lose control) and almost in a number 3 shape (outer perimeters so…forehead/ hairline, cheekbone and jaw) dust on a small amount of bronzer and build it up gradually until it’s given you the depth/ level of warmth you want. I like to use a tiny bit dusted over my nose too (which would normally catch the sun) for a natural sun kissed look. When applying your bronzer to your cheek area, try to keep it as high as your contour (so as again not to drag your face down) but you can blend it up a little higher and a bit further in towards your nose than the contour. If you do end up blending your bronzer down a little too far…use some setting powder on a damp beauty sponge as an eraser underneath your cheekbone, it works a treat to clean that up/ make your definition a bit sharper!
I like to highlight next and depending on the level of glow you want day to day, choose a highlighter accordingly/ any you like and that works well for your skin tone. I generally prefer something non glittery and buildable for everyday…I usually go for Melt Cosmetics Digital Dust Highlighter in Stargazer*, it’s so smooth, naturally glowy with zero glitter and buildable. Your highlight goes anywhere the light would hit/ the high points of the face, so the high points of your cheek bones, cupids bow, brow bone. You might want to add a bit on the bridge or tip of your nose. Just remember contour pushes things back and highlight brings things forward, so if your nose isn’t something you want to highlight or you have a oily nose (like me) you can always miss that bit out. I’ll often stick some on the inner corners of my eyes to make myself look more awake too.
I used to be mad in to blusher years ago in my very early MAC days (as I think we all were right??) but I went off it hard and it’s only been recently in the grand scheme of things (last 2 years ish now maybe?) that I’ve started using it again and fallen back in love with it. As well as giving your face a beautiful pop of health, it ties your whole look together as well as just melting all your complexion products together! Just a small amount on the outside of your cheek (not the apple of your cheek closer to your nose which can make your face rounder…maybe you prefer that look and if you do, go for it!) and placed between contour/ bronzer and highlighter makes so much difference and pulls everything together for a more natural finish. I’ve spoken about my love for the Melt blushers before , specifically the shade Honey Thief*…it’s just the most perfect peachy nude that would suit pretty much any skin tone. You could always use a blush with a bit of shimmer in it too if you wanted, it doesn’t have to be matte.
At this point you’re pretty much done, natural dimensional and glowy but if you feel like you want to add a bit more depth to your cheek contour (which I often do) do it now and use a powder contour. As well as not disturbing the rest of your powder products like a cream would, it’ll also act as a setting powder for your cream contour. Stick to the same 2 inches or so in the back of your cheek bone area (closet to your ear) and from your ear towards the corner of your mouth again. Just use a small amount and you’ll find with the rest of your bits on already, it’ll almost blend itself! At this point you can go in with a bit of setting powder anywhere else you might need it…you’ll probably find you need/ use way less if you do it this way around and it’ll stop your makeup looking too heavy or powdered this way too…more like skin! If you’ve gone a bit crazy with the blush and want to tone it down a bit, the setting powder will do that for you too!
You can switch up products, use what you have already…the main thing to think about is the texture/ finish of them. Matte for contour and anything else is up to you. If you also went off blusher at some stage or haven’t used one in a while, I urge you to grab one and introduce it in to your routine. Give it a go…skin dimension and a healthy glow (natural 3D cheeks) can be yours with minimal effort and no harsh, stripy contour! Let me know if you try it!