The word "contouring" usually sends shivers down my spine—it brings up '80s images of streaky brown blush and cheeks that looked sharp enough to cut glass. Even when I've watched makeup artists do it for the runway or a photo shoot, it's always a bit too intense for real life. So when I recently sat down with makeup artist Brigitte Reiss-Andersen to talk about simple makeup tricks, I was surprised when she brought up contouring. I'd always assumed it's 1) anything but simple, and 2) something only a professional can do well. Turns out I was wrong on both points. "Contouring isn't about only adding a darker color under your cheeks," says Brigitte. "You have to also use highlighter and blush color to create contrast. It's the play of light and shadow that creates depth." Here are Brigitte's three easy steps for defined cheeks.
1. Create a subtle shadow. "Contouring shades used to be dark brown or dark burgundy, which makes for a drag queen-y look," says Brigitte. "But now, the colors are closer to real skin tones and not so taupe-y, so the effect is more natural." She recommends a matte pressed powder, bronzer, or blush that's two shades darker—no more—than your skin tone. "Dust it on the same way you would your regular blush, but just under the cheekbones instead of directly on them," she says. "Use light swirls—don't wipe the brush up and down. That's what causes streaks."
GET THE LOOK WITH: L'Oréal Paris True Match Pressed Powder2. Highlight. Brigitte recommends a champagne-colored highlighter if you have fair skin, a golden hue on olive skin, and a coppery shade for dark skin. "Apply it just on the tops of your cheeks and up to your temples," she says. "Don’t carry the color any further down on your cheeks or it will be too much sheen." If a shimmery product seems a bit much for day, Brigitte says you can also use a matte powder—white for fair skin, beige or light brown for olive and dark skin—instead of highlighter for a more discreet effect.
GET THE LOOK WITH: Giorgio Armani Beauty Fluid Sheer in No. 2 Shimmering Beige (fair skin), No. 10 Golden Beige (medium skin), or No. 3 Golden Bronze (dark skin)
3. Add color. "A sheer warm rose or peach blush swirled on your cheekbones balances out the highlighter and contour and creates a realistic finish," says Brigitte.
GET THE LOOK WITH: Maybelline New York Expert Wear Blush in Gentle Rose or Apricot Flush