The first time I blended matte brown shadow into the hollows under my cheeks, it felt like I was cheating somehow. I didn’t know the technique had a name, I just liked how it looked: A more chiseled jaw, more defined cheekbones, more delicate collarbones. I hid this practice in shame for years until I realized it was A Thing.
Contouring manipulates the way light and shadows are read on the face for a sculpted effect. The French painter André Derain once said that the “substance” of painting is light, and when you really get down to it, makeup is just another way to paint.
Call it the Kardashian effect (how’s that for an art theory segue?) or chalk it up to the increasing proliferation of beauty vloggers. Either way, contouring is, like, crazy-hot right now (Sephora even has a Buying Guide with application tips).
I’m not here to teach you how to contour--that’s what YouTube is for. Let’s talk about the Anastasia Beverly Hills Pro Series Contour Palette.
The palette includes six shades: three browns for contouring, and two light mattes and a shimmer for highlighting. The powders are finely milled for excellent blendability (shhh, it’s a word). Truth bomb: The finer the powder, the more natural you can pretend your bone structure is.
The best thing about this palette, though, is that it does more than just contour. Here are my top three off-label ways to use it.
1. What’s that? Oh, it’s just an ENTIRE palette of nude eye shadows
The shimmery shade goes on the inner corners of the eye, but watch the shimmer on the brow bone unless your day includes pushing an exotic dancer down the stairs so you can take her place at the Stardust. Contour your crease with the same color you pick for bronzer to achieve can’t-put-your-finger-on-why pulled-togetherness (we’re flat-out making up words here now. It’s just what’s happening, go with it).
2. Sorry, did someone say Banana powder?
Yellow powder looks gorgeous as a highlighter on medium or dark skin tones, but it doesn’t always show up quite as much on the melanin-challenged among us. Don’t resign yourself to an unused pan just yet, my translucent sisters. Like the Ben Nye cult-favorite, all skin tones can use the palette's Banana shade to set concealer. Remember the color wheel? Yellow + blue or purple = no more under-eye circles. And, since the texture is so soft, it won’t settle into fine lines. A sheer wash of yellow can even out redness, too. You’re welcome.
3. Hello, new palette of BROW SHADES.
Finding the right brow product can be frustrating. So blend your own! Use your angled brow brush with the color that most closely matches your hair and blend with the lighter colors to warm or tone down as needed. If you like a more precise line, dip the brush in brow gel first.
Since these aren’t as pigmented as your average brow powder, they look more natural and are easier to work with. But if the pigment isn’t quite doing it for you, blend shadow primer up to your brows and apply on top of that--the primer will grab the pigment so you can use less. I’m a Smashbox Photo Finish Lid Primer gal, myself. You can keep your Primer Potion, beauty mags, I like the real sticky stuff.
I’m not the only Anastasia Contour Kit fanatic. The site I checked first was cleaned out, so I had to hunt for mine in the store like some pre-Internet pioneer woman. But lucky you: after months of sold-out stock, Anastasia just came out with a neato mix-and-match online feature if you’re not feeling the shades in the original. Beware, though, the colors don’t seem to translate very well onscreen.
Since contouring is “having a moment” (sorry), there are lots of other great picks on the market. Smashbox just brought back its long-retired (and sorely missed) 3-pan kit (+ angled brush!), NARS has a great Contour Blush duo, and Sephora Collection wins for most wallet-friendly with Microsmooth Baked Sculpting Powder. Your move, drugstore brands.
If cash is tight or you’re more fiscally responsible than I am (not difficult), try rummaging around for similar shades among your old eye shadows--you can even make your own contouring palette.
Okay, spill. What products do you multi-purpose? Which beauty rules do you break? I won’t tell...unless you want me to. WINK!