Expert Makeup Tips from Tana D’Amico: Contouring and Highlighting

When it comes to makeup, contouring and highlighting are king and queen! Knowing how to contour and highlight is the KEY to helping you look your best. As we age, makeup should no longer be about the latest trends, but knowing how and where to place your makeup correctly. In this video, I show you how to sculpt and enhance your bone structure – and in conjunction with this, know which features to play up  and which features to play down in order to look your best. Trickery of the eye, if you will.

When applying makeup, begin with this theory in mind, light (colours) will bring features forward and dark (colours) will make them recede. Let me give you a quick example: if someone has small, thin lips, and they wear a dark – let’s say burgundy – lipstick, what will that do for their lips? It will make them look smaller and draw attention to them. If you want those same lips to appear larger, you would use a lighter lip colour to bring them forth, look larger and keep the emphasis off the fact that they are small. No one will really notice what size they are.

If you happen to be someone with small lips, you might want to play up your eyes instead. This is, again, using makeup to fool the eye.

Another example. If you have small eyes that are closely set, do you think an all-over dark eye with dark liner inside the water line would be a good idea? Well, no. If you were to use the dark colour all over the eyes, including near the tear ducts, and line them with a dark liner inside the eye, they would then appear deeper, smaller and closer set.

What to do instead? If you’d still like a dramatic eye, compensate for the fact they are small by not lining the inner rim with a dark pencil, but instead make it appear more open by using a white or cream pencil. Then, as opposed to making the entire lid dark, start with the points nearest to the nose by your tear ducts (the inside corners) by using a very light coloured shadow for that third of the eye, and then for the last two-thirds, you can use darker colours. By keeping the first third light, the eyes will  appear bigger and further apart. Again, we’re fooling the eye. This is the essence of contouring. Use your mirror, your eyes and your instincts to guide you to do your own makeup in a manner that makes you look better.

We are not just applying makeup for the sake of fun anymore! We can use it to transform ourselves without surgery, much like Marilyn Monroe did. Her makeup was the driving force in the road to becoming Marilyn – without it, she was simply Norma Jean. She utilized it to become her best self, and we can too. Not that I think we should all start drawing on dark moles and wearing false lashes daily (unless you really want to!), but you get my point.

Types of contour for highlighting and sculpting

There are two ways to go. You can use powders or creams – or both. Both is what I tend to do.

Personally, I love to use cream highlighters to highlight the tops of the cheek bones as well as the inner corners of the eyes by the tear ducts (top and bottom), on the cupid’s bow (just under your lip in that little divot) and down the bridge of the nose — think JLo! NARS makes wonderful cream sticks called The Multiple in a variety of beautiful colours that can be used for highlighting as well as blush. Another favourite are the MAC Cream Colour Bases. (The Pearl – for highlighting – is my FAV!)

For highlighting on Caucasian skin, you will need a soft white, beige-y cream or Champagne colour (anything with too much more colour would be considered a blush) with the tiniest amount of sheen. If you see anything with a larger, obvious sparkle, run the other way! While it may look pretty in its packaging, any sparkle that is too large will settle into lines and bring attention to them. This is a definite don’t. If you are highlighting darker skin, go for a slightly deeper colour with more pigment in a soft gold or bronze tone – beautiful!

Normally, I highlight with creams and contour with powders, but this is all interchangeable as long as you have the correct texture, colour and remember to blend, blend, blend! What texture do we not want? Anything with too large or visible shimmer or sparkle. A fine shimmer or sheen is good. Just be sure to test the product on your hand before you buy it and look at it in good lighting. Is it emphasizing the lines on your hands and making them look dry? Or is it glowing and softening them? The latter is what we want.

In my business (and particularly for photography), for true contouring we look for something brown with a grey-purple undertone. Never anything with a brown-red or orange-red undertone (unless you have dark skin, in which case a brown with a bit of orange works well). Anything too red will look fake and sit on top of your skin, instead of blending in with it to mimic a real shadow.

For real life, when I contour myself or clients, I use a matt bronzer – and I suggest this for you as well. (Again, making sure the product doesn’t have a lot of red or orange.) My favourites are ones are by Clarins, Dior and Chanel; their colours are correct and they are generally matt (Chanel’s has just a touch of shimmer). Then if I want to add some shimmer, I go over just the areas of the cheeks themselves with a slightly more shimmery bronze for a glow. I LOVE the Cargo shimmer bronzers because the shimmer is very user-friendly!

Now, repeat this out loud: LIGHT brings OUT, and DARK RECEDES. Say it again! Now write it down 10 times! It can make all the difference. Before you run off to see your friendly plastic surgeon, see what you can do for yourself to create depth, sculpt your face and trick the eye. Marilyn sang “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” but she also knew makeup was, too!

Best, Tana