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This section discusses how to disguise minor imperfections with concealer as well as how to use highlighting and contouring techniques to make your facial features appear more balanced.

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to be subtle by applying product sparingly and blending well. If you don't, you will only succeed in drawing attention to that which you are trying to downplay.


Concealer is very similar to foundation, except that it is thicker and contains a higher colour pigment for greater coverage. It comes in a number of colours, formulations and textures to cover dark circles, blemishes, broken capillaries, age spots and other skin discolourations so that no one but you knows your complexion is less than perfect.

Because I have covered off on concealing those annoying dark circles under the eyes in a fair bit of detail in the separate section on Sensational Eyes, here I am going to focus more on the rest of the face.

If your "imperfection" is minor, you can use your regular foundation as your concealer. Apply your foundation as you normally would and then spot conceal with a bit more foundation before setting your entire face with powder. You can spot conceal using the edge of your sponge, but I personally prefer to use a Q-tip. Dab lightly to cover and don't be overly concerned with blending - since you're using your foundation colour unless you've gone overboard it won't be noticeable, particularly after setting with powder.

If you're dealing with two different skin colours as in the case of birthmarks or facial masking (this can be a problem for darker skinned women), use a lighter concealer to cover the darker areas, but make sure the colour is still the correct skin tone. Because the concealer is different than your foundation colour, apply the concealer first and then gently pat your foundation overtop, being careful not to smudge or smear your concealer.

For light skinned women, a green toned concealer will help offset red (as in the case of rosacea) and a yellow toned concealer will help offset blue (as in under eye circles). Unless the red is extremely pronounced, yellow based concealer will also cover the red sufficiently so that you don't need to purchase two different coloured concealers.

Darker skinned women should look for a concealer that is orange rather than yellow, and if your skin is deep ebony then a warm brown concealer will be more appropriate.


Types of Concealer

Concealers are available in the following formulations:

Solid stick concealer provides full coverage but it is not always easy to blend; it tends to be dry in formulation so that it adheres better and lasts longer. Sticks are generally used to cover blemishes and skin discolourations. But because they don't blend well, they are not always the best for under the eyes - poorly blended concealer will draw attention to your dark circles, thus making them look worse. If you're going to use stick concealer under your eyes, look for one that is creamy enough to blend properly around the eye area.

Pot concealer provides coverage similar to stick, but usually contains more moisturizing ingredients so is better for under the eyes. It is also available in drier, oil free formulas. Pot concealer is a popular choice for professional makeup artists because of the great coverage it provides.

Tube concealer is generally light and creamy in texture, and is good for mature skin as it tends not to collect in fine lines. Quite versatile, it provides great coverage, can be mixed with foundation or moisturizer for a more sheer application, and is great for under the eyes as it's quite easy to blend.

Wand concealer is the lightest in terms of texture, provides slightly more coverage than regular liquid foundation and is therefore great for evening out the skin tones. If you have the correct shade you can even apply it without foundation as it will blend easily into your bare skin. Those that dry to a powder finish better cling to the face, making them longer wearing. Wands are ideal for touch ups during the day.

Pencil concealer is drawn overtop of tiny imperfections such as broken capillaries and blemishes. If your colour match is exact, you won't need to blend.

Compact concealer is generally an oil free, longer wearing, drier texture that doesn't irritate break outs. It is best used to cover blemishes, age spots and hyperpigmentation (darker areas of the skin caused by excess melanin due to sun damage, inflammation, or other skin injuries).


Concealer Application Tips

  • Apply sparingly so that you don't call attention to that which you are trying to hide.
  • Yellow toned concealers cover most imperfections on light skin and orange based concealers are the best choice for darker skinned women. For really dark ebony, use a warm brown concealer.
  • Use the correct formulation for your needs. Drier powder formats cling best to the skin, but creamier formulas are better for blending under the eyes.
  • Wand or pencil concealers are ideal for carrying in your purse for emergency touch ups during the day. The pencils can also double as a lip liner.


Highlighting and Contouring

Think of highlighting and contouring as sculpting the face to create the illusion of a different shape. Highlighting works by applying a lighter colour to an area so that the eye is drawn to it, making the area appear more prominent. Contouring works by applying a darker colour to an area so that the eye is pushed away from it, making the area appear to recede. Putting the two together provides more depth and definition to your features.

Most of the time highlighting and contouring are used to make the face seem slimmer or a certain facial feature (i.e. a nose) appear smaller. The overall objective is to create symmetry, with all parts of the face proportionate to each other.

The process involves selecting a highlight colour one shade lighter and a contour colour one shade darker than your regular foundation colour. There should not be a dramatic colour difference between the highlight, foundation and contour colours or when you apply it the differences will be visible on your face.

It's important to remember that since what you are doing is creating an illusion, no one should be able to see what you've done or the illusion will be blown. So make sure the colours are very close and apply them sparingly, blending well. If you can see them on your face, you've overdone it. Keep in mind, too, that the product will be more or less visible under different lighting (i.e. natural light versus incandescent versus fluorescent).

Remember too that highlighting and contouring should be done with neutral shades that match your skin tone, and not with your blush. Using blush will make the product too visible on your skin and the last thing you want to be is striped! You want to be ready for a close up, not ready for the circus.

Although highlight and contour shades are available in cream or liquid, powder is the best to work with as you have better control of how much is being applied and powder is also easier to blend.


Highlighting and Contouring Application Steps

  1. Apply your regular foundation over your entire face in the usual manner.
  2. Visualize an oval around your face, where the width of the oval is the span of your eyes and the length extends from the top of your forehead to the bottom of your chin. (An oval shape is considered the most symmetrical for the human face and so that's why we highlight and contour to create an oval effect.)
  3. Within your oval, apply your highlight colour to the areas of the face which are more prominent - the centre of the forehead, down the centre of the nose, under the eyes/on top the cheekbones and on the tip of the chin. These areas will be what the eye focuses on first.
  4. Apply your contour colour outside your imaginary oval, which includes the temples, hairline and the outer edges of your cheeks. These areas will now recede so that your face appears to be narrower and more oval.


Highlighting and Contouring Application Tips

  • Be subtle and be cognizant that colours show up differently under different lighting conditions, so choose colours that are very close in shade and blend them well to avoid a striped look.
  • There is only so much you can do with highlighting and contouring techniques so be realistic about what you expect in terms of final result. You will not magically transform into a new person; only cosmetic surgery can radically alter the physical appearance of your face.
  • The principles of highlighting/contouring can also apply to individual facial features. For example, if you want to narrow your nose, apply highlighter down the centre and contour along the sides. If your jaw is too square, highlight the centre and contour the corners of your jaw line. If your forehead is too high, highlight the centre and contour around the entire hairline.
  • Particularly for an evening event, don't be afraid to highlight your chest and shoulders if you're wearing a sexy, low cut number.


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