Hey there, Darlin’s!
I know, it’s been over a week since I was here – so brace yourself for another epic post. I wanted to do a good job on this portion of the series, in particular, because a lot of people are so afraid of the whole highlighting/contouring deal. Hell, even blush throws some of us for a loop! But I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be a huge, intimidating ordeal. I mean, I get it, don’t get me wrong! The issue I, personally, have historically had with highlight and contour products is they can tend to be ridiculously white/gold/PINK and glittery (in the case of highlighters), or too dark and/or orange (contouring products) for my pale, over-40 skin.
Let’s start with the whole highlighter issue; The LAST thing most of us Babes of a Certain Age want is a face full of high-beam, glittery, I-dipped-my-head-in-a-vat-of-My-Little-Pony-vomit, highlighter. And frankly, there are a LOT of those products out there. And there ain’t nuthin wrong with that, certainly. But, on more mature skin, all it’s going to do is emphasize texture (not tryna highlight my crow’s feet, thanks), make you look like you’re still trying to pass for a high school student, or about to head onstage in a strip joint. Not a look I’m into.
HOWEVER, salvation is at hand! Because a nice, subtle highlighter can make your skin look positively glowing, fresh, dewy, and yes – youthful. And luckily for us, such products exist. Not ALL highlighters on the market are geared towards the festival/Hustler model crowd. I have spent the past month or so researching, trying, and road testing several excellent, beautiful, and entirely grown-up highlighters & contour products – and have even found my own, personal Holy Grails!
But first, let’s talk formula and application. Good, subtle highlighters are neither glittery, chunky, heavily colored, nor super shiny. This is something you can pretty much gauge by eyeballing the product in-pan. For example, compare these two very different highlighters:
As you can probably tell, the Burberry Fresh Glow highlighters are much more subtle than the Amrezy one. It has a subtle wash of pigment, and nary a speck of glitter to be found. It just gives a pretty, totally believable glow to the skin – noticeable, yet subtle. You will not be getting a subtle look out of the first product; I find that something this gilt and blinding only makes every damn line on my face come into high-relief – emphasizing Every. Little. Pore. Uh, Bye, Felicia!
There is hope, however. There are several lovely, classy, and adult highlighters on the market – it’s just a question of degrees! Take the Filmstar Bronze & Glow duo, which comes in a choice light and deep shades, from Charlotte Tilbury. It also comes with a sculpting powder. It’s so soft and pretty, and your skin looks like something out of a high fashion mag:
And, my current favourite:
Natasha Denona specifically made her All Over Glow Powder and Face Glow Cream Shimmer to look as natural as possible – and on that score, it certainly delivers! Not an iota of glitter or metallic bits to be found in these babies, which I actually layered here to get a more intense effect. The colour of the Shade 01 in both products is a beautiful peachy champagne, which is perfectly suited to my NC 15 skin. And, they come in deep shades as well – there’s something for everyone.
So, now that we have the perfect highlighter, how TF do we apply it, you are asking me?!
That’s fairly elementary, once you get the concept; anywhere the light naturally hits, on the high points of the face. So, tops of the cheekbones, the bridge and tip of the nose, center of the forehead, and you can bring it in a c- shape from cheekbones to atop the brows. You can also place it under the brows, on top of the Cupid’s bow on the lips, centre of the chin, and inner corners of the eyes. You can do all of the above, or just keep it simple and do the cheekbones – it’s entirely up to you. In the above photo, I did the whole shebang. The concept is the same, whether you are applying cream or powder – for cream I use a Beauty Blender, and for powder, I use a small highlighting brush.
So…how about contouring? Well, whereas highlighter is applied to the high points of the face, contour products are applied to the hollows, and where shadow would naturally hit – such as the hollows of the cheeks just under the bones, the hollows of the temples, the eyelid crease, and also along the sides of the nose – but beware, if you have a thin nose like yours truly, you may want to skip this step, as it has a narrowing effect. Contouring is also great for minimizing facial features – I always swipe a bit under the tip of my nose in order to shorten it slightly – and, because I have a high forehead, I also contour there just along the hairline. I also emphasize my jawline by dusting a bit just under the bones, carrying it across to just beneath my chin.
As you can see, proper contouring with the correct products can really enhance one’s natural features, without looking like a drag queen. I emphasize the “correct products”, because – like with highlighter, it’s really only recently that I discovered contouring powders and creams that I feel work for my skin for every day wear, and not something I can only get away with in photos, after much mixing and blending. In the not-too-distant past, contouring products mainly came in quite dark, opaque, and often orangey form. But some companies are chilling out with the theatrical makeup theme and coming up with makeup that applies much more sheer, and offer lighter, cool toned shades that work on very pale and/or more mature skin.
There are several more modern takes on contour products which I found to be exceptional – the Charlote Tilbury palette I mentioned in the highlighter section, the Huda Beauty highlighter palettes, which come with one shade for contouring, the Tarte Cosmetics Tartelette Pro Glow palette, and (drama-laden pause) – my current absolute Holy Grail palette, Natasha Denona Sculpt & Glow, pictured above. This gorgeous palette is quite unique in several ways; first, it’s eggs-pensive AF. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s break it down, though. The palette is $90.
I shall wait here until your eyes roll back to the front of your skull…
BUT – you’re getting SIX huge pans in this puppy – which includes both the powder and cream Glow products I mentioned earlier. That breaks down to $15 per pan. So…yeah, the initial output is like ouch, Mama – but you do get a lot for your dime. And these are QUALITY. Trust me on this. I’ll be doing a full review on the palette in a day or two with swatches, but for now, you can see that the top row is creams, and the bottom is powders; a Japanese finishing powder, a contour, and a highlighter. Really, all this is missing is blush!
The reason I’m so crazy about this palette is the versatility, and buildable nature of the products. The key to doing a wearable, every day look is to have a light hand, using sheer creams or powders which are suited to your skin tone – preferably a cool toned contour, and subtle, soft toned highlighter containing a minimum of glitter-vomit. This palette is just the gold standard for excellent, user-friendly highlighter/contouring makeup – at least in my opinion! If I want, I can build this look up to a blinding, deer-in-the-headlights glow; or, I can use a light touch, and my cheeks just look lit from within, and dewy. Almost wet, really. I don’t know how she does it, with zero glitter – but the effect here is like moisture on flower petals. So freakin’ pretty! And the contours are not too warm – just the right coolness without being ashy – as well as sheer enough to look natural. If I want more drama, I just layer it on and bam, drag queen level high-drama.
And finally, we have blush. I love blush – and the key to a pretty, youthful flush on the cheeks is simple: Stay away from muddy, brown/grey undertones!
Not much is more aging than muddy undertones in a blush – much like nude lipstick without a healthy colour undertone, they can make you look washed out, tired, and corpse-like. Awesome for when I was a little punk chick with goth leanings back in the 80’s – not so much now. Other than that (aside from my usual harangue about staying away from glitter), pretty much anything goes! I mean, you don’t want to pile it on like Pennywise the Dancing Clown, but I pretty much wear any colour I feel like, provided it looks good with my outfit and the rest of my makeup. It’s especially important to apply a good healthy blush when doing a nude lip, as it prevents the face from looking like the hungover Undead. I do suggest concentrating your blush on the apples of the cheeks, which is where skin naturally flushes. Plus it gives a nice, youthful, uplifting effect.
If you’re doing the trifecta of contour, blush, and highlighter – just sort of think of it as neopolitan ice cream. Chocolate under the cheekbones, strawberry on the cheeks, and vanilla above the cheekbones. Simple! Peaches, pinks, and reds look most natural, but even an unusual shade like lilac will look natural as long as it has that pink undertone. I like to apply my blush to the center of my cheeks and radiating outward towards the hairline – using a big, round, fluffy brush so as to avoid the tire track effect. So 80’s, people.
Some of my favourite blushes are from Nars, Chanel, Natasha Denona, and Laura Mercier. I find they have the best formulas, which are smooth, pigmented, and not chalky or heavy. Whether you prefer cream, powder, or liquid – it all works, provided the formula isn’t too dry or glittery. Like I keep pounding into everyone’s skull, both can emphasize fine lines, dryness, and texture. Ees no good.
*looks at the time
Well, good grief – I’ve been at this for freakin’ hours, now! I think I’ve pretty much covered everything I wanted to cover, so I really hope this post was informative and useful! And please keep in mind, all this is just my opinion – these are the things I’ve found work best on Babes of a Certain Age to minimize aging and dullness, etc – they worked on others back when I was a young artist, and on me, now that I AM one myself. But ultimately, makeup is fun as well as beautifying, so you should do whatever the hell you want! Screw the rules.
Next up in the series is lips – and at some point in the near future, I’ll do a proper review for the Natasha Denona Sculpt & Glow palette. Until then, stay pretty, people!
XO – Monday