Gone are the days when makeup meant some Nivea cream, some Ponds powder and a Lakme lipstick. Today, we have an overwhelming number of brands, products and techniques, and with it comes the strange, confusing, drag community terminology! This lingo is hurled at you by the beauty YouTubers, the beauty blogosphere and even at those parties where you know no-one. The hoity-toity girlfriends seem to be gushing about Kim K’s ‘baking‘. Nope, she ain’t baking no cupcakes my baby dolls! But if Kim K’s makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic is ‘baking‘ her face, you bet it’s legit.
Now, you may not have tried it yet, but you have heard of contouring. There also seems to be some vague memory of strobed supermodels on IG. But, ‘baking‘ or ‘cooking‘ are terms that seem like hobbies or chores, not words that you associate with makeup.
So, today let’s get this drag queen mumbo-jumbo settled once and for all. Here’s your quick guide on contouring, strobing and baking — what it is and how it’s done!
If you dream of chiselled cheekbones, a cinched nose and a structured jaw line like the supermodels of Cosmopolitan magazine, then contouring is your bff. Contouring is the push-up bra for your facial bones, sculpting your natural features, and defining the high points on your face.
There are several ways to contour, but the basic principles remain unchanged. Prep your face with a moisturizer, eye cream and primer. Now, you have two options.
Contour using foundation
- Use two shades of foundation to contour — Pick one shade that is lighter than your skin tone for the centre of your face (space between your brows, centre of the forehead, under the arch of the eyebrow, bridge of the nose, cheekbones, cupid’s bow and chin) and another that is slightly darker than your complexion for the perimeter of your face.
- Blend the two shades seamlessly with a damp beauty blender or a stippling brush. This will create a subtle illusion of depth and dimension to your facial features.
- Finish up with concealer, bronzer (optional) and blush.
- Go ahead and highlight the high points on your face using a highlighter (read below to understand strobing).
- Do your lip routine (sneaking in customary pouts in front of the mirror), choose your fragrance for the day, dress up, strap up the heel and ba-ham! You’ve got yourself sculpted supermodel vibes in 5 simple steps!
Contour using a cream or powder contour
- Use a foundation that is as close to your skin tone as possible. Once you are satisfied with the way it looks, move on to the next big step.
- Use a matt powder or cream contour that is cool toned but not too ashy (to avoid looking like a walking orange sunset) to mark the areas that you want to contour.
- These should be as follows — the hollows under your cheekbones, your temples, along your hairline, jaw line, the sides of your nose, the tip of your nose, and if you wish, the crease of your eyes.
- Be very precise and control the placement of the dark pigment as contour products are generally very concentrated, pigmented and smudgeable.
- Use a powder or cream highlight to naturally define the high points of your face (space between your brows, centre of the forehead, under the arch of the eyebrow, bridge of the nose, cheekbones, cupid’s bow and chin).
- Buff out the two products (contour and highlight) using a dense stippling brush/buffing brush or a beauty blender to achieve a sculpted airbrushed effect.
- Continue with points 3, 4, and 5 from the previous heading.
Phew! That was much more difficult to explain than it is to do. Watch Lisa Eldridge or Kathleen Lights on You Tube transform flat faces into those of chiselled goddesses, and any lurking doubts shall be buried at sea.
When people started saying that strobing is the new contouring, I wanted to throw my hand at them. First, I’m supposed to master this weird face painting technique then I’m told ‘forget everything you learnt about contouring! It’s time to strobe!’ So I just rolled my eyes in disdain and googled ‘strobing’!
Strobing is just a fun word for highlighting, just one of those things that drag queens say to make you feel absolutely inadequate about your knowledge of beauty.
Using an excess of highlighter to achieve a dewy (not sweaty), shimmery, youthful glow or a lit from within finish is the basic idea behind strobing.
- Use a highlight that best complements your skin tone for a subtle sheen. The universal guide goes something like this :- fair skin — champagne tones; light to medium skin — pink champagne tones; olive skin — golden tones; deep skin — terracotta tones.
- Use a hydrating moisturizer to prep your face. If you decide to use a shimmery highlight, the rule of thumb is to use all other products (like foundation, bronzer, blush, contour) in a matt finish. This is the fine line between the frosted 90’s look and the naturally dewy, uber-chic millennial look.
- Use the highlight in only those spots that catch light (space between your brows, centre of the forehead, under the arch of the eyebrow, inner corner of the eyes, bridge of the nose, cheekbones, cupid’s bow and chin) and not all over your face. Going overboard may take you from a sorted mess to a greasy mess in just a few swipes. Go slow, apply with a light hand, always dusting off excess product and building intensity as you go along.
- If you have oily skin, skip the T-zone or any other greasy spots so you don’t enhance them. For girls fighting acne, keep a mile’s distance from shimmery highlights that may accentuate your spots. In such cases, I would suggest you contour using foundation (as mentioned above) or use a matt highlight.
Critical takeaway – To highlight, use your finger tips or a tapered fluffy brush. Use your stippling brush (with which you applied your foundation) to buff out and blend the contour-highlight-blush in order to avoid stark makeup lines.
Now that you are familiar with contouring and are trying to wrap your head around strobing, allow me to introduce you to the last member in the jury box — baking.
Baking simply refers to letting translucent powder sit on your face for 5-10 minutes, that allows the heat from your face to set your base foundation and concealer, and then dusting it off your face, leaving you with a creaseless, flawless canvas for applying the rest of your makeup.
- Hydrate your eye area with a rich eye cream to minimize the appearance of pores and fine lines, and to plump it up.
- Apply the first coat of concealer (this may be a skin-tone concealer or a colour corrector fluid) under your eyes and to cover any redness around your nose. Concealers (especially dewy ones) usually contain oils that tend to crease and seep into fine lines, if not set correctly with a powder. Blend the concealer and allow it to nest for a minute before the next coat.
- Next, apply the second coat of concealer, one that is lighter and brighter than the first to make your under eyes pop, to lock in the first formula of concealer and improve its lasting power. Cover and smooth out any imperfections (I don’t like the word but its apt for this context).
- Dust on translucent powder with a small fluffy brush over the entire patch of concealer to set the base makeup.
- Bake away. Dampen a beauty sponge in setting spray, dip into translucent powder and pack the loose powder generously over the concealer area. Sit tight for 5-10 minutes, looking like someone straight out of a circus.
- Using the same brush from step 4 and a pressed powder, swirl the brush over the baked powder and dust it away. Add more coverage and blend any harsh concealer lines.
- Boom, you’re baked!
For a classic demo, watch Heidi Hamoud bake her makeup and pull-off poreless, picture-perfect skin.
To be brutally honest, I rarely strobe when I do my makeup, discounting the inhibited swish of a subtle highlight on my cheekbones. I do contour the hollow of my cheekbones and my temples once in a while or just use some bronzer to add dimension to my features. I don’t really ever bake. Unless, I have bananas about to rot that need to go into a cupcake asap. Yeah.
There are a tonne of loose translucent powders or banana powders available in the market for you to try the art of baking. The Laura Mercier one (not available in India) is highly sought after by the blogger community (and Lisa Eldridge) but a great drugstore alternative is the Makeup Revolution Luxury Banana Powder (which I use to set my base and love deeply).
I hope this post has helped you feel more in touch with the overwhelming world of makeup and beauty. I understand that such topics are better demonstrated than read about, but I hope my post will help you feel less intimated by the ever-evolving space of beauty.
Until next week, XOXO