Soft Sculpting Is Here To Ease Your Contouring Woes

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Take a moment to remember what makeup was like in 2016 and 2017. You're most likely thinking full glam, lots of cut creases, and the heavy-handed, Kardashian-inspired strokes of contour that looked good on camera but far from that in real life. Fast forward to the present and we've shifted from full glam to dewy skin and more natural makeup looks (per From subtle trends like transparent eyeliner to Y2K-inspired liner and lip gloss combos, it's clear that simplified skincare — a.k.a. skinimalism — and the #cleangirlaesthetic are here to stay.

But what if you like giving your bone structure a little extra contrast? If you could never figure out how to get that Kardashian-style contour to blend right, it turns out there's a much easier way to add structure to your face while still looking natural and avoiding harsh lines. This makeup technique is called soft sculpting, as espoused by pro makeup artist and contour expert Mario Dedivanovic. In a tutorial on YouTube, he shows how to achieve the look with his Makeup By Mario Soft Sculpt™ makeup collection. All you need is blush, highlighter, and a complexion product that is two to three shades darker than your regular shade — whether you prefer foundation, bronzer, contour product, or concealer. Here's how to do it.

Prep your skin for that dewy finish

The 2016 way of applying contour in a straight line across the cheekbones made it pretty difficult to blend and often left stark makeup lines. But by using a complexion product, bronzer, or cream contour, you can create a softer, everyday contour while still adding enough definition to your features. Cream products are perfect for the soft contouring technique as they are easy to blend and, as Charlotte Tilbury says, help you achieve that dewy, natural look. 

To start a subtle face contour, hydrated skin equals a perfectly fresh finish. You always want to start off by applying a thin layer of moisturizer that's suited to your skin type. As St. Ives points out, moisturizing will create a smoother, canvas for seamless makeup application. Only then should you move on to your makeup base. For this look, your base could be a light layer of foundation or small dots of concealer to hide blemishes. Now you're ready to sculpt.

Contour upwards and outwards

Another thing we love about soft sculpting? You have a multitude of options to contour with. Begin by using a contour product that's a few shades darker than your skin tone, like the e.l.f Cosmetics Cream Contour Palette, a bronzer, or your favorite foundation. You can contour using either your fingers, a makeup sponge, or a soft contour brush. For brushes, we're fans of Real Techniques' Soft Sculpting Makeup Brush

Apply product where you want to add structure, such as along your jawline or under your cheekbones (via Charlotte Tilbury). In his Soft Sculpt™ makeup tutorial on YouTube, Mario Dedivanovic — a.k.a. Makeup by Mario — recommends blending your contour or concealer upwards and outwards to the temples. This will lift your face and create a subtle but snatched look. For the best sculpt, good blending is essential as this diffuses any hard lines in your makeup look (per L'Oréal Paris). You can also spray a hydrating or setting mist while blending to further diffuse the product for an even softer look.

Finish up with blush and highlighter

Next up is blush, which gives a healthy glow to the skin. Using a cream or liquid blush like the fan-favorite Rare Beauty Soft Pinch Liquid Blush on the apple of your cheeks will give your face that natural glow effect and even more definition, basically nailing everything you want from a barely-there makeup look. If you're going for a more sun-kissed look, also apply a light layer of blush across the bridge of your nose and blend away. Here's another quick reminder that blending is the name of the soft sculpting game. 

When you're done defining your features with bronzer or contour and accentuating them with blush, Max Factor recommends finishing the look with some highlighter, which is great for adding more of a natural glow. Clinique says to apply highlighter in small amounts on your cupid bow, brow bones, and cheekbones. Essentially, apply only on the parts of your face where you want light to bounce off. 

Full glam looks are great and appropriate for many occasions, but soft sculpting guarantees that youthful, summer glow that a face of heavy contour might not be able to achieve. And as celebrity makeup artist Tasha Reiko Brown tells Rose Inc, when it comes to soft sculpting, the less product, the better.