Contouring for Pale People: 4 products that won’t make you look like a dirty Oompa Loompa

My father likes to call my skin color “clear.”

It’s not inaccurate; my veins are permanent blue-and-purple vines along my entire body, and the last time someone asked me what SPF I used I was like, “What, you mean, for like going outside?!?!”

So when I wrote this article called 3 Ways to Use This Contour Palette (Besides Contouring) for xoVain (“this” being the Anastasia Pro Contour Palette), several fair-skinned commenters expressed concern about the warmth of the contouring shades (the article actually wasn’t about contouring per se, but never mind). It’s true that a lot of mainstream contour products tend toward a certain “Hollywood tan” aesthetic, which can look muddy and weird when applied to those of us who draw Casper comparisons on the reg.

I’m a FRIENDLY ghost!

I’m a FRIENDLY ghost!

So it got me thinking. Surely there are contouring products for pale people!

…right?

My search was a difficult one; as we ghosties know all too well, the sun-shunning aesthetic isn’t exactly “in.” But I polled my artist friends, scoured shelves, thumbed through magazines, and came up with four beautiful, unconventional alternatives to your average beachy bronze.

The Neutral Cream Contour

PaleContour1

Becca Lowlight Sculpting Perfector

I can’t get enough of the packaging for Becca’s Lowlight Sculpting Perfector. The cool metal face of this compact alone makes me want to make room in my makeup bag, but luckily what’s inside is just as great. The lightweight cream formula inside is a true neutral brown. The color goes on sheer and blends out into a very natural-looking contour that lasts. I found that the cream formula works best with a short-bristled contour brush like the one pictured below.

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The Rose Effect Blush/Bronzer

Benefit Dallas

Benefit Dallas

A makeup artist friend with even paler skin than mine confided that she uses Benefit’s Dallas blush for contouring. Described on the package as a “dusty sunset plum,” this is almost a bronzer/blush in one, but with a cool undertone. Worn as a contour product, the effect isn’t exactly natural—at least not how I applied it—but it’s truly stunning; subtle definition with a rosy flush. I think the ambiguity of the shade lends itself well to double-tasking, and I’ve found myself reaching for Dallas for easy one-and-done cheeks. Plus, the included brush is actually worth using (imagine that!).

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The Luxe Bronzer

Guerlain

Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder

Guerlain’s Terracotta Bronzing Powders are legendary: the colors are gorgeous, the formula has moisturizing ingredients, and the texture is almost nonexistent, it’s that silky. These are on the pricier side, but so highly pigmented that just a light dusting is enough—this little compact will last a long time. For my contour, I chose shade 08 Ebony for its rich plum undertones. Though this shade is meant to be a bronzer for someone with much darker skin, the cool undertone really lent itself well to a shadow effect, and the finely-milled texture blended like buttah, so I didn’t look like I wandered offstage during a high school Our Town production (application with a fan brush also helped).

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The Unicorn Cool-Toned Contour Palette 

It Cosmetics My Sculpted Face

It Cosmetics My Sculpted Face

It Cosmetics’ My Sculpted Face is a goshdarn unicorn. Every shade is wearable, and the highlighting shades are actually light enough to show up on my skin (I mean, WHAT)! The upper left shade is a matte white, and the upper right is a silvery-white shimmer (to be used sparingly, I found out the hard way). The two shades under that are perfect for a more natural, undetectable contour, and the last two are more my (dramatic) speed. I always go for the darkest shade, but as you can see, it blends quite easily.

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Make sure you’ve got a fan brush & a sturdy, short-ish bristled brush (I like Urban Decay’s Optical Blurring Brush) to blend tell-tale streaks out in tiny circles upward toward your ear.

Oh, and don’t forget to wear sunscreen, ya pale-ass jerk. Or just straight-up vampire it (hey, sleeping in works for me!).

WTF is That? Stippling Brush

Ever see a product sitting on a shelf and just said, “Seriously, WTF is that? Medieval torture device? Alien probe?” That’s where this new feature comes in. Here I will talk about beauty items that can sometimes seem daunting or confusing or just plain weird.

This post was inspired by an odd-looking brush that was included in my latest brush set purchase. Now, having worked in the beauty industry for seven years, it’s pretty embarrassing that I don’t know what one of these brush-set-staples is. Kind of like how I still don’t know how to tie my shoes without using bunny ears. Someone taught me the bunny ears and then just forgot to help me graduate into around-the-river-and-through-the-rocks or whatever the grownup version is. THANKS MOM.

Ahem.

I decided that if I didn’t know, there was a good chance some of you didn’t (let’s be real, I mean, I love you guys, but some of these questions are 13-year-old-Seventeen-Mag-reading-level) (KISSES!). I mean, I’ve always wondered, but it’s just one of those things, you know? Stuff slips through the cracks.

So I looked it up. According to Sephora, it’s “A stippling brush that perfectly applies powder, liquid, and cream foundations. Ensure a gorgeous, sheer finish and even, streak-free application with this stippling brush that complements any foundation. The white, taklon bristles apply product and the black, goat bristles blend for flawless results—an ideal duo of natural and synthetic fibers. The sleek, wood handle fits comfortably in the hand and allows for total control over your desired look.”

In other words, the white, sparser-bristled part picks up the product, and the black, denser-bristled part buffs and blends it into the skin. How have I lived without this sorcery for so long?

Says my dear friend Kim, a supertalented makeup artist and product hound like me, “I apply liquid foundation with it because it gives a flawless, airbrushed finished and you can build up the foundation where you want more coverage! Great for HD powders, blush, and cleaning up dropped shadow, too!” Damn, lady, I’m sold. She swears by MAC’s Duo Fibre Face Brush ($42, a mixture of goat and synthetic fibers). Kathryne, another makeup artist friend, added, “Also, it helps stretch foundation so you end up using less, and can make a full coverage foundation not look and feel so heavy. A big trick is after you put on your foundation with the brush, after you applied blush and/or bronzer, slightly go over the area with the used stippling brush, and it helps to make the blush and bronzer blend into the makeup to give a more natural look.”

Yeah, my friends are awesome. It’s okay, you’re in the inner circle now too, by virtue of this blog. You’re welcome.

And don’t worry! Bunny ears work just as well, and most of my shoes have zippers anyway.

Are you confused by the entire existence of a product? Weigh in in the comments, or head over to the And You Make Yourself Another Facebook page to join the discussion. 

The Fuck is on Your Face? Vol. V: At First Blush

Drew is a playwright and wordsmith and an all-around fantastic human being; you know, one of those friends you adore but never get to see because they’re across the country? He had a few words to say on the subject of blush:

In a nutshell: let’s try to avoid a Raggedy Ann situation here.

Blush is tough for me because it’s a type of makeup that doesn’t intend to really blend into the skin, or emphasize naturally-occurring lines. Although it can effectively mimic what your face might look like if you’ve just accidentally crotch-flashed a foreign dignitary, let’s not be mistaken here: it’s artifice. And because of this, and how prominently it changes one’s entire appearance, no makeup mistake raises my eyebrow more than an over-rouge-ing.

As far as more “experimental” tones of blush go, I say: huh? Let’s keep in mind what we’re trying to improve here: a woman’s face. There’s nothing more exquisite in the world than a woman’s face. If you held up a woman’s face next to an assortment of, like, colors, guess what I’d be most interested in? Yup, the goddamn woman’s face.

So for the love of all things sacred, please don’t go all Rothko on those cheeks.

Aw geez, Drew. Flattery will get you everywhere (as will a good art reference).

I’ll admit to not being a huge blush user. I’m not sure why, exactly. It’s a lovely concept; it certainly can look very fresh and pretty. I guess it’s just one of those things I forget to wear. I’m more of a bronzer person, and only then to warm up my complexion if I feel a bit pale or I got some unexpected sun on the rest of my body (high planes of the face where the sun would hit) or to contour (slightly darker bronzer applied with an angled brush in the hollows of the cheeks under cheekbones). My favorite bronzers are Hoola ($28) and Smashbox Halo ($39) — both matte and very natural. A couple of great bronzer/blush multitaskers are Smashbox Fusion Soft Lights ($30) and Too Faced’s Caribbean in a Compact in Snow Bunny ($29), though both have some shimmer to them. If I am using blush by itself, I’ll generally go with worldwide favorite Nars Orgasm ($28, and also available in a split compact with Laguna, a soft matte bronzer), or Benefit Dandelion ($28) for more of an ethereal, subtle glow. If you’re looking for a foolproof way to pick a color, try pinching your cheeks (old beauty magazine trick) and pick a color similar to your natural flush. And make sure you pay attention to the level of shimmer in the product — a little can bring out your cheekbones, but too much can make you look like a disco ball. Check yourself out in direct sunlight to be sure.

When it comes to choosing a brush, just remember: the denser the bristles, the more color they will pick up and deposit on your face. The lightest, most subtle brush you can use is the fan brush. Apples of the cheeks are a good place to start, but you can experiment with different planes of your face for different effects. When in doubt, just smile and apply along the part that bulges out most (heh).

As always, just make sure you blend the shit out of it (for the record, I do not want this written on my gravestone). 

We can’t all have Drew’s natural healthy flush (also pictured: me and my bronzer habit).

I hijacked this bio from MTV Voices, where Drew sometimes writes:

Drew Paryzer (a.k.a. Andrés, אַבְרָהָם, ட்ரூ, and Shnookums) is a playwright, journalist, couch-surfing traveler, pun-lover, reflective listener, and heat-seeking missile.

He thinks he might have discovered the meaning of life looking into a pond one time, but then he had to start paying rent. Wrested out of Hebrew day school in Miami at a young age, reared with saxophone and Super Mario in the Rocky Mountains, and raised in South India, South America, and at Sarah Lawrence College, Drew now lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. and has little idea what the hell is going on in this world until he starts writing about it. He once tried to climb up a palm tree and uprooted the thing. He’s mostly convinced that we’re all becoming cyborgs. Follow him on Twitter; you’ll be glad you did.