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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Swatched

Swatched

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!).

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Hangover Beauty 101

HangoverHERO

Don’t worry; nobody saw your table dance.

I tell ya. The older I get, the harder it is to bounce back from a night of debauchery. The morning after a few glasses of wine? I basically look like I’ve never heard of water.

The headaches I can handle, but dull, dehydrated skin? This aggression will not stand, man!

(Dramatic reenactment)

(Dramatic reenactment)

Though my spooning-with-Tostitos days have subsided (thank god), these are the Fancy Party months (read: open bar season). And this advice is timeless, yo. It’ll save your ass when you went a little too hard during Happy Hour and have to pretend like you don’t need to quietly vomit in your trashcan. Don’t be that guy.

You don’t have to follow every single step, but if you can slap a few of these products on your face in some semblance of order, you’re on your way to making yourself look human again.

Step 1: The reckoning

Alcohol seeps through pores as overnight, so you’re basically marinating in a pungent film of sweat and tequila. Yay!

Showering is non-negotiable, Margaritaville. No matter how complicated it sounds.

Oh, that's where that went.

Oh, that’s where that went.

Got enough time to wash and style your hair? Awesome! Do that!

If not, spray a generous amount of dry shampoo into your roots to absorb the sweat, oil, and dirty-hair smell. Spritz the rest with a texturizing spray (love Oribe Après Beach) and twist hair into two little buns while you go about the rest of your routine. The steam from the shower (that you are absolutely, definitely taking) will help set your waves.

Crack open those eye drops for bright, white eyeballs that say “What open bar?”

Crack open those eye drops for bright, white eyeballs that say “What open bar?”

Step 2: The purification

If only your wicked soul were this easily cleansed

If only your wicked soul were this easily cleansed

These Eyeko Mascara Off remover wipes stay super-moist to gently remove even the smokiest of eye makeup from wherever it has migrated. For the rest of your face, Skyn Iceland’s Arctic Facial Wash is amazing for stressed-out skin: it instantly calms redness (and the tingle makes me feel like I’m in a Dentyne Ice commercial).

Lush Ocean Salt Face and Body Scrub is a “cocktail” of lime, sea salt, and vodka–with coconut and avocado for moisture. Don’t worry; the scent is clean, fresh, and doesn’t smell like alcohol in the slightest.

Sorry I said “alcohol.”

Step 3: Skin rehab

The big guns

The big guns

Bliss Triple-Oxygen Energizing Mask is my go-to fix for dull skin. Vitamin C brightens and tones, while some sort of magic fizz pumps skin with oxygen (what? I’m not a doctor). Hey, when my skin looks this good after five minutes, you could tell me Voldemort himself mixed this batch and I’d still be like, yes put that on my face now, please and thank you.

For tired, bloated eyes, GLAMGLOW Brightmud Eye Treatment is another trick of the I-don’t-care-how-this-works-as-long-as-it-makes-me-pretty variety. Each pod contains two individually sealed scoops of product; the serving is generous enough that you can use one pod for both eyes to stretch each box twice as long. The tingly caffeine blend stimulates lymphatic drainage to tighten and diminish puffiness and dark circles, while brisk peppermint brightens and soothes.

Wear ‘em at the same time if you wanna look this cool (why am I putting these pictures on the internet, again?)

Step 4: Quench that thirst

Now that you’re bright and tight, let’s hydrate! …sorry about me

Now that you’re bright and tight, let’s hydrate! …sorry about me

Cucumber extract makes this Fresh Rose Hydrating Face Serum your hangover godsend: it instantly hydrates, cools, and soothes–the perfect targeted emollient under moisturizer. And Fresh’s new Hydrating Eye Gel Cream boasts the same dreamy scent and instant hydrating relief. Extra points if you’ve popped it in the fridge before heading out for the evening (pshyeah, like you’d remember when you got back). Then seal the hydration in with Skyn Iceland’s Arctic Hydrating Balm, which calms inflammation, repairs dryness, and protects against free radicals (eczema sufferers, take note!).

Step 5: Creating the illusion

Tricks are something a whore does for money.

ILLUSIONS, Michael. Tricks are something a whore does for money. (and drugs)

The Canvas

Too Faced Hangover Replenishing Primer contains coconut water, probiotics, and electrolytes to replenish moisture levels (just like the sports drinks and Whole Foods concoctions you should probably be drinking right about now). I’m obsessed with this primer–it smells like a tropical milkshake, makes skin look red-carpet-dewy, and creates a smooth, long-lasting surface for makeup.

Did I write the adorable copy for this? ... maybe.

Did I write the adorable copy for this? … maybe.

Hourglass’ tinted-moisturizer-like Illusion Hyaluronic Skin Tint harnesses Hyaluronic Acid’s water-binding molecules to plump skin and disguise fine lines, while “pearlescent pigments” impart the subtlest luminescence (in other words, no risk of blinding anyone in direct sunlight. UGH, direct sunlight).

Eve Lom Light Illusion Concealer pen: a lightweight brightening concealer similar to Touche Eclat

Eve Lom Light Illusion Concealer pen: a lightweight brightening concealer similar to Touche Eclat

Under Eye

Smashbox Photo Finish Under Eye Primer hydrates and keeps concealer from caking into fine lines. Photo Op Under Eye Brightener refracts light away from dark circles and can be used as a highlighter on the cupid’s bow, bridge of the nose, and cheekbones. Draw a long triangle with your concealer from the inner eye corner (the darkest part of the face) down to the redness-prone outer corner of the nose and back up under the middle of eye, then blend. If you like to set with powder, Smashbox Halo is an anti-aging mineral powder that actually hydrates and never looks cakey. I will buy Halo until they stop making it or I die, whichever comes first (hopefully the latter).

This Urban Decay Naked Basics palette is “well-loved”

This Urban Decay Naked Basics palette is “well-loved”

Eyes

Find a matte shadow that’s a few shades darker than your skin tone (brown shades like fawn, tawny, and espresso look most natural). With a short-bristled brush, smudge the shadow along your lower lash line; this will camouflage any remaining puffiness by making the area appear to recede.

Blend a light, slightly shimmery shade into the inner eye corners to neutralize dark shadows. Then fill in your lower waterline with a nude eyeliner (white can look too stark and obvious). This will make eyes appear wide awake and, more importantly, conceal those telltale red rims that scream “late night!”

Slooooowly and with great concentration

Slooooowly and with great concentration

Curl your lashes and apply a couple coats of mascara–the darkest black you can find will make your eyes look brighter (Too Faced Better Than Sex is “carbon-black”-dark, just sayin’).

Hair

Unclip your twists, shake ‘em out, and work any remaining dry shampoo into your roots. Your waves may need more texturizing spray, but don’t brush unless you want to look like Mia Thermopolis pre-makeover. Hey, you do you.

Glamour shots by Deb

Glamour shots by Deb

Your saviors

Pack these for midday emergencies: Sephora Blotting Films for inevitable afternoon sweatiness, Lush Eau Roma water to rehydrate, soothe, and perk you back up, and Skyn Iceland Icelandic Relief Eye Pen to keep puffy, tired eyes from reemerging.

Pack these for midday emergencies: Sephora Blotting Films for inevitable afternoon sweatiness, Lush Eau Roma water to rehydrate, soothe, and perk you back up, and Skyn Iceland Icelandic Relief Eye Pen to keep puffy, tired eyes from reemerging.

I know whereof I speak

What’s your hangover cure? I need it … for reasons.

*full disclosure: author has since been employed by Too Faced cosmetics as a copywriter. This post was written & scheduled prior to that, plus author knows her shit, so don’t even worry.

**also, author is not an alcoholic, but she did have some interesting college times.

Product Review: Urban Decay Naked Skin Foundation

My grandmother has sold Mary Kay for as long as I can remember, which means that makeup has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was two I pioneered a high-fashion look that involved blue eyeshadow dragged entirely across my face from one eye to the other, sort of like a big blue unibrow (pictures from this event have mysteriously vanished). Still, it was all lipsticks, nail polishes, and eyeshadows; I didn’t discover foundation until I was all of ten years old.

Love at first sight

I was in my first big play. It was dress rehearsal, and someone brought out a big, crusty tacklebox full of stage makeup. I have no idea who gave it to me, or what brand it was, but my first thought remains a crystal clear memory: “This stuff is AMAZING.” It was if I was smearing on new skin on top of my perpetually flushed, much-bemoaned freckles (now, in my incredible maturity, mostly embraced). I had in my hand the secret to Barbie skin. It was a feeling of enormous power, and I instinctively knew that this goop was gonna be a big part of my life someday.

And it has been. Like any makeup junkie (and many casual users, too), I’m always on the lookout for the perfect foundation. It’s had its ups and downs (cream foundation as a preteen was probably one of those downs). Lately I’ve been on a tinted moisturizer kick —  summer just seems to call for tinted moisturizer. My last big foundation love affair, though, was with Smashbox Studio Skin ($42) for its staying power and solid coverage. Before that it was Smashbox High Definition ($39), which I liked for its invisibility and good-for-you skincare ingredients (like cell-energizing Ribose and vitamin C).

But you guys, YOU GUYS. I was shopping in Sephora (like I do) all “la la la, shopping in Sephora la la la” and I came across a gorgeous Urban Decay display.

Sometimes things just need to be documented.

Instant pleasure

It was the new Urban Decay Naked Skin Weightless Ultra Definition Liquid Makeup ($38). I looked at it. It looked back. I pulled out my phone and took a picture of it (the fact that my face happened to be in the frame is purely coincidental, I assure you). I asked the salesperson nearest me (who was politely pretending not to notice my camera-whoring) if I could have a sample, and she made me one (bless you, Sephora).

When I got it home and put it on my face, I noticed immediately that I’d asked for the wrong color (.5. I usually just get the lightest color available since my skin color is, as my dad would say, “clear”, but that didn’t work this time). Still, the texture was gorgeous. Lightweight, blendable, buildable coverage, natural demi-matte finish. This is everything you want in a foundation. I took a deep breath and went to examine myself in our frightening bathroom magnifying mirror: smooth, even skin tone, nary a tell-tale clogged pore buckling under the weight of heavy formula in sight. Invisible.

“This is the thing about foundations: It’s kind of like shapewear. At its worst, it’s uncomfortable, it makes you sweat, and people can tell you’re wearing it. But at its best, you look flawless, all the right places are expertly concealed — and no one knows why.”

—Allure, September 2012.

Like my beloved Smashbox HD, Naked also has skincare ingredients. Says the product description: “This makeup loads skin with a list of nourishing ingredients including: Matrixyl 3000 (a powerful anti-wrinkle peptide), protective and brightening Litchiderm, antioxidant Green Tea and Sodium Hyaluronate for optimal skin hydration and nutrient absorption.” I mean, I’m always a sucker for a made-up ingredient name that promises to rescue my skin as it makes it look better.

I decided to order it online after Sephora lured me with the siren song of some juicy extras with my next order.

And here’s where stuff got tricky

As you can see, the shades are “explained” on Sephora’s site. The idea behind the numbers (.5 – 12) is that anything ending in .5 is cool-toned, while .0 shades are warmer. Since I’m pale with slight yellow undertones, of course I ordered 3.5, a “beige with pink undertones”. Seriously, I don’t know what my deal was that morning. Caffeine-deprived or something. But I digress.

When it arrived on my doorstep, it says something about the superiority of the formula that despite my idiocy in ordering what was clearly the wrong color, I was able to wear it anyway with some improvisation (mostly involving blending down to my neck, which is not necessary with the right shade; you should only need to blend into your jawline). I looked a bit pinker and tanner than normal, but not like I was wearing a bunch of foundation. Workable, but not ideal.

My happy ending

I exchanged it for my perfect shade today (2.0 if you care. You care? That’s weird). Even the Sephora cashier raved about this foundation as she helped me with the exchange (she also happened to be wearing it at the time). It’s absolutely worth grabbing a couple of samples and/or being matched.

And there’s absolutely no reason your matching should be as needlessly difficult as mine was (and in case you were wondering, I documented that saga to spare you the burden of going through the same rigamarole). The display includes those nifty little clear shade guides (top left photo), but if you’re at a counter or if they’re fresh out, start with the shade you think will be your match and swipe it on your jawline. Keep swiping until you find a good match, then swipe on the next lighter and next darker shades next to it. Your shade will be the one that disappears on your skin with the least blending.

See? Clear. But look how well that shit blends.