To Contour or Not to Contour for Darker Skin Tones

This morning, Khadine tweeted to me a write-up she did in response to a recent Temptalia post. I thought it was an excellent post that offered clarification, insight, and helped to educate everyone regarding the particular topic. She’s graciously allowing me to share her response and thoughts.

I also asked her for some of her personal recommendations, and she said, “As for products for darker skin tones, Ben Nye has a great range of colors in foundations and powders that even very deep skin tones can benefit from. Graftobian has great options as well. In terms of specific contour colors (I prefer to use creams), Black Opal Stick Foundations like Suede Mocha and Black Walnut come to mind. Another one is Graftobian HD Glamour Creme Foundation in Sienna. Also, check out their HD Glamour Creme Palette in Neutral #3. Of course, these are only examples so they won’t work for everyone, however, readers can feel free to check out the product websites for the full range of options.”

To Contour or Not to Contour for Darker Skin Tones

Recently, there was a guest post on Temptalia on the subject of “blushing and highlighting”, where the author advised, “If you’re of a darker skintone, like NC/W 45+, skip the contour and stick only with highlight. Contour colours unfortunately rarely run too dark, and you risk the color looking muddy on the face.” Some of Temptalia’s readers took offense and voiced their complaints in the comment section below the article, as well as via Twitter.

I, on the other hand, wasn’t as negatively moved by the statement. I certainly disagree with the author on the suggestion that dark skin cannot or should not be contoured, but I actually see the logic in what she’s saying (I’ll explain further). I am in the category she’s referring to (I wear NC 50 in MAC Select SPF 15 foundation), and I contour all the time. However, I wouldn’t totally write-off everything she said!

When she says, “skip the contour and stick only with highlight,” this does make sense in the case of women with very deep skin tones (Alek Wek is the only person that comes to mind immediately). What makes contouring (and its counterpart, highlighting) effective is contrast, however you can best achieve it. If you have a deep enough complexion to be able to use your skin tone as the contour color, then that’s okay! If you’re of a dark complexion and can find appropriate contour colors, there’s no need to limit yourself. I think Victoria had the right idea but happened to be a little off in the shade range (as I said, I’m an NC 50 and contouring isn’t an issue for me).

It’s the same thing on the opposite end of the spectrum. If you are really fair (think Nicole Kidman) and it makes more sense to only contour (and use your skin tone as a highlight), then so be it!

Her claim that “Contour colours unfortunately rarely run too dark,” is not a stretch at all! There are limited options out there for contouring darker complexions. The deeper your color, the harder it is to find something even darker for contouring (I didn’t say impossible, I said harder). Sometimes you’re lucky if you even find a color to match you in the first place! You can use black pigments to deepen your foundation, but the average person would just rather be able to pick up a ready-made shade at their local cosmetics counter rather than mix multiple products to get the right match.

In summary, of course, contouring can be done on dark skin tones, but with a caveat! When executed well, the results are magnificent (ask Sam Fine)! However, some individuals of deeper complexions may benefit more from highlighting (especially if color options are limited) than they would from contouring. Similarly, some individuals of lighter complexions may benefit more from contouring than they would from highlighting.

You can check out Khadine’s original article on her blog, Cosmetic Passion. Khadine is an emerging makeup artist based in New York City who has a long-time passion for cosmetics. With her blog, she hopes to share her passion for beauty with enthusiasts like her while exchanging beauty tips!