I Finally Found a Contouring Product That I Actually Love and it Couldn't Be Easier to Use

Every time I've contoured with anything else, it's been stressful and I've ended up looking like a goon.
Publish date:
March 4, 2016
shoppables, makeup, contouring, smashbox cosmetics

Of all of the huge beauty trends I've covered, contouring is the one that I've always stayed far away from. It just never appealed to me, honestly. I always justified it by thinking that — between my high cheekbones and naturally defined facial features paired with my beard — I didn't need to add any extra shadow to my face. What was already there worked pretty well.

Besides, contouring is no easy feat. Most days, I'm not wearing a ton of makeup, just some combination of foundation, brows, lashes, highlight and blush. If I'm wearing that all at once, it can vary in intensity, but even that can end up taking up, I don't know, 10 minutes to apply and balance out (I actually have no idea how long it takes me, but you get what I mean). The last thing I need is to add another step.

But then it happened.

Last December, I was getting ready to go to a holiday party and threw on a new, full coverage foundation I had just been sent. I was in a hurry, and after I applied it, I realized that it had hit me with more coverage than I bargained for. No matter what I did to put color and dimension back into my face, no highlight or blush could save me — my face looked flat.

I'm sure no one noticed the difference but I knew, you know what I mean? I don't care if people know I'm wearing makeup, and it's not like this is all a secret, especially from my friends.

The thing is, I like my the natural shadows on my face. They're what make me *me.* Even when I cover them up with foundation, I never completely knock them out because then I just look odd. That night I didn't look like myself.

I could have contoured right then and there, but I was already running late as it was, and I didn't like any of the contour kits that I had lying around. Plus, you know it's always risky to whip out some something that's not part of your usual routine last minute, you're begging for trouble. So I went out as I was, flat faced and crazy.

Since then, I've been messing around with contour products here and there, and haven't really found anything I really loved, until now.

The Smashbox Step-By-Step Contour Stick Trio

It's a set of three fat pencils for contouring, highlighting, and bronzing. It also comes with a own sharpener (bless) and instructions for different face shapes.

But WHY do I like them so much, you ask? Powder products are, well, I just hate powders — too much product when applying, and not enough control. Plus, contouring has to be very precise on order to look natural, and powders, for me, always cover too much area too soon.

Cream contouring products are my preferred choice, but I still feel like most creams are too dense and heavily pigmented, making them hard to blend, and look too extreme right off the bat. There's only so much you can diffuse a color if it goes on too dark in the first place. The point of contouring is to mimic natural shadow but too much can just look like you drew a big brown spot on the side of your face.


They're technically cream products but they almost have the consistency of a gel, making them more sheer and very forgiving. They go on dark, but can be blended out until they're almost imperceptible, so you can add more until you achieve the desired depth. It's almost impossible to overdo them.

Every time I've contoured with anything else, it's been stressful and I've ended up looking like a goon. With these, I felt like the product worked with me, and at the end of it, I looked fucking bad. Like, good-bad.

I'm going to show you guys step by step how I contoured with these three pencils. Let me reiterate that this is how I chose to contour my own face. There's no one right way to do anything in beauty, so if you think I did it wrong, then, sorry, you're wrong. I look awesome and feel great and that's the point.

Here's my dumb bare face.

I'm wearing the Makeup Forever Ultra HD foundation which is medium coverage, the new Anastasia Beverly Hills brow pencil, and my fave Maybelline Mega Plush Mascara.

I do my forehead first because it's so big that I basically can't fuck it up. I take the contour pencil and draw a creepy dotted line around my hairline.

I leave a little more around my temples than around my hairline because my temples are pretty pronounced, presumably from where they cut off my horns. There's a natural shadow there so I want to, not necessarily accentuate that, but keep it where it is so my face doesn't look like a pancake.

So here I am looking very Dr. 90210.

I found that if I blended this out with a brush, it sort of sheered the contour out too quickly. The Beauty Blender works, but it doesn't (at least for me) completely diffuse the initial lines, they'll still be softly visible. So, I take the pad of my ring finger and smudge the lines out and then finish blending with the Beauty Blender and it works like a damn charm.

So, here I am blended.

I'M KIDDING, CHILL OUT. That's what it looks like having just softened the lines using my fingers.

Here I am with my hairline blended.

No amount of contour is going to make my forehead not huge, but it adds a little dimension. Any bit of subtle warmth makes all the difference. You know who else has a huge forehead? Rihanna. And we're both perfect.

Next are my cheekbones, which, truth be told, probably don't even need to be fucked with because of my stubble. However, they're very high, and my contour actually starts above my beard, so I can still carve them out a little if I want to. If I was in a hurry, I'd probably just do my forehead and the sides of my face, but I have all the time in the world for you.

I know the trick is to suck in your cheeks and make a fishy face to find where to place your contour, but

1. I'm not going to do that on camera, and 2. It's much easier (and more accurate) for me to find them by imagining a line going from the side of my mouth to the top of my ear, because right under that is where my cheekbone drops off:

I, personally, don't bring my contour down too far because my cheekbones don't need to be dramatically carved out, and if I apply too much, the contour shade starts to clash with my black facial hair and throws the whole thing sideways.

Here's what it looks like before I blend.

And blended:

Because this contour is (for once) more on the subtle side, the shadow is more apparent when straight on. This is not your Instagram contour and I'm not apologizing for that.

Wow I'm gorgeous.

Anyway now for my favorite part: THE HIGHLIGHT.

This highlighter is so good it infuriates me. It's insanely creamy and melts into your skin, giving you a luminous, buildable glow that's not obvious in the least. I love, love, love this stupid highlight stick and need them to create it on its own.

You know what to do. Apply to the high points of your face. Your cheekbones, brow bone, nose, forehead, whatever you want to make come forward. This even works as a great under eye brightener! I hate using concealer to brighten my under eye area because again, it flattens me out. And let's not even talk about creasing. The highlighting pencil doesn't crease a bit!

Blend etc.

Last, the bronzing pencil. I don't do a whole lot with bronzer, and when I do, I actually do use a powder product, one of the very few powder products I reach for by choice. But this pencil is now what I'll be using. It warms your face up, works as a great transition color between the contour and highlight, and gives you complete control on just where you'll be warming yourself up.

I applied it sparingly around my hairline just a bit farther down than where my contour was, and on my cheekbones near my sideburns between highlight and contour. Sorry I look so over it.


I love that final look, and I love getting there. These products are so cooperative that I'm not all tense and worried about messing it up and having to wipe it off (which means wiping your foundation off, too) and starting over. I'd almost venture to say they're fun to use, but let's not go overboard. What I'm saying is, when I'm chilled out, I work faster and everything ends up looking better.

What do you think? Do you contour, and if so, what do you use? Tell me in the comments!

Tynan is chiseled on Twitter @TynanBuck.