Red Carpet Makeup (Or: Why Contour Doesn’t Work for the Grocery Run)

Every day we are bombarded with pictures of celebrities looking like, well, celebrities. Flawless skin, perfect brows, and cheekbones you could cut glass with. With more and more beauty gurus and YouTubers teaching us mere mortals how to achieve Kardashian levels of perfection, it’s becoming increasingly normal to see girls channeling their inner Kim. The only difference is Kim is being constantly videoed and photographed. These girls are buying a pint of milk.

Still from Marc Zapanta ThePrinceOfVanity’s YouTube video: Kim Kardashian Contour and Highlight Tutorial

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for being your best self – if a red lip makes you feel like you can take on the day, go for it. If high heels are your weapon of choice when conquering the world, more power to you. But seeing more girls (at increasingly younger ages) cake on foundation an inch thick and filling in their brows with what appears to be a Sharpie is kind of disheartening. High-octane glamour has its place in this world, but it’s not on aisle 3 of the supermarket.

Makeup artist to the stars, Nick Barose, agrees. In a recent interview with The Cut he explained the difference between ‘photoshoot’ makeup and ‘real life’ makeup – it all comes down to lighting.

For me, I can contour in a photo shoot, because I know the light is going to be controlled. Contouring for every day just isn’t realistic unless you are Kim Kardashian and can hire people to follow you around, like a camera crew with a light.

This is where the problem lies. Natural light changes throughout the day, so what may have looked amazing at 7AM will look like you rubbed dirt into the hollows of your cheeks at 3PM. It’s also important to consider the occasion: contour at a nightclub is totally acceptable. In your morning yoga class, not so much. Contour in an Instagram post, where you can add filters, can look incredible. At church, I would pass. The Lord knows what you look like, no Anastasia Contour Kit is fooling him. Bottom line, contour is always acceptable for the Kardashians, because their whole life is a continuous photoshoot.

The trend for contouring also highlights a worrying trend in our society: the need to look uniform, the need to look ‘perfect’. Let’s get this straight, there is no perfect face. I don’t care how much scientists talk about symmetry and the golden ratio, beauty is subjective. Take the example of Angelina Jolie. To me, her face is about as close to perfection as you can get. My dad, on the other hand, thinks her bone structure is too dramatic, too harsh, and that “Beyoncé is prettier” (not that I’ll ever disagree that Beyoncé is a knockout). Angelina herself has said: “I am odd looking. I sometimes think I look like a funny Muppet.” This is a woman who has regularly been voted the most beautiful or sexy in the world, but it doesn’t mean everyone agrees.

Unfortunately the contouring trend is pushing the idea that, yes, there is a beauty ideal, and it requires chiseled cheekbones, a dainty nose, full lips, thick brows. What about Selena Gomez, with her full, youthful cheeks? Rihanna’s broad nose that so perfectly balances out her other features? Kate Hudson’s thin lips but big smile? All these women are widely considered to be beautiful, even if they don’t completely fit the ‘conventional’ mould. Even supermodel Gisele Bündchen was dismissed at early castings because “Her eyes are too small, her nose is too big”.

This shows us there are so many types of beauty. Sadly, more and more people are using makeup as a mask to ‘fix’ their faces, instead of something fun to play around with and enhance their best features. Makeup artists such as Bobbi BrownWayne Goss and Patti Dubroff have all spoken out against the trend for heavy, mask-like makeup. Patti voiced concerns for not only the effect it is having on our skin, but also the psychological repercussions:

If there is so much time and product spent on fixing, where is the self-love? When other people are looking at that, they’re seeing the mask, they’re losing the person.

In an increasingly superficial world, it is harder than ever to embrace what makes us different. When you go on Instagram in the morning and are greeted with a never ending scroll of people who look like they’ve stepped straight off a runway (and many of them have), it can be hard to face the world without ‘correcting’ what you think is wrong. This approach takes the joy out of makeup – it should be fun! Maybe you’ll try a look that doesn’t quite work, but the thing is, you can just wash it off. In such an image obsessed world, it’s so important to realise that your natural beauty is just as important, just as powerful. I’m going to wrap up this post with words from Nick, who I think describes it best:

We live in a world now where more and more people don’t want to be different, they want a uniform. They think, If you have a face like this, you have to correct it and contour and make your eyebrows like this. For me, I just feel like makeup should be fun. When you approach it from the point of view of “My nose is too big; my face is too round,” it seems less fun. You can’t leave the house unless you contour your cheek? That’s not fun.


3 responses to “Red Carpet Makeup (Or: Why Contour Doesn’t Work for the Grocery Run)

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