I'll be the first to admit that contouring can go from pretty to pretty scary a little too quickly. When done right, it should enhance your beauty, not disguise or transform it into something entirely different. My goal is to never look as though I've contoured - it should simply look like my skin is defined, glowing, and bright. It's not part of my everyday routine but here are the steps I take to ensure non-stripe-y, subtle results that are appropriate for daytime.
Depending on the occasion and how much coverage I need, I’ll prep my skin with one of three foundations or tinted moisturizers: CHANEL Vitalumiere Aqua Ultra-Light Skin Perfecting Sunscreen in '30 Beige,' which offers very light coverage for a barely-there dewy look, Armani Luminous Silk Foundation in no. 5.5 if I need full coverage, or a tinted moisturizer like Chantecaille Just Skin for something in-between (which is what I used here). It's also probably worth mentioning that I'm constantly rotating and updating my cosmetics drawers, especially when it comes to foundations, since I love testing out and finding new products, so these are just my current favorites.
There's a time for heavier contouring (getting professional photographs taken, going to a special event), but the key to this daytime look is "less is more." My two must-haves are the Kevyn Aucoin Contour Book, Volume II, which includes all the highlighting and sculpting powder you need, and the Kat Von D Countour Brush, which features an angled end for sculpting and a tapered dome for highlighting (even though you'd be fine using whatever bronzing or highlighting brush you already have!). To begin, I tap my brush into the palette's "Sculpting Cream" and shake off any excess—you should barely be able to see it. The palette includes both creams and powders of each shade, but I stick with the creams since they're more buildable and less pigmented (so I don't go overboard quite as easily). By the way "cream" is almost a misnomer—don't think of "cream" like a moisturizer, think of it as a more subtle powder that's still applied with a brush.
Starting at the top of my forehead, I pull my hair back and brush the shading cream on, following my hairline out, no further than perpendicular to where my eyebrows end. The goal is to shape and slim the face, but not overtly so.
Next, I dab the cream into the hollow of my cheek, sweeping upwards and dabbing for more cream, as needed. I use the line from the corner of my lips to the corner of my ears as a guide, making sure to extend onto my actual ear so it's not left bright-white. Then, I suck in my cheeks, and dab cream under my cheek bone (this looks about as cool as it sounds), as if I'm trying to cup underneath the cheek. Finally, I put some onto my eyelids, almost like a very subtle eyeshadow, focusing on the inner part and swipe some down either side of my nose. The last thing is to swipe some along your jaw line. Blending is key here to help it look as natural as possible.
As with sculpting, the goal of highlighting here is to give you a slightly dewy glow—not transform you into a shiny human. To achieve this look, I dip the "Light" side of my brush into the palette's "Candlelight Cream," and dust it across my forehead. I'll then dust it right below my eyebrows and on the apples of my cheeks, directly above the line I created with shading. I'll then dust the lower corners of my face, just under my mouth, on both sides of my chin.
Next, I dip a finger into the cream and pull it down my nose to create a thin line that brightens the bridge, and apply some to my cupid's bow and inner corner of each eye as well.
As with any daytime makeup routine, the most important step is blending, but it's even more important here to make sure you don't have any lines across your face. To do this, I apply Caudalie Beauty Elixer to a Beauty Blender (you can also use water, but I learned from a makeup artist that you can use hydrating face mists for this and I've done so ever since).
Concentrating on the areas of the face where I applied the product, I lightly dab the beauty sponge to blend—the last thing I want is a racing stripe of highlighter and bronzer across my cheek. That's it!
Afterwards, I like to add a sheer wash of something to my cheeks, because again the goal is to look young and dewy, versus dramatic and contoured. Here, I added an additional touch of highlighter and a Topshop blush in 'Flush.'