What is Contour?
Many people mistake bronzer for contour. It annoys me just the slightest when someone says they are just going to contour a little bit, and they are clearly using a bronzer shade with a bronzer brush. To set everything straight, bronzers and contours have two different purposes. The purpose of a bronzer is to warm up the complexion. If you want to look a little bit tanner, take bronzing powder with an orange-ish brown shade to it. When it comes to bronzers, most people use a large fluffy brush to dust around the perimeter of the face.
When it comes to contour, it's a whole other ball game. Contour shades tend to be more cool toned browns than bronzers. They are used to add depth and dimension to the face. Look at it this way. I know that after I apply my foundation and before I apply my contour, my face just looks incredibly flat. To make it more natural looking but to also add definition, use a contour shade. I like to use a smaller powder brush with synthetic hairs because it does not pick up as much product. You definitely don't want to over do it with contour. Essential, contour is meant to make things look more pushed back, while highlighting brings things foreword. The most common places to contour are under the cheek bones for a more sculpted cheek, on the temples to make the forehead look smaller, on the sides of the nose to make the nose look thinner, and at the jaw line for definition.
(Photo from here.) One benefit that I have come to find is that it is great if you have acne. Even though you may cover up acne spots with concealer, you can't do much if they are raised above the skin. I find that contouring helps as a distraction from the spots. Think about it this way. If you have a blank, flat canvas (just foundation and concealer on your skin) it's easy to see a discrepancy on the skin. However if you have depth and dimension like hills and valleys (contoured and highlighted) it is much harder to see those elevated points of your face. It's just another reason why I love contouring.
It may sound like a lot, but it doesn't take as long as you might think. Just add contour to the places you would like to slim and sharpen. I have really fallen in love with it every since I've found the right shade.
(Photo from here.) Finding the Right Shade
This might be the most difficult part. I'm sorry. It took me the longest time to find my right shade. When you head over to the drug store or to Sephora, swatch all of the cool tone shades on your hand to find the best one. For those with pail skin, it's a bit more difficult because you need to find a cool enough shade that isn't dark, isn't too cool toned, and isn't too warm toned. My favorite contour shade is actually a powder blush from Mac in Taupe. (P.S. They no longer sell it online or in stores, but you can find it on Amazon or Ebay.). This is the perfect shade for me because it is the perfect shade and because it is not super pigmented so it is hard to go overboard. Check out powder products across the board before you find your right one; and when you do, you will understand why.
I hope you can finally understand the benefits of contouring, so go out and give it a go! Once you do it once, you won't be able to stop.
Cover photo from here.