Soft Sculpting Is the New Contouring — Here’s How to Achieve the Look

While contouring has been around since at least the 1920s (German actress Marlene Dietrich was known to contour her face for her films!), its popularity really boomed in the last decade, with people like Kim Kardashian popularising the technique in the mainstream.

But, the heavily contoured makeup look is no longer the goal, with a new trend taking its place. Soft sculpting is the more light-handed technique being used to create definition in one’s face. And just like the contouring trend of the 2010s, makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic is at the forefront of this shift.

The idea behind soft sculpting is to lift one’s features through the placement of bronzer, blush and highlighter. Where contouring required a heavy-handed application of bronzer or contour under the cheekbones, soft sculpting offers a more paired back look with much less product.

“Today, now that everyone knows how to contour and it’s become part of their everyday beauty routine, people are realising that you can achieve a sculpted look with a lot less makeup,” Dedivanovic said in a recent interview with Vogue.

“We want to appear more natural and less intimidating. We’re seeing this softer approach on social media from the younger generation, and it’s very refreshing. I love it.”

In the beauty world, the focus has largely moved away from makeup and is firmly on skincare. Taking care of one’s skin has become the norm, with makeup taking a backseat — especially in light of the pandemic, where people have been at home more than ever before.

But perhaps the interest in soft sculpting could help change this, with the technique highlighting another option for those wanting to achieve a sculpted look with less product. Dedivanovic recently launched a new makeup range, called the Soft Sculpt Collection, based on these very principles.

To achieve the soft-sculpted makeup look for yourself, Dedivanovic recommends applying contour or bronzer slight above the hollows of the cheek, rather than opting for an intense line in the hollows of the cheeks à la contouring. “Blend upward to subtly lift the skin and add some warmth,” Dedivanovic told Vogue. “This will create a natural sculpt.”

This technique encourages you to work with the contours of your face and highlight these, blending products up to ensure you’re left with a lifted effect. When applying bronzer or contour, start by using a little and build it up to create a natural result. You can always add more product but removing it isn’t so easy.

A cream bronzer is a great tool to execute soft sculpting, especially those sold in stick form. The Westman Atelier Face Trace Contour Stick ($73) makes the whole process really easy, allowing you to swipe, blend and you’re good to go. The formula is also super creamy and provides a natural-looking, even colour.

Next up is blush, which should be applied to the apples of your cheeks. Dedivanovic also applies a light layer of blush on the nose, forehead and chin to create a glowing appearance. “Blush helps make the skin appear more healthy and natural,” Dedivanovic said. “For a more lifted appearance, don’t apply too low on the cheeks!”

Fenty Beauty’s Cheeks Out Freestyle Cream Blush ($33) delivers pigmented colour to the skin, in a no-fuss cream formula. Pop on with a makeup brush, sponge or simply use your hands to add a healthy pop of colour to your cheeks.

Highlighter finishes off the soft sculpting, with a natural, cream-based highlighter the best bet to achieve a glow that isn’t too glittery. “The purpose of a highlighter is to give your skin natural radiance and illuminate it, rather than have a noticeable stripe along the cheekbones,” Dedivanovic told Vogue. “I always have my clients smile when I apply highlighter to be sure I’m not applying the highlight over fine lines or wrinkles around the eyes.”

The Anastasia Beverly Hills Stick Highlighter ($52) is the perfect product for this, delivering smooth cream highlighter in one swipe. The addition of the brush allows you to blend the product in easily. And, it doesn’t contain chunky glitter particles, so it’ll seamlessly blend into your skin.