Foundation Make-up Tip: Reduce Contrast to Look More Youthful

Photograph courtesy of Paris Bey Routh via (

Received wisdom tells us that the way to look more youthful when applying foundation is to apply lighter makeup, be it concealer or a lighter shade of foundation, specifically to the darker areas of our faces.

The idea is that light shades bring out a feature and dark shades make it recede. What we do is put concealer under our eyes and on our smile lines that curve from your nose to your mouth and believe that these patches of light will bring the dark, craggy recesses of our faces back into the light once again. Hiding those bits we want to disguise.

Let me explain why this is a problem with an example

The problem is, that lightening the dark crevices of the face actually increases the contrast again except now you have reversed the contrast with light patches on your face. Using concealer on dark spots doesn’t decrease the appearance of age; it just reverses the play of light. For instance, if you look at a photograph of a wrinkled face in black and white and put it beside the negative of exactly the same photograph, the negative doesn’t make the face look less wrinkled, it just reverses dark to light.

What you do instead

What Hollywood makeup artist know so well is that you use contrast as your friend and apply colours and tones in a different way to trick the eye.

The trick to reducing contrast so you look more youthful is to even out the skin tone with a matte finish. And it’s this evening out that creates the appearance of a younger, lighter face.

Contrast is the degrees of light and shaddow or colour difference between objects. The reason that a youthful face has less contrast is because when our faces are younger, they are a plane surface (not plain, as in ‘plain Jane’, but plane as in a smooth flat surface). When we are young, our faces and skin are taut and smoother or more level – which creates less or no contrast. A younger face has less topography if you like, which creates less shadow and more reflection of light.

The difference that makes the difference is contrast

A plane surface — in other words a flat or level surface reflects more light and has less, even no, contrast. This is what we observe to be youthful – less shadow, a lighter reflection, less contrast. Basically a blank canvas.

Which is why the technique to use if you want to turn back the clock a touch, is to reduce the contrast between different features. Apply an even tone of foundation to the centre of the face and you take off a couple of years with your make-up sponge. Simple as that!

By evening out tones with blending and the right colour foundation you are turning your face into what is essentially a blank canvas. A visage that looks youthful.

On the topic of blending and colour, the other thing worth doing is overhauling your colour palette if you’re considering a midlife makeover that keeps you naturally youthful looking for longer.

For this, speak to a professional or do some experimenting yourself with softer colours and tones to reduce contrast on your face. Softer shades will wipe years off your visage especially if they are the right shades for your colouring (hair, eyebrows, lashes as well as skin). And, if you apply your makeup to emphasise your good features, rather than to hide your flaws, you’ll find you look much younger and fresher overnight.

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