Body Contouring 101

The experts tell us what to buy, where to shade and how not to end up with that telling Oompa-Loompa radioactive glow.

Our childhoods were sprinkled with many a healthy serving of words of wisdom, but there’s one truism in particular that’s stuck with us into (pseudo) adulthood. It was whispered in our ears with every lackluster Christmas gift, every not-so-ideal family getaway (Alaska or bust!) and every job interview that called for a little more experience than we’d racked up.

Fake it 'til you make it.

 Mom had a point. Pasting a smile on our face when it’s the last thing we feel like doing is an instant confidence booster. Now we’d like to apply the fake-out philosophy to a new kind of necessity. While we may not all look like Miranda Kerr in a bikini (shocker, right?), there’s a few tricks of the trade that can help create the kind of beach body that no SoulCycle can sculpt. Kind of like that guy you knew in high school who Sharpie’d himself a six-pack. Except this time it’s socially acceptable (if you actually manage to get a streak-free finish).

We asked the experts how we rookies should go about dipping our toes in the body contouring pool (avoid white furniture at all costs). Are you taking notes?


—Chelsey Burnside

On the self tanning 411...

“As someone who specializes in skin finishing and tanning for TV, film, red carpet and editorial it is essential to have the right product and the right tools. I find that using a self tan bronzing mousse is the easiest way to apply a great all over color that is even and natural looking. The most important tool you need is an applicator mitt. The tanning mitt will protect your hands and allow you to evenly apply your mousse. Apply 2-3 pumps of product to your mitt, start at your feet and work your way up.”

On the many (many) benefits of self tanning and just how it can be used to get the impression of muscle tone...

“There is no doubt that adding a layer of self tan all over before you put your bikini on or slip into a little black dress will give you more than a tan. It will also give you a layer of confidence. Self tan alone gives the illusion of a more toned body, evens out your skin tone and help to cover unwanted veins or blemishes. To take it to the next level you can do some contouring to enhance your muscles. I get quite a few requests for this during awards season. To do so, flex and find the shadow below your muscle and, using a small make up sponge, add an extra layer of your self tanning mousse to the shadow. Don't go overboard with this, you are enhancing your tone not painting it on.”

On the only self tanner you’ll ever need...

“I have tried them all, but there is no doubt the best self tan mousse available has the most perfect name: it is pHenomenal by Vita Liberata. It lasts 2-3 weeks, is organic, has no odor, is easy to apply and looks beautiful. What more can I say?! When applied with the tanning mitt you look flawless and feel fab.”

On the where to go darker to get the whole bikini bod effect…

“I do sunless tanning for contouring and recommend Body Bling tinted moisturizers to enhance the effect. In general, we make the inner thighs, outer thighs and under the chin a bit darker to create a slimming shadow. I also like the new Body BB cream by jergens that helps even skin tone and firms. It can be used every day.”

On the best self tan for rookies... 

“For a self-tan, an aerosol spray is the easiest option. It’s quick and made so you can spray at any angle. Bliss has a great one called A Tan for all Seasons—the color is really natural and sunkissed, not Oompa-Loompa orange. Just make sure to throw a towel down first so you avoid a mess.”

On whether you can fake the tone...

“Yes! You can absolutely create an illusion by making shadows with self tanner or a body bronzer. Just like you contour your face, you can contour your body. A good rule of thumb: any body part you want to appear smaller should be a tiny bit darker than other areas. For example, if you want to make your thighs appear smaller, apply self tanner or bronzer one shade darker than your skin tone just to the outside of your thighs. To sculpt abs, spray tann down the sides of your stomach from your ribs to your hip bones.”

On the laundry list of necessary products (get thee to a drug store)...

“If you’re going to self-tan, remember to exfoliate first! Bliss Hot Salt Scrub is great because it does not contain cream or oil and gives you a clean, smooth finish. Exfoliating is key to making your tan look even and last longer. Color will look patchy on dry, rough skin. I also recommend using a tiny amount of cream or lotion on any dry areas like knees or elbows before tanning. It won’t absorb as evenly into those rough areas. [When it comes to] self tanner, look for one that’s only a shade or two darker than your skin tone! It will be the most flattering and realistic looking. For body bronzer, find a cream or powder that’s at least two shades deeper than your skin tone. This will be key in contouring and securing a slimming effect.”

On how to use self tanner and body makeup without having it transfer all over your clothes…

“Choosing the right product is key. Not all products are sweat and transfer-proof, meaning you may have to use an additional setting or fixing product to ensure the tan stays on. St. Tropez One Night Only Instant Glow Body Lotion is really the best option for a rookie wanting to apply temporary body makeup in order to achieve a deep and even tan with just a single application. Apply the lotion with a St. Tropez Applicator Mitt to save your hands from getting messy then use a little bit more to contour and define curves. This lotion is great because it is completely touch, sweat and transfer-proof as it contains a new type of technology called acrylate, which is a film former that seals product onto the skin until it is showered off. If you make a mistake, a simple cleansing wipe can be used to rectify. If you are using any other regular body makeup, I suggest setting it with hairspray, although this can sometimes make the skin feel sticky. The pros use fixing sprays, which is an expensive option but it certainly does the job! I did all the skin finishing for the We Are Handsome show at Miami Swim Fashion Week 2015 and the models all wore St. Tropez Luxe Dry Oil with fixing spray. Nothing (I mean, nothing!) transferred onto their runway outfits.”

On how to fake it ‘til you make it while on the beach...

“If you are wearing a bathing suit or bikini you are more likely going to want to jump into the pool or ocean, so I would use a self tan product. Once developed, self tanners will stay put for 4-5 days, if not longer. Apply St. Tropez Self Tan Bronzing Mousse all over the body as a base, just to clean up the skin and add glow. Then using St. Tropez Self Tan Dark Bronzing Spray, spray and contour to add definition to your shape. Using two different shades of self tan is the easiest and quickest way and to complete the look all in one application. Adding definition is simply about shading and giving the illusion of a slimmer, toned look. I would spray under the bottom for a lifted look, on the side of the bottom in a half circle and on the sides of the stomach for a slimming effect and down the centre line of the stomach and across to define a six pack (you do need a little definition here to start with, otherwise it can look like dirty marks!). To eliminate saddle bags and hide cellulite, I would shade under the bicep, across the top of the arm and down the sides of the thighs. If wanted, shading in-between the cleavage and right underneath will give a more lifted and fuller look.”

On the fact that all the celebs are doing it (so you totally should too)...

“It's mind-boggling the number of flawless, glowing, uber-toned celebs you see walking the red carpet! Well chances are, you can thank contouring for that. This popular makeup and tanning technique is the holy grail of industry secrets that can instantly transform your body from basic to high definition 3D! 

“A basic tan is a great start but all-over color of the same shade can sometimes minimize or even "flatten" out your muscle tone and natural angles. The process of highlighting and shading using makeup, or in this case sunless tanner, gives your body a "third dimension" for a longer, leaner, more fit appearance. You can pay a visit to tanning salons or you can head into your own bathroom and DIY!”

On exactly how to DIY a red carpet-worthy tan-and-contour…

“You’ll need ​sunless tanning spray in your desired tan shade and sunless tanning lotion in the same or slightly darker shade. Bright overhead bathroom lighting is crucial. It creates natural shadows so you can easily see the natural contours of your body. 

“With minimal tanning lotion applied to your fingertip, lightly trace areas you want to contour. Use gloves or a small mitt to prevent staining your palms. Then, once fully dried, apply self-tanning spray over your entire body as directed. The subtle lines and shading will show through once your tan is fully developed.”

On how to contour the “fab four”...

“Chest : Add a beautiful bronze 'pop to your collar' by contouring the lower neck and chest areas. Lean your shoulders forward to better expose your collarbones and lightly trace the natural shadows above and below your collarbone. You can also outline the sides of your chest for an instant lift. 

“Upper Arms: Amp up those biceps and triceps! To build biceps, flex your arms and trace the natural line under your bicep where the skin appears darker. For your triceps, extend your arm, make a fist and trace under the indentation on the back of your arm.

“Abs: Tighten up that tummy! Lightly trace the natural line down the center of your stomach stopping slightly below the belly button. Then trace the lines on both sides of your belly button (obliques). 

“Legs: For more tone below the belt, aim for your calves and thighs. Flex your calves and contour the small shaded area right under the muscle on the back of your leg. You can also contour your outer thigh by applying a small amount of sunless tanner along the indentation between your hamstrings and quadriceps. 

Remember, a little goes a long way and practice makes perfect!”

On her first-timer’s checklist…

“Color: For the color to look real, stay within a few shades of your bare skin

Finish: Do you like it sheer, shimmery or opaque?

Wearability: Check to see if it will rub right off or stay in place. This is good to know before you sit on any white furniture!”

On how exactly one should go about applying body makeup...

“Start with clean skin. Apply deodorant first, then apply lotion only where you really need it (heels, elbows, face). Before applying any body makeup, get dressed! But leave shoes and jewelry ‘til last. Protect your clothes by tucking kleenex along the edges until you've finished applying. Throw a towel on the floor for any drips. Start at your feet and work your way up—this will help to avoid smearing on your clothes. Go slightly further up the leg than what's exposed. Don't forget the backs of your hands! Blend the makeup in well, in good light, and remove excess with a clean, damp makeup sponge. Lastly, set the makeup with a light dusting of translucent powder (apply to inner arms to reduce transferring). For a slimming effect use a highlighting powder over the shoulders, collarbones, and down the front of your arms and legs. Always do a trial run before you plan to wear body makeup! Stand back and check yourself out in the mirror. If you know you're going to be photographed, a selfie wouldn't hurt!”

On how to create an illusion...

“Anytime I need to look thinner, I tan! And so do my clients! A tan gives you that healthy, fit glow, like that of a dancer’s body. If you can, invest in a custom airbrush tan a day (or two) beforehand. You'll be left with a golden tan that's slimming, long-lasting, and streak-free. During an at-home tanning session I customize color depth and application for every body type. Subtle contouring hides fat and make limbs appear thinner and toned. I pay special attention to the stomach, waist, thighs, arms, butt, calves, neck and cheekbones. If you can't do an airbrush tan, keep a good gradual tanning lotion on standby for these moments!”

On her favorite body makeup products...

“St. Tropez Gradual Tan, Prtty Peaushun Skin Tight Body Lotion, Makeup Forever Face & Body Foundation, M.A.C. Mineralize Skinfinish in Soft & Gentle.

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