Instagram Exerts a Force in Beauty Trends

Yarisbeth Donaldson demonstrating how to contour on her <a href="">Instagram account</a>.

In days, New York Fashion Week will inspire a burst of beauty trends. But are the runways still the best place to source fresh ideas?

Some would argue that Instagram has supplanted some of fashion week’s influence. This summer, at least, Instagram has driven the makeup conversation. Self-made beauty gurus like @Belladelune and @heidimakeupartist have enticed their followers to try “clown contouring,” “baking” and “strobing.”

Even if the terms sound new, the methods sometimes are not. With the guidance of Beau Nelson, a makeup artist to Nicole Richie and Kristen Stewart, here is a primer to the Instagram trends of the season.

Or really, you could call this Kontouring. With credit due to Jennifer Lopez, the Kardashians brought into vogue this shading and dimension technique, basically using darker shades to chisel the cheekbones, nose and jawline.

Contouring has actually been deployed for years in theater productions and photography studios. Exaggerated shadows compensate for the camera’s harsh light, which can blow out facial features, a reason the technique translates well in selfies. Indeed, contouring has become so popular, it has spawned silly offshoots like “clown contouring,” which involves using various colors all over the face to create highlights and lowlights.

But skip the nose contouring, Mr. Nelson said: “It’s so easy to get wrong. And if you do, it’ll look like you’re on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race.’ ” A touch under the cheekbones, on the other hand, can be wondrously slimming.

ImageHeidi Hamoud showing the strobing technique.
Credit...Heidi Hamoud

The converse of contouring, strobing is another way of saying highlighting. Usually, highlighter is dabbed on the apple of the cheek and swept upward, although some Instagram stars have been using enough of the shimmery stuff to conjure up a new breed of “Star Wars” alien. Textures range from subtly reflective to slick. (Some even use clear lip gloss.)

Like contouring, strobing was initially developed for photo shoots. The Hollywood makeup artist Ben Nye used it for black-and-white photography — quite the controlled setting, Mr. Nelson pointed out.

“If you’re taking it to the real world, you’re going to look shiny and greasy if you use it all over,” he said. But a touch of highlighter over the cheekbone or over the Cupid’s bow can be downright flattering.

Credit...Heidi Hamoud

Baking has been hailed as Contouring 2.0. It’s less about direct contour, though, than it is a setting and light-diffusing step that can create contour through the use of negative space.

You apply your usual foundation of choice, then dust very light powder (translucent or a light banana-tone — or both — work well) in excess under the eye and atop the cheek. You let it “bake” for five to 10 minutes before sweeping away. The technique sets the makeup and leaves a soft, brightening finish around the cheek and eye area (thus leaving the under-cheek region in relative shading).

If it sounds rather pretty, there’s also a caveat: Baking often involves heavy makeup, which is significantly less alluring in real life. Baking “came straight from drag queens, who were trying to cover their beards,” Mr. Nelson said. “They used thick pancake makeup that’s very greasy to cover up stubble. They needed the powder to soak up all that oil and to cut the harsher lines of a man’s face.”

Moreover, if you use a lighter modern-day foundation, the formulas automatically set, no baking required.

Credit...Thao An Nguyen

Full brows have been back for several seasons now, but not everyone is blessed with a Cara Delevingne pair.

Naturally, there’s makeup to fill in the gaps and get your brows looking “on fleek” — that is, on point. The current standard on Instagram is a dramatic brow with the hairs brushed upward, filled in (lighter in front to darker at the ends) then tapered to an immaculate point by cleaning up the area with concealer.

“It’s actually an ombré brow if you break it down,” Mr. Nelson said, adding that because the look is so defined, it also reads unnatural. For a version that’s less Harajuku and more office-appropriate, he suggests passing on heavy cream pencils. Instead, use a two-color brow powder palette and skip the concealer step altogether. “When it’s really well done, it can be beautiful,” he said.