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Joseph Harwood – the Face Behind Sculpt & Soften

Joseph Harwood (@JosephHarwood) is, if nothing else, somebody who knows exactly who they are and what they’re doing. The fearless non-binary makeup artist is constantly caught between one project and the next. A bonified expert on all things contouring, they helped us create our own Sculpt & Soften palette, so we’ve snagged a few minutes from their busy schedule to talk about their sculpting routine.


What were your first contouring products?

J: The first time I discovered contouring, I was at a friend’s house and we were looking through the pages of her mum’s Kevyn Aucoin book. It was a revelation that people could articulate their facial features with simple shading techniques and I was hooked. I started by mixing shades, using pigments in cheap eyeshadows that I could afford with foundations to darken the formula. The first product I found that I fell in love with was a double ended stick by Estee Lauder in their FX range, it was very orange but it was my first step in learning how to best contour my face.


How did you learn what suits your face?

J: I remember looking at the guides when I first started posting tutorials on social media, it was a very one size fits all approach, this is the way to do it. Having my nose broken in school, pairing that with a pale skin tone with olive undertones, I could see blatantly that a bronze stripe in the same place on both sides of my face did absolutely nothing. For me, it became a challenge to create symmetry. I used an old webcam that showed me as I looked to the eye, with a mirror that showed my reflection and noted the differences. I began to realise that I didn’t need contour on both sides of my nose, nudging the undereye concealer into the edge to bring the vector into the centre of my face. One side of my face is more curved, so required a different contouring style. It was a trial and error experiment and my early tutorials were made because I saw no one talking about this process, particularly when feminising the features.


In what order do you apply your contour/highlight?

J: The techniques can change depending on what lighting I’m going to be in. Night time presents a different set of options, you can go a little stronger than in the daylight so it’s definitely about the place. As a simple rule, I tend to apply the contour before the base makeup in the day, the sheer veil of foundation cancels out the depth of the contour. In the evening, I’m happy to reverse that rule and apply the contour over the base. It just is a simple way of increasing intensity.


How much product do you use?

J: I tend to judge the amount of product based on the lighting. I use retinol products in my skincare which go through phases of smoothing the skin to a more refined texture or looking more dehydrated and grainy. This is the normal process of the skin shedding which helps prevent ageing whilst smoothing the texture, which is exceptionally important when thinking about makeup. The canvas is as important as the application. The more product you use, the more attention you are bringing to the skin, so if you think about the lighting, the areas in which require coverage and focus in on that, less can be so much more.


Your favourite way to blend out products?

J: I tend to use a combination of tools, I first developed my own set of makeup brushes in 2009 and for me, it was a step into finding the tools that would minimise the texture of my facial hair, would waste less product and create a flawless base. I tend to apply with a synthetic concealer style paintbrush, I then buff into areas that I am confident will be smooth, I avoid any facial hair as this motion can lift the look of fine hairs. I always finish with a sponge to remove any lines of demarcation, always go up behind the ears and blend into the area of your neck that is on show. I tend to spray the face with vitamin-infused waters to sheer down the product, but this is an extra step to create a thinner base.


How often do you sculpt your face?

J: I use sculpting techniques in every application, I deepen the intensity depending on the context but it would be redundant to wear makeup for me, if it didn’t bring harmony to my features.


Any tips that changed the way you sculpt your face?

J: Definitely look at symmetry with all the tools at your disposal, you do not need to apply the same amount of product to both sides of the face, our faces are not perfectly symmetrical so just consider that when planning out your shading.


For even more tips and techniques, the Jecca Makeup Sculpt & Soften palette is accompanied by a how-to guide written by Joseph and Jecca Makeup founder Jessica Blackler. Purchase here: JeccaBlac.co.uk/store.