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I’ve hesitated on writing this review because I predicted that it would amount to a self-righteous rant on what contouring should and should not be.

First I’d like to make my distinction between contouring and shading – to many the terms may be synonymous but this is my outlook: shading could be adding dimension to the face using a bronzer or heck, even a blush, anything that adds some variation. To me, contouring is mimicking the natural shadows of the face (ie: ashy shades) to create the illusion of shadows and depth. Feel free to disagree with me!

I purchased Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Intensity 1 with the intention to use it as a crème contour, despite the obvious SHADE on the label. That was silly.

Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Intensity 1

Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Intensity 1 is a two part crème compact, one constituent is a bronzey brown crème sans shimmer. At first glance, I thought the illuminate component was a gloss in stick form (which intrigued me) but on closer inspection I can detect a fine, fleshy shimmer. There is a deeper counterpart, Intensity 2, suited to deeper skin tones.

Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Intensity 1

My first impressions were: crap, that’s a warm contour and holy emollient batman. Despite all this and the hefty USD75 price tag, my blind faith in Lisa Eldridge and my stubborn nature led me to persevere, trying to make it work.

Tom Ford also offers a Shade and Illuminate Brush (sold separately) which I purchased, I was gonna give it my best shot!

Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Intensity 1

Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Intensity 1

Tom Ford, are you trolling us? I couldn’t have picked a brush more ill suited to this purpose if I tried! Once my stripey war paint was applied, I inevitably must reach for a fluffy brush to blend it out, a stiff flat brush simply does nothing to diffuse the contour. It performs okay for the illuminate portion of the palette, but so would half my brush collection. To add insult to injury, it retails for USD72, which is a bloody high price point for an otherwise generic and synthetic brush.

My best mode of application, through trial and error, was the Real Techniques Contour Brush, a small and domed synthetic brush that blends as it applies.

Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Intensity 1

I will structure this review based on my concerns.

It is warm

No way around it, the shade component of this duo is warm. To illustrate, here are some swatches of S&I against some of my favourite contours and bronzers.

Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Intensity 1

Shade reads more like a rich bronzer than a contour, which will be a real deal breaker on cooler skins or fairer skins as I imagine it will translate as flat out orange on some of you. I’m a NC20-25 (ish, I’m actually a rainbow) and to see what we’re working with, here is my before shot.

Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Intensity 1

After after, Shade crème used sparingly in the hollows of the cheekbones, temples and under the jawline.

Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Intensity 1

Front on and we’re in the clear, right? A little warm but totally passable. The real test is the profile shot…

Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Intensity 1

My merest of males couldn’t-tell-a-lipstick-from-a-mascara-boyfriend could detect orange which, in my books, counts as contouring mistakes 101. It actually photographs much nicer than it looks in person (perhaps that is why it appears to be a makeup artist favourite? Charlotte Tilbury, Lisa Eldridge etc) but trust me when I say I was rushing for the Bioderma.

It is seriously emollient

Not inherently a bad thing! The consistency of both Shade and Illuminate is thin and tacky, not siliconey like Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel nor cream to powder; it remains tacky on the skin. I would normally introduce a bit of contour in the eye socket but cannot with S&I because it creases like a mofo. I can’t get it to work on my nose without looking greasy.

Call me a contouring stick in the mud but I feel like any shine detracts from a contour as it negates a sense of depth. The tricky texture also meant that I couldn’t achieve a precise, structured contour; it works best when shading large portions of the face which, when paired with the warm tone, means I start resembling a bronzed beach babe. A look, but not one I gravitate towards frequently.

Then comes the real deal breaker for me; it is so emollient that it moves any base product. Not much of an issue for the Shade portion because I don’t wear foundation on the outer perimeters of my face but as for the illuminate gloss, despite various application methods (including patting) my natural flush on my cheekbone starts rearing its head. I found that alternating layers of foundation and Illuminate worked best, which you can see here.

Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Intensity 1

Again, picturing much better than it appears in person (y u make my life hard?).

As to be expected with emollient products, both Shade and Illuminate exhibit poor longevity and slip around on my normal skin type. If your contour was under your cheekbone on application, by midday it’s formed a moustache above your lip. If your highlight was on your cheekbone, it’s migrated to your brows. Finally, I found that both Shade and Illuminate emphasise large pores, skin texture and peach fuzz. I JUST DON’T KNOW, guise.


I can safely say that Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Intensity 1 was a contouring epic fail on me; it adds colour and variation to the face but little sense of depth. Coupled with the warm tone, I’m struggling to recommend it to anyone but this is my best attempt: if you are medium to tanned, with a dryer skin type and are fond of a warm contour (or shading, rather), this may be for you.

That’s all I got, sorry Tom Ford.


Complete list of products mentioned

Contour Brush
Contour Brush
Shade & Illuminate Brush
Shade & Illuminate Brush
Shade & Illuminate Intensity 1
Shade & Illuminate Intensity 1
* Denotes products sent for consideration. Iā€™m always honest with my reviews :)

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  1. Thank you for this honest review! So far I’ve only been reading raves, and I thought, surely there must be something bad other than the price. Great details, Karima. And LOL at Holy Emolient Batman. Hahahaha!!

    1. Hey Lily šŸ™‚ If I’m entirely honest, I read a lot of review and…I just can’t see where they’re coming from :-/ I really expected at least a few poor reviews but nope. I really wanted to love it but alas! xxkarima

  2. This is an excellent review and I feel the exact same way as you. I just could not work with it, before or after foundation. it is way too emolient for my liking. I have since sold mine off during a blogsale :p

    1. Hi Mabel! Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one who felt this way! Mine is going on a blogsale too, as soon as I can gather enough products to warrant one šŸ™‚ x

  3. Wow! I haven’t heard a lot of negatives about this product. I’ll be honest, the reason I never purchased it is because, to me at least, the blog pics of the “shade” colour always looked orange. I thought maybe the reason everyone loved it was that it somehow transformed to a greyish shade on the skin or something, lol. Glad I trusted my eyes!

    1. I felt exactly the same way!! It looked orange in swatches but I had faith that it would work because everyone seemed to love it. Moral of the story, trust your gut šŸ™‚ x

  4. Oh, man — yeouch! Thia sounds like exactly what I hate about contours — sticky, orange, shiny, etc. So sorry to hear you shelled out for such a disappointing TF product! šŸ™ I still maintain that the best contours (for me) are always eyeshadows — I’ve yet to find a cheek product that gives natural emphasis quite the way a well-picked matte eyeshadow does.

    1. IKR? 145ish dollars worth of fail :-/ I kinda expected to hate it but I had to experience it for myself. I should look into my eyeshadow collection, I bet I have some good shades! Thanks for the tip šŸ˜€ x

  5. As you said, it actually does look stunning on you in those photos! I use Intensity 2 (and I’m about a NC25-30) and while darker, I feel it doesn’t have as much orange as Intensity 1 does. It is a tricky product and I do prefer my powder over it on a daily basis but so far, still trying! haha

    1. Yeah it does look far more flattering in photos, it was frustrating to photograph! While I can see that Intensity 2 might be a better shade, I have too many issues with the product to shell out for more trial and error :-/ I much prefer my powders but curiosity killed the karima šŸ˜› xx

  6. Thank you for your honesty – such a well written review. I’m still trying to find the perfect product for contouring – and unfortunately you have to buy it to give it a proper trial. Thanks thanks again x

  7. Based on swatches alone, I would never pick this up because it has orange tones shining through. I’m glad to hear this honest review even more because it’s crazy how others are raving madly about it when surely, it’s not worth its price tag!

  8. I am always so glad when I see a new post on yiur blog. I just love them. This one is no exception. So thorough and well written. I was actually tempted by this product, as I am looking for a contour, but I thought it would be too dark on me. I am fair and very pale. So, I am glad you dissuaded me from buying it. Now what am I gonna do with the money you just saved me? I know: I will spend it on my newest obsession, which by the way I hold you entirely responsible for: Hakuhodo brushes! I got my first order yesterday and already ordered more! Lots of love from the UK.

    1. Hey Esther šŸ™‚ Glad you found the review helpful- if you’re pale and fair, DO NOT bother! Hakuhodo are a much better means to spend your moneys šŸ™‚ You seem well on your way to a fantastic brush collection. xx

  9. I am always so glad when I see a new post on your blog. I just love them. This one is no exception. So thorough and well written. I was actually tempted by this product, as I am looking for a contour, but I thought it would be too dark on me. I am fair and very pale. So I am glad you dissuaded me from buying it. Now what am I gonna do with the money you just saved me? I know: I will spend it on my newest obsession, which by the way I hold you entirely responsible for: Hakuhodo brushes! I got my first order yesterday and already ordered more! This is going to be an expensive hobby. šŸ™‚ Lots of love from the UK.

  10. Hi Karima,
    I have the TF S&I intensity 1 as well, and I am NC10-15, i.e. warm and fair. I use Chanel Vitalumiere foundation in B10 for reference.

    I lemmed the S&I for a long, long time and finally bought it – but it is such a disappointment! It is more like a bronzer due to the very warm colour, but even on my fair skin, it is hardly visible. And like you said, the staying power is poor.

    I really wanted a cream contour product, but I definitely cannot recommend this one. Gossmakeupartist reviewed it at some time and only found that intensity 2 could be used as a contour colour, but he didn’t like the product either. I have thought about trying intensity 2, but since the product kind of glides off the skin and doesn’t stay, I will give it a miss.

    1. Hey Jeanette šŸ™‚ Yeah, I couldn’t recommend this to anyone fair- especially as fair as you. It has a strange sheer texture which so I had to apply a lot and blend a lot, by the end I was looking very bronze.
      The only review I could find where Goss mentions TF S&I is this one:
      And apparently he loves them so I don’t know. Personally, I wouldn’t bother with the Intensity 2, I think you’ll be equally disappointed. Perhaps try Illamasqua Hollow? I hear good things about that cream contour for pale skins.

  11. Thank you for the honest review! Will never get near this product now šŸ™‚ By the way, you have naturally amazing cheekbones. X

  12. Great review!! I bought this sight unseen and used it as a bronzer for a couple days since it was not going to work for a contour, but I ended up deciding to swap it since, like you said, it moves all your base makeup!

    1. I hadn’t read in any reviews that it moves base makeup! It was the major downfall of the product; I may have considered keeping it if the highlighter was awesome but… Hot mess. I hope to blog sale it *fingers crossed*

  13. I just wanted to say that I think you are fabulous! I recently discovered this blog after searching YouTube for a video on how to apply Kevyn Aucoin SSE. Your video was so impressive and taught me so much that I wanted to see what your blog had to say. I absolutely love it! I appreciate all your honest reviews and the fact that not only are they funny, informative, and to the point but also you don’t sugar coat it things either. Thanks for saving me money and for sending me in the right direction in other areas. You are the best!!!

  14. Oh Karima! I’m sorry you didn’t like this, but the bit where you said about it moving to be a moustache when you weren’t looking made me laugh so much! Ninja contouring that sneaks about your face WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT haha! xxx

  15. THANK YOU for this. I’ve always sort of wanted it, and it has been on and off my list for ages, but every time I look at it at the counter i think it is too orange and not right for me. Given your review, I can forget about this all together! I have the Soleil tan de chanel and find that too warm for contour, so I’ll stick with Chanel Notorious and put KA Sculpting back on my list! šŸ™‚

    1. My pleasure! I was in the same predicament; my eyes were telling me no and online reviews were telling me yes. I had to make the mistake myself, now YOU don’t have to make the same error šŸ˜€ KA Sculpting is awesome, stamp of approval šŸ˜‰ xxkarima

  16. Loved your honesty here and I 100% agree with your thoughts on this product. For awhile, I had it in my head that cream products are just better for the natural look because they fuse with the skin rather than sitting on top of it (case in point: Dior’s limited edition cream blush in Bikini- I will NEVER use powder blush again)…however, I now think that I’m going to stick to powder at least for contouring because a) it gives me better control and b) there is no cream product on the market, as far as I’m aware, to match Kevin Aucoin’s Sculpting Powder.

    Did you happen to compare this with the Hourglass Illume Bronze Light Duo by any chance? I opted for that over the TF Shade & Illuminate and though I found the bronze shade unsuitable for contouring (yep, too orange), the formula is long-wearing (unlike the TF) and the highlighter that comes with it is just GORGEOUS (like Becca’s Shimmering Skin Perfector, but with more impact)…so it wasn’t a total fail for me.

    Seriously LOVE your reviews and your videos! I feel like I’ve learned so much already. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

    1. Hey Evie šŸ™‚ You hit the nail on the head- I have much better control with powder contours as opposed to creams. I haven’t found a cream alternative for Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting but have you tried Illamasqua Hollow? I hear great things. I’m familiar with the Hourglass Illume Duo, I used to work with it! It is beautiful, but I don’t do the bronze look very frequently so I don’t know if I can justify shelling out the cash.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment, it really makes my day šŸ™‚ xxkarima

  17. Hi Karima – thank you for your candor, your “rant” on contouring and your sense of humor (“y u make my life hard?” – HA!). Just the fact that you distinguish between shading and contouring is enough to make me follow your recommendations blindly – so I have to ask, do you have any reservations about the KA Sculpting Powder for dry skin? My inclination is always towards cream products but I suspect Illamasqua Hollow is too light to be a contour for my NC 25-30 skin.

    Appreciate any thoughts you have and thank you again!

    1. Hey Suzy šŸ™‚ I’m so pleased that you find the reviews helpful and entertaining šŸ˜‰
      I do think Hollow will be a bit light on your skintone. Personally, I find the KA Sculpting to be very fine milled and not drying in the slightest- it’s not a dry sort of powder. My reservations would apply if you have flaky skin in the areas which you choose to contour, this could pose some issues. Also keep in mind that dewy foundations may need some setting powder before contour application, to avoid an uneven adherence of contour. I wish I could recommend you a great cream contour but I struggle to find one!

  18. I wish I would have read this before i purchased both the product and way over priced blush. I have dry skin and even then, this product made me feel sticky and shiny. The brush is pretty useless on its own too.

  19. Thank God for your review! I was going insane thinking i’m the only idiot who doesn’t know how to use this product, because I experienced every single thing you mentioned here – wrong shade, too emollient, and damnit that horrible brush!

  20. Oh wow. *facepalm*
    The TF Shade and Illuminate isn’t something for amateurs. I use both intensities on models and clients without a hitch (And yes, with the brush)!

    The product does require a more experienced hand but jesus, if you’re gonna write a review on something you’re not even using right…

    1. That’s an interesting perspective, Kath.
      What is your application method? Application aside, the formula and undertone of Shade & Illuminate was not aligned with my preferences (and makeup relies heavily on preference, as I’m sure you can appreciate).

      1. Hi, Barbie. I hope you don’t mind me leaving a suggestion for you. Since you sound like you have cooler tones in your skin based on your MAC NC20 preference, I’d personally suggest going for the cooler Kevyn Aucoin contouring. I think you’ll be happy with it.

        I’m pretty neutral myself in skin tones but tend to find products like this Tom Ford one just look orangey on my skin no matter how well they are blended. And I find when doing makeup on other people that the cooler tones read far more natural than the warmer ones unless the client has a tan skin tone already.

        I hope that helps a bit. šŸ™‚


  21. I found your site a couple days ago when I was looking at a TF quad, and I fell in love with your site-
    So I have looked at ALL of your looks and my absolute favorite is this one, isn’t crazy!
    For some reason it’s just really pretty-The other favorite is the TF Cocoa Mirage, the simple brown colors look awesome on-

    Just funny that this product did not work, and I have tried it, way too emollient, but it looks beautiful on you-

  22. Thanks for the great review! I was looking at this, hoping that it would fulfill my shading needs, but I don’t like products that are tacky or mess around with my other makeup. I’ll be passing on this one. Thanks for saving me $75!

  23. This is a terrible review of this product. This product does not move at all. I use it daily over bb cream, bb cream/foundation or just primer. Sometimes I add bronzer on top and sometimes I don’t. You’re giving a great product a poor review.