How to Apply Contour Makeup

Lilly Wallace

Contouring is a technique used to sculpt, define and enhance facial features. When done properly, it can give the illusion of a slimmer face, more pronounced cheekbones, and even a more straight nose. Depending on your face shape and facial features, you should decide which areas of your face may benefit from this technique.

How to Choose the Right Shade

The shade of your contour product should be as close as possible to the natural color of the shadows created on your face from light. Therefore, you should avoid all products containing shimmer and those with a strong warm/red undertone. When used carefully, some matte, taupe eyeshadows can be used for the purpose of contouring.

How to Choose the Right Texture

Contouring can be done with both cream or powder products. Skin type can be a determining factor when deciding between the two: Dry skin types may opt for cream products, while oily skin types may choose powder products. However this is just a general guide, and depending on your level of expertise, you may achieve flawless results with either texture. When choosing a contouring product, stick to one texture. Mixing creams and powders can give a patchy look to the skin.

Define Cheekbones

After applying your foundation, concealer (and setting powder, if you choose to use a contour powder), begin with defining your cheekbones by intensifying the natural shadows below them. If you have a hard time figuring out where to place the contour product suck in your cheeks and the hollows of your cheeks will be more visible. Start by lightly applying the product in small circular motion from the center of your ear going inward towards the inner end of your cheekbone.

Apply little by little because trying to remove excess product can disturb the foundation and other makeup you already applied. The goal is to intensify the natural shadow and enhance it, without leaving a harsh-looking stripe of color on your face. If you do happen to apply too much product, grab a clean face brush and blend the product to soften the color.

Create a Soft "C-Shape"

Lilly Wallace

Apply the contour product along the hairline, focusing on the depth of the temples. Then, forming a C-shape, apply contour from the temples along the side of your face going towards your cheekbones. If you have a larger forehead contouring your temples and hairline may give the effect of a smaller forehead.

"Slim" Your Jawline

Lilly Wallace

Rounder faces may be visually "slimmed" by applying contour product along the jawline, starting from below the ear and moving towards the chin. If your face is long and angular, skip jaw line contouring.

Shape Your Nose

Lilly Wallace

Nose contouring requires a little extra expertise and a very light hand, as a heavy application can give a very obvious, unflattering look. With a soft, eyeshadow blending brush apply the contour product on the sides of your nose, as if you were to trace a soft, but straight line from the inner end of your eyebrow down to the tip of your nose. If the line appears too strong, blend with a clean eyeshadow blending brush. You may also apply a little product under the tip of your nose to give the illusion of a slightly shorter nose.

"Shorten" Your Face

Lilly Wallace

Faces with a longer shape and a prominent chin may apply some contour product to the tip of the chin to give the illusion of a shorter face.

Define Your Eye Socket

Lilly Wallace

This step is especially effective for people with hooded eyes, because it creates the illusion of a deeper shadow. With a blending brush, apply the contour product into the crease. If you don't have a naturally defined crease, open your eyes and place the product where your crease would be.

A Few More Tips:

  • Keep all contouring soft by blending the edges with your brush. Harsh lines are very unflattering, and look very unforgiving in photos! (A few examples of contouring gone wrong here and here).
  • Daytime contouring should be kept minimal and evening contouring can be intensified slightly.
  • Keep a clean face brush on hand to soften lines and correct mistakes.
  • Adapt contouring to your face. Skip cheekbone contouring if you already have a slim, angular face.
  • For a more dramatic look, you may want to combine contouring with highlighting.