The low down on contouring

What is contouring?

Contouring is a technique that uses three makeup products to sculpt areas of the face so that your features appear more defined or slimmer. By using your normal base colour (foundation, BB cream or tinted moisturiser), a product such as foundation or powder two shades darker and the same product two shades lighter; you are able to add extra shadow and highlights to create a contoured look.


Types of contouring

There are essentially two types of contouring: the natural contour and the “heavy natural”. Today we will talk about the natural contour which is designed to complement your already beautiful face and skin rather than mask it.

Natural contouring is designed to add depth whilst using gentle strokes and small amounts of product in strategic areas across the face to subtly define and accentuate your features. Conversely, “heavy natural”, builds layers of product to give an obviously made up look and can often completely change how a person’s face looks, much like a disguise.

Who contours and when?

This is the interesting bit. Contouring has long been seen as the reserve of teenage girls and particularly, millennials. However this is no longer the case and this relatively simple technique is being used by more and more women in their day to day makeup routine or reserved for evening makeup looks.

When to contour and how much time to spend creating the look, is entirely up to the individual. Contouring takes a bit of practice to perfect and as the real secret is to blend, blend, blend – it can also take a while to achieve the natural effect.

What products to use?

When deciding what products to use to contour, you have several options… Always start with your normal base (which matches your skin tone), be that foundation, BB cream or tinted moisturiser. Next you need to choose your contour product and highlighter. The best for beginners is using your normal brand of foundation two shades darker for contouring and one, two shades lighter for highlighting. Using a stick foundation will help with precision and using the same product allover means blending will be a breeze. Aside from the main products, you will also need a good blending brush or beauty blender sponge and a loose powder for setting.

Option two, is a powder contouring pallet which will usually include both contouring colours and highlighters – choosing the right tools to apply the products is particularly important if you use powders, as you will need to be precise. Fan brushes are excellent but if you don’t have one, a clean and dry foundation brush will also work.

How to contour

1. Prep your skin. Exfoliate if you need to, then apply your usual toner and daytime moisturiser and allow it to settle into the skin (5 – 10 minutes) before carrying on.
2. Apply a good primer, if you use one – this will help your foundation and all other products stay on for longer and stop them becoming caked or sliding off.
3. Apply your usual base. Using a foundation brush, beauty blender or your fingers. Apply your foundation working from the centre of your face outwards.
4. Contour!
a. Suck in your cheeks and apply a small amount of the darker product underneath the cheekbone on both sides of your face.
b. Apply a small amount of the darker product on your jaw line and on your temples.
c. Again, add a small amount of product along the top of your hairline either side of your face (working toward the middle).
d. Last place, from where your eyebrow meets your nose, dot small amounts down each side of your nose and just under the tip.
5. Don’t blend yet! You will have lines and dots everywhere – this is fine. Now take the lighter shade and highlight;
a. Apply the lighter shade on your cheekbones and underneath the darker product on your cheekbones, down the centre of your nose, on your cupids bow and on your chin.
b. Apply a small amount under each eyebrow, close to the hairs and a small amount above each eyebrow too.
c. Apply under your eyes in a triangle shape.
d. Lastly, apply the lighter shade in-between your eyebrows in a fan shape (the one triangle point facing the top of your nose).
6. Blend, blend, blend! Once you’ve applied both lighter and darker shades, use a clean damp beauty blender or stippling brush and start by blending the colour under your cheekbones toward the hairline. Using gentle strokes keep going until you blend away any lines or dots.
7. Once blended, use a large fluffy brush to set your contour with a loose powder. You can now add blush to the apples of your cheeks.

Practice absolutely makes perfect when it comes to contouring so keep trying and you will be able to achieve a natural, sculpted look!

Thank you to hairdresseronfire for the use of this photograph.