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 • Makeup  • Makeup Tutorials  • How To Pop Your Contouring Cherry for a Perfectly Sculpted Look Every Time

How To Pop Your Contouring Cherry for a Perfectly Sculpted Look Every Time

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Main image – Live That Glow

To contour or not to contour? If you’ve been asking yourself this question, it might be because you’re unsure on what contouring even is, let alone how to do it. 

But don’t worry, you’re not the only one. So, let’s begin with what contouring actually is. 

It’s a makeup technique that adds depth and definition to your finished look. For example, some makeup users like to create the illusion of more defined, sculpted cheekbones using a contour whilst others like to use one to create an all-round 3D effect.


Girl showing her face after contouring

Image – Live That Glow


Typically, you would go for two shades darker than your natural skin tone. “It should have a cool tone and matte finish to create a natural-looking shadow,” says makeup artist Ashley Nichole Gibson. And much like blushers and bronzers, contouring products come in a few different textures – creams, powders, liquids, sticks, and gels.

They are usually applied with either a brush or a sponge but some people like to use their fingers too. It all depends on where you’re applying it, the look you’re going for and what you find easiest. 

Minimal makeup wearers, don’t panic. Contouring isn’t mandatory for a flawless makeup finish. If you prefer to look less made up, then ditch the contour and embrace the au natural look! 

But in case you’re up for learning a sneaky new makeup trick that’s easier than it sounds, keep scrolling for simplified techniques and all the tool tips from Gibson and fellow makeup artist Monina Wright.  


Which areas of my face can I contour?

Girl showing which areas of the face you can contour

Image – Live That Glow

  • Cheekbones – “Contouring your cheekbones can significantly enhance your facial features, giving you a more sculpted and defined look,” explains Gibson
  • Jawline – “This can help define and sculpt the lower part of your face, giving a more chiselled and balanced appearance,” she says.
  • Nose Gibson explains, “This can be a great way to enhance your features.” It can also help to create the illusion of a bigger or smaller size.
  • Forehead – “Contouring should be applied to the forehead only if you feel that yours is either too large or too wide for your face,” says Wright. “Think of contouring like you are erasing areas you do not like.”


How to contour your cheekbones

Girl showing how to contour cheekbones

Image – Live That Glow

  • Find your cheekbone. “Suck in your cheeks to find the hollows,” Gibson advises. “This is where you’ll apply your contour. The line should start from the top of your ears and fade away towards the corner of your mouth.”
  • Apply with light strokes along the hollows. “Remember it’s easier to build a product than remove it,” she says. “To avoid harsh lines, blend the product towards your hairline. The key to a natural contour is seamless blending.”
  • Afterwards, you can highlight. “Apply a highlighter on the top of your cheekbones above where you contoured,” Gibson continues. “This will enhance the cheekbones further by reflecting light.”
  • Finish with some blusher. “Select a blush that compliments your skin tone and the shades of your contour and highlighter,” says Gibson. “The goal is to avoid harsh lines, allowing each product to blend into the other subtly.”


How to contour your jawline

  • Find your jawline: “Feel for the bone with your fingers,” explains Gibson. “Apply the contour product below your jawbone. Drawing the contour right on the bone can sometimes make it less effective in creating a shadow.”
  • Keep your line sharp. “Jawline contouring often benefits from a slightly sharper line to create a more defined jaw. However, you still want to avoid harsh or apparent lines.” 
  • Aim low. “Blend the product downwards onto your neck rather than upwards,” Gibson suggests. “This creates a shadow effect that enhances the jawline’s appearance.”
  • Be mindful of the amount. “Use a light hand when applying contour to the jawline. Too much product can look unnatural, especially in natural light.”


How to contour your nose

  • Identify your nose shape. “Different shapes benefit from different contouring techniques,” Gibson explains.  “For instance, if you have a wide nose, you might want to contour the sides to create a slimming effect.”
  • Contour. “Start by drawing two lines down the sides of your nose. These lines should be thin and follow the natural shape of your nose,” she says.  “If you want to shorten the appearance of your nose, apply a little contour to the bottom of your nose as well.
  • Next, highlight. “Apply a highlighter down the centre of your nose. This will help to create the illusion of a more defined nose. The highlighter should be a shade or two lighter than your skin tone.”
  • Blend. “Blending is key to natural-looking contouring,” Gibson says. “Use a clean brush or sponge to blend the contour lines, ensuring no harsh edges.”


How to contour your forehead

Girl showing how to contour forehead

Image – Live That Glow

  • Wide foreheads: “Apply the contouring product just to the outer areas of your forehead, to the temples,” explains Wright
  • Long or large foreheads: “Follow the outer temples and also along the hairline in your forehead to create the illusion of your hairline and your temples coming in and down the forehead area,” she says. 


Contour: before or after foundation?

According to Wright, it should be after for an easier foundation application. “If you are contouring to change the shape of your face, like slimming your nose, then it is best to apply the contouring product after you have applied foundation,” she says. 

“Applying foundation allows you to blend the makeup all over the face much easier if you do not have your contouring products on already, and contouring is only applied to certain areas of the face.”


The takeaway

Those who want a slightly more sculpted, defined makeup look – contour! (And those who don’t, don’t! Zero judgement!) 

Following the above tips should help you to achieve stress-free contouring and will ensure you don’t end up with lots of harsh lines on your face.

The key is to blend, blend, blend, use the right tools and make sure you’re placing your contour in the right areas. Remember to suck in your cheeks to find your cheekbones, the downwards blending trick for your jawline, the highlighter tip for defining your nose and don’t contour your forehead unless you want to minimise its appearance.

“Makeup is a form of self-expression and should be fun,” adds Gibson. “Don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques to find what works best for you.” Happy contouring!


Meet the experts

Ashley Nichole Gibson is a licensed aesthetician and makeup artist who owns Paraposh, which provides on-site makeup services. Specialising in bridal makeup, her experience also extends to training and education for cosmetic brands, conducting master classes at Ulta, and working as a makeup artist at QVC for beauty brands.


Monina Wright is a licensed aesthetician and professional makeup artist in the Bay Area. She is the founder + CEO of Moderne Beauty & Esthetics where she works and mentors aspiring makeup artists while helping women achieve their natural glow through individualised skincare.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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