Main menu Open search menu

How to Contour in Four Steps (or One If You Don't Have Time)

BY: Editors |

contoured-woman-in-black-sun-hat

Do you know how to contour? Are you sure? Even for those of us who love makeup, contouring—the art of shading and highlighting the cheekbones, forehead, chin, and other facial features—can be intimidating. Done right, it gives you sculpted cheekbones and a more streamlined nose and jawline. Done wrong, it makes you look like you rubbed dirt on your face and then drew attention to it with a bunch of shimmer.

To avoid the latter scenario, we sought the advice of Eugenia Weston, the founder of LA's Senna Cosmetics and an Emmy-nominated makeup artist who used to make Barbra Streisand's custom foundation. Eugenia has been using contour makeup since she started out in the business, so if anyone knows how to contour properly, it's this woman.

How to Contour Tutorial

1. Sculpt the face.

Apply your normal foundation, then add contour beneath your cheekbones by following your jaw's natural indentation "from the top of the ear angling toward the mouth," Eugenia advises. (If you're having trouble finding this spot, suck in your cheeks like you're making a fish face.)

Shade around your hairline and temples, down the sides of the top of your nose and under the nose tip, and under your jawline. Contouring the jawline is particularly important for older women. "As women age, gravity makes the face fall, so you don't have that nice definition," Eugenia explains.

2. Blend it out.

Soften any obvious lines with a damp blending sponge or a small, clean, fluffy brush.

3. Get lit.

Apply your highlighter in an upside-down triangle underneath your eyes to add a bit of lift to the face. Then swipe highlighter on your cheekbones and forehead, down the center of your nose, under your brows, and in the middle of your chin. If you're using a shimmery highlighter, Eugenia suggests placing it on your cheekbones and down the center of your nose only. That's because shimmer tends to exacerbate oil, large pores, and fine lines.

4. Set it and forget it.

Dust translucent loose powder over your face using a fluffy brush. This sets your foundation, contour, and highlight and helps blend any lingering visible demarcations. If you're using a shimmery highlighter, set your face with the loose powder before applying it as the loose powder will mattify the flattering sheen.

how-to-contour-illustration

Supplies

If you don't want to think about it ...

If you want to use stuff you already have ...

  • Contour: This can be a specific contour shade, a powder/cream foundation in a neutral brown color, or a matte bronzer.
  • Highlight: This can be a specific highlighter or a powder/cream foundation or concealer that's 2–3 shades lighter than your skin tone.
  • Blender. This can be a blending sponge (good for cream products) or a contour brush and small blending brush (good for powder ones).
  • Setting powder: Grab some translucent loose powder and a fluffy powder brush.

Professionals like Eugenia typically use at least three different shades when they contour—a gray-brown contour, a highlight, and a lowlight—but Eugenia says the average woman really only needs two. "I would just get a neutral brown and a really light, light shade, either in a cream or powder form."

Or you can just use concealer to highlight and bronzer to contour, something Eugenia says works for most women. Just make sure your bronzer is brown, without an orange or red hue, and matte, without a hint of shimmer. A face powder three to four shades darker than your skin tone works too.

shop-cosmetics-banner

Should I even bother contouring?

Absolutely! Contouring is basically your own real-life Photoshop studio.

"Contouring creates symmetry and balance [in] the face," Eugenia says. "Maybe we don't have high cheekbones and we can enhance them with highlight, maybe we have a weak jawline ... maybe we have a high forehead and we can shade that down. ... We can slim a nose, we can widen a nose, we can make it look longer," she adds.

And you don't have to add so much contour that you look like an overworked Instagrammer. If a full-on contour is a little much for you, try just a little contour under your cheekbones and jawline for a more subtle look.

How to Contour in One Step

Say there's an alien invasion and I have exactly 12 seconds to contour before I flee into the forest. What then?

You have two choices: just bronzer or just highlighter.

With the bronzer, quickly shade under the jawline and under the cheekbones. "You could even use it in the crease of the eye," Eugenia says. "That really is quick [and] easy, and it looks really good."

If you use only highlighter, apply it on your cheekbones and blend it up in a half moon around the outer edges of your eyes.

And go, go, go!

RELATED READS:


Our 5 Favorite Contour Kits Under $25 Our 5 Favorite Contour Kits Under $25

Grab a kit and be done with it. There's even one for less than $10!
Put Your Tweezers Down. Read These Brow Tips First. Put Your Tweezers Down. Read These Brow Tips First.

Like good contouring, good eyebrows can change your face. Read on for Eugenia's brow tips.