If there’s one makeup trend that’s quite literally defined our beauty regime for the past five years, it’s contouring. In minutes you can have cheekbones Naomi Campbell would die for, and you can create the illusion of a slimmer, more chiseled face. Contouring is all about using shade and light in different areas to sculpt your face, and depending on your unique face shape, you can use contouring in different areas to fake a different face shape. For example, if you have a long face shape you should contour in completely different places to someone who might have a round face.
While there’s no perfect face shape (it would be a pretty boring world if there was), if you do want to slim or manipulate the shape your face, this ultimate guide to contouring your face shape will give you the same clever sculpting knowledge as any makeup artist.
Find your shade: One of the most important steps of contouring is finding the right shade: Go one shade darker than your foundation, or for a more dramatic look, you could opt for two shades darker. For a more natural shadow, use ashy shades that have cooler, grey undertones – if the contour shade is too bronzey or orange, it won’t look natural.
The Basic Rules: Think light in the center of your face, and shadow at the edges. The classic rule is to ‘draw a 3’ that will frame your face; so your bronzer or contouring shade should be swept from your forehead around your hairline, under your cheekbones, and back around and under your jaw, just like if you were to draw a 3 shape on either side of your face. If you have a larger forehead, adding more contour here can help to give the illusion of a smaller forehead. Most importantly, remember to blend, obvious lines never look good!
How to contour to flatter your face shape:
Face Shape: Forehead is slightly wider than the chin, with high cheekbones.
Contour Guidelines: Oval faces really suit the basic 3 contouring outline: sweeping your contour shade in the shape of 3 from your temples to below your cheekbones to the outside of the upper jaw.
Face Shape: Forehead, jawline, and cheekbones are all the same width.
Contour Guidelines: The goal here is to create a more oval shape, so add more contour to the corners of your face (the outer corners of your forehead and jaw). Then add a subtle contour underneath your cheekbones, bringing it up to just below your temples.
Face Shape: Facial width and length are roughly the same size.
Contour Guidelines: If your face is a little round, contouring can add major definition. In general, you want to stick to the 3 contour framework. Contour along the outer edges of your forehead, at your temples, and under your cheekbones, then continue the contour around your jawline, avoiding the chin. By leaving the chin free of contour, it will help to add more height to your face, creating the illusion of a longer, more oval face shape.
Face Shape: Forehead is wider with a sharp chin.
Contour Guidelines: You can create the illusion of a more oval-shaped face by contouring the outer edges of your forehead, along your temples, and under your cheekbones. Instead of contouring your jawline, which is already slim, add contour to the bottom of your chin, which will make it appear shorter and less pointed.
Face Shape: Forehead, cheekbones, and chin are a similar width.
Contour Guidelines: To balance the length of your face, instead of adding contour to the sides, you should contour along the top of your forehead and below your chin and jawline, which will help to create the illusion of a shorter face. Add depth to your cheekbones by keeping the contour more horizontal and curving it under your cheekbones.
Remember, these are guidelines! If you don’t want to make your face appear slimmer, or your chin to look shorter, just don’t contour there – it’s totally up to you!
While contouring uses darker shades to define and reshape your features, highlighting and baking adds light to areas you want to emphasize.
Highlighter: Using a concealer one or two shades lighter than your foundation, you can highlight underneath your eyes, slightly in the center of the forehead (unless your forehead is larger), and down the center of your nose. You can also highlight the center of your chin or underneath the cheek depending on your face shape.
Baking: A lot of people find baking quite an intimidating makeup trick but we promise it’s actually super easy and it’s so effective. Add a thick layer of translucent powder to your undereye and leave it to sit for three to five minutes. Then just brush off the existing powder with a loose brush and you’re left with a seriously silky, bright undereye. You can also apply the powder underneath your cheekbone contour and to your t-zone for added definition.
Cream VS Powder
One of the biggest contour debates is cream contour vs powder contour. Cream contour often gives a more subtle finish, while powder contouring can be much more dramatic, so the key is to go slowly – contouring isn’t meant to be obvious, it should just slightly trick the eye. You can also build on your cream powder and set it with a powder contour afterward. Check out our video on how to use cream contour here.
For more makeup hacks, check out this post to find out how you should shape your brows to flatter your face.