Contouring? | What is it?

Contouring seems to have been a bit of a buzzword in the beauty blogging community for a while now, especially since Kim Kardashian posted that famous picture of herself during her make-up routine. It would be easy to think that this is a new concept considering all the hype, but contouring is a corrective make-up technique that has been around for many years. Of course,  Kim Kardashian is the contouring queen, there’s no doubt about that. We can argue that her technique is versatile, and can be used on anyone. However – here’s the thing – you need to contour for your face shape, not Kim Kardashians (unless you are her you lucky devil!)….
What is Contouring
The aim of today’s post is to teach you what contouring is, how to identify your face shape and how to create the perfect face shape using contouring. By the end of this post you should also understand how to use colour to apply the technique. In a way I’m going to go back to basics, and make this post slightly educational. For those of you that already know all of this, please forgive me for stating the obvious. This post is aimed at those that don’t really know or understand what contouring is.
So what is contouring?

First thing’s first – let’s clarify what contouring is in terms of make-up technique. My understanding is that contouring is where a feature (e.g the nose or chin) is made up to look a certain shape. Therefore make-up is applied with the goal of using colour to create an illusion. More often than not it’s to make a body part look bigger or smaller, by drawing attention to or away from the area. Usually the aim is to enhance your facial structure, but remember, depending on the goal, ‘enhancing’ can mean many different things. You may want to contour as part of your every day make-up routine, therefore the aim is probably to make your face look as good as possible. On the flip side, you might want to make your features look worse, e.g. if you’re going to a Halloween party. Contouring is simply about using make-up to create the illusion that something looks a different shape. This technique can be used on any body part, not just the face, and when you know why – you can use the same technique on anything in life! Think making rooms look bigger/smaller/a different shape. Now I’m just getting silly – but it’s true!!! Anyway…. moving on….. in order to contour it’s a good idea to work out what face shape you have.

How to Work out What Face Shape You Have

How do you identify your face shape?

There are many ways of doing this, including asking a friend (if you trust their opinion!), looking at a photograph of yourself, or the one I love the most and have done myself – drawing your shape in the mirror using an eye liner, lipstick or something similar. A little messy I know, but in reality you’ll probably only ever need to do this once. Here’s what to do:

1) Stand in front of your mirror making sure that you’re facing directly forward, and that you can see your whole face (make sure your hair isn’t covering it!).

2) Keep your back straight and your head held high.

3) Use your lipstick or chosen beauty product to draw the outline of your face, as shown in the picture above. Try and keep as still as possible when doing this.

4) Next you need to look at the shape that you’ve drawn and decide which shape it best fits out of diamond, heart, oblong, oval, rectangular, round, square or triangular.

Once you know what face shape you have you can use contouring techniques to enhance your facial structure. The perfect face shape is considered to be oval because of it’s proportions and balance, where no areas are more dominant than the other. So when contouring, the aim is often to create the illusion of an oval face shape (if you don’t already have this).

So now you know what face shape you have – how can you make it look oval?

First you need to understand what effect colour creates, because this is going to help you when deciding where to apply it. The concept is very simple:

  • Darker colours make things look smaller, therefore minimising them. We’re talking bronzers, a darker shade of blusher, a darker shade of foundation – the list goes on!
  • Lighter colours make things look bigger, therefore maximising them and drawing attention to that area. This could be a highlighter, a light blusher or a light shade of foundation etc.
Depending on what you are trying to achieve you can use almost anything to contour. To demonstrate how to apply this technique I’ve included a picture that shows you where to apply your darker and lighter colours to create the illusion of the perfect face shape. I’ve edited the picture so that you can clearly see where the darker shades should be put. The other shapes (usually circles) represent where highlighter or lighter shades could be applied.
Contouring for Different Face Shapes

I hope you’ve found this post useful. You’ll notice that I often start my sentences with ‘my understanding is’ or ‘I believe that’, and the reason for this is that I don’t want to come across as though I’m preaching just because I’ve been a make-up artist. I don’t think that there’s any right or wrong way to apply make-up, just lots of great techniques that could be used. If what you do works for you then great! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I love to share my knowledge, but at the same time, just like anyone else – I’m always learning and changing. The tips and tricks in this post are just guidelines, and you must remember that ‘one size does not fit all’. Hopefully you can use what I’ve written to create your own personal contouring technique to suit your individual features. In another post I’ll cover contouring in more detail, including eyes and lips etc, and if you like I can write a more in-depth post about each face shape.

What do you think about contouring? 
Is it part of your make-up routine? Please leave your comments in the box below.

Carly x


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  • This was really informative and I enjoyed it very much!!!! I've been contouring in the wrong places! Will have to try it the way I've learned here and see if I notice a difference! Great post girl!!!!

    • Aw thanks Julie. Contouring can be quite complex, and I don't think there are any 'rights' and 'wrongs', but just learning what suits you best, based on what you want to achieve. Xxx

  • Really informative as always Carly! I love the lipstick trick! I can never know if I'm round or heart shaped. I'm ok with highlights, but I'm struggling with the darker part of it, maybe its down to the produt I use.

    • Sometimes our faces can fit into two different shapes, this isn't uncommon. That's why it's very useful to fully understand what colour does when you apply it, that way you can adapt your contouring to completely suit you. I'll go into more detail in the follow up posts. Just out of interest, what are you using as your dark colour? Xx

  • I loved this post so much! Really useful, especially for someone like me who really has no clue when it comes to contouring. I shall definitely be trying out the face shape technique! If you have an oval face, do you not need to contour?
    Natasha x

    • You can still contour if you have an oval face, but in my opinion you don't need to do it to change your face shape as you already have the ideal one. However, you might still want to contour on your cheeks to to make your cheek bones really stand out. Also you can contour to enhance other features such as your nose, eyes and lips. I'm going to write a post about this soon so stay tuned. Xxx

  • This was really useful thank you! I want to start contouring.. x

    • I'm glad you found it useful Nicola. I can't stop laughing at my OTT contouring picture with all the splodges on my face! Lol. X

  • Glad I found your blog. I am not good in contouring my face and will end up patchy face.
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  • Hi Rena. Thanks for stopping by. I will definitely check out your blog. X

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  • Ahh this is really good. I've always been confused by the whole contouring thing and etc. I personally have never tried it purely because I had absolutely no idea where I'd start with it. But this has been a good informative guide to start things off.

  • Thank you. I’m so glad you found it helpful. : )