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What is Contour Make-up? Your Beginner’s Guide to Contouring

Contouring is one of the most popular make-up trends in today’s beauty industry. And this is no surprise: when applied correctly, contour make-up can shape and sculpt your face. But what is contour make-up? And how can you achieve that smooth, airbrushed look?

What is contour make-up?

Contour make-up is the art of blending contour and highlighter products in different shades to accentuate the shape of your face. You can use light and dark shades to slim down, highlight and emphasise your facial features and feel confident, whether your make-up is for a casual day out or a formal occasion.

Where to contour your face?

Before you contour, it’s a good idea to work out which face shape you have. Then, you can contour different parts of your face in different ways to achieve your desired result.

You can contour your:

  • Cheeks
  • Jawline
  • Nose
  • Temples
  • Forehead
  • Hairline
  • Eyes
  • Brows
  • Lips
  • Chin
Model pouting at camera with hands around face, multiple earrings and contouring make-up.

And you can contour other body parts, too. For example, you could contour your collar bones if you’re wearing a strapless dress for a special occasion.

Do you contour before or after foundation?

Apply foundation before you contour your face. Foundation gives you the base you need to apply smooth contour make-up. Applying foundation after the rest of your make-up can wipe out all your contouring and highlighting work.

How to contour for beginners

You can use foundations, powders, contour sticks, contour pencils and cream contouring products to get that sculpted, magazine-cover look. Beginners often find it easiest to stick to two shades when contouring. Opt for one shade that’s a touch lighter than your natural complexion and another that’s a touch darker.

Once you’ve applied your moisturiser, primer, foundation and eye make-up, it’s time to contour. Apply your darker contour product over the parts of your face you’d like to add depth to. This is often your temples, the hollow area beneath your cheekbones, your jawline and the tip of your nose.

Then, apply the lighter product over the parts of your face you’d like to highlight. This could be beneath your eyes, the bridge of your nose, the centre of your forehead and your chin.

When you’ve mapped out your dark and light contour make-up, it’s time to blend. Use a damp sponge to blend your contour into your base make-up. You might find it easier to use a smaller sponge for delicate areas like your nose and eye creases.

You can also apply a contour blush over your cheeks, cheekbones, temples and the tip of your chin. Meanwhile, those hoping to create a golden glow can apply a contour bronzer over the cheeks to add a sun-kissed look to their contour make-up.

Finish with a setting powder to lock in all those layers of make-up and enjoy your contoured look all day.

Though you can buy separate contouring make-up products, many beginners opt for a contour palette. An easy-to-carry kit makes it easy to touch up your contour make-up on the go.

How to contour a big nose

Lots of us are self-conscious about our noses. Luckily, contouring your nose is easy with a few simple techniques. Once you’ve applied a primer, foundation and powder to your nose, contour with a concealer or cream product.

  • Draw two straight lines down either side of your nose in your darker contour colour. If you want your nose to look shorter, apply a V-shape of contour to the tip, too.
  • Highlight the bridge of your nose and between your brows, but don’t highlight right down to the tip of your nose unless you want your nose to look longer.
  • Blend.

Layering your contour is a good way to balance the symmetry of your nose. Start at the brow and work down towards the tip to keep both sides equal.

How to contour with powder

Though you can contour with a variety of foundations, creams, sticks and pencils, it’s also possible to contour with pressed powder, like this powder highlighter. Gold and bronze shades are great for warm skin, while nutty, darker shades are better for cool skin.

Apply a light powder to the areas where highlights naturally fall on your face e.g. on your cheekbones, forehead, chin and the bridge of your nose. Then, apply a darker powder to the areas where shadows naturally fall. This could be the hollows of your cheeks, temples, jaw and the sides of your nose.

Light skinned model against pink background with pink nails and contouring on face.

Contour for pale skin

You don’t need lots of product to achieve a contoured look. But you do need the right colour products for your skin tone. When selecting your darker shade, opt for products that don’t have orange bases. Instead of trying to ‘warm up’ your skin with darker foundations and ‘golden’ products, use products designed for lighter skin tones.

Dark skinned model against pink background with hoop earrings and contouring on face.

Contour for tan skin

For darker skin or a spray tan, you can also enjoy a contoured look simply by using different shades of make-up. Opt for highlighter products that are 1–2 shades lighter than your natural skin tone and contour products that are 1–2 shades darker.

Avon’s contour products come in numerous shades to match all skin tones. Use the Foundation Finder to find your perfect match.

Contour with confidence

No matter your skin tone, you can contour your make-up to create a show-stopping look and feel confident all day and night.

Shop contour make-up and contour brushes.