From 1500 to 2015: The Fascinating History of Contouring

Faith Xue

It’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago, we were blithely carrying on with our lives, blissfully unaware of a little-known makeup technique called contouring. Now the term is practically ubiquitous, thanks in large part to a certain someone with hyper-sculpted cheekbones and an affinity for taking selfies. But before the Kardashians, before the era of airbrushed Instagram selfies and clown paint tutorials, contouring was a much subtler technique, used by makeup artists and stage performers out of necessity, rather than a desire for a super-sculpted face. And before even that, contouring still existed (yes, really)—but it was less of the Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate ($80) variety, and more like greasepaint and soot.

We took a trip through history to document exactly how the contouring craze reached the peak it has today. From Elizabethan England to silent films, keep scrolling to find out the fascinating history of the makeup trend we all know and love (well—know, at least).

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