How to Perfectly Contour Every Face Shape

Updated 04/26/18
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We've seen people contour hundreds of times, and each time, it seems to be done the exact same way. Whether we're watching it happen on Instagram, in a beauty blogger's tutorial, or IRL, the process never differs. Draw a line across the forehead, in the hollows of the cheeks, and down the length of the jaw. Maybe, if they're going for a super-defined look, they'll add two parallel lines down either side of the nose. Then they'll buff it all out. Done.

Here's the thing, though. Everyone has a different face, so why are we contouring the exact same way? If we really want to accentuate everyone's different features, shouldn't we take each person's individual face shape into account? Well, according to experts, we should be. Take it from Julissa Collado, director of beauty specialties at Ricky's NYC, "Contouring should be done differently for each person's individual needs even though most of the techniques for contouring are the same. With the right product for your skin type, texture, and color, plus the placement perfect for your unique bone structure, it can be easy." All you have to do is break it down by your specific face shape.

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"A heart-shaped face is usually widest along the forehead and gets narrower as you move from the eye to the jaw, ending in a pointed chin," Collado says. "So with contouring techniques and the appropriate makeup, you can narrow a wide forehead, soften a strong jawline, and draw the eye away from a strong chin."

To contour a heart-shaped face like Reese Witherspoon's, all you need is your favorite product and some precise placement. "Reese has pretty chiseled features, so I wouldn't add much contour to her face, especially when she has bangs," explains makeup artist and natural beauty expert Rebecca Casciano. "If all her hair is back, I would add a light contour across the top of her forehead." Heart-shaped faces can also add a single curved line of product down the length of the jaw to soften and shape their features even more. (This, of course, is entirely optional and up to each person and their unique features to decide. This is simply intended as a basic contouring guideline and can be tweaked depending on your needs and preferences).

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A square-shaped face means that it's just about as long as it is wide. In other words, "normally the width of their hairline and jawline are about even," Collado says. For people with square-shaped faces, like Olivia Wilde, for instance, Collado says the basic Instagram/blogger contouring technique works best. "I would suggest contouring on the sides of your forehead to make your hairline appear narrower. I would also contour the area below your cheekbones, starting from your ears and ending in the middle of your cheeks, as well as under your jawbone to make your jawline appear narrower," she says. As for contouring product, Collado prefers a cream contour product, which is generally more blendable than a powder. She likes NYX's Wonder Stick Concealer ($9), which is a dual-ended pen that combines contour and highlighter in a single applicator. Convenient, right?

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A round face shape is the next area of inquiry. Celebs like Chrissy Teigen, Cameron Diaz, and Ginnifer Goodwin fit this category. "A round shape face usually is about as wide as it is long," Collado says. "You usually have no major points along your jaw, chin, or hairline." As such, "you can contour on the sides of your forehead and along your temples to make this wider area appear more narrow. You can also contour the area below your cheekbones starting from your ears to the middle of your cheeks." To finish, add a curved line down the jawline to lengthen the look of the face, if you prefer.

Casciano agrees, but cautions against using the same contour color on each area of the face. "A round face generally looks great with a light contour across the forehead and a stronger contour under the cheekbones," she says. This will appear to draw the cheekbones out and up while subtly, and almost undetectably, narrowing the forehead.

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"An oval face shape sort of resembles an upside-down oval and has no major points along the jaw, chin, or hairline," Collado says. It differs from a round-shaped face in that it's "much longer than it is wide." Even thought the contour is applied in the same areas, it serves a different purpose. Instead of the forehead shading appearing to narrow the forehead, as it does for round face shapes, it's meant to shorten the overall length. You see, it's all about playing with light, depth, and proportions to enhance your face's specific features (it really is a sort of science, isn't it?).

Aside from the forehead contour, add product below the cheekbones for extra definition. Callado says to start from the ears and end at the middle of the cheek to keep it looking natural, not severe. Casciano's only caution when working with an oval face is "to avoid making an oval face look too narrow with heavy contouring." She likes using Vapour Beauty Bronzing Stick ($36) and W3ll People Bio Bronzer Stick ($24) for cream contouring. As for powder contour, she uses Nu Evolution Pressed Bronzer ($45) and Lily Lolo Sculpt & Glow Contour Duo ($26).

There you have it. To summarize, you don't have to be an expert to contour your own face. These are just helpful guidelines to achieve the best, most natural-looking effect for your specific face shape. Feel free to experiment, tweak, and play with the rules (because, after all, makeup is meant to be fun and unique for everyone). Just remember not to go too far overboard with contouring in the day-to-day. "For television and photo shoots, contouring other areas of the face can work well, but in real life, it should be done with a very light touch and precise placement, if at all," Casciano reminds us.

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