The Right Way to Contour for a Lifted, Sculpted Appearance, According to MUAs

Hailey Bieber in a glowy, contoured makeup look


Known as one of the most popular ways to change your face shape with makeup, contouring is a widely utilized technique that instantly enhances your facial features. While you might think contouring has to look severe to work, that's far from the truth. You can achieve natural makeup looks with contouring—the trick is knowing what products to use and where to place them according to your face shape.

Ahead, we've created a contouring guide that is easy to follow and will give you beautiful results, featuring expert contouring tips from celebrity makeup artist Carolina Dalí. We promise this won't be hard.

Meet the Expert

Carolina Dalí is a celebrity makeup artist who specializes in red carpet and editorial makeup.

What Is Contouring?

Contouring is a makeup technique that helps to sculpt and define the face. Contouring chisels your appearance and helps change the shape of some facial features, too (if you so choose). Common areas for contour are the nose, cheeks, forehead, and jawline/chin.

"My approach to contouring is not about erasing and creating new features but about enhancing and accentuating the features the person already has," says Dalí. Contouring can vary based on face shape, too. "Contouring that works for one person doesn’t [necessarily] work for all," says Dalí. "We each have features unique to our face, and your contouring technique should be tailored to complement your features."

What Products Should You Use to Contour?

Cream foundation sticks, cream bronzers, liquid concealers, powder bronzer, and face powders slightly darker than your skin tone are the most popular products to contour with.

While there are no rules when it comes to makeup, there are some guidelines that can help streamline your sculpting:

  • Make it matte: There are a few different formulas you can contour with, but regardless of which one you use, one of the most important things to remember is that the finish needs to be matte.
  • Bronzer works just fine: You can absolutely use bronzer to contour—as long as it doesn't have any shimmer.
  • Consider your undertones: "Choose a shade of contour that complements your skin tone," says Dalí. "It shouldn’t be too warm or too dark," as these tones tend to look orange or severe.

Below, find our step-by-step guide for the perfect contour.

01 of 07

Apply Foundation

The author applies foundation

Ashley Rebecca

The first step in preparing to contour your face is to apply your skincare, foundation, and concealer before moving on to the contouring portion of your makeup. This gives you a blank canvas to map out the areas on the face you want to apply your chosen contour product to.

If you're doing a full beat, you can apply your eyeshadows, liner, and mascara before your contour or after; it's really up to you and the method you prefer.

02 of 07

Apply Your Contour

The author applies her contour

Ashley Rebecca

You'll want to choose where to apply your contour based on the features you're looking to sculpt and enhance and the shape of your face. I have a slightly round/oval face shape, so I prefer to apply contour along the forehead, my cheekbones, and each side of my chin to create a little more of a pointed effect.

I am using Chanel Beauty's Les Beiges Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream ($50) as my contour because I love a sculpted look that gives a healthy glow, and my skin is quite fair (so this is the perfect shade for me). For those with deeper complexions, check out Anastasia Beverley Hills' Cream Bronzer ($35) or Fenty Beauty's Match Stix ($28).

Dalí recommends you "avoid drawing lines that are too severe, sharp, and pronounced when applying your contouring product."

Using a dense brush helps you apply the cream product right where you want it; you can build the color to ensure the contour looks natural and that you're getting the color you want. Anisa Beauty's Crescent Contour Brush ($38) has a unique shape allowing for easy contour placement and application.

03 of 07

Check Your Contour

The author's face, looking more sculpted

Ashley Rebecca

After you've applied your contour, take a look and make sure it's exactly where you want it to be before blending. This is when you can add more products or blend some out if you've applied more than you want.

As you can see, I've applied contour on my forehead, cheekbones, and chin area, and my face is starting to look naturally sculpted. Take your time with contouring when you're just starting out: There is no rush, and the more familiar you are with your own features, the better it will turn out.

04 of 07

Blend, Blend, Blend

The author blending her contour

Ashley Rebecca

Lightly blend your contour in a circular motion with a fluffy brush to ensure everything is blended and looks cohesive. You can lightly blend along the forehead, down to the cheekbones, and along the jawline to the chin area in a sweeping motion mimicking the numeral "3" on both sides of the face.

05 of 07

Apply Your Blush

The author applying blush

Ashley Rebecca

Once your contour is blended you can then move on to blush. I am applying Kjaer Weis' Cream Blush ($32) with Cle de Peau's Powder & Cream Blush Brush ($50) to add soft color to my cheeks. Using a cream blush will aid in keeping your skin looking dewy, but you can also use a powder blush if that's what you prefer.

06 of 07


The author applying highlighter

Ashley Rebecca

I love a good highlight, so I absolutely apply cream highlighter to the skin when I've finished my blush for a beautiful, all-around glow. Chanel Beauty's Baume Essentiel Multi-Use Glow Stick ($45) is easy to use, as it comes in stick form and blends well. I apply highlighter to the high points of my face so that when the light hits, my skin looks radiant.

07 of 07

Complete Your Look

The author's final makeup look

Ashley Rebecca

To complete your contoured look, add mascara, lipstick, or any other makeup you'd like. You can contour for natural makeup or more dramatic looks—there's no limit to how you can wear your contour.

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