Lip Contouring Is Back in a Big Way Thanks to TikTok

Time to try it out for yourself.

Elsa Hosk with contoured lips

@hoskelsa / Instagram

Bolder is better, once again, when it comes to lips in 2023. Though it often feels like a generously lined pucker never went away, this time, it’s not just about injectables and lip pencils getting the job done—it’s all about lip contouring, which is yet another aughts trend making a comeback.

“I think people are looking for ways to enhance their lips without fillers, or if they have them, ways to make them look fuller and more natural,” says J. Brandon Correa, National Makeup Artist, YSL Beauté. Lip contouring is proof of the magic that makeup can deliver. 

Lip contour example

@makeupvincent / Instagram

“Lips have made a comeback post-pandemic,” says Talia Cich, Anastasia Beverly Hills Pro Artist. “Lips have always been a feature that everyone can easily play up or be part of their signature look, so now that we are wearing makeup again, it’s all about lips! Viral lip trends are everywhere, making it fun to try new looks or techniques to achieve your perfect pout. Trends have also been very '90s-inspired, and now we are seeing a modern approach to that look.”

Read on for everything you need to know about the lip contouring revival, plus how to DIY.

What is Lip Contouring?

In case you didn’t get the memo the first time, lip contouring is a makeup technique that enhances the fullness of the lips. “It’s the use of light and dark shades to create a fuller-looking effect,” Cich says. “Lip contouring can also help to correct lip shape (like unbalanced or downturned) or create a specific lip shape (like round or sharp).”

How to Contour Your Lips

First, start by prepping your lips. Exfoliating and hydrating help to create a smooth base for application and long wear. Cich recommends the Anastasia Beverly Hills Lip Primer ($16) for nourishing hydration. Next, create a blank canvas by applying a thin layer of concealer—her go-to is Magic Touch Concealer ($29) —in a shade close to your skin tone.

“This helps create a smooth blend and color payoff,” Cich says. “Now, it’s time to create fullness. My favorite product to use is cream bronzer—it glides on with ease, blends seamlessly, and has the perfect shade range for lip contouring. Choose a shade two to three shades deeper than your skin tone (depending on your preference).” 

Next, apply bronzer—Cich recommends this Cream Bronzer ($35)—around the perimeter of the lips using a small flat brush. She also loves the A2 Pro Brush ($18) because it hugs the lip shape and stays precise. For a fuller-looking pout, overline above the cupid’s bow and across the center of the bottom lip.

“This accentuates the center of the lips for a pouty look,” Cich says. “Keep the corners closer to your natural lip line. Don’t worry about being perfect. It’s a cream product that easily blends and has buildable intensity.” Gently blend the edges of the contour with a beauty sponge or brush. Set it with powder for an extra long-lasting effect. Next, line and define lips using lip liner. Slightly line above your natural lip line to create volume or focus exactly where you want more fullness. Use the side of the pencil to shade inward from the corners.

For a more pronounced cupid’s bow, draw an “X” with the liner. For next-level contour, you can use a deeper shade of lip liner in the corners. Now, you can fill your lips with lipstick in a shade that best fits your look. For a contoured look, try using a deeper shade of lip liner and a lighter shade of lipstick. 

The use of light and dark helps to create volume. Apply lipstick to the center of the lip and blend the edges. “For even more pout, you can highlight the center of the lip with Magic Touch Concealer,” Cich says. “I also like to add highlighter to the cupid’s bow to accentuate the lips even more. Finish by applying a lip gloss to the center of the lip for high shine that is the perfect finishing touch for creating fuller-looking lips.” 

Short on time? Try a quicker lip contour. Correa suggests using a lip pencil (or his favorite hack: a deeper matte lipstick such as YSL Beauté Slim Velvet, $45) and filling in the counter corners of the lip, top and bottom, leaving the center of the lip open. “Now, apply a lighter shade of lipstick that has a soft shine or gloss—such as Candy Glaze ($39) or Rouge Volupte Shine ($43)—directly on top, starting in the center,” he says. “This will blend the deeper shade and create a beautiful contour.” 

Lip Contouring Mistakes to Avoid

For a flawless finish, keep a few common mishaps in mind. A major one is not blending enough since you want the shadow to look natural, like it blends into the skin. “Also, blend the lip liner, so it doesn’t look too intense in contrast to the lipstick,” Cich says. “Another mistake could be choosing the right shade that is most flattering on you. Choose a shade that best compliments your skin tone (not too cool or warm) and a shade that is your ideal depth of shade (light to dark). If you like a more natural look, opt for a lighter shade. If you like a little more drama, bump up a shade.”

Just be sure not to go too deep with your hue! “The idea is to mimic shadows on the lips, and if you go too dark, it can get muddled and messy,” Correa says. “For a soft natural look, select lips shades that are about one to two shades apart from each other. For more of a dramatic, bold statement, select shades that are three to four shades apart.” 

One more thing: Don’t go too shiny or flat. “Juxtaposing texture in this technique is important—if you use all matte or all shine, you will lose dimension,” Correa says.

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