Nothing has swept the beauty world in recent years quite like contouring. Thanks to trendy contour-happy celebrities like the Kardashians, Chrissy Teigen and just about every Victoria Secret model ever, this technique has blown up. The Makeup.com team has been on the contouring train from day one and has covered the lightening/shadowing technique from every possible angle. However, we’ve noticed there’s often some confusion and misconceptions surrounding the products and tools needed to achieve this über-chiseled look. To help give you some clarity and equip you properly, we’ve compiled a guide to everything you need for flawless contouring.
Getting the Right Makeup Base
Like with any work of art, a clean, flawless canvas is needed to make the colors and effects truly stand out. And, so is the case with contouring. Your face needs to be as perfect and even-toned as possible to truly allow the contouring and highlighting be the main attraction on your face.
Even though you’ve heard us say this a thousand times, we’ll say it again. If you want flawless, long-lasting makeup application, you must apply primer. This principle is especially important when contouring, as you want to make sure you have a clean, smooth working space, and primer will help you achieve that. We recommend sticking to a matte formula, as a shimmery or dewy primer will not work well not work with the highlighting/shadowing effects you are looking to achieve.
Product Recommendations: Maybelline Face Studio Master Prime In Blur + Smooth, The Body Shop All-In-One InstaBlur Makeup Primer
Related: How to Apply Primer Like a Pro
Piggy-backing off of our point above, for flawless contouring, a solid foundation is key. And, by “solid foundation,” we mean actual foundation. While a powder foundation is OK, we prefer liquid-based formulas that will give you clean, satiny coverage and a smooth finish. Try working a light layer of foundation into your skin and building on it as needed. Don’t go overboard on this — you don’t want to look cakey period, but it can be easier to look cakey when contouring.
We all get those pesky blemishes and breakouts from time to time, but don’t let them deter you from having the flawless (and contoured) face of your dreams. Do a little damage control with a lightweight concealer that blends well into your skin. Dab a little on the blemish after foundation (yes, after) and blend well with a concealer brush or beauty blender.
Product Recommendation: Urban Decay 24/7 Concealer Pencil, L’Oréal Paris True Match Super-Blendable Crayon Concealer
Contouring ProductsOK, now that your base products are covered, it’s time to move on to the main event. With contouring catching on like wildfire, beauty brands are jumping at the chance to make this look as easy as possible and rolling out products specifically for this technique. From contouring palettes and two-in-one contouring sticks, your days of scavenging for the perfect contouring shades and products are over!
For contouring powder (for shadowing), the rule is to go with a color that is about two shades darker than your natural coloring. While we don’t recommend a shimmery, light-reflecting bronzer, a matte bronzer could totally work as a contouring powder (we’re big fans of Lancôme Star Bronzer Palette or Urban Decay Naked Flushed).
Concealer for Contouring
Some find liquid contouring products to be easier to blend and more natural-looking than powders. A cream-based concealer can work as a contouring product if you go a shade or two darker than your natural skin tone (same principle as above). For more application control, try a concealer stick like Dermablend Quick-Fix Concealer or L’Oreal Paris or Maybelline Superstay 24HR Concealer.
Similar to contouring, for highlighting, you are going to want to go one to two shades lighter. You could go the powder route with a product like NYX Cosmetics Highlight & Contour Pro Singles in Ice Queen or go the liquid- or cream-based route with a product like Lancôme Le Sourcil Pro or Maybelline Dream Lumi Touch Highlighting Concealer.
These days, there are lots of brands offering two-in-one contouring/highlighting duos that help take the guesswork out of picking individual contouring items. That being said, be sure to keep an eye on the shades included in contouring powders and palettes and make sure they will work with your skin tone. These little one-stop-shops are great for contouring on the go or when you are crunched on makeup prep time and need to have a chiseled, defined face in minutes.
Eye ShadowIf you don’t have any of the contouring items listed above (and have no desire to invest in them), but still want a nice, slimmer-looking face or nose, you’re in luck. You might just have contouring and highlighting products in your makeup drawer among the dozens of eye shadow palettes and singles. Try a matte brown or taupe-colored shadow for contouring and beige or ivory shadow for highlighting and you will be contoured in no time!
Product Recommendations: NYX Cosmetics Nude Matte Shadow in Maybe Later and Kiss the Day or Urban Decay Eyeshadow in Riff or Finish
The difference between looking perfectly chiseled and looking splotchy lies in your blending technique and tools. Don’t go thinking any old brush will do! A brush’s shape and bristles will determine how your makeup is blended, so do your due diligence. Lucky for you, there are tons of brushes out there specifically designed for contouring as well as blending sponges and tools, so the hunt for the right tools shouldn’t be a hard one. Make sure you follow this tutorial when applying and blending your makeup and you will be chiseled to perfection in no time!
For cheek, face and nose contouring, try an angular brush that will apply your bronzer more precisely and accurately I the areas you need to shadow and make slimmer. Try a brush like NYX Cosmetics Cheek (B02) or the em Cosmetics Angled Blush Brush.
For highlighting the face, you’re going to want to go with a brush that has a flat, circular tip to allow for more concise and direct application of highlighting powder. Try Lancôme Cheek & Contour Brush #25 or Giorgio Armani Blush Brush.
A spoon, you might ask? Well, yes. This tool may seem strange to you, but it’s actually super handy when looking to find the right place to contour. Go grab a spoon from your kitchen and follow this guide on contouring made easy.
Contouring needs to look as natural as possible, so blending well is key. Use a brush that smooths away any color separation and harsh lines without removing any color. Try the Giorgio Armani Blender Brush if you’re looking to blend like a pro.
If you’re not a fan of blender brushes (or don’t own one) beauty blenders and sponges can also get the job done. Just make sure you blend lightly, using upward strokes until there are no visible lines or color separation.
OK, now that you’ve got contouring down, it’s time to master more makeup looks!