Contouring 101: The Complete Guide to Sculpting Your Face

A close up of the author, Ashley Rebecca, blending her contour.

Ashley Rebecca

Known as one of the most popular ways to change your face shape with makeup, contouring is a widely utilized technique that can instantly enhance your facial features. While you might think that contouring needs to look severe in order 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 technique that you use when applying makeup that helps to sculpt or add definition to your features. Contouring helps the face look more chiseled, and you can utilize contour to help change the shape of some facial features as well (if that's what you're looking to do).

Common places on the face that you can contour are the nose, cheeks, forehead, and jawline/chin area. "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 due to face shape, and, as Dalí states, "contouring that works for one person doesn’t [necessarily] work for all. We each have features unique to our face and your contouring technique should be tailored to complement your features."

What Contouring Products Should You Use?

There are a few different formulas that you can use to 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. You can absolutely use bronzer to contour—there just shouldn't be any shimmer. Popular contouring products are cream foundation sticks, cream bronzers, liquid concealers, powder bronzer, and face powders that are slightly darker than your skin tone. "Choose a shade of contour that complements your skin tone; it shouldn’t be too warm or too dark," recommends Dalí, as these tones can tend to look orange or severe.

Below, a step-by-step guide for the perfect contour.

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Apply 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 allows for you to have a blank canvas before mapping out the areas on the face you want to apply your chosen contour product to. If you're doing a full makeup look you can apply your eyeshadows, liner, and mascara before your contour or after; it's really up to you and the method you prefer.

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Apply Your Contour


Ashley Rebecca

You'll want to choose where to apply your contour based on the features you're looking to sculpt and enhance, as well as the shape of your face. I have a slightly round/oval face shape, so I prefer to apply contour along the forehead, on my cheekbones, and on 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 as you go to ensure the contour looks natural and that you're getting the color you want. Anisa Beauty's Crescent Contour Brush has a unique shape that allows for easy contour placement and application.

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Check Your Contour


Ashley Rebecca

After you've applied your contour, take a look at it and make sure it's exactly where you want it to be before blending. This is when you can add more products or blend out some if you've applied more than you want. As you can see, I've applied contour on my forehead, cheekbones, and chin area, and it 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.

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Blend, Blend, Blend


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 that mimics the numeral 3 on both sides of the face.

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Apply Your Blush


Ashley Rebecca

Once your contour is blended you can then move on to blush. I am applying Kjaer Weis' Cream Blush, using 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 powder blush if that's what you prefer.

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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 is easy to use, as it comes in stick form and blends well. I apply my highlighter to the high points of my face so that when the light hits it, my skin looks radiant.

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Complete Your Look


Ashley Rebecca

To complete your contoured look, add mascara, lipstick, or anything else that you'd like. You can contour for natural makeup looks or more dramatic ones—there's no limit to the ways you can wear your contour.

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