Contouring basics: Here's how to flawlessly sculpt your features

We give you tips and steps to shape your face to perfection

Once considered makeup artists' jargon, the word contouring is now commonplace in our everyday vocabulary! That's thanks in part to influencers and celebrities like Kim Kardashian who popularized the beauty technique making it a must-have skill for putting together a glam look. Contouring helps you change the shape and appearance of your face by creating a perfect balance between light and shadow. To execute the look, you'll need some basic knowledge of the steps and products you will need to make the most of your features, whether your cheekbones, nose or jawline.

Although some people use a wide range of highlighters, bronzers and bases to contour, you can really do a basic look with just three products. In addition to your normal foundation, you'll need two correctors – one that is slightly lighter than your skin tone and another that is slightly darker.

Kim Kardashian con marcas de iluminador y contouring.©@kimkardashian
Contouring Kween: Kim Kardashian is one of the stars who popularized the makeup technique

There's an endless selection of highlighters and shades, whether creme-based or powder, from inexpensive buys to luxury indulgences. There are also a host of all-in-one options that make it easy to apply, for example, L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro Contour Palette ($5.99, or the easy-to-use MaybellineFaceStudio Master Contour ($12.99,, which is a creamy 2-in-1 stick. Creme finishes are more subtle, while powder contouring can be much more dramatic.

Here's how to contour, step by step:

  • Prep your face for your foundation by moisturizing your skin and applying your favorite primer.
  • Use the tone that is a shade lighter than your skin to draw a line at the top of your cheekbones, just below the arch of your eyebrow, the center of your forehead just above where your brows meet, on the bridge of your nose and your cupid's bow above your upper lip.
  • Use the tone that is a shade darker to draw a line just under your cheekbones, as well as along your jawline, your hairline at the top of your forehead, your temples and along the side of your nose
Collage productos contouring©Amazon
Get the look with easy to use products like L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro Contour Palette, left, or Maybelline FaceStudio Master Contour

Facial focus: How to sculpt your nose

To create a strong nose contour, use the dark tone on both sides and blend out toward your cheeks. Then apply illuminator to the bridge of your nose to highlight. If you prefer your bridge to appear shorter, apply a small amount of dark concealer on the tip of your nose.

Then blend and polish with a buffer brush and subtly apply a touch of your base foundation to correct and smooth out any obvious lines. If you need to, you can apply a little more concealer and blend it again.

Emily Ratajkowski maquillada por Patrick Ta©@Patricta
Emily Ratajkowski's gorgeous visage, sculpted to perfection

Make those cheekbones POP!

To create the illusion of high cheekbones, apply illuminator on your upper cheekbone in a straight line towards your ear upwards toward the hairline. Then apply the darker shade underneath and finish with blush from the middle of your cheekbone to your temple. If you you want to soften the look of nasolabial grooves – also called marionette lines – highlight them as well and blend.

Maquillaje elaborado por Patrick Pa©@Patricta
Constance Wu glows in the makeup chair thanks to subtle contouring

The perfect finish

There are tricks you use to sculpt your chin and jawline - for example, using a base two shades darker than your usual shade underneath your chin. You can also apply a darker shade along your jawline, and from just below your ear along your jawline toward your chin.

Some say it is best to apply your foundation before contouring. Professionals are divided, so experiment to find out how to get the best results for you, which depends on various factors, from your skin type and to product ingredients that suit you best. Note that if you apply your base after contouring, the effect will be more natural. If you want to sculpt and define your features in a more noticeable way, apply your foundation first then create drama with your bronze shade and highlighter.

Sign up to our newsletter to stay in touch with your cultura. Get the latest on your favorite celebrities, royals, and the best beauty, fashion, and lifestyle news delivered right to your inbox!
More about