Beauty Tips & Tricks


Easy Tips That Will Guarantee Natural-Looking Contouring Every Time

17 Apr, 2018
By Andie Reeves
All the hype around contouring has given it a bad rep. We’ve been overloaded with visions of tricky techniques and hours of shaping your face. But when done right, contouring can actually be pretty easy - and really help to naturally enhance your best features. Here’s our step-by-step no B.S. guide.

Unless you’ve been living in the middle of nowhere with no Wi-Fi for the past ten years you will have heard of contouring, which makeup artists have always used for refining the shape of the face. While in the past it’s been all about the super chiselled and defined look, these days a more natural finish is on-trend. 

No matter whether you’re a confident contouring queen or someone who has only ever been brave enough to watch a few YouTube tutorials before giving up on the whole thing, we could all do with some extra tips on how to get your contour looking perfect, and perfectly natural too. 

Read on for our tips from the pros on how to perfectly sculpt your face and enhance your features with the surprisingly-easy-to-get-the-hang-of art of contouring and highlighting.

Choose the Right Shade

To artfully shade and shape your face you only need two colours: one in two or three shades darker than your skin tone, and one in two or three shades lighter. The darker shade is used to create shadows on and add dimension to your face. The lighter shade, usually a highlighter, is to add light to contrast with the shadows and ‘lift’ your features. 

Unless it matches your skin tone exactly you may not be able to use just any contouring palette you find on the shelves. Using the wrong shade can make you look dirty or ashy; which is so not the look we’re going for. It’s also important to use a matte product for your darker shade when shaping, as shimmery formulas can look muddy. 

If you’re struggling to find the right shade amongst the many contouring palettes out there try using a foundation. Buy a foundation in two or three shades darker than your own and voila; you’ve got the perfect tone to contour with. This is also a great way to use up those products that looked perfect in the shop but once you used them at home you realised were too dark!

The Difference Between Bronzer and Contouring Products

It’s easy to get the two products confused but they have two different purposes. Contouring is supposed to create shadows on your face, so you want to use a matte product to achieve that.
Bronzing is about making you looked sun-kissed which is why we use a product with a bit of shimmer to it. Apply bronzer to the highest bits of your face (i.e. where the sun would naturally catch your skin): the tops of your cheekbones, down the bridge of your nose and across your forehead.
Your contouring is done where you want to add definition and sculpt your face, read on to find out exactly how.

Use the Right Formula

If you’re new to the world of contouring you should start with cream products. These are easier to blend and give you a pretty and dewy look. What’s the perfect tool to apply cream formulas with? Your fingers!

If you’re using powder products you will have a more matte finish. Use a fan brush (which is great for feathering and blending) or a small soft brush (for precision around your nose area) to apply powder products.

Remember to choose one formula and stick to it for your whole face. If you try layer a creamy contour stick on top of your powder foundation it’s going to cake.

Our Product Picks
Creams/Sticks: LA Girl Pro Contour Cream, Rimmel Insta Conceal & Contour, Maybelline Master Contour V Shape Duo Stick (a 2-in-1 stick for both contouring and highlighting), Essence Strobing & Contouring Palette and LA Girl Velvet Bronzer Contour Stick.
Powders: LA Girl Pro Contour Powder, Maybelline Master Bronze Contour & Highlighting Kit and Clarins Face Contour Palette.

Read More. How to Use Makeup to Make the Most of Your Face Shape

Choose Where You Want to Shape

When contouring you can use your bone structure as a guide. Brush or sweep your contouring shade onto areas you want to hollow out (like your cheekbones) or make smaller (like your nose). It’s up to you how much you want to shape your face but the most common spots to contour are your cheekbones, your jaw line, your hairline and the sides of your nose.

Grab your darker shade and follow these steps to sculpt your face perfectly. Remember at first you’re going to look a little crazy with a whole lot of dark and light lines all over your face, but the last step is to blend it all in, after which you’ll look like yourself again (but even cuter):
  • Carve out your cheeks
    To make your contour look uber natural avoid using harsh lines. When contouring cheekbones people often make the mistake of drawing a straight line along their cheeks and simply blending that.

    Rather ‘carve’ your cheekbones in a rounded shape. Start in line with the centre of your ear and curve downwards, ending just under the apple of your cheek. Your contouring line should be rounded, hugging the apple of your cheek. However, if you have a super round face you can get away with sticking to a straighter line, which will make your face look less child-like.
  • Shape your forehead
    Have you always wondered how people contour their hairline without getting a ton of unwanted product in their actual hair? The trick is to place your contouring line a centimetre or two below your actual hairline. Now you can blend upwards and outwards without messing up your ‘do.

    Start at one temple and follow the natural shape of your hairline all the way to your other temple. It looks super weird but once you’ve blended it this will add depth to your face and make it look more sun-kissed.
  • Chisel your jaw line.
    If you’ve got a baby face or a ‘weak chin’ you’re going to love this step. Start just under your ear lobe and drag your contouring shade along your jawline, all the way to the middle of your chin. Do the same on the other side. The line should be about 2cm thick at your starting point and taper down to 1cm at the chin. It looks like a jaw strap now but after your beauty blender has worked its magic there you will just looked effortlessly chiselled.
  • Shape your nose
    Because the nose is so small it is the trickiest part to get right. If you’ve tried a million times and only manage to make yourself look like you’ve had some unsuccessful plastic surgery done you can totally get away with skipping out this step. But if you have a bit of patience anyone can nail the nose area in just a few sweeps of the contouring brush.

    Start at the inner corner of your eyebrow and go straight down the side of the nose. Continue just under the tip of your nose and finish at the inner point of your other eyebrow, making a long ‘U’ shape. The closer together the lines on the side of your nose are the smaller your nose will look.
Now that you’ve sculpted your face it’s time to highlight, then blend.

Highlighting Accents

No matter how subtle the highlighting job is, not everyone likes to sparkle. To achieve the same flattering results as a highlighter but without the shimmer you can use a liquid or cream concealer that is two or three shades lighter than your skin tone.

Again, it’s up to you what areas you want to highlight but these are the usual areas to hit with a touch of highlighter: Draw a line down the bridge of your nose, a dot on the tip of your nose, a circle in the middle of your chin, an upside-down triangle on your forehead (the lowest point of the triangle should sit between your eyebrows) and a line on the top of each cheekbone. Many pros also highlight with a triangle under each eye but you only need to do this if you haven’t applied concealer - you want to keep it natural and not add layer after layer onto your face. Finish off with a little dot just above your Cupids bow to draw attention to your lips. And a dot on the inner corner of each eye will really make them pop!

If you like the slight shimmer a highlighter can give you then use a product with a hint of sparkle. If you’re pale go for icy whites to play up your fair skin. A highlighter that is a champagne tone works best for medium skin and if you’re on the darker side of medium you can use colours with hints of rose or peach to it too. And bronze, copper or gold highlighters make dark skin look amazing. Remember to always use a clean brush or fingers to highlight.

Our Product Picks: LA Girl Velvet HiLite Contour Stick and Rimmel’s Kate Highlighting Palette.

Read More. Insider Secrets on Highlighting for Awesome Glowing Skin

Finishing Off Your Face

  • Don’t forget the blush!
    Bring a touch of warmth to your face with a subtle hint of blush on the apples of your cheeks.
  • Blend it all out
    Use a beauty blender to pat all your hard contouring work into your skin and blend it together. The egg-shape of the sponge means no harsh lines. Use the bigger end for bigger areas and the small tip for spots like around your nose. Make sure it’s damp before you use it and make sure your motion is a dabbing one; no rubbing or smearing. Think of it like patting in the makeup. We like Cala’s Makeup Blending Sponge.
  • Skip the finishing powder
    Most make up how-to’s will all insist that once you’ve finished your look you need to set it with translucent powder. While it is true that you should set your make up in place, otherwise you risk all your hard work melting and shifting through the day, try something else.

    A finishing spray will keep your make up in place but leave you with a more dewy finish. Contouring right now is about making it look as natural as possible, so a setting spray is the best way to do this and avoid the almost too-perfect finish that a powder gives you. Our pick: Maybelline Superstay 24 Hour Makeup Locking Setting Spray.
Read More. How Choosing the Best Blush Is the Key to Always Looking Awesome

Shop Your Products Now

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Cala Makeup Blending Sponge - Pink
R 74.95

Essence Strobing & Contouring Palette 10
R 129.95

LA Girl Pro Contour Cream - Light
R 119.95

LA Girl Pro Contour Cream - Medium Deep
R 119.95

LA Girl Pro Contour Powder - Deep
R 119.95

LA Girl Pro Contour Powder - Medium
R 119.95

LA Girl Velvet Bronzer Contour Stick - Brazen Bronze
R 49.95

LA Girl Velvet Bronzer Contour Stick - Goddess Bronzer
R 49.95

LA Girl Velvet Bronzer Contour Stick - Suede Bronzer
R 49.95

LA Girl Velvet HiLite Contour Stick HiLite - Cashmere
R 49.95

LA Girl Velvet HiLite Contour Stick HiLite - Luminous
R 49.95

LA Girl Velvet HiLite Contour Stick HiLite - Radiance
R 49.95

Maybelline Superstay 24 Hour Makeup Locking Setting Spray
R 169.95

Rimmel Insta Conceal & Contour - Dark 030
R 159.95

Rimmel Insta Conceal & Contour - Medium 020
R 159.95

Rimmel Kate Highlighting Palette 004
R 169.95



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