Contour like a boss

Contouring is shape-wear for your face, so you ought to get it right. Here’s how.

By Amelia Bowe

The other day, a friend of mine tried to give herself cheekbones but instead she looked like she’d let her nephew loose with her makeup brushes. Babe, this blog goes out to you…

When it comes to contouring, you need to think of the colours you would use on your face in a similar sort of way to when you’re choosing whether to wear your LBD or LWD. Black (obvs a dark hue) will always hide, diminish and downplay certain body parts. Whereas white (light and bright) is known for emphasising.

I’m not telling you to paint your face like a zebra, but picture the colour grades of foundation, bronzer and highlighter and think about what you might be making look more or less obvious on your face.

Anything lighter than your foundation should be used on what you what to make noticeable, and anything darker is what you want to soften in terms of your complexion. Bronzer and brightening concealer are a grey area in terms of highlighting and hiding, depending on where you use it and whether it’s matte (which shades) or shimmery/with light-reflecting particles (which can both draw and bounce light).

Not only can contouring be confusing in general (hopefully it makes more sense explained in black and white terms above); it’s also puzzling ‘cos we all have different face shapes. You may not fit into any specific structural category, but you can gain a better understanding of how to contour your face by looking at the images I’ve created below.

In the following images, I’ve gone overboard so that where to apply your makeup is obvious, but in reality it should look VERY natural if it’s blended well. Depending on the consistency of your foundation, you can blend with a brush, sponge or your fingers. Here I’ve used a very dark foundation to shade and a lighter foundation to enhance – and a bit of blush for good measure.


It’s official, the oval shape is inoffensive in terms of structural correction, although it can lack cheekbones and dimension. (Hi, my name is Amelia and I have a flat face. Therefore I have an addiction to bronzer and blush <i>andhighlighter!). I paint cheekbones on with petal pink and golden powders and smother my face with illuminator so it’s shinier than an Oscar statuette. I also bronze my temple hollows, forehead and chin to create shadow.


With gorgeous full cheeks, it’s important to highlight this key feature – but not <i>too much. You can use a slightly darker foundation or matte bronzer on the outer edges of the mid to lower section of your face for a narrowing effect. For overall length, highlight the bottom of your chin as this will draw light to the lower area of your face making your face appear longer. Don’t be afraid to apply subtle blush the apples of your cheeks.


If you have a square face like the stunning Olivia Wilde, you might be familiar with features such as a broad forehead and an equally broad, square jaw. Think of this face shape as an opportunity to fine tune your shading skills and bronze the sides of your forehead and your jawline to reduce the width. Create subtle width on your cheekbones for dimension by adding a pearly highlighter.


Sarah Jessica Parker has a longer face, can you relate? Well, you can create width by shading the top half of your forehead and the bottom of your chin (making your face appear shorter). Want even more width? Get gleaming with iridescent powder and rouge on those cheeks!


A heart-shaped face like Reese Witherspoon’s is broad at the forehead and flows around and down to a narrower chin. You can add width (and therefore balance) to your cheeks and jaw-line with a sweep of highlighter and rosy up those cheeks. To soften a pointed chin, shade the area with a matte bronzer or a slightly darker foundation. Blend, blend, blend!


A pear-shaped portrait has a narrow forehead with a broader chin. Balance your forehead with your jaw (giving the illusion of width up top) by adding illuminator or a slightly lighter foundation to either side of the forehead from your temples upwards. The angle of the jaw can be lessened with a soft shading of deeper colour.


The mirror will reveal a narrower forehead and chin in comparison to those naturally defined, strong cheekbones we all dream about. Enhance the width of either side of your forehead and the angle of your jaw with lighter tones. Shade the pointed section of your chin and the peak on your hairline to reduce the length of your face – giving you overall balance.