Contouring the Face

Face contouring products


Looking at the Fall/Winter fashion shows, one of the beauty trends that came out was the return of facial shaping using makeup. The contoured faces at Marc Jacobs and Chloe may seem extreme, but they give direction to new trends in make-up.

When you think of contouring your face with make-up images of 1980s style warpaint come to mind. It doesn’t have to be this extreme. For photographs I often shape the face in a more exaggerated way and because of the photographic lighting this doesn’t show up in the final picture.

When creating the illusion of more defined cheekbones and slimmer cheeks, you’ll need a non-shimmering bronzer that isn’t too orange (try Benefit Hula Bronzer or Guerlain Terracotta) or a shaping powder such as Kevyn Aucoin’s The Sculpting Powder. The great thing about Kevyn Aucoin’s product is that it’s a neutral “shadow” color.

How to apply

Always work on a lightly powdered base (even loose powder alone is fine), because the color pigments need something to adhere to and a non-powdered base would create blotches and a streaky application.

Finding your cheekbones

For a guideline on where to shape your cheekbones, use your index and middle finger and place them high on your cheek to feel where your cheekbone is located. Move your two fingers upwards and you’ll feel where your cheekbone is situated. When shaping your cheekbones you shouldn”t apply shadow lower than the bottom line of your cheekbone. Sucking in your cheeks doesn’t really work because it doesn’t follow the lines of your cheekbones.

Tools for contouring

There are a couple of brushes that are suitable to shape your face with. I like to use a diagonally cut-off brush such as Chanel’s #10 Contour Face Brush or Kevyn Aucoin’s “Sculpting Brush”.

When contouring the face I like start by using Kevyn Aucoin’s Sculpting Powder high up on the cheekbone, because higher up you can create more shadow without it looking like you have “dirt” on your face. It should be the on-set of defining your cheeks.

Blend the Sculpting Powder along your cheekbones towards the apples of your cheeks keeping it soft. After this I’ll use a bronzer and apply it in a “number 3” motion: swiping it on the sides of the forehead, going down to the cheekbone and then going down to the jawline. You’re literally making the number 3 on the side of your head to your cheek using a powder brush. Shaping the sides of the forehead really brings the whole look together.

I also like to apply a little bronzer under the chin. If at any point you feel that you overdid it, just take two dry cotton makeup remover pads and gently sweep them over your cheeks (this will remove the excess color without ruining your base).

Softly apply a peach or pink toned blush (Chanel Blush in Fresque or Narcisse) to the apples of your cheeks for a pop of color. Swirl the side of your blush brush in the color, tap the excess of and apply it using the side of your brush in a soft circular motion. The effect should be a soft flush that gives your a beautiful glow.

For the finishing touch, apply a cream or powder highlighter to create more depth to your makeup. I love Nars The Multiple in Copacabana which is an amazing transparent iridescent crème highlighter that creates a beautiful shine. Apply it using your fingers under the eyebrow, on the top of the cheekbones, the nose bridge, the cupid’s bow above the lipline and the chin. I prefer crème highlighters because they become one with the skin. This combination of shadow and highlighting will give your face a three-dimensional effect which is especially beautiful in evening lighting.

Products mentioned in this post:

Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Brush 1 ea

Kevyn Aucoin The Sculpting Powder Mirrored Compact, Medium .23 oz (6.5 g)

Chanel #10 Contour Face Brush

Benefit Hoola Bronzing Powder

Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder

Chanel Blush in Narcisse and Fresque

NARS Multiple Bronzer Multi-Use Stick .5 oz (14 g)


About Esme Vos

Esme Vos is the founder of Shopplr, a site on fashion, beauty and design. Esme is the founder of (travel guides and hotel reviews) and MuniWireless (WiFi networks).