What Is Contouring and Why Is It so Popular?

What Is Contouring and Why Is It so Popular?

12:46 AM March 09, 2019

Contouring: it’s taken the world of makeup and beauty by storm for the last couple of years, but you might be asking yourself, “What is contouring?” Well, if have been living under a rock all these years or just want to know more about contouring, we’ve done our research to figure out what contouring really is, and why it has become so popular.

What is Contouring?

Contouring, in the most basic terms, defines and improves the structure of the face by highlighting the “good” parts, like the cheekbones and bridge of the nose. Additionally, the effect puts a “shadow” on the inauspicious portions, such as the jaw line and puffed cheeks.


In short, it will give shape to the face. Of course, all of these visual effects can be attained with a large amount of makeup, so prepare your brushes and sponges and get ready for the ultimately contour makeover.

Contouring is used generally to not only emphasize attractive features on the face, but also to hide or change features that are deemed undesirable. Products often used include powder contour, which comes in palettes with both light and dark colors for highlighting and contouring, as well as cream contour products that can create a more emphasized presentation.

Beau Nelson, Kristen Stewart’s long-time makeup artist states, “[Contouring] is not supposed to be noticeable — just a subtle definition.” Take note, ladies, as it’s supposed to be a subtle illusion and not a complete facial restructuring. Try to avoid having your makeup look like a filter from Instagram!

How to Contour?

Those are the basics of contouring. Let’s dive in deeper to see how it’s done, shall we?

First of all, you need to get your makeup kit right. Your contouring brushes and makeup should match what you want to achieve in the first place. There are two types of finish: the matte finish and the softer finish.

If you want your skin to look flawless, you should go for the matte finish, so search for these contouring powders. However, if you want to achieve a more natural and glowing look, use a cream contour palette, which is also easier to blend. We recommend the Elf palette, as it’s cheap but gets the job done effectively. This product is great for people experimenting with contouring. Eventually, you may transition to powders once you get the hang of things to avoid packing in too much makeup.

As for brushes for cream contouring, you should get a firm one that has a flat-top synthetic make-up brush, like the aesthetic genius, Wet/Dry Blush Brush by Nars. This item is the paramount of blending products. As for powder contouring, grab yourself a couple of fluffy eyeshadow brushes, one for contouring and the other one for highlighting, plus a larger blusher brush to blend it all together. 

Next, we get to the technique itself. To get that perfectly contoured face, you need to master the technique to avoid looking like a five year old who raided their mom’s makeup bag.


When applying the contour itself, build color as you go and use your bone structure as a guide. Use circular gestures to stroke product on the areas that you want to reduce or refine. The usual areas for contouring consist of the area under the jawline, the sides of the temples, and the hollows of your cheekbones. The sides of the nose and the hairline are also areas that people choose to contour.

Blend and buff the pigment into your skin, until there’s just a shadow left. As for highlighting, pick a subtle but bright shade that goes along with your skin tone, and spread it over to the tops of your cheekbones. Similarly, bring a tiny bit down the bridge of your nose. Blend it all sufficiently so to eliminate any blatant or harsh lines on your face.

And voilà! You’re ready to post pictures of your gorgeous, semi-natural face. If something goes wrong, you can always practice on it until #contouring is life.

Why is it so Popular?

Now that you know what contouring is and how you can use it to enhance your facial appearance, you may be wondering, “Why is contouring so popular.” Well, this technique that had previously been seen only on professional models is being adopted by beauty enthusiasts worldwide — all thanks to social media, of course.

Over the last couple of years, celebrities and Instagram makeup artists who share this love for a chiselled makeup physique have been sharing tips and tricks to achieve the look.

Amy Chance, a Los Angeles–based makeup artist who works with the likes of Lily Allen, Sky Ferreira, and Chloë Sevigny, calls this phenomenon the Kardashian effect. This is due to the fact that the Kardashians are often seen performing mundane tasks like shopping, carrying a baby, or walking out of the gym with a fully contoured face of makeup.

As a result, people were intrigued by the unique look and have become eager to replicate the visual phenomenon.

Corrective makeup has been around for years. One might say that it is one of the most basic functions of makeup: to conceal and to enhance. People are exposed to breaking news, what is “hot or not,” and a variety of TV shows focused on beauty and appearance. This constant comparison effect is causing more and more people to modify their facial features to meet these unrealistic beauty standards.

The idea that deliberate blending and tricks of light can imitate the effects of plastic surgery may be tempting. While the contouring effect aims at improving facial appearance, it may also provide a boost of confidence to the wearer. While it’s all for self-expression and fun, the media can be riddled with body dysmorphic visages. View at your own risk and don’t get caught up in the artificial beauty standards; you probably look gorgeous the way you are.

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