How to Contour Naturally

How to Contour Naturally Step by Step

5 Well KNown Contour Powders Tested, Swatched and Compared

The contouring trend kicked off in full force a couple of years ago, spawning grey stripes on faces everywhere. We’ve all seen overly contoured faces on Instagram, but reality versus a non-dimensional photograph are very different things. Here’s how to get “born with it” chiselled cheekbones, and when you should run in the other direction…
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“Contouring is like bell-bottom jeans and red lipstick; Not everyone looks good in it.”

Contouring is like bell-bottom jeans and red lipstick; Not everyone looks good in it. Don’t feel you need to contour your face because brands are promoting it as a must-do trend (don’t even get me started on colour correcting being marketed as a trend). 

How to Contour Naturally

Having said that now, I will say that a touch of contouring is fabulous for lifting cheekbones. It can also shadow a double chin and straighten the nose. Personally, I don’t dabble in nose contouring; There is a fine line between getting it right and getting it so wrong. I do love to sweep a bit under the cheeks and under my chin(s) though! Be wary of contouring if you already have sharp features, or if you’re wanting to look more youthful (young faces are naturally fuller and softer!)



  1. Start but lining up the handle of your brush with the corner of your iris: This is as far as your contouring should come towards the centre of your face.
  2. Start near the top corner of your ear and sweep down towards the corner of your mouth.
  3. Buff gently with your brush to diffuse, sweeping the product upwards.
  4. Tilt your head back and sweep product under your chin and down the neck slightly.
  5. Buff gently back and forth under your chin.


You’re going to want to pick a brush that has a tapered shape, that won’t pick up too much product. Something soft and not too dense is preferable so you don’t get harsh lines. I prefer to use a small angled brush like my Surratt Artistique Sculpting Brush*. The NARS ITA Brush is also popular because of its wide, flat shape and sparse bristles. One of my favourite brushes is my MAC 109, which is actually round, but small enough to fit in the hollows and buffs out powder perfectly.

5 Well KNown Contour Powders Tested, Swatched and Compared


Here’s the tricky part: you can’t choose a shade too warm, nor too cool. Bronzers are generally too warm to do this job. Don’t toss them away into a drawer just yet though, they’re still and important part of my process to getting contouring to look natural. You never want contour powder to be ashy or grey either. Instead pick a shade just slightly cooler than your own skin tone. 

One of the best tricks I can offer is to use contour and bronzer in harmony with each other; Contour without the tonal warmth of bronzer can look harsh but together they marry for a perfect dimension to your face. Bronzer should be applied to the highest planes of your face: the tops of cheekbones, across the bridge of the nose, forehead and chest (should you want to bring it down that far). Contour should be applied to areas you want to ‘recess’ or shadow.

5 Well KNown Contour Powders Tested, Swatched and Compared


 MAC Sculpting Powder in ‘Sculpt’ • MACCosmetics •

This has been around for ages, but probably doesn’t get the love it should because you can usually only get it online or at MAC Pro stores. It comes in pan form and is occasionally released in limited edition collection as a compact. Sculpt is a really nice mid-tone brown for those who can’t get away with going too cool. Unlike a traditional contouring powder, these are called ‘sculpting’ powders because they are used more to give shape rather than ‘chisel’ so-to-speak.

Kevyn Aucoin The Sculpting Powder in ‘Light’* • Sephora • Cult Beauty

This is a cult classic and for good reason. It’s pigmented and cool toned without being grey. I find the Light shade is only ok for me when I don’t have any tanner on otherwise it looks too ashy. For pale girls like myself, this is a great option but I recommend buffing a little bit of bronzer on top cheekbones to combine the two naturally.

Charlotte Tilbury FilmStar Bronze and Glow* • Charlotte Tilbury • Net-A-Porter •

This is another product that falls into more of a sculpting product rather than solely contouring. It’s not as intensely pigmented as the others listed, but in this case, it is a good thing. Sometimes contouring products that have too strong a payoff apply too patchy and uneven. Filmstar blends effortlessly and makes it a fabulous choice for someone who just wants some dimension but doesn’t want razor sharp cheekbones.

NYX Blush in ‘Taupe’ • Amazon • •

This is the coolest option in the 5 featured here, but it isn’t without it’s pros. The texture of this is super silky and blends really well. I love to apply bronzer FIRST, then use this to give my cheekbones a bit more structure. This is also a perfect product for contouring the nose up to the eyebrows because it truly mimics the natural shadowing.

Smashbox Step-By-Step Contour Kit* • Sephora • Ulta • Boots

This is my favourite contouring product out of the 5 listed. It comes with a warmer shade and creamy ivory shade as well (the cooler contour shade is swatched). The contour shade is the perfect neutral brown for me and the inclusion of a bronzer shade in the compact makes it so convenient. The texture of these powders is very smooth to the touch, and also apply that way. I did toss the brush that came with the kit though…

Do you contour? What are your favourite products to use?

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  1. I really love that your contour looks natural & not overly done (I usually do it like you & I love K.Aucoin,CT & Bobbi Brown products for natural looking contour…also I have Rimmel face palette collaboration with Kate Moss in 02 and I use it only for contouring because that shade is amazing).I don’t love makeup trends because people tend to blindly stick to them & in my opinion that usually makes them look worse…..

  2. I don’t contour at all. I feel like my face is contoured enough, if that makes sense? The few times I tried I felt like there were too many angles and shadows almost, it felt skeletal :-S

    1. That is exactly what I’m talking about- if you have shape to your face already and contour because it’s trendy, you can actually make your face look quite guant and lose the femininity. That’s why I hate brands promoting contouring as a “trend”.

      1. Yup. I’m definitely not jumping on the bandwagon “just because”. Same with highlighting for me. My face has a lot of shine already. Applying more doesn’t make sense for me.

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