18 November 2018Last updated


How to contour your face

All celebs are blessed with razor-sharp cheekbones and perfectly formed features, right? Wrong. They (or their make-up artists) are just in on the secrets of contouring – and you can be too. Three of our readers stopped by AQ HQ for a masterclass with make-up artist Seph Barda on how to chisel and sculpt with the best of them

Sonam Basantani
24 Jun 2015 | 12:00 am
  • Yulia Vasylenko.

    Source:Aiza Castillo-Domingo/ANM Image 1 of 3
  • Adriana Santos.

    Source:Aiza Castillo-Domingo/ANM Image 2 of 3
  • Khyathi Batavia.

    Source:Aiza Castillo-Domingo/ANM Image 3 of 3

Contouring basics

Contouring is all about contrasting light and dark to bring out features we want to highlight, such as our cheekbones, and to downplay features we’d rather hide, such as a wide forehead or that pesky double chin. In a nutshell, applying a light colour will cause protrusion, drawing attention to an area, and using a dark colour will cause the areas to appear to recede and look smaller. Keep this in mind and you will be savvy at sculpting in no time.

The goal

An oval-shaped face is the ideal in terms of being able to pull off most looks. The aim behind facial contouring is to balance out other-shaped faces to achieve more of an oval-looking shape, as well as balancing out features to make them look more symmetrical. If you use foundation, a matte bronzer (shimmer won’t work as well) and concealer anyway, you probably have all the kit you need to get started – it’s how you use them that matters.



Yulia Vasylenko, 26, Ukrainian, photographer

Yulia has a heart-shaped face. This means that contouring on the sides of her forehead and a little highlighting on her fairly small chin help balance her face, making the forehead appear narrower and the chin wider. To do this I used a foundation two tones darker than her natural skin tone to create depth and then used Boi-ing 01 by Benefit, which is lighter than her natural skin tone, to bring out the highlights of her face.

I gently blended the two together using a foundation brush and then fixed the foundation with powder using a blending brush. I love the 4SS brush from Inglot as it’s really fluffy and blends seamlessly. I also used this to apply a highlighting powder and to give a little definition to Yulia’s nose. Then I added a little peachy blush to the apples of her cheeks to brighten her look and accentuate her natural youthful glow.

Eyes Yulia said she likes wearing green tones on her eyes, so I used Inglot’s Soft Precision Eyeliner #30 along her bottom lash line, concentrating on the outer edges to open the eyes up – putting dark liner on your inner eye will make your eyes appear more closely set. Brown eyes can pretty much pull off any shadow because brown is neutral and won’t compete with a colour statement on the eyelids. Keeping the lids simple, I swept a neutral shade up to the brow bone, and then layered a darker shade along the socket line to add definition. I finished the look with black eyeliner and mascara, applying a few individual fake lashes on the outer corners of her eyes to amp up the glam factor.

Lips I wanted to keep the lips muted to draw the look together in a sultry glamorous way. First I lined the lips with Mac’s lipliner in Subculture, ever so slightly outside Yulia’s natural lip line, to give the illusion of fuller lips. Then I filled the lip with Rimmel’s Provocalips liquid lipstick in Make Your Move. I am totally in love with this highly pigmented range – one application will last you all day!

I wanted to have a chance to feel like a model for a while as I’m usually on the other side of the camera. I rarely see make-up on my face and the result was amazing, it made me feel gorgeous! - Yulia

Get the look


1 Inglot Brush in 4SS, Dh80 2 Mac Pro Longwear Lipliner in Sub Culture, Dh118 3 Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick in Bronze, Dh247 4 Rimmel Provocalips in Make Your Move, Dh47, Boots 5 Inglot Soft Precision Eyeliner in Dh60.


Adriana Santos

Adriana Santos, Filipino, 40, HR manager

Adriana has a fairly oval face, so she didn’t need much contouring. She was, however, concerned about the width and flatness of her nose, so I focused on contouring this in order to make it appear slimmer. I used Inglot’s Freedom System HD Sculpting Powder in a dark and light shade (502 and 503) to sculpt Adriana’s nose. Using a small, fluffy brush, I applied the darker shade along both sides of the nose and up to Adriana’s socket line to create more definition and the illusion of a more protruding nose. Then I used the lighter shade to highlight down the centre of Adriana’s nose to accentuate this effect.
To warm up the look, I used Sephora’s Sun Disk. This giant disk of golden glow is perfect to use all over the body for a healthy bronzed look.

Eyes Adriana is a fan of the feline flick, so I worked with the shape of her eyes to create a subtle cat eye using Rimmel Exaggerate Liner in black on the very outer edges of her eyes.
I used a neutral shadow on her lid, being sure to use a darker shadow on the inner socket line to give the impression of more deep-set eyes.

Lips A neutral shade worked best on Adriana to give her a sultry sophisticated look.
I lined and filled her lips with Mac’s In Anticipation and then added a touch of Rimmel Provocalips in Heartbreaker and finished with a frosted lip gloss to give Adriana a perfectly plump pout.

I was tired of wearing the same style of make-up every day. I thought this makeover made me look very different and glamorous. The experience was amazing and now I know how to contour my face, I’m hoping to wear this make-up every day! - Adriana

Get the look

Adriana Santos

1 Sephora Sun Disk, Dh99 2 Mac Pro Longwear Lip Pencil in In Anticipation, Dh118 3 Rimmel Exaggerate Smoke n’ Shine Liner in Little Black, Dh23, Boots 4 Inglot HD Face Sculpting Powder in 503, Dh50 5 Inglot HD Face Sculpting Powder in 502, Dh50.


Khyathi Batavia

Khyathi Batavia, Indian, 34, entrepreneur

Khyathi’s face is quite round, so I used a darker foundation to contour the sides of her face, making it appear slightly longer. As Khyathi has dry skin, I used Inglot’s Under Makeup Base first, which contains SPF 20 and provides a hydrating base for the make-up. After I had blended the highlighting and contouring foundation, I used Mac blush powder in Harmony to accentuate the shadows I had created – the matte effect and cool undertone of this shade is universally flattering to give the illusion of shadow on most skin tones.

Eyes Khyathi has big eyes and long eyelashes so she can pull off a strong feline flick very well.
I kept the eyelids warm with some peach and gold eyeshadow on the lid and brown on the outer edge of the socket line. I finished with lashings of Rimmel’s Wonder’Full Argan oil-enriched mascara, being sure to brush her lashes through with a clean, dry mascara wand between applications to prevent the lashes clumping.

Lips I chose a reddish-coral colour for Khyathi’s full lips because the orange undertone really brightens up the cool undertones of her skin, which can otherwise look dull against the wrong hues. I lined the lips using Mac’s What a Blast! liner, then filled in the entire lip with #37 of Rimmel’s Lasting Finish lipstick from the Kate Moss collection. To finish off the pout, I used a concealer just a shade lighter than Khyathi’s skin tone to line just around the top lipline, Cupid’s bow and the bottom lipline. Adding a dollop of gloss to the centre of the lip and a touch of highlighter just above the Cupid’s bow also helped to accentuate the look of a gorgeous, full lip.

This masterclass taught me that make-up application can be like an art, requiring detail and precision. It was an experience of a lifetime, I felt like a celebrity! - Khyathi

Get the look

Khyathi Batavia

1 Nars Duo Eyeshadow in Isolde, Dh175, Sephora, Mall of The Emirates 2 Rimmel Wonderful Mascara, Dh49, Boots 3 Mac Pro Longwear Lip Pencil in What A Blast!, Dh118 4 Inglot Under Makeup Base, Dh90 5 Mac blush in Harmony, Dh125.

Sonam Basantani

As told to Sonam Basantani

Beauty Stylist and Writer