From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Contouring is a makeup technique that uses cosmetics to define, enhance and sculpt the structure of the face[1] or other body parts, such as breasts.[2]

Contouring is usually produced by placing a warm or cool toned colour that is one or two shades darker than the skin color in areas such as in the hollows of the cheeks, on the side of the nose, and on the temples to give a shadow and slimming effect. It can be complemented with a highlighter that is one or two shades lighter than the skin color on areas of the face that is more prominent such as on the apples on the cheeks and the tip of the nose or the t-zone.


In the 16th century, contouring was used by Elizabethan stage actors, who would apply chalk and soot to their faces to help audience members read their facial expressions.[3]

In the late 1800s, when electricity was invented and lights were widely used, soot was no longer an option. Instead of soot, actors would use greasepaint to help audience members decipher their emotions. In 1800s-1900s, Queen Victoria deemed makeup as vulgar, as only stage actors and prostitutes wore makeup. Makeup could only be purchased in costume stores.[3]

In the 1920s and 30s, contouring could be seen in the film world. German actress, Marlene Dietrich would contour her face for her films. She would accentuate the natural lines of her face with shading and sculpting.[3]

In 1934, makeup artist Max Factor Sr. was famous for applying makeup for stage actors. He added shading to the face so that it wouldn't appear flat on film. In 1945, he released the first tutorial on how to contour the face, for different face shapes.[3]

In 1944, Ben Nye, a famous makeup artist, did the makeup for characters in Gone with the Wind (film) and Planet of the Apes (1968 film). He then created his own makeup line, which is still popular today.[3]

In the 1950s, a time of Old Hollywood glamour, features were subtly contoured and shaded. This method was used by such actresses as Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Elizabeth Taylor.[3]

In the 1990s, makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin was responsible for the sculpted, chiseled look of Gwyneth Paltrow, Cindy Crawford, and Janet Jackson.[3]

In the 2000s, the practice of "body contouring" – the application of contouring to other parts of the body than the face, such as shinbones or breasts ("boob contouring") – became more widely noticed as a result of the increasing number of images of celebrities appearing in social media.[2]


  1. ^ Picardi, Phillip (2014-01-24). "So: What Is Contouring and Why Should You Care?". Teen Vogue. Retrieved 2016-01-18. Contouring is giving shape to an area of the face and enhancing the facial structure through makeup
  2. ^ a b Schwedel, Heather (24 February 2017). "On the Oscars Red Carpet, Keep an Eye Out for Boob Contouring". Slate. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "From 1500 to 2015: The Fascinating History of Contouring". Byrdie. Retrieved 2016-03-19.

External links[edit]