Making It Up: It’s All About the Shape

Fashion & Beauty Editor Laurence Keating teaches you the not so secret art of contouring.

This month here at Motley we’re taking you through the ever elusive act of contouring. Previous to about four years ago, this was not a common word outside of makeup counters, backstage at Fashion Week and Drag shows. However, with the advent of YouTube and the millions of tutorials uploaded daily and the stellar success of RuPaul’s Drag Race, everyone wants to know how to carve out killer cheekbones and add some definition to the face.

To begin with, the first choice is whether you prefer cream of powder formulations. Creams are fantastic for those with drier skins, those who prefer a more natural effect, or those who like to layer. Powders work on pretty much everyone save those with an extremely dry skin.

There are a multitude of products available at your local Pharmacy, and more still in department stores and online. What you’re looking for is a product in your preferred texture (cream or powder) that is two to three shades darker than your skin tone. The idea is to create and or define shadows on the face and to really add dimension that can be lost when one is wearing foundation. Two things to keep in mind when choosing products is are the products matte and is there any red in the colouring? You want a matte product with little to no red undertones as any shimmer or sparkle will completely negate the point of creating shadow and any red in the product can look muddy and dirty.

This is where using your regular bronzer to contour can really let you down as bronzers are designed to warm up the face and add a little colour whereas a great contouring product is more in the cool tones. A bronzer that works phenomenally well however is Benefit’s cult bronzing powder Hoola, (available from Boots, Debenhams and Brown Thomas) which is a deeper shade that works well on most skin tones depending on how much or little you apply.

Sleek Makeup, an incredible brand based in the UK offer several contouring kits which consist of either a contour and highlighter duo (€7.99) or a trio of the contour and highlight powders with a complementing blush shade (€12.99, both available at

Finally we have Illamasqua, a brand almost synonymous with contouring as their visuals often feature face changing contouring work. Their cream pigment in Hollow (€20.88) is an utterly fantastic product (and kit essential for makeup artists) that works so well for light to medium skins as a natural looking contour. Illamasqua have just launched a Sculpting Powder Duo (€31.02) featuring a contour and highlighting powder that is fantastic and will last you absolutely ages. Illamasqua also create blushes that are perfect for contouring for almost every skin tone (as well as amazing foundations in a massive shade range) so I would highly recommend having a browse on their site or through their store on

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There are a multitude of products available at your local Pharmacy, and more still in department stores and online.


Now for the how to! This step is done after foundation and if using a powder contour product, it is best to lightly powder the area with some translucent powder first to avoid any muddiness or streaking. Taking (my personal favourite brush for contouring) the Real Techniques Contour brush dip the pointed tip into your chosen powder or cream. Either dust the excess powder off by tapping the brush or remove the excess cream on the back of your hand. To find the hollows of your cheeks, feel your cheekbone with your finger and directly beneath that is where you want to apply the product. Apply the product in circular motions from the back of your cheekbone (just above the earlobe, if you get me) and blend upwards. Don’t go any further than where your brows end, the idea is to create a natural shadow and its best if you can’t see it when looking directly into a mirror. The pointed tip of the brush picks up product and the surrounding hairs blend the product so it really is a brilliant little brush (available as part of the Base set with 3 other brushes from Boots). If you feel you’ve over applied, or that it looks a little like the dreaded Snickers On Your Face look, take your foundation brush and go over the edges of the contour to soften any harsh edges.

You can also take the remainder of the product on the Contour brush around the hairline and under the jawbone and chin (great for adding definition to this area) and that will help give a little more structure to the face.

If  you feel it necessary or if you just feel like it, you can take a smaller fluffy brush like a MAC #224 or No. 7 eye blending brush and dip a small amount in the product, sweep it down the sides off the nose and just under the tip for a more defined nose, a favourite of Kim Kardashian and Drag Queens alike. Just be sure to blend!