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How To Contour Your Cheeks

In makeup, contouring is a technique that helps create the appearance of a sculpted face using different products that are darker or lighter than your natural complexion. Contour typically involves using varying shades of foundation, concealer, bronzer, and highlighter to create the illusion of shadow and light. When done right, contouring adds dimension to your face and defines your features. If you’re unsure of how to contour your cheeks, this guide will help you get started.

Things to consider (when you contour your cheeks)

There are several things to consider when figuring out how to contour your cheekbones:

  • Face shape – Contouring varies with face shape and bone structure. Is your face round, oval, square, or heart-shaped?
  • Skin undertone and complexion – Use a contour product that is several shades darker than your skin color.
  • Skin texture – Prep your skin and choose a product formulation that suits your skin type.
  • Products and application tools – You can use cream or powder makeup to sculpt and highlight certain areas of your face.

How to tell if you have high or low cheekbones?

When deciding how to contour your cheeks, it helps to know whether you have high or low cheekbones. Also known as the makar or zygomatic bone, the cheekbone refers to the diamond-shaped bone located below the eye socket and the widest part of the cheek. If your cheekbones are located close to your eyes, you likely have high cheekbones. If they are located closer to the bottom of your nose, then you have low cheekbones.

To determine the placement of your cheekbones, you’ll need a mirror and good lighting. Make sure that your face is clean and free of makeup and tie your hair back. When looking in the mirror, place a thumb on the nub of your ear (also called the tragus) and place your index finger at your nostril to form an L sign. Press down the length of your finger and you’ll feel your cheekbone.

Now that you know your cheekbone placement, you’ll have a better idea of how to contour your cheekbones.

How To Contour Your Cheeks

Steps to contour your cheeks

Contouring the face can be relatively easy and gives you instant results:

Step 1. After foundation, apply concealer that is about 3 shades lighter than your skin color beneath the eyes. Apply concealer in a triangle shape that goes along the bottom of your lash line to the side of your nose, and blend.

Step 2. To define your cheekbones, apply a cream contour that is about 3-4 shades darker than your skin color to the hollows of your cheeks. Make sure to blend the contour going up your cheekbone and not downwards to make it blend seamlessly into the blush that will be applied later.

Step 3. Apply a heavy layer of translucent powder underneath the eyes to set your concealer. This gives you a bright, highlighted look and will be dusted off later.

Step 4. Apply bronzing powder to the part of the face where you applied the cream contour. The bronzer will give the dark contour powder (will be applied next) a transition so it does not appear too harsh or dark. Next, apply the contour powder with a thin sculpted brush to the hollows of the cheek and blend it upwards into your bronzer.

Step 5. Apply a heavy layer of translucent powder with a wedge sponge along the bottom of the contour and all the way down to your jawline. This will define the contour even more while keeping it natural and seamless. Leave the powder on for at least 10 minutes and lightly dust it off from both the cheeks and under eye area.

Step 6. While you are waiting to dust the powder off, you can apply blush to the apples of the cheeks.

Step 7. This is the most important step. To create a lifted look, apply cream highlight to the top of the cheekbone, then apply a powder highlight over top. By illuminating the top of the cheekbone, it lifts the area and gives it an angled effect. * Tip: To give a more subtle glow, you can just use highlight powder, which will give you a subdued radiance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you contour before or after foundation?

It is best to apply foundation and concealer before contour. Foundation will even out your skin tone and clear away all the natural shadows and dimensions of your face. This gives you a blank canvas to work with. Cream, liquid, and powder contour can be applied on top of your foundation and blended out for a seamless look.

If you’re wondering “Do you contour before or after foundation?”, keep in mind applying foundation after contour can wipe out all of your color products, particularly if you use a high-coverage foundation.

How do I know my face shape for contouring?

Hold a measuring tape from the top of your hairline to the bottom of your chin. Next, take your measurement from hairline to hairline across the center of your forehead while keeping the tape flat. Then measure from the highest point of one cheekbone to the other across your face. Lastly, hold the measuring tape below your ear and down to the center of your chin and multiply the measurements by two.

So, how do I know my face shape for contouring? You have an oval face if it is longer than it is wide; round or heart-shaped if it is wider than it is long, and rectangular if it is twice as long as it is wide.

What type of contour is best for beginners?

If you’re new to contour and makeup in general, you can start with powder contour. In general, powder contour is not as harsh and pigmented as cream and liquid contour. It tends to be lightweight, buildable, and easier to apply and blend.

If you’re dealing with sagging skin, which is what happens when you stop botox, try this technique: suck in your cheeks and sweep the contour product along the hollows of your cheeks, temples, and jawline. Though this technique won’t work for everyone, it will help you get reacquainted with the natural contours of your face.

Do you contour under your cheekbone?

It is common to apply contour makeup to the hollows of your cheeks. Applying a darker shade to this area creates a shadow and sculpts your cheekbones, making them appear sharper and more defined. You can also apply contour to the brow bone, sides of the nose, and jawline. If you’re not sure what type of contour is best for beginners, start with powder products and high-quality brushes. This will make the contour product easier to apply and blend.

What’s the difference between bronzer and contour?

The main difference between bronzer and contour is that bronzer is meant to warm up your complexion while contour is meant to create depth and definition. Bronzer typically comes in warm hues and often have shimmer or luminosity. It helps create a tanned or sun-kissed appearance.

Contour should ideally have a cool or neutral base to add shadows to certain areas of the face. Shading products are often available in matte or cream finishes to add definition. Although bronzer or darker shade foundation can be used to contour, there are makeup products in the market that have been designed specifically for contouring.


Contouring is a non-surgical way of creating more depth and enhancing your natural features. But if you are interested in something a little more permanent, you can check out and learn more about the best plastic surgery in Beverly Hills. Known as a plastic surgeon to the stars, Los Angeles-based Dr. Deepak Dugar can give you cheekbone enhancement with filler for an instant contour and lift.


Dr. Deepak Dugar

Director of Beverly Hills Rhinoplasty Center - Home of the Scarless Nose™ (Closed Rhinoplasty) Director of Scarless Med Spa

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