New Thing: Attempt contouring makeup

contouring for beginners
Each year I make a list of new things I want to try; it’s part of how I live my life on purpose. Some of these new things are exciting, many are terribly mundane.

While the good Lord/DNA blessed me with some pretty amazing stuff – great hair, big lips, a Scandinavian lack of body hair – cheekbones didn’t make the cut. When Amy Schumer said that she had an ‘at risk chin‘ I laaaaaughed because I get it. Turkey neck is coming for me.

So when I added ‘contouring’ to my New Things list, I did it for three reasons.

1. It’s nice to learn new things! I’d like to add another skill to my beautifying tool box!

2. Contouring is a pop culture phenomenon. Do we even know what the Kardashians would look like without it? Is my ladyhood badge going to be revoked if I don’t know how to do it?

3. I was quietly hoping I could somehow draw cheekbones and a jawline onto my face because that’s a lot easier than dieting and/or plastic surgery – neither of which I’m particularly into. #guac4eva

If you’ve never heard of contouring, it’s the practice of using different colored makeup to accentuate the angles of your face. When done correctly, it can slim noses, emphasize jawlines, or create the illusion of cheekbones where previously none existed.

To me – someone who applies $6 bb cream with her hands – contouring is some Next Level Makeupry. I mean, look at this business:

advanced contouring

While I am totally committed to trying new things, I am less committed to investing $45 in contouring makeup that I might never use again. A bit of googling suggested this little beauty for beginner contour-ers, and what luck! It cost $12, wasn’t tested on animals, and was on the shelf at my local Target. Sold.

Let’s talk about the five stages of contouring

1. Denial
“This is what my face really looks like without makeup? I THOUGHT I WAS SO MUCH CUTER THAN THIS.”

2. Bargaining
“Please, NYX Wonder stick, I swear I’ll keep buying you if you can make me look awake. Or least slightly less flu-ish.”

3. Confusion
“And then I draw a line down the middle of my nose? Do I rub this into my hairline? When I draw a white line on top of my cheekbone and a dark line under my cheekbone … which way do I blend them? Into each other? Away from each other? Where is my cheekbone I can’t find it.

4. Acceptance
“Okay! Well, that doesn’t look terrible! It also doesn’t really look that different from what I normally do. Hmmm. Mostly it just looks like I got a tan along my hairline.”

5. Neglect
(perfectly useful makeup tool + skill gathers dust till I remember it before a fancy party and half-heartedly use it again.)

Maybe if I’d gone all out with super opaque concealer and a multi-color contouring kit, I could have coaxed a more dramatic result out of my face. But honestly? I’m pretty happy with my five-minute makeup routine and my pretty average cheekbones.

But I want to know about you! Have you ever tried contouring? What products do you use?

P.S. If you’re curious about my ‘normal’ makeup, I wear this $6 bb cream, this $6 mascara, and this $2 brow pencil. I will talk your ear off about Revlon Lip Butter (I’m wearing Candy Apple in the above photos) and if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll wear this liquid eyeliner.

photo credit: sabrina // youtube


Sarah M

I’ve now just been made aware of something fashionable that I’ll never get around to/never care one iota for. I mean, I like makeup and looking nice but this seems a little much. Do people do this just to go about their regular business?

But then again, I’m the person who thought vaginal jewels and whatnot were actually a joke until someone confirmed for me that, no, people pay good money for that. Sorry, come again?

Sarah Von Bargen

I think most people just do it for special occasions? Or maybe when they know they’ll have their photo taken? When I told my girlfriends that I was trying to learn how to do it, 90% of them were like ‘I ALSO HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO DO THAT.”

But maybe that’s more indicative of who I hang out with than anything else 😉


Goodness, you are totally adorable without makeup. I’ll probably stick with my general ‘foundation for fancy days’ rule of thumb, though I’m not totally sure where my cheekbones are either.

Sarah Von Bargen

You’re too kind! I get so self-conscious about my invisible eyelashes and eyebrows!


Sarah, you look great! I don’t get contouring either. I’ve never seen it done right by “mere mortals” (I guess if you can’t see it, it’s done right). I’m sure professional make up artists (for movies and TV) do wonders with it, but SUBTLETY is key, which I never see on people in real life who’ve tried to contour.
I’ve learned where to put bronzer and blush on my face so that I look alive and healthy, and I ALWAYS apply my foundation with my fingers. That’s how I make my fancy foundation last about six months, even though I wear it almost every day.
I love make up. I love what make up can do for us. Thank you for this post! 🙂 Beauty inspiration.


Wow. I knew about this for stage and photos, but never thought about it for real life. And even knowing this now… and even desperately wishing that I actually had a chin, I think this is on the list of stuff that I am too lazy to do. But I am glad that you tried it and showed it to me!

Rachel B

Sarah, you’re adorable. I’ve tried contouring for nights out, and that’s where I would leave it. Jordan Liberty is a professional makeup artist who has a YouTube channel. His videos are the best I’ve seen at explaining contouring, and I watch a TON of YouTube makeup tutorials for work. He explains why you need a “cool” contour shade, and how bronzer shouldn’t do double duty as a contour. Life changing.


Oh my gosh, you look so pretty with no makeup! And also with. I’d also like to learn how to contour one day but I’m still pretty firmly in the $6 BB cream and mascara camp for now.

Sarah Von Bargen

Thanks so much! These days I occasionally run to the grocery store without makeup but I almost ALWAYS wear mascara and lipstick 🙂


I agree, you look awesome with no makeup. And also? Your teeth are fab. I am British and am severely self-conscious of my discoloured, ill-aligned chompers!

Sarah Von Bargen

You’re so sweet! When I lived in New Zealand my Kiwi friends always joked that you could spot Americans from a million miles away because of their shiny hair, big white straight teeth, and tendency to take up more space than they needed! 😉

Brittany Deal

I love my NYX Wonderstick! I use it almost every day. I use the highlighter on my nose and under my eyebrows and the darker part on my cheeks and above my forehead. It really doesn’t add any extra time. I am definitely not intense with it but I feel like I can notice a little difference. If nothing else it gives me a boost of confidence and that works for me!


I tried Powder contouring for when I cosplay. It’s actually really easy and looks great. I would think that it’s a bit easier to blend with powder vs. cream. Just my thoughts.
I would really only use it for when I want to look extra fancy. Otherwise, it’s too much makeup for me.


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