What is contouring and will it work for me?

Georgina Smith / 18 July 2016

To contour or not to contour, that is the question… unless you don't know what contouring is. In which case the question is: qu'est-ce que c'est?

Contouring: The basics

Face countouring is using shades of natural hues ranging from light ivory to dark brown to accentuate the bone structure of your face. It can be a useful trick if you'd like to redefine features that may have softened with age.

By placing (and blending) darker hues in the hollows of your cheeks, on the side of your nose and around your jaw and hairline – and lighter hues on your cheeks, chin and forehead – you can achieve a more structured, slimmer look.

How to make the most of make-up brushes

Face value

When I say you, I mean the royal you. Or rather, one. Because if you're very fair like me then you (or one) may run the risk of looking more like some bizarre character from Cirque du Soleil. But if you're blessed with honey or olive tones, then you'll possibly have a better chance of contouring with greater success. And the good news is that there are some useful tricks of the trade for contouring on mature skin.

Get younger looking skin

A cosmetic secret of the stars

Safe to say your desired look is not the hyperbolic hues of Kim Kardashian. So it may be reassuring to know that Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor were once proponents of this not-so-new makeup technique. And Sophia Loren can still be spotted sporting signs of subtle contouring.

Contouring tips

1. Apply your usual foundation as a base.

2. Use a contour kit. These usually contain up to six different hues, ranging from ivory to dark brown. Ensure you use cream products, rather than powder. That's because cream spreads a lot more evenly on mature skin than powder; powder tends to accumulate in fine wrinkles and give an uneven finish. Try Laura Mercier Flawless Contouring Palette, £35 from John Lewis. It's spectacularly creamy and easy to blend for a perfect finish.

3. Take a light shade, and, using a domed blending brush, apply it to dark areas on your face that you want to 'lift'. For example: under your eyes, on the skin around the inner corner of your eyes and on smile lines around your mouth, if you have them. Apply a faint line along the ridge of your nose, and a little fanning upwards from between your eyebrows.

4. Now use a clean brush to apply a darker brown hue in a line along your jawline, under your cheekbones and a little along the hairline on your forehead.

5. Using a large blending brush, blend the areas of dark brown. Blend just enough to remove any visible, harsh lines, but try not to spread the dark brown colour beyond the area too much. The result should look like subtle shadowing; not too defined, but not too dissipated.

6. Blend the light areas with a slightly moist makeup sponge. Again, try not to spread the colour beyond the area you applied it to; just enough to remove any defined lines and edges.

7. You can use a translucent powder over your whole face to seal the contour cream. But use sparingly: again, powder can gather in fine lines and wrinkles and give a cakey appearance if you use too much.

Subtlety is key

The most important aspects of contouring, especially for older skin, are blending and not applying too much contour makeup in the first place. That is, of course, unless you're off to a fancy dress party as one of these three things: a tiger, Kim Kardashian or a member of a French Canadian circus troop.

Contouring for older skin

Of course, these tips work best if you're looking for a slimmed-down look - but if you're hoping that contouring will help fill your face out a bit for a plumper look associated with youth, then read our guide to contouring for older skin.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.