Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Lip Contouring

Photographed by Erin Yamagata.
It's no secret that the makeup world is pretty obsessed with contouring. Tutorials abound when it comes to this makeup technique, with women (and men!) layering highlighter on top of shading in order to achieve a more chiseled looking face. I was researching tutorials on Instagram one day — for a story, I swear — when I first came across the idea of lip contouring. No, not over-drawing your lips. Full-on contouring.

It's definitely an appealing prospect for some. Just like some women want to carve themselves some cheekbones, others want to fake themselves a pair of Angelina Jolie-level lips. And, by using the same techniques as regular contouring, you can actually manipulate the shape of your lips. "It's definitely for somebody who wears a lot of cosmetics, because it's not something that works well with natural-looking makeup," makeup artist Nick Barose says. "It's for a woman who goes for drama with her look."

So, what do you need to know to pull off a contoured lip?  First, make sure you prep. "People tend to put too much lip balm on first thing in the morning," Barose says. "You don't need so much." He advises scrubbing off the dry patches, then popping a non-greasy balm on your pout. 

Next, reach for your lip pencil. "This is definitely key," Barose says. "Make sure to use a liner that is a little bit darker than your natural lip tone. If you use the same color as your lipstick, it takes away the illusion." While you want to use the same color when you're simply lining your lips, contouring is about adding dimension. Use the same shade, and it will just look like you've smeared your lipstick past your lips. "It's about the light and the dark," Barose says. This part can get tricky, so I've included a Kylie Jenner makeup tutorial from the illustrious Nicola Chapman of Pixiwoo. (Start at around 12:16, watch 'til the end, then continue reading for additional tips from Barose below.)

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"The best place to draw is just slightly outside the border of the lip," Barose says. Resist the urge to draw too high above the natural lip line — it will look too obviously over-drawn. "Always opt for a long-wear lip liner, like Chanel Aqua Crayon Lip Color Stick," Barose says. He also suggests Lancôme's new pencil that boasts both a highlighter and a contour tip. Use the shading stick on the border of your lips, and then the highlight on the cupid's bow and in the center of the lip.

When it comes to colors, Barose suggests lighter shades over darker. "Dark will make your lips look smaller," he says. Pick your shade, then apply it directly from the tube so it will last longer. "Don't be afraid of a shimmer or a gloss," he says. "Dot it in the center [of your lips] to help them look fuller." If you need to touch up throughout the day, make sure to use the liner and the lipstick in tandem. "Just remove the gunk around your lips with a Q-tip," Barose says.

Keep in mind, this isn't a look you can just swipe on and forget about. It definitely requires regular upkeep. Like face contouring, lip contouring doesn't fall into the "lazy girl" category. As Barose says, it's for a woman who goes for drama. And, there's nothing more dramatic than growing a larger set of lips overnight, am I right?


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