These days, contouring has become such a staple of a full-face makeup application that the idea of not doing it seems like an act of rebellion. But while most people are aware of the basics of facial contouring, there’s another ongoing trend that isn’t always being executed properly — lip contour. The idea behind it is to give the effect of plumper, fuller lips in a way that’s natural. Made popular thanks to Kylie Jenner and her lip kits several years ago, the technique can elicit strong feelings by makeup artists and aficionados everywhere when done incorrectly.
To Contour, or Not to Contour
To be clear, you can still create a beautiful lip without contouring. And for people with naturally full lips, the idea of trying to exaggerate curves and depth might seem unnecessary. Meanwhile, anyone who wishes they had fuller lips can create the illusion if done correctly.
Lip Contouring: The Basics
So, how the heck do you contour your lips? Unlike face contouring which should be customized to your unique bone structure and face shape, lip contouring tends to be fairly straightforward. The difficulty comes with the lip products you use. But start with the basics.
Prep Your Lips
Before you place any lip color — regardless of whether you contour or not — you need to prep your lips. Exfoliate them if necessary with a lip scrub or even a soft toothbrush, as flaky lips and lip color don’t mix. Also, be sure to prime them.
Depending on the lip product you select, you might want to start by blotting your lips with a hydrating balm to keep them moisturized. And if you’re concerned that your lip color of choice is prone to feathering, invest in a good lip primer to help lock color in place once it’s applied.
Line Your Lips
With lip contouring, the primary goal is to make lips look larger, so lining outside of your natural lip line is encouraged. However, do this with moderation. For best results, use a lip liner that’s only slightly darker than your natural lip color. Start by focusing on your cupid’s bow (the indent at the top of your lip) and drawing an “X” that’s on the center of your upper lip.
After drawing your “X”, you’re going to continue by lining your lips. But remember, you’re exaggerating your lip line slightly. The key to nailing this step is to keep your corner lining confined to your natural lip and extend the liner beyond your natural lip border in the fuller parts of your upper and lower lips.
Follow with Lip Color
Now that you’ve drawn your desired outline, it’s time to fill in with lip color. If necessary, use a lip brush to carefully apply color to areas outside of your natural lip line that might get messy if you use your lipstick or lip gloss wand applicator.
Dab a Highlighter or Gloss
To really sell the appearance of fuller lips, opt for a bit of highlight or a gloss in the center of your lips. This will help to create the illusion of more fullness.
Clean Up with Concealer
If you don’t have the steadiest hand in the land and your lipstick or gloss went beyond your lip liner boundaries, use a concealer brush to touch up any smudges or mistakes. This helps to create precise lines, ensuring that your illusion of fuller lips isn’t broken.
Tips to Nail Lip Contouring
Now that you know the basics of lip contouring, here are a few tips of what you should avoid so that your lip contour looks good.
Avoid Opaque Lip Colors
Lip contour can be an effective makeup trick. But if you opt for more exaggerated lip contouring by drawing additional lines inside your lips as well as on your lips’ boundaries, you should avoid opaque lip colors. The extra effort required to line your lips or create contour lines throughout your lips will be for nothing if you then follow up with an opaque color that completely covers that lip liner.
This is one of the biggest mistakes people make with lip contour, which is why it’s a hotly contested makeup technique. For best results, semi-sheer colors are better. They can create the contrast needed to give the illusion of more fullness.
Don’t Skip the Highlight or Gloss Step
Even if you’re not the biggest fan of gloss, this essential step helps to make your new, fuller lips look more believable. If you absolutely can’t stand the idea of wearing gloss, opt for adding a slightly lighter matte or satin finish hue to the center of your mouth. It creates the same effect without the shine.
Do Blend Lip Lines
Harsh lines are a dead giveaway that your pout isn’t real. Along with picking a lip liner that’s no more than one shade darker than your lip line or your lip color, use a brush to blend any harsh lines so it doesn’t look fake.