Curious About Contouring Your Body With Makeup? Here's a Crash Course

  • October 6, 2021

Curious About Contouring Your Body With Makeup? Here's a Crash Course

by Marianne Mychaskiw

Table of Contents

  1. Makeup Artist Bruce Dean Shares His Fool-Proof Contouring Methods 
  2. What Products to Use (And Where)
  3. How to Apply From Head to Toe

While contouring the face area might as well be considered a daily ritual at this point, contouring your body with makeup can be tricky territory if you don’t know where to start. That’s why targeting specific areas of the body is key, as is making the contouring look realistic. But there’s another equally important thing to be mindful of: preventing the makeup from rubbing off onto your clothes (or your furniture, etc.).

That’s why we asked editorial makeup artist Bruce Dean to answer all of our body contouring FAQs. Considering that the pro specializes in lingerie and swimwear shoots, his technique is one you’re going to want to follow closely.

Keep reading for the best body contouring pro tips you never knew you needed.

What Are Some of the Best Areas of the Body to Contour With Makeup?

According to Dean, some of the most popular areas of the body to contour are the abs, as well as the decollete and chest. "Other areas of the body can be a little tricky because products could rub off on clothing,” he says. "Avoid the underarm area and the middle of the thighs, as these areas are in direct contact with skin and rub together.”


Should I Prep My Skin Before I Use Makeup to Contour My Body?

To create a longer-lasting effect, Dean advises wiping your skin down with witch hazel to remove oil from the area. "You can also use a baby wipe to remove excess oil and water from the skin,” he says. "It’s important not to use any kind of lotion before applying body makeup.” You can also opt to use a spray-on self-tanner as a base. "Self-tanner sprayed onto the body is the best as far as being non-transferable, and this way, you can utilize more of a highlighter to highlight the tops of the legs and arms to create a contoured effect,” he explains.


Are There Any Makeup Formulas Best for Body Contouring? What Should I Have On Hand?

Both powder and cream formulas work equally well depending on your desired effect. Dean likes to use the MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Powder, as well as the Sian Richards 4K Longwear Creme Palette. "Choose the contour and highlight shades that work best for your skin tone to create a natural effect,” he says.

Keep makeup remover wipes on hand (Dean recommends the MAC Makeup Remover Wipes) as well as paper towels in case you need to wipe your hands. "Make sure to clean and wash your hands if you have a sink available after applying the makeupbody contouring with makeup can get a bit messy!” he says. "You can also utilize body brushes, though I’m more of a hands-on person myself.”

I Want to Contour My Abs With Makeup. How Should I Do This?

Start by tightening your abs as much as possible to see your natural definition, and determine where to place the contour and highlight shades. "In the valleys of the muscles, apply a dark color to contour, but do not apply it to the peaks,” Dean says. "You can also look at a photograph of six-pack abs and try to re-create that on your own stomach. It’s a little bit more tricky, but again, if you use a light and a dark shade you can achieve a contoured effect on the abs.” You can choose to use a small brush to apply the product, or your fingers, then blend out until you achieve a natural light and shadow effect.


How Should I Go About Contouring My Chest With Makeup?

According to Dean, powder formulas in darker and lighter tones work best for the chest area. "Push one side of your chest upward so you can see where to highlight and contour, then do the same on the other side,” he says. Start first with the contour shade and apply it in a V-shape around your cleavage, then apply the powder above and below your clavicle. Then, apply highlight over the top of your collarbones and onto the area just below where you placed the V-shaped cleavage contour. Finish by blending out both shades to achieve a natural finish.


Can I Contour My Arms and Legs With Makeup?

You certainly can, but proceed with caution, as arms and legs are both notoriously tricky areas to contour as the makeup has the potential to rub off on your clothes. Set yourself up for success by opting for waterproof formulas in this area, and avoiding areas that make regular contact with your clothing. "​​First, use a dark shade of face and body makeup all over, like Make Up For Ever’s Water Blend Foundation which will be more transfer-resistant,” says Dean. "Then, either a powder highlighter or lighter powder shade on your shins and the tops of your thighs to highlight on the tops of the legs, then follow the same technique on your forearms and on your shoulders.”

How Can I Keep the Makeup From Transferring Onto My Clothes? 

Aside from avoiding areas of skin that come in direct contact with your clothes, Dean recommends spraying a veil of Green Marble setting spray over any areas you used makeup to contour. "The product forms a film barrier over your skin, which is great for sealing makeup,” he says.

And that’s it—you’re contoured from head to toe!

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