A short rant about contouring

It’s half term this week, so when Belle was up and dressed – around 3pm – she walked into town to meet me at my office and we went for a mooch around the shops. First on her list was Boots to look at the make up. Specifically the pigments. 

(Don’t even get me started on pigments. Belle goes on about them all the time and I don’t even know what it means.)

My eye was caught by a display of products to help the discerning girl about town with her ‘contouring’. In case you don’t know, contouring is essentially painting your face strategically to try to change its shape e.g. giving yourself fake cheekbones. As far as I can gather it’s basically make up to try to make you look thinner.

I have two issues with contouring.

Firstly, who is it, telling our beautiful young daughters that they need to spend money on brown creams and powders to paint fake shadows on their faces?! What’s wrong with women’s faces as they are? I mean seriously, WT actual F? Make-up is a weird enough concept as it is, and not something I feel especially comfortable with, but at least you can sort of justify that as just experimenting with colour or something. Contouring seems to be saying ‘er yeah, your whole face is just wrong. You might just want to change its shape?’


Secondly, regardless of the moral issues, it looks stupid.

This is a photo I took of the display that caught my eye. It’s poor quality as far as photography goes, but you get the point:


Now correct me if I’m wrong, but this is what I see:

Top left, the before picture – normal, pretty young woman, already wearing plenty of make up but looking perfectly normal.

Bottom right, the after picture – weird blow up doll.

If you look at the top right picture, you can see the essence of contouring. Contouring is saying ‘your nose is too wide, your forehead is too high, your cheeks are too fat, your chin is too wide and your cheekbones are not defined enough.’

Seriously guys! What is going on?!

Is it just me that thinks this whole trend is messed up??



  1. 25 October, 2016 / 7:01 pm

    I think it’s messed up too….I don’t get it at all. I think it’s a big ploy from make up companies to make people buy more of their products x

    • Jo Middleton
      25 October, 2016 / 7:13 pm

      The make up industry drives me mad – when are we going to wake up and realise we don’t need ANY OF THIS?!?

  2. 25 October, 2016 / 8:12 pm

    Yes, Exactly this. I thought I was the only person who felt this way about this contouring! I actually think she looks slightly comical in the ‘after’ photo with her puffed up cheeks. She looks much better before to me and of course she was already beautiful without all that nonsense. x

  3. 25 October, 2016 / 8:38 pm

    I completely agree – I hadn’t even heard of contouring before I read this, but then I wear very little make-up and wear the same as I’ve been wearing for many years. But I do think it’s sending a dangerous message to our young girls, firstly about expecting them to grow up far too soon, and also around their body image. And I have read recently that there’s an increasing issue with what’s now considered a ‘masculine’ body i.e. honed and muscled, which is starting to cause similar problems with young boys. It’s a shame we can’t just accept that there’s a whole range of body shapes and types.

  4. Mandy Cochrane
    25 October, 2016 / 10:47 pm

    I trained in make-up and beauty therapy over 30 years ago and have to say the concept was around back then, but contouring was more likely something a professional would apply, not so much part of a mainstream make-up routine. I much prefer the natural look, then and now. As it takes some skill to apply that kind of make-up well, I can only hope that most kids will make a complete pig’s ear of it and come to the conclusion that their own natural appearance is far more flattering!

  5. 26 October, 2016 / 9:49 am

    Agreeeee!! World is going mad. Why must there always be so much pressure to look nothing like your actual self? I love makeup. It’s so much fun to be able to experiment with it and it can make you feel so good! But we are not all movie stars and celebrities being photographed all day long…. Too much time and money wasting!!

  6. 26 October, 2016 / 4:26 pm

    Boooooo to contouring. I totally agree with you – such a weird phenomenon. Same with the HD brow thing, I just don’t get it and it mostly always looks worse when people do it. I love a bit of subtle make up to brighten up my skin or hide some blemishes/eye-bags a bit when I’m feeling tired but trying to actually change your actual face makes me rage because of the saturation of a patriarchal advertising machine that just feeds us all sorts of negative narratives about being OK the way we are. Well done for speaking out. x

  7. 27 October, 2016 / 2:55 pm

    It’s totally bonkers. I once saw a shop assistant with really obvious, not very well blended contouring and I couldn’t help staring. It looked really weird and unnatural and she was such a pretty girl, she really didn’t need it! xx

  8. sandy ralph
    27 October, 2016 / 7:07 pm

    I’m so pleased someone else has seen this, i thought i was the only one who hated it, the last photo reminds me of a real life barbie doll, I don’t like it at all

  9. 31 October, 2016 / 11:25 am

    The contouring world is SO MAD. I always wonder that if you have a boyfriend/husband, won’t they wake up next to you in the morning and think “WTF?!” because your face looks so different to the night before?! Pretty much all the contouring before/afters look way better before, too.

    I did watch the Addams family yesterday though and realised Morticia Addams is the original contour queen: she can get away with it ;)

  10. 31 October, 2016 / 11:37 am

    even contouring that’s been done well still looks …i can’t think of the word ..like it’s not meant to be there? either way, blend, blend, blend! that’s when it looks awful, when it’s not blended well. to be honest i am all for anyone wearing as much or as little make up as they want – but contouring and super dark drawn on brows are the two things that just creep me out a little!

  11. 10 June, 2017 / 10:10 am

    I know how you feel. Every time I try to get myself fixed by a professional makeup artist, I would always argue that I don’t like contouring because I don’t really like how my face looks like after. But my sister would never go out of our house without drawing shadows on her face lol! Well, to each his own. Thanks for sharing!

  12. 19 June, 2017 / 5:48 pm

    I’m going to sound like a bit of a devil’s advocate here but in defence of contouring… if it’s done well it shouldn’t be hugely noticeable and it doesn’t only mean that extreme version that lots of people wear.

    I contour. For nights out and fancy days. Contouring hasn’t told me my nose is too big. I’ve always felt that my nose is out of proportion with my face so contouring just helps me play the game and feel more confident. I’m no magician, I’ve got a huge forehead (OK, it’s a full on five-head) and no make up wizardry (at least none that I’m capable of) is going to shrink it. Day to day I’ll only wear eye make up (because I have tiny piggy eyes and liquid liner gives the illusion of eye) and maybe a dab of blusher or a bright lip. And I’ll colour in my brows because it frames my face and I have naturally fair brows. Not HD, just filling the gaps. But do you know what, if someone wants to HD their brows then go for it. If it makes you feel good, do it.

    I don’t judge people for being barefaced and don’t judge people for plastering it on.

    I don’t own enough makeup to ever achieve that caked on look – I don’t know how that happens – but that’s always been a thing. The annual Good Friday local derby rugby fixture in my town always draws huge crowds of teenage girls and for the past 20 years I’ve marvelled at the quantity of makeup on their young faces. Before that I was a teenager but it was the 90s then and even my clubbing makeup was just extra glitter. I’ll never be as proficient as a guy I know with the most faaaaabulous brows I ever did see. Contour or don’t contour, it’s no big deal to me but as with any new beauty trend it’s fun to give it a go. I love transforming, I love dressing up, I just want to look my best version of me.

  13. 14 July, 2017 / 1:13 pm

    I can’t believe that is the picture they used to advertise their products. She DOES look like a blow up doll, but that’s because the contouring done on her is ridiculous. If it’s done well you will barely notice it. I contour, not because it’s a trend or because Kim KW does it, but because growing up and learning about makeup 15/20 years ago my mum taught me about light and shadows and accentuating your favourite parts of you. The important part is that the person wearing it feels good in themselves and when I contour I feel better in myself because you can barely tell I’ve broken my nose 5 times and can’t afford to get it fixed, and the puffiness in my face (caused by excessive medical steroid taking) is counteracted so I look more like myself. I completely understand your point of view though! Our children should not be being taught that their natural faces aren’t good enough, but I think if we approach the conversation of makeup in the right way it CAN just be fun.

  14. 9 September, 2017 / 8:01 am

    Hi Jo,

    Yeah, that photo really looks weird. I might say that contouring nowadays may be overdone. Doing s simple contour and just natural makeup will already make you glow. Thanks!

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