The History Of Contouring

Contour is everywhere we turn! It’s a huge trend in makeup. But where did it come from?


The art of contouring started all the way back in the 1500’s, when stage actors in England would apply chalk and soot to their faces, so members of the audiences could see their expressions clearly. Then, as the years passed, people would use it for all sorts of reasons including beauty.


Then, in the 1800’s, artificial lighting was introduced meaning everyone would know they had soot on their face, so it became essential for performers to come up with a different way to accentuate their faces under these heavy lights. These actors were the pioneers of what we know now as contouring! Using what was known as ‘pancake makeup’ and even in some circumstances, would use greasepaint to help accentuate the emotions they were telling on stage.


This, is when conturing debuted on the big screens! Screen legends like, German actress Marlene Dietrich, started incorporating. Dietrich, apparently believed in accentuating her natural facial bone structure with shading and sculpting. According to numerous sources, she always paid close attention to overhead lighting and knew how powerful defining your natural bone structure and emphasising the shadows to your face was.


Legendary world renowned makeup artist Max Factor, was the go-to expert for makeup application to screen stars. He was very much influenced by stage actors’ technique, but added his own original spin to it. He wanted to sculpt out faces, as without contour, on film your face appears flat. As there’s no real shade and light, or dimension. He was the master of creating that. In 1945, his makeup school released the first ever step-by-step tutorial, on how to contour the face, even breaking it down by face shape! Today, many makeup artists credit him for refining contour and the method. I don’t think he’s credited enough, especially to people who aren’t in the makeup field, they think Kim Kardashian or J-Lo created contour! Sad, but true.


Another legendary makeup artist, Ben Nye. He was named the makeup director of 20th Century Fox in 1944, Ben was another elite artist, who created characters for iconic films like ‘Gone With The Wind’ and ‘Planet Of The Apes’. A makeup line, seemed the next logical step for such an in demand makeup artist. His products are still here to this day, and are being used by many celebrities. The modern-day queen of contouring Kim Kardashian, swears by his banana powder!


The 50’s were a time of Old Hollywood glamour, that many of us still look back to for inspiration. Timeless actresses like Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, filling such large movie screens with their doe-eyed glances. If you look at photos from this era, almost all of them feature quite subtle shading and contouring. The public just weren’t aware of these secret makeup tips, since makeup secrets and tricks weren’t shared with people outside the entertainment industry back then.


The 90’s! The decade I was born in (just about). Fashion staples like, crop tops and double denim. Plus fashion faux pas! Thin arched eyebrows and the secretive contour wafting through the air, about to hit mainstream. Makeup artist to the stars Kevyn Aucoin, made a subtle sculpted, very chiseled look his signature on clients and pals like Cindy Crawford, Gwyneth Paltrow and Janet Jackson. But even still, contour remained a hidden secret, far far away from the public.


This was the major turning point in the makeup industry, and beyond. In 2012, Kim Kardashian, tweeted a before and after photo of her pre-and-post contour (makeup artist Scott Barnes the living legend behind all of J-Lo’s looks). The internet went crazy. They wanted to know everything at that exact moment. What? How? Who? When? You could kind of say it went downhill from there, as everyone thought they could create the chiseled look as easy as that. Almost like the blind leading the blind! This is when razor sharp contour lines and flashback’s of white when you take a photo with flash, evolved!


Contouring turned into a wild frenzy. A staple to your makeup routine, like mascara. Everyone from supermodels to Youtuber’s were trying to recreate this huge makeup phenomenon. Hits and misses happened and still happen, but doesn’t everything when it’s starting out?

Present Day

Spinoffs to contouring like strobing tontouring and even henna contouring, now run wild on the world wide web. You will see countless videos and photos of people completely transforming with extreme contouring. Instagram is all about capturing peoples attention so the more crazy your makeup looks, or starts of as, the more people will tune in.

What’s the next makeup craze? Rainbow eyebrows? Oh wait this is already a thing online. Sit back and enjoy Not all trends are bad!

Do you use contour? Do you like this trend? Was this helpful? Comment Below!

30 thoughts on “The History Of Contouring

  1. No, I don’t contour, but I don’t even use a foundation. I actually wear very little make-up. That’s just me, but your post was very interesting. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Natural beauty! Your skin must be amazing if you don’t wear foundation!
      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.
      Thankyouu so much for reading and commenting!😊

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well, I don’t know about amazing. I’m no expert on skin care, but my complextion isn’t bad. Plus, I’m no expert on make-up either, so I don’t usually do myself any favors by wearing a lot of makeup. I stick to the basics: mascara, lipstick and blush. And I do thin line my lashes. Sometimes I line my upper lid a bit.

        I’ve tried playing around with make-up a bit, but I always feel that I look better with the bare minimum.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Some people look better without a lot of makeup, if any. You’re so lucky! Also cream blushes are amazing if you’re not too keen on makeup as it gives you a natural flush on cheeks and lips!


  2. Thanks for the history lesson my beautiful friend! I don’t contour but I appreciate women that take the time to do it..I’m simply just lazy when it comes to make up, lol! I only care about eye makeup and lipgloss πŸ€—πŸŒ»πŸ¦‹πŸŒž

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha that’s not lazy! Contour is quite time consuming and you don’t really need it especially doing everyday activities. Eye makeup and lips are the best parts anyway!
      Thankyouu and glad you enjoyed the post!😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I watched a few makeup tutorials and I was like who has the time, lol! But it looks so beautiful. Just not for me. If I was more into makeup I would 😍😍 . You’re welcome, I love your post πŸ¦‹πŸŒžβ€πŸ€—πŸŒ»

        Liked by 1 person

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