Contouring has made its mark in today's beauty business and it’s not going anywhere soon. Some love it, some hate it. That’s the way with every single trend. Contouring has helped a lot of people, mostly makeup lovers and makeup artists. Contouring helped people hide away insecurities that we’re not really solvable with makeup. This makeup technique helped people that didn’t like their wide cheekbones, noses, foreheads etc. With a few simple strokes with a brush, you got tons of weight in your face and body without any kind of surgery.
We know that contouring is the latest trend now but let’s go dig a little deeper into history to find out when exactly did contouring started.
Who would have thought that this ‘revolutionary’ makeup technique dated way back from the 15th century? This ‘shading’ technique was used by actors and actresses that performed on the streets of England. They would use chalk and paint on their faces to make their expressions more visible and exaggerated so that even the audience in the last rows could see what was happening on stage.
With the invention of artificial lights, actors started thinking about new ways to change their stage makeup routines. They needed to find a way to paint their faces in a way that looks good under the stage lights. It’s safe to say that 19th-century people are the true founding fathers of contouring. They used something called ‘pancake makeup’ and greasepaint on their faces.
FYI, during Queen Victoria’s reign people (except prostitutes and stage performers) were not allowed to wear any makeup at all. She considered makeup to be vulgar and disrespectful. Makeup could only be purchased at costume shops.
The ‘silent’ era. The birth era of silver screen legends like Dietrich and Garbo. These amazing actresses believed in sculpting and shading to accentuate their natural lines. Because the lighting during this era was always above the performer’s heads, the shading focused more on the cheeks and forehead and of course the thin eyebrows.
Max Factor was the leading beauty company during the 1930’s. The man behind the company, Max Factor, took inspiration from the stage actors and put his own twist into his technique. Applying makeup wasn’t something only a professional makeup artist can do. He started a makeup school for women to do makeup in the luxury of their own home. Imagine how liberating that must have been? In a way, he empowered women to do things for themselves and not rely on other people.
The 1950’s were known for lots of things but the most significant part of this era was the creating of Old Hollywood glamour. This era gave birth to stars like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor etc. If you look really closely at pictures from actresses from this era, you can see subtle shading. This is because the focus of beauty was the doe-eyed look. Contouring wasn’t really a huge part of makeup back then.
Marilyn Monroe - Natural Beauty
Who doesn’t love the 90’s? A period of rebellion – in every sense of the way. Shorts and skirts went shorter, brows got thinner, hair got blonder. The most famous makeup artist in the 90’s was Kevin Aucoin. He started using contouring on his clients that were mostly celebrities and put contouring back on the makeup map.
Now, this is when the makeup world brought their A-game. Everything started to unravel when Kim K. posted a picture on her social media of before and after contouring. That was the moment when the term ‘contouring’ was invented.
Kim proved that everyone can have supermodel cheekbones with simple shading techniques. After a few years, everyone started contouring their faces.
Now everybody can look like a red carpet celebrity. Companies jumped on board and created different palettes with highlighting, shading, contouring powders. Youtubers offered step-by-step instructions on creating the perfect look.
Even to this day, contouring is used by everybody. Contouring solved a permanent problem with a temporary and simple solution. If you ever feel insecure about your look, there is an alternative for every problem you might have and it’s just a few simple steps away. We live in an era where it’s ok to be different and people should encourage their individuality not hide it. Who knows what might come up next?