Contouring Has Officially Progressed to Your Lips

Caitlin S. Miller

We’ve talked about the idea that contouring has taken over to great lengths–but lip contouring is another beast entirely. The concept of adding two shades to that small of a space can look a bit overdone–eh hem, Kylie Jenner–but when done properly, it actually gives just the right amount of depth and dimension.

Just recently, makeup artist Allan Avendaño gave Zendaya a supple hot-pink sculpted lip that proved we needed to see what contouring on our lips was truly all about.

[Lip contouring] can make your lips look fuller, more shapely, and more defined—much like contouring your face does to your cheekbones,” explains makeup artist and butter London Global Colour Ambassador Katie Jane Hughes.

MORE: Unblended Contouring Just Made Its Runway Debut at NYFW

Think about color.
Because contouring is all about creating dimension—even when it comes to your lips—a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that lighter colors are naturally illuminating while darker colors naturally tone things down. Hughes says it’s important to stick to neutrals, blush tones, and browns when deciding upon a lipstick. “The nude and neutral lip colors this fall are very chic,” she says. “And you can create a gradient effect easier using lipsticks or liners that have the same tone.”

Taylor-Davis agrees that pairing your lip liner and lipstick is key. She also noted that the most important part of this makeup trick is to blend, blend, blend. The color should blend naturally from dark to light—almost like a sunset,” says Smashbox Pro Lead Makeup Artist Lori Taylor-Davis. “Subtlety is key when creating an ombré lip.”

Mark your area.
Begin by applying a light concealer like treStiQue Concealer Crayon ($26) around the corners of the mouth to keep the look natural, says Hughes. Then use a lip liner to outline the outer ridge of your lips (aka the meaty area where your face and your lips meet), says Taylor-Davis. “Using your lip liner, draw an X in the center of the top lip and draw a heavy vertical line in the center of your bottom lip,” she says. “This creates a pouty lip effect.”

Move inward.
Next, starting from the outermost edges of your lips, draw little lines going toward the center in a feather-like motion. Grab your darker lipstick and shade in the outer edges, being careful to avoid the center. Use your second lipstick, which should be a lighter color, to fill in the center of your lips.

And, blend again.
Lastly, use a short, fluffy brush or even the edge of a Beautyblender ($20) to blend the center into the darker color to create a natural ombré effect. To add an extra touch of fullness, Hughes says to press a cream highlighter into the middle of your bottom lip to create added lusciousness. We like Smashbox L.A. Lights Blendable Lip & Cheek Color ($29), which comes in a stick form that offers just the right amount of control when applying. Your lips will thank you for the extra kiss of color.

MORE: 5 Tricks to Make Matte Lipstick Easy to Wear