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Korean style contouring

contouring in Korea

Chiseled features have become the standard template for contouring in the West, and if it works on you, that’s nice. But for anyone with a flat, round face like mine that whole thing will not fly. And this has nothing to do with a lack of contouring skills!

I once got my make up done professionally and she did that thing where you draw a dark shadow underneath the cheekbones. I know people on whom this works, but on me, this just made my face look not only wider, but weird and older too.

[At my own wedding party of all times! Click here to see a picture.]

Fortunately, there are other, better suited ways to put your natural features in the limelight.

Korean style contouring

What’s the difference?

korean contouring

For the most part, you’d think that they don’t even do contouring in South Korea. The focus is all on milky white, even skin, gradient lips and subtle eye make up. But as I was surprised to find out, there are contouring techniques in use.

However, it’s not so much chiseled features and pronounced cheekbones that are high in demand in Korea, but small faces with a so-called “V-line.” The focus therefore is on slimming your face while maintaining the look of naturally flawless skin. And contrary to the chiseled Kim K look, Korean style contouring will work well on almost anyone. The only exception I can think of is if your face is already very narrow.

Choosing Korean contouring tools

What to use for contouring?

korean contouring products

First, it’s important to note that natural looking make up is key in South Korea. Professional Korean make up artists therefore recommend picking a foundation or powder that is one or two shades darker than your regular color. This should work great for contouring in general, because a lot of bronzers and contouring products have an orange tint to them, and this is something we want to avoid. A natural “shadow” is less orange, but more cool, ashy toned.

For a broad range of skin colors, check out Bobbi Brown’s Skin Foundation Stick or NARS.

Since I personally rarely wear foundation, my contouring weapons of choice for this guide are the NYX Powder Blush in Taupe and the Japonesque Pro Blush Brush on previously sheer powdered skin.

Taupe by NYX is a sheer, relatively cool-toned brown shade that works alright on most pale to medium skinned people, but is still a little warm on me. (You’ll see in a second.) Alternatively, any other cool purple leaning brown shadow without shimmer should work in a pinch as well.

One more word of advice: start with the darker contouring color first, then layer your original, lighter color on top. Otherwise your base make up will become muddy if you do it the other way around!

How to contour the face Korean style

Here’s how you contour!

contouring in Korea

To contour your face the Korean way, you basically want to frame your face to slim it down optically. So instead of faking a shadow underneath your cheekbones, or anywhere else to emphasize chiseled features, you contour all around the periphery of your face.

Start to contour along your jaw line, always blending out. Then suck in your cheeks, and with the rest of the product, draw out the hollow of your cheeks in a concave line. The jaw line is where many Asian faces are the most pronounced and wide, so you’ll want to narrow it down there.

Next, pick up more contouring product and draw along your hairline all along your forehead and the sides of your face. Always make sure to blend out well.

Here is the result

Before and after contouring!

korean contouring before after

Before and after contouring my face as described above.

I applied a tad more contouring powder than I usually would to make sure it comes out well in the pictures. But once you try for yourself, just work more light-handedly than I did here.

I also didn’t highlight any part of my face for the pictures above, but regarding highlighting, here’s one more thing I’ve learnt from South Korea.

While most highlighters on the market have a pearly shimmer to them, it might be helpful to know that on blemished skin, shimmers can emphasize uneven skin texture. A good alternative therefore is something with a shiny sheen to it, such as Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour Cream or Vaseline. For a nice, dewy look, apply down the bridge of your nose, chin, cheekbones, cupid’s bow and/or on your eyelids.

Alternate uses for your contouring product

Contouring can address a variety of different issues.

korean contouring

Did you know that thinning hair is a surprisingly common issue for women in South Korea?

(Hence the ubiquity of poodle perms on ahjummas; they hide progressing balding.)

For girls and young women, it most often starts with a receding hairline. However, cult clothing online shop Stylenanda has a solution utilizing their own 3 CONCEPT EYES BOLD SHADING product: Fill in balding spots with contouring just as you would fill in your eyebrows! Very clever, no?

But Korean style contouring doesn’t stop with the face!

In South Korea as well as Japan, women also contour the legs to create the illusion of slimmer, longer legs. This might come in helpful especially in the summer! Just use bronzer all along the sides and body oil to highlight the center front of your legs. Here, Hyosung from idol girlband Secret tells you how!

Who is Korean style contouring for?

I think the best thing about Korean style contouring was being presented a sensible alternative to the sharp, chiseled look so heavily promoted lately. I even go as far as saying that the Korean style of contouring works better on the majority of us overall – Asian or non-Asian. The Kim K-look is a very fierce one after all, while the Korean style of contouring might just look more natural in our every day.

Have any more tips on contouring or highlighting? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


  1. berit says

    Nice one, well done!

    I think in general, the West can learn a lot from the Asian market, you have the most beautiful products there *sigh*

    Liked by 1 person

    • V. says

      Thank you! :)
      Yes, that’s true, they are way ahead in a lot of aspects when it comes to skin care. But I know that when it comes to make up, it’s the other way around. A lot of Asian consumers prefer Western lipsticks and foundations!


  2. Kris says

    I chanced upon your blog in on eof ur posts on intothegloss. I enjoyed your posts. Keep writing!


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