How to contour darker skin tones

According to Tessa Thompson’s makeup artist

BEAUTYcrew Beauty Editor / July 25 2022

Makeup is rarely a ‘one size fits all’ experience. From finding the right hue of brow pencil to eye makeup techniques specifically suited to hooded eyes, there’s a whole host of criteria that personalises our makeup routines. 

And while one might assume the greatest plight of folks with darker complexions is navigating the terrifying terrain that is the Sephora foundation finder tool, trends like contouring can come with their own difficulties. 

Thankfully, Keita Moore, the makeup artist responsible for the beats of celebrities such as Tessa Thompson, Tiffany Haddish, and Aussie model Adut Akech, has tips to share. 

Moore recently caught up with Who What Wear, and he relinquished all his trade secrets for a flawless contoured finish on darker skin tones. Here’s what you need to know…


Study your features

"My best advice would be to figure out the anatomy of your face," he told WWW. Why is this so important, you may ask? 

Well, according to Moore, "where the light naturally touches the high points of your face, and also where the shadows are” are a great guide to use when contouring using makeup.


“Know the difference between bronzing and contouring”

"These two work together but are different,” Moore explained. “[First], use a slightly warmer and deeper shade to warm up the skin by bronzing.” 

“Your contour should come next and should be two to four shades deeper than your foundation shade,” he advised. Remember those natural shadows we were talking about earlier? Buff your contour into these areas and don’t forget to blend. 

Moore recommends a light-handed approach when it comes to bronzing and contouring,  though, and advises against using both unless you’re going out or you're wearing makeup at night. “If you're going outside to the beach or to a festival, bronzing should be good enough,” he explained. 


Stick to cream and liquid contour formulas

When it comes to contouring darker complexions, formula and finish is everything. 

"I love using creams – something lightweight that blends easily,” offered Moore. “You can do the same with liquid as well.” 

The A-list makeup artist opts for cream and liquid formulations over powders because they “give you more control and are easier to blend.” 

His final tip for contour application that’ll last well into the evening? Take a finishing powder in the same shade as your cream contour and lightly set your makeup with it. Noted.

Moore’s not the only celebrity makeup artist full of helpful advice. Selena Gomez’s makeup artist Melissa Murdick just taught us how to apply under eye concealer

Image credits: @kilprity / @lacyredway

Briar Clark got her start in the media industry in 2017, as an intern for Marie Claire and InStyle. Since then, her keen interest in fashion and beauty has landed her gigs as a Digital Content Producer and Beauty Editor with titles like Girlfriend, Refinery29, BEAUTYcrew and beautyheaven. She loves the way seemingly innocuous topics like skin care and style have the ability to put a smile on people’s faces or make them think about themselves a little differently. A big believer in self love and experimentation, Briar has made a point of becoming the Australian beauty industry’s unofficial guinea pig for unusual treatments and daring hair trends. When she’s not testing out the latest beauty launches, Briar is big on broadening her horizons, mostly in the form of food but she’s also partial to travelling to new destinations both near and far (and of course, allocating an extra bag to bring their best beauty offerings home with her).