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Hair colour contouring: everything you need to know

February 12th 2015 / Anna Hunter


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Put the makeup brushes down; we’ve discovered an easier way to enhance your features…

Contouring, like a certain chiselled Kim K herself, has practically ‘broken the internet’. Demand for both knowledge and seamlessly sculpting makeup is sky high (Laura Mercier’s Flawless Contouring Palette, £35, and Studio 10 Visible Lift Face Definer Contour Palette, £30, deserve special mentions). Carving out supermodel cheekbones can be a little demanding for any of us with weekday morning plans, but what if you could wake up, hit snooze and still run out of the door with effortlessly defined bone structure? You can thank the creative lot at Charles Worthington for the months of lie-ins to follow…

The brand’s principal stylist Mathew Soobroy was the first to coin the term ‘colour contouring’ when he brought model and up and coming actress Gala Gordon’s features to the fore using very fine, natural toned highlights (micro-lights) around the hairline and forehead. Coupled with a subtle colour gloss, Gala’s brunette hair not only looked vibrant and healthy, but a clever use of light and dark tones threw shadow and light onto her face in just the right places. The look isn’t just for Vogue models such as Gala; there’s a colour contouring prescription for everyone, whether applied to highlight a specific area or blended to create a more uniform impression of lightness and depth. To prove it, I played guinea pig.

I took my tired, slightly orangey post-ombré rats tails along to expert stylist and colourist Adam McIntosh at Charles Worthington’s flagship salon. Adam explained that thanks to my oval shaped face, many colour techniques could be employed to bring out my best bits, but he had quite the gameplan:

“I really wanted to soften your features by connecting your existing ombré colour transition to the rest of your hair, by toning down the mid lengths and ends. In doing this, the contrast of the global colour is much more fluent.”

So it was bye bye to brassiness, but what kind of magic would give me cut glass facial definition? Adam explained his bespoke approach:

“A more consistent colour allowed me to contour your features by way of introducing fresh highlights behind your ear, which flatter your face shape whether they’re brought forwards tucked behind your ear or falling on your shoulders. I made the most of existing highlights that were next to your jawline by separating these out from your general hair colour, which made your jawline appear slightly more prominent.”

So far, so smart, but if you go along to the salon expecting the same treatment, you can bet that you won’t get it. As colouring goes, this is about as far from paint-by-numbers as you could get:

“When it comes to colour contouring, it’s my job to tailor every detail to your unique hair type and natural colour, facial features, skintone, makeup, clothing and lifestyle.”

Marc Trinder, Art Team Director at Charles Worthington, has, however, devised a few handy colour contouring guidelines to suit each general face shape. For us lucky ovals, anything goes, but consulting Marc’s words of wisdom before booking your next appointment could not only save you money in the salon, but also in the beauty hall:

Round Face Shapes

Celebrity face shape sisters: Kirsten Dunst, Drew Barrymore, Kelly Osbourne

“Lighter tones of colour are applied around the hairline from ear to ear to elongate the face and add brightness. Darker or richer tones are applied to the hair underneath the ears and to the lower ends of the hair around the face to give the face shape more of a point.”


Oblong Face Shapes

Celebrity face shape sisters: Liv Tyler, Gisele Bündchen, Sarah Jessica Parker

“Deeper tones are applied to the root along the parting, merging into delicate micro light pieces threaded from above the ears to the ends of the hair. This creates the illusion of a slimmer, shorter face shape.”


Square Face Shapes

Celebrity face shape sisters: Jennifer Aniston, Natalie Portman, Sandra Bullock

“Multi-tonal layers of light and dark are applied to all corners of the hairline, around the jawline and along the tempes. This softens any hard lines and creates depth and texture, no matter how sharp your haircut.”


Heart Face Shapes

Celebrity face shape sisters: Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Reese Witherspoon

“Lighter pieces are woven around the jawline and ears to soften the bottom half of the face. By mixing fine, light tones with depth at the roots, the face takes on a slightly more oval shape.”


As for achieving a harmonious colour match for your skintone, put your faith in the low-tech but highly accurate Charles Worthington colour consultation fan. Originally introduced in 1994, Colour Director Carolyn Newman explains why it’s still relevant to our 21st century colour choices:

“Everything can be divided into either a ‘cool’ or ‘warm’ spectrum. Cool indicates blue undertones and warm will have intrinsic yellow, so it’s important to identify the correct shade of blonde, red or brunette that will suit your colouring, both in terms of tone and depth. As hairdressers we can create the right colour shade and depth that will ultimately flatter and enhance a client’s beauty, making them look youthful and healthy whether they are wearing makeup or not.”

As a makeup maniac I will not be forgoing makeup anytime soon, but it is quite miraculous what a spot-on, multi tonal dye job can do for your skin. While I was impressed by the face framing, contouring effect, it was the instant complexion boost that I was most impressed with. Waking up to a non-wan, non-pallid face on a dull February morning is quite the gamechanger.

Colour contouring from £85 at Charles Worthington salons

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