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August 19, 2021 — 11:05 AM
The cupid’s bow is a fascinating little feature. Who knew such a tiny divot could wield so much power over your makeup look? Take it from the experts: A trick or two up top can accentuate the shape of your lips and help them stand out.
How you enhance your cupid’s bow, though, is ultimately up to personal preference: Some wish to blur out the peaks for a more muted lip; for others, that little dip is the main character of their entire beat. The good news is, we’ve compiled makeup artist tips for all types of cupid’s bows—prominent, round, or somewhere in between.
What is a cupid’s bow & why do you have one?
The cupid’s bow refers to the dip in your upper lip, so that your top lip resembles a bow—you know, like the one Cupid used to shoot magical arrows at unsuspecting lovers. Of course, not every cupid’s bow looks the exact same—some have a barely there dip, while others have a rather prominent V-shape. Example: Those with a round lip shape typically have a softer dip (or none at all), while heart-shaped lips have a more noticeable bow.
Although, experts have yet to determine whether the cupid’s bow actually has a scientific purpose—whether yours is pronounced or more rounded, it doesn’t seem to matter. Our verdict? The cupid’s bow is simply what makes your lip shape unique, and each is stunning in its own way.
No matter the exact anatomy of your cupid’s bow, here’s how to accentuate (or soften) it with makeup:
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Ask any makeup artist: A pop of highlighter on the cupid’s bow will create the illusion of fuller lips. “Any time you add anything that is reflective to the lip, it’s going to add more of that poutiness,” celebrity makeup artist A.J. Crimson once told mbg.
Although, you don’t have to stick to a creamy highlighter (here are our favorite options, though, for reference). According to celebrity makeup artist Mary Irwin, any lighter color will add that faux volume. For example: “You can use concealer in a slightly lighter color to define,” she says.
“Don’t forget you can use a darker color to create a shape as well,” says Irwin. While lighter colors highlight and create reflection, darker colors create shadow—which can create fullness as well. “If you use a lighter color on the cupid’s bow and directly below the lip, and then a darker color in the corners, you’ve basically subtly contoured your lips,” Irwin adds.
Those added shadows also help accentuate your lip shape, so if you have a stark V at your cupid’s bow, prepare for ultimate definition.
3. Smudge your lip color.
Now, let’s say you have a pronounced cupid’s bow and are looking for more of a blurred lip look: To soften those sharp edges, you can always smudge out your lip liner or lipstick—take your fingertip and lightly press the pigment into your lip line for a blotted, gradient finish.
4. Sharpen the bow with concealer.
“Concealer or foundation is going to be your friend in defining some of those areas around the mouth,” Crimson once told us about enhancing your lip shape.
Irwin seconds the advice: “Clean up the lip line with pointed [cotton swabs], and then perfect the skin around the lip with a flat concealer brush and concealer.” A pencil or stick form may give you the most precise payoff here (like this full-coverage number from bareMinerals).
5. Or soften it with foundation.
On the flip side, you can soften the bow by tapping some foundation on the lips before applying your color. “Put a tiny bit on the lips and over the lip line,” says Irwin. “From there, you can draw on any shape you want.”
It’s a similar tip Crimson once gave us to design your desired lip shape: “Mute out areas you don’t want to see, and use liner to create the lip you want.” Although, you’ll want to work with what you have rather than fashioning an entirely new pout—equipped with foundation and liner (and unrealistic expectations), you can easily go overboard.
You’ll also want to make sure your lips are aptly hydrated before popping on the foundation, so the formula doesn’t crease midday. Irwin recommends swiping on a moisturizing lip balm a few minutes before this hack (see here for our all-time-favorite buys); just remember to wipe off any excess grease before going in with foundation.
Those with pronounced peaks likely know: Applying lipstick takes some sheer precision. Because the lip shape is so sharp and defined, it’s so easy to shade outside the lines and smudge your handiwork.
Here’s a go-to tip makeup artists swear by: Take a lip liner and draw a diagonal line from the top of one peak until it reaches the bottom of your top lip. Repeat on the other side, crossing the two lines so it creates an X shape. Then, take your lip color du jour and apply, using the X as a guide. The liner acts like a stencil, just like tracing the perimeter of your lips can help you map out the color.
For those who have a slight dip and want to create a completely round lip shape, you can always connect the two peaks with a stroke of lip liner. From there, you can slightly overline the outer corners of the lips to widen the area, but don’t draw too far off your natural lip line. We repeat: It’s best to work with the shape you naturally have.
Everyone’s cupid’s bow is unique: Some are stark and pointed, while others are rounder or less pronounced. Each is equally stunning, and these makeup tips can help you soften or define your own cupid’s bow—whichever look you’re in the mood for on any given day.