How to Play Up—or Conceal—Your Cupid’s Bow, According to MUAs
If you’ve ever found yourself falling down a beauty rabbit hole on Instagram, there’s a very good chance you’ve taken note of the mastery influencers and celebrity makeup artists have over cupid’s bows (the apex of the top lip). Whether they or the models they’re working on naturally have a well-defined cupid’s bow or a more subtle upper lip, somehow, some way, their pouts always come out looking flawless.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a pro to put your prettiest pout forward. It all comes down to knowing how to play up (or downplay) your cupid’s bow, depending on your goal. Fortunately for us, celebrity makeup artists Gregory Arlt, Sarah Tanno, Jaleesa Jaikaran, and Tobi Henney agreed to share their top tips for doing just that. Keep reading to learn more.
Play Up: Get Crafty With Concealer
No matter the definition of your cupid’s bow, the makeup artists we spoke with agree: A little concealer can go a long way. “To truly make your cupid’s bow ‘pop,’ I recommend using a concealer about a shade lighter than your skin,” says Arlt. “Take a bit with an angled brush and apply it just above your lip line, following the shape of your cupid’s bow.”
The reason this hack works so well is that it helps clean up the border of your lips, according to Tanno. “This will make the shape very sharp and defined,” she notes.
As for which concealer you should use, Jaikaran recommends a brightening formula. “A great concealer with a brightening effect that works beautifully for this purpose is the Make Beauty Skin Mimetic Concealer ($28), which is a buildable concealer with a radiant finish,” she says, adding that Nars’ Radiant Creamy Concealer ($31) is another top-notch option.
Downplay: Extend Your Foundation Over Your Lips
Where concealer can help accentuate the shape of your cupid’s bow, Jaikaran says that a shade-matched foundation can downplay it by blurring lip lines. “Make sure your lips are hydrated before going in with foundation to prevent creasing or accentuating dryness,” she says. “Use a beauty sponge to melt the product into the skin, creating a new canvas with a seamless finish.”
After applying your foundation and allowing it to settle, she says to use a creamy long-wearing lip liner to “re-create a more desired lip line and cupid’s bow.” Her go-to lip liners are the Makeup By Mario Suede Sculpting Lip Pencils ($24) and NYX Cosmetics’ Slim Lip Pencil Long Lasting Creamy Liner ($5).
Play Up: Utilize Lip Liner
If you like the shape of your cupid’s bow but want to enhance it, Arlt says to never forgo lip liners. “For a fuller-looking lip, go over the cupid’s bow with a lip pencil in more of a rounded shape, connecting the highest points of the cupid’s bow,” he instructs. “Blend the pencil into the lips for a more natural look, and add lipstick in a matching or similar color over it.”
Taking it a step further, Tanno says that the goal is to essentially contour your pout to make your cupid’s bow stand out. “To define your cupid’s bow, you can line using your favorite lip liner in a deeper shade, contouring the corners of the mouth and blending the sides,” she says. “This makes the lips appear fuller. You can also use an eyeliner brush and a matte lipstick like Haus Labs’ Le Monster Lip Crayon ($22) to sharpen the cupid’s bow.”
Downplay: Blur Your Lip Product
Sharp lip liner lines and precise lipstick application (especially of the matte variety) make for a more defined lip. As such, to downplay your cupid’s bow, Jaikaran says to blur the edges of your lip product. “Blurring the cupid’s bow to soften sharp peaks and round out the shape can be achieved by smudging lip color along the edges of the lip lines with a sheer lip tint or soft matte lipstick,” she says. “Uoma Beauty’s Black Magic Hypnotic Impact High Shine Lipstick ($24) and Glossier’s Generation G Lipstick ($18) produce beautiful, diffused, and softened cupid’s bows.”
Play Up: Use Highlighter
Once upon a time, highlighter was reserved for the cheeks. Nowadays, it makes an appearance on brow bones, noses, and—you guessed it—cupid’s bows. “I love to play up a cupid’s bow by highlighting the ridge of the bow in a highlighter,” Tanno says. “This brings attention to the lips in a soft yet editorial way.”
The trick to creating a naturally-fuller-looking pout is to highlight the cupid’s bow with the proper product, Jaikaran says—a super glittery or pink- or blue-hued highlighter is not the move. “Select a highlighter with the right undertone for your skin shade and lightly trace the cupid’s bow,” she says. “If using a cream or liquid highlighter—like the Merit Day Glow Highlighting Balm ($30) or Rare Beauty’s Positive Light Liquid Luminizer Highlight ($22)—fingertips work well to deposit a stunning payoff. If using a powder-based highlighter use a small fluffy brush and buff across the bow.” (While not one of Jaikaran’s specific picks the Sigma Beauty Highlighter, $35, comes in six neutral shades, all of which apply beautifully.)
Downplay: Apply Lip Liner Above the Cupid’s Bow
If you crave a softer cupid’s bow than your natural shape, Henney recommends applying lip liner above it. While you can apply it directly to bare skin, starting with matte concealer often helps soften your natural bow so that the drawn-on version looks like the real deal. To achieve the look, she suggests using Victoria Beckham Beauty’s Lip Definer in #3 ($26) for a strong yet natural-looking lip.