3.2 Anatomy of the face

Unless you specialise in body makeup applications, the face will be your working canvas. Our faces are the first thing people will usually notice in interactions, and our unique characteristics enable us to distinguish between different people – unless you are an identical twin, then that can be a bit tricky!

The anatomy of the face is usually separated into three parts – upper, middle and lower. In the upper portion of the face, you will be working with the forehead, eyes and brows. When working with the middle of the face, you will be concentrating on the nose, cheeks and ears. In the lower portion of the face, you will be working with the lips, the jawline and chin. The entire face is covered by skin superficially, while the deeper anatomy contains muscles, fat pads, nerves, vessels, and of course, bones!

A critical factor to consider with the skin on the face is that the skin around the eyes is up to ten times thinner than the rest of the face. This is why different products are used in the eye area (e.g. eye creams and concealer) versus the rest of the face (e.g. foundation and standard moisturiser). In addition to these differences, there are also differences in skin between men and women. As you learned earlier, women produce less oil as they age in comparison to men, which can cause a lack of hydration and dryness. In addition to this, common differences include:

  • Men usually have thicker skin due to increased testosterone
  • Men have a higher collagen density, and women tend to start losing collagen quickly once they reach menopause
  • Men have more oil glands or sebaceous glands than women, which means they are more prone to acne
  • Due to regular face shaving, men may have more sensitive skin that is prone to irritation
  • Signs of ageing appear later in male skin, but changes occur more quickly once they start

You might be thinking, how does any of this relate to makeup application? Correct skin preparation is essential! As you will learn, later on, prepping your base is key to a long-lasting beautiful makeup application. Knowing the differences in skin depending on the region, gender and age of the client will help you to select suitable products. For example, if you have a younger male client, you might want to refrain from using any oil-based products to help ensure you are not further clogging their pores unnecessarily. If you had an older male client, you may not want to use any products that could potentially cause skin irritation, and if you had a mature female client, you might want to use something with a hydration boost.

If you are interested in learning more about the differences between male and female skin, access the resources linked:

Face shapes

Now that we have covered some differences you might expect with your clients in terms of the skin on their face, we must now look at the different face shapes you will work with. Identifying face shapes is extremely important when working on a client because we want to be able to create symmetry to make their face as aesthetically pleasing as possible. It is said that the most ideal face shape is an oval face, so with the power of makeup, we can use various techniques to create the illusions of this shape.

Faces come in a variety of shapes, lengths, and sizes. Commonly, face shapes can be categorised into an oval, circle, oblong, heart/inverted triangle and pear/triangle. The diagram below shows each shape:

Some face shapes will be super obvious because you will actually be able to easily imagine a perfect circle, a heart or an oval. For example, check out the celebrities below:

To identify a face shape, imagine there is a rectangle around the entire face and check the following four measurements:

#1 Measure across the forehead level with the brows

#2 Measure across the face from cheekbone to cheekbone

#3 Measure across the chin/jawline

#4 Measure from the centre of your hairline to the tip of your chin

When you are starting out, it can sometimes help to actually use a ruler or tape measure and make a note of each of the measurements to determine which parts of your face are smallest, largest or the same. With these measurements, you can then begin looking at each of the common features for each face shape. For example, people who have a round face will have similar measurements for their cheekbone measurement (#3) and their face length (#4), as do their forehead (#1) and jawline (#4). For an overview of common measurements for each face type, review the table below:

Face ShapeMeasurementsCommon Features
  • Cheekbones and face length have a similar measurement, wider at the cheeks
  • The angle of the jaw is soft and much less defined
  • A round appearance with no sharp angles
  • Full cheeks
  • Rounded chin
  • Equal length and width

  • All measurements are fairly similar
  • The angle of the jaw is sharp rather than rounded
  • Prominent jawline
  • Angular features
  • Wide forehead

  • Forehead, cheekbones and jawline are in perfect proportion
  • Eyes are evenly spaced
  • Balanced features
  • High cheekbones
  • Narrow chin

  • The forehead measures greater than the cheekbones and jawline
  • The chin is pointed
  • Broad forehead
  • Pointed, narrow chin
  • High cheekbones

  • Face length is the greatest measurement
  • Often appears oval however is more elongated
  • The face has a higher forehead and narrow chin
  • Long, slender face
  • Long nose and high cheekbones
  • Tall forehead

  • Face length measures the largest
  • In descending order of size cheekbones, forehead, and smallest is the jawline
  • The chin is usually pointed
  • Narrow, parallel eyes
  • Broad, full cheeks
  • Narrow jawline

Did you know: An oval face shows the earliest signs of ageing around the eye and cheek area. Creasing occurs around the eyes called crow’s feet, and upper eyelid hooding can occur. Round faces tend to age very well compared to other face shapes due to the fact they store a lot of fat in the cheek area.

We will learn more about planning product placement later in this module when we cover face charts, but for now, try and remember the differences.

If you would like to learn more about face shapes and applicable makeup do’s and don’ts, access the resources linked:


They say that the ‘eyes are the window to your soul’, so as MUAs, we want to make sure that all eye makeup we apply enhances our client’s natural beauty, and we can even do some correcting with strategic product placement. When working with the eye, we work with the following components:

  • Eyebrow
  • Brow bone
  • Socket (crease)
  • Mobile lid (or lid)
  • Inner corner
  • Outer corner
  • Upper lash line
  • Lower lash line
  • Waterline

It’s important that you remember the terms above because we will be referring to these throughout the makeup application demonstrations and content. The image below provides an excellent visual of each component of the eye:

Watch the video below to see our expert take you through the features of the eye:

In addition to placement of the product on the face, where we place the product on the eyes is equally important. Incorrect placement can make the eyes look droopy, closed in and for clients with hooded eyes, you might not be able to see the eye shadow at all! Just like face shapes, each of us has eye shapes, and there are different techniques we use for each shape.

Before we start looking at eye shapes, let’s learn a little bit more about the eye and eyelashes. In basic terms, the eyelids are folds of skin and tissue connected to a muscle (called the orbicularis occuli) that open and close either voluntarily (i.e. to sleep) or involuntarily (blinking or reflex). The upper eyelid is defined as starting at the eyelid margin (the very edge of the eyelid where the eyelashes grow) and extending to the base of the eyebrow. The lower eyelid again starts at the eyelid margin and extends to the crease in the skin at the top of the cheek. The primary role of the eyelid is to keep the surface of the eye (cornea) moist, which is achieved by the spreading of tears (a film discharged from the tear duct) every time we blink. Secondary to this, when closed, the eyelids protect the eye from foreign objects and light.

Did you know: The number of eyelashes on each lid range widely as the top eyelid usually accommodates approximately 70 to 150 individual hairs, while the bottom eyelid may have somewhere between 30 and 100 hairs.

As you learned earlier, the skin contains three layers: the epidermis (external), the dermis (middle) and the hypodermis (internal). The skin of the eyelids, however, consists of only two layers: the epidermis (which is much thinner than the epidermis of the scalp) and the dermis. As a result, the skin of the eyelid is much thinner than that on the scalp and the thinnest of any region of the body at less than 1mm in thickness.

The relative thinness of the skin layer in itself would suggest that the eyelids are a particularly delicate area of the human body. However, the skin of the eyelid also contains a relatively high amount of blood vessels and very little fat compared with other areas of skin. All of these characteristics combined equate to the skin of the eyelids being extremely susceptible to irritation and more prone to allergic reactions. As an MUA, you work in close proximity to the delicate skin under the eye, so care must be taken when selecting and applying products. We’ll explore irritations and reactions in detail in the next section of this module.


Now that we have a firm grasp on the eyelid and a few of its more unique characteristics, let’s progress to the eyelash. Far from simply serving an aesthetic purpose, eyelashes perform a number of important functions as the first line of defence for the eye. In addition to keeping out small foreign objects like dust and insects, they also act to shield the eye from the elements: wind, rain and sunlight.

Perhaps the most interesting function they perform, however, is to initiate what is known as the ‘protective response’. Each eyelash is connected at its root to a hair plexus, which is a special group of nerve fibre endings that serve as an extremely sensitive receptor for touch sensation. In a similar fashion to the function of whiskers on a cat or a mouse, when an object touches an eyelash, a signal is passed to the brain extremely quickly, warning of a foreign object in close proximity to the eye. In response, the brain reflexively signals the eyelids to close – interesting, hey?

When it comes to eyelashes, no two clients are the same, and there are different growth patterns for lashes. If you are applying strip lashes, the clients natural lash curl won’t matter too much, but if you are applying individual lashes or clusters, then knowing the different growth patterns is a must. In general, your client may have lashes that are downward facing, straight, slightly curled, over curled or a combination! Review the growth pattern examples below and see if you can identify your own growth pattern:

The beauty of being an MUA is that you are actually a magician of sorts because you have control over the final look. We have the power to contour away double chins and can also change the shape of the eyes with the correct placement of products! As you can see in the example below, incorrect placement of false lashes (right) can make a client’s eyes look very tired. The placement on the left is much better and helps to elongate and open the eye. We will look at lash placement in more detail later in this module.

As with contouring and highlighting the face, eye shapes heavily influence where we place product and the sorts of products we will use.

Did you know: In 1933, a woman known on court records as Mrs Brown consented to have her eyelashes permanently dyed. Unfortunately, the product, Lash Lure, used para-phenylenediamine, a chemical extremely toxic to the body, as the dyeing agent. By the next morning, Mrs Brown’s eyes had developed ulcers which oozed and had swollen shut. The use of Lash Lure resulted in blindness in Mrs Brown and fifteen other women and also caused the death of another through bacterial infection.

Eye shapes

The size, shape and direction of our eyes can have a massive impact on the way the final makeup will look. Some makeup styles will look better on certain eye shapes, and the ideal eye shape we are trying to create is the almond eye shape. When we start to look at the wide range of eye shapes you will work with, you will need to consider three distinct categories – physical shape, dimension and anatomy. The diagram below provides a good visual representation of these categories:

All of us will have features from the categories above. You may have a client who has small, almond and downturned eyes, and then your next client might have average almond eyes, which are hooded! The first distinction will always be between round and almond:

As you can see from the comparison above, round eyes tend more circular, and the height in the centre is larger, whereas almond eyes have a more distinct taper on each end – much like the shape of almonds! Oval shaped eyes are somewhere in the middle of round and almond. From there, we can determine the size of the eyes. If your clients’ eyes are a similar size to their mouth and nose, then they are average; if they are smaller or bigger than the mouth and nose, then they can be categorised as small or big.

Did you know: Your eyes can distinguish approximately 10 million different colours, and the average person blinks 12 times a minute (we bet you just blinked!).

Once you have determined the physical shape and the dimension, the next step is to look closer at the anatomy of each eye shape. Let’s take a look at each in more detail.


A person with wide-set eyes will have a space between their eyes that is more than the width of their eyeball.


As the name suggests, deep-set eyes are set deeper into the skill and will usually make the brown bone appear more prominent.


In contrast to wide-set eyes, a person with close-set eyes will have a smaller gap between their eyes, usually a smaller width than their eyeball.


Protruding eyes project outward in the eye socket area and are usually larger and round in shape.


Hooded eyes are where the eyelid appears smaller, and there is usually an extra layer of skin that is over the crease. The skin may droop down and give the appearance that there is no visible eyelid.


On the surface, monolid eyes are flat and will have little to no crease. These types of lids are common amongst Asian clients.


Downturned eyes can be determined by a slight drop in the outer corners.


Upturned eyes can be determined by a natural lift in the outer corners.

The eye shapes explained are very broad categories, and you and your clients may have features of a few!

If you are interested in learning more about eye shapes and types, read the articles linked:

Mouth and lips

Our lips are covered externally by skin (epidermis) and internally by mucous membrane. Our lip shape can vary depending on how we are moving our face. For example, our lips look different when we yawn, laugh and pout for the camera! The image below outlines the anatomical features of our lips:

You may or may not be familiar with lip anatomy. If you are not, here is an overview of each anatomical part in simple terms:

  1. Cupids bow – area of the upper lip which mimics the shape of the infamous cupids bow
  2. Philtrum – the indentation above the cupids bow
  3. Vermillion border – this is essentially our lip line
  4. Tubercles – there are two tubercles on the bottom lip and three on the top, which provide fullness and volume
  5. Oral Commissures – these are the corners of the mouth

Just like all other parts of our face, lips come in all shapes and sizes! You may have thought that lips were only categorised as full or thin, but there are actually 9 lip shapes you need to be aware of:

Lip plumping and lip injections have been increasingly popular for women who want a fuller lip. With the correct makeup application, you can actually make your lips appear fuller without the need for surgery. However, makeup will only ever take you so far – overdrawn lips can look really fake if not done correctly, which is why many people opt for a surgical option.

Like anything with beauty, it is all about preference, and while we believe everyone has natural beauty to enhance, some people prefer to have corrective surgery to achieve their beauty goals. It’s all about personal choice! You will learn more about applying the perfect lip later in this module.

In the meantime, if you would like to learn about the shocking history of lipstick and ways you can enhance your natural lips, access the resources linked:

If you are interested in learning more about eye shapes and types, read the articles linked:

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