How To Contour And Highlight Your Face

Woman having contouring makeup applied to her face

Contouring and highlighting is a makeup technique that is here to stay. Why do we love it so much? Well, it will have you looking snatched and you makeup base looking flawless as long as you know how to contour and highlight your face properly, so this is where I step in!

We’ve already spoken about contouring for your face shape in this blog before, but when paired with highlighting you can achieve the new levels of snatched. It really is a kind of makeup sorcery that surprisingly easy to achieve!

What is contouring?

First, let’s start with a brief description of contouring. This makeup technique creates shadows which define and shape the face to create more structure and definition. It helps to refine and reshape the face, surgery free.

Contour and bronzing products often get confused, the thing that sets contour and bronzer apart is that contour should be a cool tone shade. This will help it to create more of a shadow rather than just giving a sun kissed warmth to the skin as a bronzer does.

What is highlighting?

Highlighting is the opposite of contouring and rather than creating shadows it makes certain areas of the face more pronounced. You can either use a lighter shade of concealer or a shimmer to highlight areas of your face. In this instance we’re referring to using a lighter shade of concealer to brighten rather than create a strobe effect with a glossy shimmer.

You can purchase highlighting products in liquid, cream or powder form, but in my experience the product that works best for this is a cream or liquid concealer type product in a shade or two lighter than your natural skin tone. One of the best products for a highlighter is simply your own favourite concealer, but in a lighter shade than you would usually purchase. This gives you the perfect consistency, coverage and colour and it can be a much cheaper alternative than splurging on specific highlighting products or palettes.

The other type of highlighting or “strobing” as I’ll be referring to it, comes from a shimmer product that catches the light, this is the last step of the contouring process. This is added to the high points of your face to create the appearance of lifted bone structure.

How to contour and highlight your face

The exact positioning of your contour and highlight will largely depend on your face shape but as a rule contour is usually places on the perimeters of the face and highlighter on the middle.

Step 1. Choose your contour and highlight shades. The contour shade should be cool tones and two shades darker than your skin colour. The highlighter you choose should be one to two shades lighter than your natural skin tone.

Step 2. Apply your contour. We’ll get into the exact areas to apply this based on your face shape but as a rule the hollows of your cheeks, top of the forehead, temples and jawline are usually the key places to apply your contour. Use a flat top foundation brush or angled contour brush to pat the contour onto the selected areas and blend out.

Top tip: When applying you contour start with a little and build up slowly. Adding too much to begin with could leave your skin looking muddy.

Step 3. Move on to applying the highlight colour to your face. This tends to be placed on the areas that catch the light, for example, under the eyes, the middle of the forehead and the centre on the chin. Pat out fully using a damp beauty blender.

Step 4. If you want a dewy look to your makeup base then it’s time to strobe. Using a shimmer product to the high points of your face; the tops of your cheekbones, bridge and tip of your nose, and brow bones to add some extra glow to the makeup.

The key thing to remember when applying your contour and highlighter is to be sure to take your time to blend the product into the skin properly. This will leave you with an even base to continue your makeup application.

Contour and highlight for round faces

Those with a round face will find they have a rounded hairline and jawline without any prominent angles to their face. You may also find that the width and length of your face have equal measurements.

When contouring for a round face the goal is to slim down the appearance. To do this, apply product to the forehead and temples to create a shadow that helps it to appear slenderer. Highlight the under eyes, middle of the forehead and chin to draw attention to these parts of the face.

Contour and highlight for square faces

Square faces have similar proportions to round faces, with an equal forehead, jawline, and cheek bones area. However, they usually have much more defined angles to the jawline creating that square-like shape.

When contouring the face you will usually be looking to soften the jawline and slim the face. Apply the product to the sides of the forehead, temples and along the hairline to shrink the look of this area. Next, move on to below your cheekbones and under your jawbone to make this area appear more slender.

Highlighting should be concentrated in the centre of your face in an upside-down triangle shape and in the middle of your forehead and chin.

Contour and highlight for oval faces

An oval face can usually be characterised by a smaller forehead width and more prominent cheekbones. Those with an oval face will notice they have a longer face than it is wide.

The majority of your contour will be focussed on the temples of your forehead and cheekbones. Oval faces usually don’t need too much shadow added to their jawline.

Apply highlight under the eyes to brighten, and in the centre of the forehead and in the middle of the chin to accentuate these parts of the face

Contour and highlight for heart faces

If you have a widow’s peak hairline, a forehead wider than your jawline, and cheeks slightly wider than your forehead, then you likely fall into the heart shaped face family.

Begin by applying contour on your temples and forehead to create the illusion of a narrower appearance and then move on to adding some shadow to the lower chin to make it appear more pointed.

As you may have guessed, highlighting under the eyes is recommended for almost every (if not all) face shapes and there’s no exception for those with a heart shaped face. Brighten the under-eye with a dab of highlighter and add some to the forehead and chin to widen these areas.

The best contour and highlight products

Finding the best contour and highlighter has never been easier with the introduction of new palettes that give you both highlighting and contouring shades in one, meaning you don’t need to shop around for two separate products.

Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Skinstick

Fenty Beauty is renowned for having a huge variety of shades to choose from and the Match Stix Matte Skinstick is no different. With a variety of different colours to suit every skin type this contour stick is fabulous for all. It’s super easy to apply straight on to the face and buffs out flawlessly for a natural contoured look.

Made By Mitchell Blursh

The Made By Mitchell Blursh is a product circulating on TikTok and trust me, they’re worth the hype. They come in a range of shades for multipurpose use, but the deeper brown shade range is fantastic for a contouring shade. Buff into your skin with a blending brush and you’re cheeks will be transform to the ultimate level of sculpted.

Sleek MakeUp Cream Contour Kit

This cream contour kit by Sleek contains a selection of cream shapes to highlight and contour with. Choosing a multi-use palette is great for those new to contouring as it gives you everything you need in one palette.

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