Want slimmer cheeks, a more defined nose, and cheekbones that pop? Well, thankfully enough, you can get that all without going under the knife, if you don’t want to. The solution lies in something a lot simpler: highlighting and contouring.
So, what exactly is the difference between the two, and how do they complement each other to enhance and define your features?
Well, contouring involves the use of either a cream, powder, or liquid product that is a few shades darker that your natural skin tone. It is used in areas that you want to sculpt or re-shape, such as your nose, forehead, chin, and cheekbones. Highlighting, on the other hand, is applied to accentuate areas of your face that you want to naturally catch the light.
The combined effect? Features that are sharper, brighter, and more luminous than before. And who doesn’t want that?
The problem is that highlighting and contouring are often seen as an “advanced” makeup technique that many newbies to makeup aren’t willing to try. But guess what – they are actually much easier than you think! Check out the following guide and you’ll be a pro before 2021 ends!
(Psst, if you already know how to contour and highlight and want to skip right to the best products to contour and highlight with.)
How to contour?
1. Decide what are the areas you want to contour
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to the specific areas you should contour, but most people tend to go for the forehead, cheekbones, nose, and jawline. You can opt to contour along your temples and hairline as well, so as to ensure that the shadows you’re creating don’t appear too harsh or stark.
Are there ways to contour more effectively based on your face shape? Of course! It may be a little more challenging, but you can rest easy knowing that it brings you one step closer to the face structure of your dreams. Here are the areas you should be looking at…
- If you have a heart shaped face: focus your contour along the sides of your forehead, temples, the area directly below your cheekbones, and the very tip of your chin.
- If you have a round shaped face: focus your contour along the sides of your forehead, along your temples, the area below your cheekbones and curve of your jawline.
- If you have a square shaped face: focus your contour on the sides of your forehead, the areas directly below your cheekbones, and under your jawbone.
- If you have a diamond shaped face: focus your contour on the area directly beneath your cheekbones.
- If you have a oval shaped face: focus your contour on the sides of your forehead, and the area directly beneath your cheekbones.
2. Pick a product two shades darker to contour
There are a variety of products you can opt for when contouring. Logically, anything that is two shades darker than your natural skin tone works: concealers, eyeshadows, or foundation, even! Ideally, though, we recommend using a bronzer to contour. Matte, neutral bronzing shades tend to be easier than blend out and build up. Anything with a pearl, shimmery finish might be a little challenging to blend, and can appear a OTT especially if you’re new to contouring.
Depending on the type of product you choose, you can then proceed to contour using either your fingers, a brush, or a sponge. Cream formulas work best with a sponge, whereas an angled or fan brush is ideal for powder formulas.
3. Map your face
Trace your contour product in smooth, even lines along the areas you decided on in step one. If you’re working with a formula that dries quickly — like, for instance, a liquid foundation — be sure not to let it settle for too long the skin! Blending it out after will be impossible, otherwise, and you might just have to bust out the makeup remover wipes.
Contouring common areas like your cheekbones and jawline? Here are some handy hacks for these specific areas that can help up your contour game:
- Forehead: Glide your contour product from the temples all the way straight to your hairline to create the illusion of a smaller forehead!
- Cheekbones: Want to contour your cheekbones but can’t seem to find them? Press your fingers gently along your cheeks until you find a slight dip along the bone. Inch your fingers slightly above to find the exact spot to sweep your contouring product over.
- Nose: Run a straight, careful line down the bridge of your nose, and narrow it out towards the tip to give the appearance of a sharp, sculpted nose. If you’re looking to make your nose appear longer, extend the contour line all the way up to the space between your brows.
- Jawline: A jawline so defined that it can cut glass? Totally possible with the help of a good contour. Trace along both sides of your jaw, extending them so they meet neatly at the middle point of your chin.
4. Blend, blend, blend!
Whichever tool you opt for, make sure to blend your contour out thoroughly! You can use small, circular motions throughout, though beauty experts claim that for the nose area, you can ‘flatten’ and ‘squeeze’ at the contour lines, using a heavier hand as compared to the other areas of your face.
All in all, just remember to diffuse harsh lines so your contour doesn’t appear too stark, and there you have it: a perfectly contoured face.
How to highlight?
1. Placement is EVERYTHING
Placement is key when it comes to highlighting. The ideal places to highlight are:
- Underneath the arch of the brow
- The inner corners of your eyes
- The bridge of your nose (in the space right between your eyes)
- The high points of the cheeks
- Your cupid’s bow
The picture above is a great reference as to what are the areas you want to enhance and illuminate.
2. Pick a product two shades lighter to highlight
Much like contouring, you can pretty much use anything to highlight, as long as it is two shades lighter than your natural skin tone. Though if you’re a beginner, it is recommended that you stick to a highlighter that is ‘almost the colour of your skin, with just a hint of shine.’ This allows for easy blendability and gives a more natural effect, as compared to a product with too much glitter, which can make users appear chalky and plain unnatural. Yikes!
Highlighters can be applied on with either your fingers, sponge, or a brush. Cream formulas work best with fingers, while a fan brush works amazingly well with powder formulas.
3. Tap it on lightly, and blend, blend, blend
It is of utmost importance to blend your highlighter out so as to not appear too OTT. Invest in a soft brush and always keep a clean one when you’re doing your makeup that can be used solely for blending.
Remember to pop on a hint of blush for that extra finishing touch!
4. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes
The first few times you try it, remember to give yourself ample time (don’t do it when you’re counting down 15 minutes to an important appointment!) Take a photo to see how you look and/or ask someone to look at it for you under natural lighting. The ideal look shouldn’t look harsh – nobody should be able to tell that you’ve done a lot of contouring and highlighting.
And if you didn’t get it right the first few times – it’s okay! Simply clean it off and start over. The great thing about makeup is that it’s supposed to be fun and it’s made to be cleansed off so you can always try and try again.