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Contouring and Highlighting: Makeup Made Easy

August 11, 2020 By

Contouring and highlighting is not as hard as it looks. We’re taking it down to the tried-and-true basics so you can nail a contouring and highlighting look every time. Contouring and highlighting can help bring out your best features and elevate even the most natural or minimal makeup look. Let’s take the intimidation out of it and admit that it may take a little practice and guesswork at first — but you will get through it with this blog as your guide. 

We’ll break it down to: 

  • Color Matching
  • Application Technique
  • Placement
  • Textures and Finishes

Once you learn these foolproof tactics, you’ll marvel at the power, literally at your fingertips.

Is contouring and highlighting a part of your daily makeup look?

Do I Need to Wear Foundation When Contouring and Highlighting?

Celebrity makeup artist, Mandie Brice, says: “You can contour and highlight without foundation, if you are happy with the even-ness of your skin tone. But I would make sure you use good skincare!” A flawless face makeup look starts with good skin care. Be sure to cleanse without stripping your face of its natural moisture. If your skin is looking dull, it could benefit from an intense exfoliating treatment. Remember to hydrate and moisturize (yes, they’re two different things!) to prep your skin to be the perfect canvas for any makeup look. 

Should I Use Liquid, Powder, or Cream When Contouring and Highlighting?

You have a lot of choices right off the bat. Start simple. Liquid, power, and cream comes down to preference but if you’d like some guidance, liquid is great for dry skin and powder is great for oily skin. Liquid can also be a little more noticeable and dramatic, while powder contour can offer a more natural finish. Mandie Brice has a tip for mixing powder and liquid: “If you’re going to mix and match liquid and powder, do liquid first and powder second. [Otherwise] you could end up with a muddy mess.” Brice’s advice for beginners though is cream foundation. “Powder and liquid are considerably more difficult to blend than cream products, so if you’re a beginner, cream contour and highlight may be the best place to start!” So if you’re new to contouring and highlighting, get your cream based shades and remember makeup artist and beauty influencer Jennifer Nirenberg’s advice: “BLEND, BLEND, BLEND.” It can feel tedious at times, but the end result is a flawless finish. If you blend properly, face makeup doesn’t even look like makeup at all — just unblemished skin on a beautiful face.

How Do I Pick the Right Contouring and Highlighting Shades?

Picking the Right Contouring Shade

A good rule of thumb is to select contouring shades that are 2-3 shades darker than your usual foundation or skin color. Also, stick to the same undertones. If your foundation is warm, your contour should be too, and vice versa. The goal of contouring is to create contrast and shadows to help make your features pop. This can help give the illusion of more prominent cheekbones, a sharper nose line, and a more pronounced jawline.

Picking the Right Highlighting Shade

For lighter skin tones, a pink-hued or champagne highlight is best. For deep skin tones, bronze or golden hues will make the highlight shine. There is lots of variety here, but stick to a subtle shimmer or an iridescent, glowy, light shade, and avoid the full-blown glitters. Highlighting draws light to where it would naturally reflect: your brow bone, nose bridge, tops of the cheekbones, and even your chin. Highlighting brings these features forward, making them appear lifted and instantly giving the impression of a glowy, more rested, and youthful-looking face.

Contouring in 4 Quick Steps

“The contour is meant to enhance the shadows your face naturally makes,” reminds Pedro Gonzalez-Curiel, a celebrity makeup artist and product development manager at LUXIE Beauty. “A good contour never warms up your complexion, that’s what a bronzer does.” 

Follow the map your features naturally draw on your face. Remember, you are enhancing the shadows your features cast to draw attention to your natural beauty. 

Step One: Suck in your cheeks for an easy guide, and with a brush, apply contour in sweeping upward motions. Blend all the way up to the soft point where your ear meets your cheek. This will accentuate the hollows of your cheeks and make way for your cheekbones to stand out.

Step Two: Find your temples. Dot your contour brush against your temple, staying close to your hairline, and blend out in a circular motion. Contouring here helps define the edges of your face.

Step Three: Along the sides of your nose, delicately apply some contour from the top of your nose bridge down to the nostrils. This is an easy way to make your nose appear thinner or broader. For a thinner look, apply the contour closer to the top or bridge of your nose. For a more broad impact, start the contour father down the sides to leave ample room for highlight.

Step Four: Very lightly apply contour along the underside of your jaw. Use a gentle hand here, you don’t want to paint yourself a 5 o’clock shadow. Use the contour to subtly define the edge of your jaw.

Highlighting in 4 Quick Steps

Highlight draws the eye to areas you want to stand out. When looking at the map of your face, think about where the sunlight would naturally hit. These are called the “high points” of your face – the tops of your cheekbones, your brow bone, your Cupid’s bow, and the bridge of your nose. The high points are exactly where you apply highlighter.

Step One: Dab and blend highlighter along the top of your cheekbone. Blend all the way up into your temple contour. Clean fingertips are always a handy tool, but if that’s not your style, grab a sponge for liquids and creams and a brush for powders.

Step Two: Apply highlighter to the middle of your forehead. Blend out across your brow bone and up to your center hairline.

Step Three: Draw a line of highlight down the bridge of your nose. Blend from the center out. 

Step Four: Dot a tiny bit of highlighter on your chin and cupid’s bow right above your mouth. Gently blend by tapping. Be sure not to rub or pull.

Contouring and Highlighting Really is That Easy!

That is all there is to it: 4 steps for contour, 4 steps for highlight. Don’t spend one more second being intimidated by this beauty trend. Instead, try it on for size! Maybe it will unlock a new to-die-for-look or maybe it’s just for fun, but not the look for you. Either way, you won’t know until you try. So grab a brave friend, send them this blog, and may your cheekbones look sharp enough to cut glass!

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