While you may think that the Kardashians invented contouring and highlighting, it’s been a makeup artist secret for basically forever. With just a few expertly placed light and dark shades, your face can be transformed to create extra definition. So, if you’ve got a round face and dreamt of the sculpted cheekbones of Bella Hadid, it’s totally doable. All you need are a few key makeup products and a little know-how.
Check out our easy-as step-by-step guide to contouring and highlighting.
(Keep in mind that this could vary a bit depending on your face shape and facial features and what you’re trying to achieve – for example, making a square face look more round – but these are the basic principles to follow).
You really don’t need much when it comes to sculpting your face. You’ll basically just need a product to add light, a product to add shade, and something to do the blending. That’s it.
You can contour and highlight with powder, but we’ve decided to go with cream formulations to make the end result look as natural as possible.
For the highlighter, we’ll be using the Maybelline New York SuperStay Multi-Use Foundation Stick a few shades lighter than the natural skin tone. You could also use something like MCo Beauty Highlight & Glow Stick instead (we’ll explain why later).
For your contour, you don’t necessarily need a specific contour product – you can use a matte bronzer or a foundation in a darker shade than your skin tone. We decided to go with Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Quickie Contour Stick, which is a cream contour.
And lastly, you’ll need something to blend those shades in – you don’t want any obvious harsh lines. We’ve got the Real Techniques Expert Face Brush to buff in the lines. You could also use a sponge like a beautyblender, if you wanted.
Start with your usual base, and then grab your highlighter. Yes, start by highlighting! Doing it first will actually help give you more guidance on where to place your contour shades.
So where are you applying your highlighter? Because you want to lift your features, it’s best to apply your lighter shade on the high points of your face. Along your cheekbones is a big one, and then you’ll want to apply it down the bridge of your nose, along your brow bone, and even just above your jawline. You can also apply some on your Cupid’s bow to give your lips more shape. Be careful about highlighting the centre of your chin or the tip of your nose – sometimes too much lightening in those spots can make you look oily.
For a more luminous finish, use that shimmer highlighter stick we mentioned earlier.
Use gentle buffing motions to blend those lines so they basically disappear. There are a lot of makeup brushes you can use in this step (a popular one is the contour brush); we chose a dense one as it makes the buffing process a bit easier. A fluffy brush may not give enough ‘push’ to blend the product easily.
Whether you’re using a cream or powder contour product, a matte bronzer or specific contouring products, the goal is the same: to add shade below the ‘lifted’ areas to make them pop even more and almost fake a different bone structure.
Apply your contouring shade under your cheekbone, along your jawline, at your temples and along your hairline, and down the sides of your nose.
Repeat step two and buff those lines away. When it comes to blending in around your cheekbone, try to buff upwards. If you buff down, you run the risk of dragging down your features, which can make you look older.
Finish the rest of your makeup
Once you’re all blended in and your features are looking more defined, you can continue on as you normally would with your makeup. You can follow with a shimmering bronzer, some blush, illuminating products – whatever works for you.
Looking to stock up on contouring products? Here are a few we love.
Do you have any favourite contouring and highlighting products? Please share with us in the comments section below.
Image credits: Sevak Babakhani
Hair & makeup credit: Isabella Schimid
Carli was BEAUTYcrew’s Editor from launch in 2016 until May 2020. You can find her words right here on BEAUTYcrew, and previously on beautyheaven.