Contour and highlight have become popular techniques in the world of makeup, allowing individuals to enhance their facial features and create a more defined, sculpted look. These techniques involve the strategic use of darker and lighter shades to create shadows and highlights, which can help reshape and emphasize different areas of the face. Whether you want to slim down your nose, define your cheekbones, or give your face an overall glow, contouring and highlighting can be powerful tools in your makeup arsenal. In this guide, we will explore various techniques, product recommendations, and tips to help you master the art of contouring and highlighting for a flawless and radiant face.
What is Contouring?
Contouring is a makeup technique that involves using darker shades of makeup, typically in a matte finish, to create the illusion of shadows and depth on specific areas of the face. By strategically applying contour products, you can sculpt and shape your facial features, enhancing or altering their appearance. Contouring is commonly used to define and slim down certain areas such as the nose, jawline, cheekbones, and forehead, creating a more chiseled and structured look. It helps to create the illusion of shadows, mimicking the natural play of light and shadow on the face, and can be customized based on individual face shapes and desired effects. Contouring can be done using contour powders, creams, or even matte bronzers, depending on personal preference and the desired intensity of the contour.
What is Highlighting?
Highlighting, also known as strobing, is a makeup technique that involves the application of lighter shades of makeup to specific areas of the face to create luminosity and bring forward certain features. Unlike contouring, which focuses on creating shadows, highlighting aims to attract light and create a radiant, glowing effect. By strategically applying highlighter products, you can emphasize areas of your face that naturally catch light, such as the high points of the cheekbones, brow bones, bridge of the nose, cupid’s bow, and inner corners of the eyes. The light-reflecting properties of highlighters help to accentuate these areas, giving your skin a luminous and dewy appearance. Highlighting can be done using powder, liquid, or cream formulations, and it can be tailored to suit different skin tones and desired levels of glow. It is often used in conjunction with contouring to create a balanced and sculpted look.
Preparing Your Face
Here are a few steps to follow.
- Cleanse and Moisturize: Start by cleansing your face to remove any dirt, oil, or makeup residue. Use a gentle cleanser suitable for your skin type and rinse thoroughly. After cleansing, apply a moisturizer that suits your skin’s needs. This will hydrate your skin, create a smooth canvas, and help the makeup adhere better.
- Apply Foundation: Choose a foundation that matches your skin tone and apply it evenly to your face and neck using a brush, sponge, or your fingers. Foundation helps even out your skin tone, provides a base for contouring and highlighting, and ensures a seamless blend between your natural skin and the makeup products.
- Set the Foundation: To prevent your foundation from smudging or moving during the contouring and highlighting process, set it with a translucent powder or a setting spray. This step helps to lock the foundation in place and creates a matte or dewy finish, depending on your preference.
Choosing the Right Products:
Here are some considerations when choosing the products.
- Contour Powder: Look for a matte powder that is a few shades darker than your natural skin tone. Opt for a cool-toned shade if you want a more natural-looking contour.
- Contour Cream: Cream-based products offer a more seamless blend and are ideal for dry or mature skin. Choose a cream contour in a shade that complements your skin tone.
- Powder Highlighter: Powder highlighters are versatile and work well for most skin types. Opt for shades that complement your skin tone, such as champagne, rose gold, or golden tones.
- Liquid or Cream Highlighter: These formulations provide a more intense, dewy glow. Liquid highlighters are suitable for a natural, lit-from-within look, while cream highlighters offer a more buildable and radiant finish.
Selecting the Right Shades:
- Contour: Choose a shade that is a few shades darker than your skin tone but not too dark. It should create a shadow effect without appearing muddy or unnatural. Test shades on your jawline or wrist to find the most suitable match.
- Highlight: Select a highlighter shade that complements your skin undertone. Champagne and gold tones are generally flattering for warm undertones, while pinks and silver tones work well for cool undertones. Consider your desired level of glow, whether it’s a subtle sheen or an intense shimmer.
Skin Type Considerations:
- Oily Skin: Opt for powder-based products that offer a matte finish and help control shine throughout the day.
- Dry Skin: Cream-based products add hydration and a natural glow to the skin, making them an excellent choice for dry skin types.
- Combination Skin: You can mix and match products based on the different areas of your face. Use powder contour where you tend to get oily and cream contour where you need extra moisture.
Here are some general contouring techniques to get you started.
Identify Your Face Shape: Determine your face shape by examining your facial features in the mirror. Common face shapes include oval, round, square, heart-shaped, and long. Understanding your face shape will help you tailor your contouring techniques to enhance your features effectively.
Contouring for Different Face Shapes:
- Apply contour shade along the hollows of the cheeks, starting from the ears and blending towards the center of the cheeks.
- Blend contour along the hairline, temples, and jawline to create dimension.
- Avoid applying contour on the forehead or under the chin to maintain the natural oval shape.
- Apply contour shade along the sides of the forehead, starting from the temples and blending towards the center.
- Contour the hollows of the cheeks, blending upward towards the ears.
- Blend contour along the jawline to create definition.
- Avoid applying contour on the center of the forehead or on the apples of the cheeks.
- Apply contour shade along the hairline and temples, focusing on the outer corners to soften the square shape.
- Contour the hollows of the cheeks, blending towards the ears.
- Apply contour along the jawline, focusing on the corners to create a more rounded appearance.
- Avoid applying contour on the jawline or chin to maintain a softer look.
- Apply contour shade along the sides of the forehead, near the hairline.
- Contour the hollows of the cheeks, blending towards the ears.
- Apply contour along the jawline, focusing on the lower corners to balance the wider forehead.
- Avoid applying contour on the chin or center of the forehead.
- Apply contour shade along the hairline and temples to shorten the appearance of the forehead.
- Contour the hollows of the cheeks, blending towards the ears.
- Apply contour on the chin to add width.
- Avoid applying contour on the jawline to maintain length.
- Blending and Fading: After applying contour products, use a blending brush or sponge to blend the lines and edges for a seamless finish. Blending is essential to create a natural-looking shadow effect and avoid harsh lines.
Here are some highlighting techniques to consider.
Areas to Highlight:
- Cheekbones: Apply highlighter on the highest point of your cheekbones, starting from the outer corner of your eyes and blending towards the temples.
- Brow Bones: Apply highlighter beneath your eyebrows along the brow bone to lift and define your arches.
- Bridge of the Nose: Lightly apply highlighter down the bridge of your nose to create a slimming effect and add a natural glow.
- Cupid’s Bow: Apply a small amount of highlighter on your cupid’s bow (the center of your upper lip) to enhance your lip shape and make them appear fuller.
- Inner Corners of the Eyes: Dab a touch of highlighter on the inner corners of your eyes to brighten and make your eyes appear more awake.
- Powder Highlighter: Use a fluffy brush to apply powder highlighter to the desired areas. Gently sweep the brush onto the high points of your face, building up the intensity gradually.
- Liquid or Cream Highlighter: Use your fingertips or a small brush to apply liquid or cream highlighter. Dab a small amount onto the areas you want to highlight and blend it using gentle tapping motions.
Placement Based on Skin Tone:
- Fair Skin: Champagne or light pink highlighters with cool undertones tend to complement fair skin tones.
- Medium Skin: Rose gold or peachy tones with warm undertones often look flattering on medium skin tones.
- Deep Skin: Gold, bronze, or copper tones with rich pigmentation work well for deep skin tones.
Layering and Mixing:
- You can layer different highlighter shades to create a custom glow or mix them together to achieve your desired effect.
- For a more intense highlight, spray a setting spray on your brush before applying the powder or liquid highlighter.
Blending and Fading
Here are some techniques to help you achieve smooth transitions between contour and highlight.
- Use a fluffy contour brush or a blending sponge to blend the contour product. Start by gently buffing and blending the contour lines in small circular motions.
- Blend the contour upwards towards the temples, ensuring that there are no harsh lines or visible edges.
- Take your time to blend thoroughly, especially around the hairline, jawline, and hollows of the cheeks, to achieve a soft and diffused effect.
- For powder highlighters, use a clean fluffy brush or a fan brush to blend the highlighter gently. Lightly sweep the brush over the highlighted areas to soften any harsh lines.
- If using a liquid or cream highlighter, blend it with your fingertips or a small brush using gentle tapping or patting motions. Be careful not to rub vigorously, as it may disturb the foundation or concealer underneath.
- To create a more natural look, you can fade the intensity of the contour shade towards the center of your face. Use a clean brush or blending sponge to blend the edges of the contour product towards the center, ensuring a gradual transition and a softer appearance.
- If the highlighter appears too intense, you can use a clean brush or sponge to tone it down. Gently buff or pat over the highlighted areas to soften the intensity while maintaining a healthy glow.
Setting and Finishing:
Here are some techniques to help you set and finish your look.
Setting the Contour:
- After blending and fading the contour, use a large powder brush to apply a matte setting powder over the contoured areas. This helps to set the cream or powder contour product and prevents it from smudging or fading.
- Lightly dust the powder over the contoured areas, focusing on the hollows of the cheeks, temples, jawline, and any other areas where you applied contour.
- Be sure to use a shade that matches your skin tone or is slightly lighter to avoid altering the effect of the contour.
Setting the Highlight:
- To set the highlighter, use a smaller brush or a setting spray specifically designed for enhancing the longevity of highlighter.
- Gently apply a touch of translucent powder over the highlighted areas, being careful not to dull the glow. This will help to set the highlighter and minimize any unwanted shine or movement.
- Alternatively, you can lightly mist a setting spray over the highlighted areas to lock in the luminosity and add a dewy finish.
- After setting your contour and highlight, complete your overall makeup look with other products like blush, bronzer, and a final dusting of setting powder to ensure a cohesive and long-lasting result.
- Use a fluffy brush to apply blush to the apples of your cheeks, and a bronzer to warm up your complexion if desired. Blend these products seamlessly into the contour and highlight for a cohesive look.
- If needed, touch up any areas where the contour or highlight may have faded throughout the day, using a small amount of product and blending it gently.
Additional Tips and Tricks:
- Start with a Light Hand: It’s easier to build up the intensity of contour and highlight than to remove excess product. Begin with a small amount and gradually add more as needed to achieve your desired effect.
- Natural Lighting: When applying contour and highlight, use natural lighting if possible. This will give you a better understanding of how the products will look in different lighting conditions and help you achieve a more seamless and natural result.
- Blend, Blend, Blend: Take the time to blend your contour and highlight thoroughly for a seamless finish. Harsh lines or uneven blending can make your makeup appear unnatural. Use circular motions, tapping, or gentle sweeping motions to blend the products seamlessly into the skin.
- Practice Different Techniques: Every face is unique, so experiment with different contouring and highlighting techniques to find the ones that best enhance your features. Don’t be afraid to try new approaches and adjust the techniques to suit your face shape and preferences.
- Consider the Occasion: Customize your contour and highlight for different occasions. For daytime looks, opt for a more natural and subtle contour and highlight. For evening or special events, you can go for a more dramatic and intense effect.
- Use the Right Tools: Invest in high-quality brushes or sponges specifically designed for contouring and highlighting. The right tools can make a significant difference in the application and blending process, ensuring a more precise and professional-looking result.
- Take Care of Your Skin: Proper skincare is essential for a smooth and flawless canvas. Cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize regularly to maintain healthy and radiant skin. Well-hydrated and well-prepped skin allows makeup products to apply more smoothly and last longer.
- Avoid Overdoing It: Remember that contouring and highlighting should enhance your natural features, not completely change your face shape. Subtlety is key, so avoid applying excessive product or creating overly dramatic effects unless that is the specific look you’re aiming for.
- Practice and Experiment: Contouring and highlighting techniques require practice to master. Take the time to practice different techniques and products to find what works best for you. As you gain more experience, you’ll develop your own unique style and become more comfortable with the process.
Is contouring and highlighting suitable for all skin types?
Contouring and highlighting can be adapted for all skin types. However, the techniques and products used may vary depending on your skin’s specific needs. For example, those with oily skin may prefer powder contour products, while individuals with dry skin might opt for cream or liquid formulations for added hydration.
Can contouring and highlighting be done for everyday makeup?
Yes, contouring and highlighting can be incorporated into your everyday makeup routine. For a more natural and subtle look, you can choose lighter shades and blend them seamlessly into your skin. The key is to enhance your features in a way that complements your overall makeup and personal style.
How do I choose the right shades for contouring and highlighting?
When selecting shades for contouring, choose a color that is a few shades darker than your natural skin tone. For highlighting, opt for shades that complement your skin tone and provide a luminous effect. Consider your skin’s undertone and experiment with different shades to find the ones that flatter you best.
What tools should I use for contouring and highlighting?
Common tools for contouring and highlighting include brushes, sponges, or even your fingers. Brushes with different shapes and densities can help with precise application and blending. Beauty sponges can provide a seamless and airbrushed finish. Experiment with different tools to find what works best for you.
How can I ensure a natural-looking result?
To achieve a natural-looking result, blend your contour and highlight products thoroughly. Take your time during the blending process to soften any harsh lines or edges. Using lightweight layers and gradually building up the intensity can also help create a more natural effect.
Can I contour and highlight if I have a round face?
Absolutely! Contouring and highlighting can help add definition to a round face. Focus on contouring the outer edges of your face, like the temples and jawline, to create the illusion of more angular features. Highlight the center of your face, such as the cheekbones and bridge of the nose, to bring forward those areas and create balance.
How long does contouring and highlighting typically last?
The longevity of your contour and highlight depends on various factors, such as your skin type, the products used, and environmental conditions. To enhance the longevity, set your makeup with a setting powder or spray. Touch-ups may be needed throughout the day, especially in areas prone to oiliness or sweat.
Can contouring and highlighting be done with natural or minimal makeup looks?
Contouring and highlighting can be adapted to natural or minimal makeup looks. The intensity and application technique can be adjusted to create a subtle enhancement rather than a bold transformation. Choose lighter shades and apply with a light hand to maintain a more natural appearance.
In conclusion, contouring and highlighting techniques offer a powerful way to enhance your facial features and create a sculpted, radiant look. By strategically using darker shades to create shadows and lighter shades to attract light, you can reshape and emphasize different areas of your face. Whether you prefer a natural, everyday look or a more dramatic effect for special occasions, contouring and highlighting can be adapted to suit your style and preferences. With practice, experimentation, and an understanding of your face shape and skin type, you can master these techniques and achieve a flawless and beautifully contoured face that highlights your unique beauty.