How to Contour & Highlight

Contouring and highlighting are two of those magical makeup techniques that can truly transform a face.  Many times when celebrities are accused of getting nose jobs or face-lifts, cream or powder products have just altered their face. Having both a round face and rather chubby cheeks myself, I consider contouring and highlighting a necessity, as they give the illusion of having more chiseled features, a stronger cheekbone, and an overall slimmer face.  The idea is based off of how one’s face would appear if you shined a light onto it: some areas would sink back in the shadows (eye sockets, under the cheekbones, beneath the chin) and some areas would reflect the light (brow bone, tops of the cheeks, bridge of the nose, forehead). To mimic this with makeup, you would use a bronzer in the contours of your face and a highlighter on the parts that would hit the light.

While you can achieve this look with either cream or powder, I want to share with you how I contour with powder.


Here I am with my face done, but with no bronzer, highlight, or blush on. As you can see my face looks pretty normal, but lacks dimension.

1 side b1 side profile b

To demonstrate the effect of contouring with bronzer, I have only done one side (the left in the picture above). Although the effect is subtle, it makes my cheeks less chubby and my nose less wide.  From the side you can see that it looks like I actually have a cheekbone, when in reality the side of my face is pretty darn flat.

This was accomplished by applying bronzer with a contoured brush in a backwards “3” shape along the side of my face: on the side of the forehead, under my cheekbone, and under my chin. An easy way to find where to contour on your cheek is to make a fish face – where your cheeks go on is where the bronzer should go.  It’s important to make sure the bronzer is thoroughly blended in so it doesn’t look like you have a brown streak across your cheek – the contour should look as natural as possible! Because I have a wide nose I like to contour the sides to make it appear more structured and slimmer. Using a small brush and a very light hand, I sweep the bronzer on the sides of the nose, while keeping the brush parallel to my face. Then, I blend it in with my finger to give it a more natural look.


noseTo enhance this, I like to use a highlighter on the tops of my cheekbones, brow bone, down the bridge of my nose and on my cupids bow (right on top of the V part on your upper lip). It gives your face a pretty sheen in just the right places without making you appear oily.


In order not to make your face look muddy, choose a bronzer that is 2-3 shades darker than your natural skin color but not too orange! Because my skin has a very yellow undertone, I can get away with more orangey bronzers in the summer when I have a tan, but definitely not in the winter. I’m pretty pale at the moment so I’ve been using the NYC Smooth Skin Bronzer in Sunny. Although it’s only $3 or something at the drugstore, it’s surprisingly pigmented and a great shade.For a highlighter I love my Dior Diorskin Shimmer Star in Amber Diamond. Yes, it is $45 (it was one of my 3 am impulse buys), however it is so versatile as it can be used as eye shadows because of the individual strips, or as a highlighter. Mixed together, it creates a beautiful golden bronze, but you can use the different parts for lighter or darker effects. In the winter I like to use the left sides of the bronzer, and the right sides in the summer.The brushes I used to contour are my Sigma Large Angled Contour F40 which doubles as a blush brush, and this random small brush I got at CVS like 3 years ago (sorry the name/brand rubbed off!). For the highlight I normally use a tapered brush like the Sigma Tapered Highlighter F35, but I left it at school so I used my Real Techniques Blush Brush.


I hope this was helpful to those girls out there who wish they had a slimmer face!