All about contouring and highlighting!

I get asked so many questions about contouring and highlighting! There are so many methods of doing it and so many products to choose from that no wonder people get confused. There are going to be three parts to this post:

  1. Why contour and highlight and where do I put what?!
  2. What products can I used to do this?
  3. Can you create a good contour and highlight with lower end products?

So let’s get started!

1. Why Contour & highlight?

Many people don’t contour or highlight when applying make-up and that’s absolutely fine as it can take time and add a lot more steps to your make-up routine. However, not many people realise that you can make your contour and highlight as dramatic or as natural as you like. Just by applying bronzer to the hollow of your cheeks you are technically contouring. You need to use the method to suit your face shape and what you like. 

The basic idea between contouring and highlighting is that you are using make-up to shape and define your face and create an illusion of either a shadow or a highlight. By creating a ‘shadow’ i.e. making an area darker, you are creating the illusion of it looking thinner or smaller. So, for example, by shadowing the hollow of your cheeks, you are creating the illusion of defined cheekbones which can be really attractive. By highlighting under your eyes, you are brightening that area, making it stand out and contrasting the area against the defined cheekbones you have just created. Contouring and highlighting shouldn’t be used to mask an area or to change it, but to define or enhance your features. Although saying this, you can use contouring to create an illusion of smaller features. So, for example, if you want to create the view of a smaller forehead (something I always do), you can use contouring to shadow in the top and sides. 

Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect; you will be blending it out! Use a damp sponge to blend out (Real Technique’s Miracle Sponge is amazing). Blend the lighter areas into the dark, leaving no harsh lines. I like to blend my contour  up towards my hairline to give the illusion of a higher cheekbone, but you can play around with this until your happy. 

So here is where I tend to contour and highlight:


You can go even more dramatic with it (the whole length of your nose, under your jawline etc. but start of lighter and build it up! I don’t always contour all of these areas, it really depends on what I am feeling like at the time…and that is the benefit of contouring!

2. What products can I use to do this?

I tend to use both liquid based products and powder products for my contour and highlight routine. I start with liquids and then set it with powders. 

For your cream or liquid based contour and highlight, you want to pick a concealer or foundation a few shades darker and a few shades lighter than your normal skin tone. You can then use these to create your contour and highlight as shown above. Remember, if you are using foundations or concealers to contour and highlight, then make sure your base is not to thick to start as your literally putting foundation on foundation and it can look cakey. Use a BB cream or a very light foundation for your base before contouring and highlighting if you like a more natural look. I do use a heavy foundation, but I avoid putting so much on the areas I will be adding to later. In order to change the face of your shape by using this method, you need to make sure that all products used are matte and pigmented. There is nothing worse than a shimmery contour; it defeats the whole object of shaping your face in a natural way. Aswell as this, don’t get confused with highlighting products and highlight as shown here. You will see in the video that I add a highlighting product to just under my eye to create a glow effect. This can be flattering and is always part of my base routine, but it would never work in the way that a white or very light concealer would. Products that just create a illuminsing finish or a sheen should be used in small areas (I didn’t make this very clear in the video, but the illuminising highlighters I used were Technic’s Highlight and Mac’s Cream colour base). Applying these everywhere as a highlight would make you look like a disco ball! 

After I have created my liquid contour, I then set my whole face with a powder before adding my powder contour and highlight. To do this, you need a bronzer and either a ‘white’ powder or a very light setting powder (see the video for the ones I use!) Again, as above, you shouldn’t use a shimmery highlight in all the highlighted areas. This is different from a light powder and should only be used in selected areas (as shown in the video).

To summarise: Matte dark and light liquids or powders should be used to contour and highlight your face into a certain shape. Shimmery liquids or highlighters can then be used to create a ‘glow’ in certain areas once you have shaped your face in the desired way.

3. Can you create a good highlight and contour with lower end products?

So I am not shy of saying how much a fan I am of certain higher end products, especially when it comes to base products. I did do a review showing what I believe are the best of both lower end and higher end products for the face (click here to see it). Some of these are featured in the video below (some are different just for a bit of variety!) I wanted to show a video demonstration of how you can create a great contour and highlight with both affordable make-up and the higher end brands. So one side of my face is completed with higher end, and one side is lower end & as you can see in the video there is little difference!)

Products used:


1.For my Liquid highlight – MAC Mineralize Concealer NC25 (Higher end), MAX Factor’s Pan Stick Fair (Lower end)

2. For my liquid contour – MAC Machmaster concealer 8.0 (Higher end), KIKO Beauty Balm Foundation 12 (Lower end – this is not necessarily a lower end brand, but I bought it for around £5.00!)

3. For my illuminating liquid highlight/to create a glow (as explained above) – MAC’s Cream Colour base, Pearl (higher end), TECHNIC’s High Lights (Lower end)

4. To set my face – MAC’s Mineralize Skin Finish, Medium Tan (Higher end), Revlon’s Photo Ready Powder, Medium Deep (Lower end)

5. For my powder highlight and contour – KAT VON D Shade and light palette (higher end), Seventeen’s Define and Conquer Contour Kit (Lower end)

6. For my powder illuminating highlight or to create a glow (as explained above) – Stila’s Set and Illuminate Baked Powder Trio (higher end), Primark’s, Glimmer Compact, the white shade only (lower end)

So that’s it!

I hope this was helpful!




2 thoughts on “All about contouring and highlighting!

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