Contouring & Highlighting the face – Explained

Hi All

I sometimes forget when speaking to clients or family & friends, that not everyone is as obsessed as I am about makeup.  I tend to waffle on in makeup terminology until I see someone’s face fall and then realise they don’t understand what I am talking about.

This is the last thing I want, is for someone to feel uncomfortable or uneasy because they haven’t a clue what any of these terms mean.  That’s perfectly fine to not know! That’s why your getting your make up done.

I am sure though it can put people off when purchasing makeup items, especially in store.  When a sales assistant starts to waffle on about transition shades, or asks you if you like a dewy or matte finish, they too probably automatically take it that you know what they are talking about.

I am going to do a quick guide on some of the terminology and techniques.  A lot of you will know what I am talking about but I have come across so many ladies that don’t know and it puts them off purchasing these types of products for that reason.




Contouring is used when you want to sculpt the face, concentrating on the hollows of your face.  Long before Instagram and The Kardashians, people were contouring there faces on stage in the 1500’s.  It allowed people in the audience to see their expressions more clearly.

To put in simple terms, if you have a round face and desire that chiselled cheeks and jawline, then you can contour with a darker shade (one or two shades darker than your face) to create the illusion of this shape.

Contouring can be done using cream or powder based products and contrary to what you might think, the shade should not be bronze or orange toned, it should be more ashy to mimic a shadow on your face.  Do not get confused with Bronzer and Contour.  Bronzers are mostly shimmery but you can get matte types, but a lot of the time they are too orange or golden to contour with.

I have had ladies come to me and ask me why I didn’t contour their nose/face etc and I have had to explain there simply was no need for it.  If you have a tiny slim nose, then there really isn’t any need to contour it to make it look narrow, why would you when it already has the desired shape.


Highlighting does exactly what it says, it highlights points on your face that you want to be more noticeable.  I have to say I cringe a little when I see how overboard these technique has been taken, people are literally highlighting every inch of their faces, giving a really unnatural finished look.  You don’t have to go overboard to achieve a nice little glow.

Like with contouring you can use either liquid or powder highlight.  You must make sure if using a liquid highlight that you apply it before any powder products, otherwise it will clump.  Popular areas to highlight are : Under the brow bone, just above the cheek area, under the eye and also the centre of the nose.

Top Tip : Always remember that contouring is adding depth to an area and highlighting is bringing something forward.  So bare that in mind when you are applying these techniques.


Author: thefacefairy

33 year old Makeup Artist Mother of 2 Fashion lover Bargain hunter

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