Highlighting And Contouring

Highlighting And Contouring

One of the trickiest beauty application techniques to learn is that of highlighting and contouring. Over my almost ten years as a beauty writer, I have had the opportunity to interview some of the most important makeup artists in the business and I am always fascinated with their ability to transform the shape of a face. Create cheekbones, thin a nose, raise the eyebrows – with makeup, not surgery. Of course, sculpting and defining is quite complex but here are my favorite basic tips that I have acquired – and use – to contour and highlight.

1. Start by priming your skin. Click here for all of the reasons a primer is necessary but a quick recap, a primer will keep makeup on longer. This is key to creating your flawless complexion. Primers to try: Joey New York Correct-A-Line ($36); Clarins Flash Balm ($45); Nars Pro Prime Oil-Free Pore Refining Primer ($34)

2. Use a BB cream, tinted moisturizer, or foundation over the entire face. Apply with a sponge or foundation brush to give skin a more airbrushed, natural look. I’m really loving BB creams for coverage and color correction. Try Amore Pacific Color Control Cushion Compact Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ ($60); Kiehl’s Actively Correcting & Beautifying BB Cream SPF 50 ($37)

3. Skip powder and go directly to your bronzer. Using bronzer as your contour, or dark shade, gives the technique a very fresh and natural look. But make sure the bronzer is matte.

In an interview I did with Josie Maran (read here), she offered up the best trick for applying bronzer. “Make the number 3 from your temple down to your chin. So with your bronzer brush, start at your forehead, curve into your cheekbone as if you were writing the number 3 and then curve under your chin. Apply on both sides, so a backwards 3 and a regular 3, on each side of your face,” explained Josie. I use this every time I apply bronzer. Some favorite matte bronzers: Tarte Matte Waterproof Bronzer Park Avenue Princess Matte ($29); Serge Lutens Blusher ($160)

4. I read somewhere that the trick to highlighting is all in the application. An easy and fast foolproof technique is to create a heart shape with your fingers. Line up the top of the heart just above eyebrows and the bottom, or tip, of the heart at your cupid’s bow. Inside this space is where you apply highlighter. It works so well with Josie’s “3” bronzer application technique. You are basically highlighting bridge of nose, cupids bow, brow bone, and cheek bone. I suggest using a powder highlighter with this technique. Try Stila All Over Shimmer Powder in Kitten (I use the lightest shade in the duo) ($22); Dolce & Gabbana The Illuminator Glow Illuminating Powder (I suggest Eva, which is a sheer, colorless shimmer) ($50)

5. Now you just have to go over your work. Sculpt a bit, if you will. A Make Up For Ever makeup artist once gave me the best advice regarding sculpting cheekbones. She said to think of your face as having peaks and valleys. The peaks, like mountains, are the high points of the face – cheekbones, top of forehead, nose, tip of chin. The valleys, or low points, are any area that curves inward, like directly under your cheekbones (the hollow of your cheeks), sides of nose, the area between your under eye and your cheekbone. Contour, or sculpt, the valleys with your dark shade, highlight the peaks.

Here’s how I do it: I apply a very small amount of my dark shade to the tip of my forehead, tip of my chin, and directly on my cheek bone (feel for where the indentation begins, apply on the bone starting from your hairline and going inwards to about the outer corner of your eye). Make sure to blend the dark shade! Then apply your highlighter above the cheekbone, directly under your eyes (outer corner only), brow bone, cupid’s bow, and you can even do a small amount above your brow bone as well. Try Make Up For Ever Sculpting Kit ($48). It comes with the two shades – dark and light – and you can choose from 4 options, Tom Ford Beauty Shade and Illuminate ($75), another duo that has the dark and light powders combined in one compact.

6. Now you can use a liquid or cream highlighter for an extra dewy kick, but apply sparingly. If you’ve truly sculpted your face with the powders, you really only need a bit on the edge of your cheekbones, brow bone, and cupid’s bow. My absolute favorite cream highlighter is RMS Living Luminzer ($38). It provides the perfect dewiness to the skin and the formula is all-natural (I use it on my eyelids too for a glossy look!) and works for all skin tones.


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Beauty Banter was launched in July of 2006 as a comprehensive beauty blog covering trends, tips and tricks, insider secrets, and weekly must-haves. Beauty Banter has a reputation of being on the cutting edge of emerging trends and product launches so our readers are always the first to know what’s hot and what’s just not.