Highlight and contour: Ten do’s and don’ts



Do: Know the difference between highlight and contour

By highlighting, you are brightening and emphasising certain parts of your face. Contour does the opposite by helping to diminish or hide particular areas. For example, if you want to help diminish your round cheeks, you add contour. If you want to elongate your neck, you add highlight.

Don’t: Follow the shading/highlighting face charts

If you know about contour and strobing, your eyes have most-likely glimpsed at the charts informing you on placement. These will only work for a percentage of people.

Defining your face is about proportion. The oval is known as the best face shape, because Β it is normally the most even – nothing needs to be slimmed or emphasised. Before you begin, take a moment to glance in the mirror and decide what needs to be more prominent. If you have a large forehead, the worst thing you can do is to highlight across the middle. Equally if you have a large chin, do not highlight across the middle.

In these instances, it is better to highlight either side of your chin and only contour on your forehead.

Do: Research the best areas to highlight

This may sound a tad contradictory to my last point, but it is useful to know all the sections on the face that you could potentially highlight, before deciding on the one’s that are beneficial for you. It is about the parts which strongly reflect the light, giving them an appearance of being better lit.

The options include: the centre of the forehead, above the eyebrows, down the centre of the nose, above the upper lip, underneath the eyebrows, inner corners of the eyes, either side of the mouth, the centre of the chin, either side of the nose, on the cheekbone, underneath your contour and under the eyes and surrounding area.

Don’t: Simply copy your favourite YouTube guru

Just because a strobing (highlighting) technique looks amazing on them, do not assume that it will work perfectly for you. Reiterating my previous don’t, it is important to recognise your own facial structure.


Do: Be aware of photography light

Very necessary if you are applying a shimmer product. Flash photography can make shimmer appear quite harsh and for events such as weddings, it tends to look exceptional if you opt for a cream or liquid, instead of a powder.

Don’t: Assume the more highlight the better

Instagram has certainly added to this belief. I love highlight but too much of a good thing can soon go bad – I have seen some terrible cases!

When it comes to under the eyebrows, I apply a white shimmer very finely and a cream highlight underneath. You can really go to town with a pop of brightness. On the cheekbones however, overdoing it can completely take away from the rest of your appearance.

DO: Find the right texture

The options: liquid, cream or powder and for highlighting techniques: a concealer stick, pen, liquid or foundation.

It can get very confusing!

Let’s start with highlighting as a technique – I preferably would choose a concealer stick. I have oily skin but I find a minimal amount of a creamy concealer stick (perhaps palette) can do the trick. Otherwise, I would opt for the classic Bobbi Brown Skin foundation.

You can use a liquid concealer but be aware that they tend to last all of two seconds. Another choice would be a concealer/highlighting pen and that is generally more natural.

In terms of constructing a glow, I am a fan of cream-based products. If you have oily skin and need to put powder everywhere, a light touch of a cream can really lift the skin. Equally, dry skin will be able to find relief in a cream-based highlighter.

Liquid highlighters are perfect for dewiness. They work beautifully for weddings and flash photography. Powders are great as well but they should be applied specifically.

Don’t: Always use shimmer

Shimmer can be applied lightly all-over or saved for under your eyebrows and on the tops of your cheekbones. Adding shimmer across the forehead or chin etc, can ruin the effect of brightness and perhaps make people question if you are in need of some powder.

Do: Ensure you highlight on ‘good skin’

Check for any imperfections.

Don’t: Highlight over a spot

If you are having a bad skin moment, you do not want any shimmer or bright powder to go over your spots as this can make them stand out more. It is better to use an all over liquid, or simply highlight away from them.



Do: Use a contouring bronzer

It is tempting to use your regular bronzer as your contouring one, but these can look quite harsh. A good contouring bronzer will be a few shades darker than your skintone or foundation.

Don’t: Contour with shimmer

Contouring bronzers tend to be matte for a reason. Shimmer can look unnatural and unrealistic.

Do: Pout to find your cheekbones

Pouting can help forge the lines in your cheekbones to help you define them. Application should start at the top of your ears and end towards the centre of your eyes.

Don’t: Create ‘fish lips’

Sucking in your lips will draw out a contouring line that will be too low. It is imperative that you follow your own bone structure and do not try to copy or recreate.

Do: Blend in with your foundation

To avoid any harsh lines, use a large blending tool and buff around the edges. You can also use your foundation brush. By doing this, you will achieve a more flawless look.

Don’t: Contour in one stroke

Blending in circles is always the way forward. You want to start with a small amount of your beauty item and build up gradually. If you end up with too much product on your skin, you may have to over-blend and this can cause patchiness which is very hard to try and rectify.

Do: Apply a base underneath

Unless you have well-balanced skin, it is worth putting on some foundation or even concealer before using any bronzer. Any redness or marks on the skin with bronzer can appear more severe or worse, so it is ideal to apply base product first.

Don’t: Rush your application

A quick sweep of bronzer and you will be out the door right?

Take the time to blend well. Particularly if you are using a cream or liquid based product.

Do: Only use contour for definition

Bronzer can be used for adding warmth but this is where you would wise to buy another bronzer. The contouring product should not be used to try to darken or tan your skin.

Don’t: Over do it

Especially around your chin and jaw area. People either avoid this because of fear that they will make foundation looking lines (wearing a foundation too dark or light), or they go too far in an attempt to slim. A tiny supply will go along way.

What are your favourite highlighters and contouring products? What are your favourite tips and techniques?


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25 thoughts on “Highlight and contour: Ten do’s and don’ts

    • I do not actually follow any specific gurus. Sometimes I watch videos. I am actually a makeup artist but I am in the progress of taking my career to writing.
      I hope your studying is going well and I happy that I could you more insight. I really recommend going to a makeup artist store and buying a couple of the makeup artist magazines. They contain information like this.


  1. Such a good and helpful post! I could not agree more with “Don’t: Assume the more highlight the better” and with contour “don’t: over do it”. I mean I love highlight and contour too but sometimes people really tend to overuse them. But then again everyone has different opinion on what looks good. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes everyone has their own opinion and I guess makeup is about creative license, but I have seen some images where it looks like half a bottle of highlighter has been used. Each to their own right.
      Happy that you found the post helpful. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A great article which I am saving! I am pretty basic with makeup and don’t really usually go for much in the way of highlighting/contouring as there are so many pieces of advice out there that you don’t want to end up looking like a clown! I will definitely refer to your do’s and don’ts for when I am going for my evening look xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is one of the greatest compliments – actually saving the post! There is a lot of advice out there and sometimes that in itself can be more confusing. I kept it as a do’s and don’ts to try and be straightforward.
      I’m going to be looking out for your evening pics now. πŸ™‚ xxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

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