Light & Dark, the art of contouring & highlighting

Light & Dark, the Art of Contouring & Highlighting
by Jessie Fewson

Contouring and highlighting are techniques that have been around many years in the makeup industry although they have only recently become a mainstream trend. These terms have become beauty buzzwords, but what do they really mean?

It may sound dramatic to describe the techniques as light and darkness but they really are just that, they are an emphasis on the natural contours and highlights of the face. When applying makeup, especially a face of foundation, you may notice that you look washed out, like something is missing, like depth (darkness) and light (highlight). These two things add a natural touch to your makeup, as our face naturally has depth and different shades.


The Products: There are two products that can be used for contouring, a cream-based product, and a powder. Cream-based products are great because they melt into the skin and look very natural. Use a contour stick (Anastasia® Contour Stick, Benefit® Hoola Contour Stick™) or a concealer that is 2-3 shades darker than your skin tone. Powder bronzers are also great, they are perfect for achieving a softer contour effect. Whether you use a cream or a powder make sure that the formula is matte, as shimmer in bronzers gives an unnatural effect. Also, make sure you are consistent with your textures, this means if you use a cream contour product make sure your other products are cream and the same goes if you use powders.

The Technique: Apply the cream or powder to the sides of the nose (to create a slim chiseled effect), the hollows of the cheeks, the temples, and the perimeter of the forehead. Just keep in mind that you want to apply the contour to anywhere that you want to add more depth or to slim and define certain features (like the nose). Blend the product into the skin, blending is key to creating a natural contour effect.

Tip: To find the hollow of your cheeks make a “fish face” by sticking out your lips and hollowing out your cheeks.


The Products: To highlight use a concealer that is 1-2 shades lighter than your skin tone. You will also need a highlighting powder or liquid. A highlighting product should have a soft shimmer, it should be subtle (glitter is not a highlighting product). Keep in mind that if you have a pale skin tone you will want a highlighter with a cool shimmer (silver tones) but if you have a warm skin tone you will want a highlighter with a warm shimmer (gold tones). The same rule with textures applies to highlighting; if you use a liquid or cream highlighter make sure the other products you use are creams and the same applies to powder products.

The Technique: Apply the concealer to any blemishes or spots that need to be concealed and also to the bridge of the nose. Use any extra concealer that may be on your finger or brush and apply a tiny amount to the cheekbones (a tiny amount is key as you don’t want to pale out your cheekbones). Then apply the highlighter to the bridge of the nose and a tiny bit on the tip of the nose, the cheekbones, and on the brow bone just under the eyebrows. With highlighting a little bit goes a long way, the goal is to achieve a soft glow effect, too much can pale out the skin and also make the face look unnatural.

Tip: If you use cream products your fingers work best to blend them, or if you are using powders then opt for a brush.

With these techniques, you will be able to create a flawless chiseled face for any occasion!

Jessie FewsonJessie Fewson is a professional makeup artist and consultant living in Rapid City.

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