Contouring and highlighting is a Hollywood-beauty secret that have gained popularity with the masses.
And sure, it is “extra” work in our makeup routine, but how gorgeous is the end result? One of my best friend emailed me this awhile back, and it gave me an idea to write a general post on contouring and how to bring out your sexy supermodel cheekbones; because we all have them, and all it takes is a little makeup technique called “contouring” to bring them out.
Just making an official request about what makeup I should wear for graduation, because there will be a lot of photos, argh! I wanna do a nice amount of contouring… blush, bronzer the works. So will you hit me up with some hints and tips? I’m also ready to do some makeup shopping!
Good call, friend, and for anyone looking to contour and highlight their cheekbones. Contouring and highlighting your cheekbones can make your face look a little more glow-y, healthy and sculpted. I know that I’m personally a fan of this makeup trick, which is surprisingly easy to do. All you need are 3 tools and 3 quick steps.
For this article, I’ll first walk you through the tools you need (as well as my product recommendations, because I’ve tried many and a lot of them don’t really deliver the proper end result) and then after that, the application steps as well as a diagram to help you out.
First, there’s 3 things you need:
- Contoured angle brush
A highlighter is a makeup product in several formulas (powder, liquid, cream) that will bring some kind of light to your face. Whether it’s a liquid illuminator, a powder highlighter, or even a pearly nude eyeshadow; this is a must-have for bringing out your cheekbones. Below are some of my suggestions:
- Benefit High Beam. A pink-pearly liquid illuminator that you apply with a brush. Just “dot” it onto your skin with the nail-polish like brush and rub it in with your fingers to blend. Buy it at Sephora.com (US) and Boots.com and Feel Unique (UK) or Amazon.com, ASOS and Look Fantastic (international shipping).
- YSL Touche Eclat. A cult classic beauty product used by makeup artists, celebrities and beauty editors, this highlighter and concealer pen is used to highlight and conceal. Buy it at Sephora.com (US) or internationally at Amazon.com, Nordstrom and John Lewis.
- NARS Copacabana Illuminator. A light-reflecting liquid that blends beautifully. NARS makes some of the best highlighting shades and my top recommendation is Copacabana. Buy it at Sephora.com (US) or internationally at Amazon.com, Space NK Apothecary, Nordstrom and House of Fraser UK.
- NYX Wonderstick. This one is tough to find but I am sure you can find it at Sephora, or on their official website.
- NARS Albatross Highlighter Blush. If you prefer powder, NARS’ famous Albatross eyeshadow is now universally used as a highlighter. Take a big fluffy brush to apply. Buy it internationally at Amazon.com, Nordstrom and ASOS.
- MAC Blushes. MAC makes some of the best blushes, and it’s easy to find a highlighter blush, they tend to release one every season! My recommended one is their Mineralize Skinfinish blushes that always have a great sheen.
- Smashbox Artificial Light Illuminizing Lotion. Meant to be “fake candle light” so you always have that gorgeous glow, this product comes in three different shades to suit your taste. A little tough to find too, but you can buy it at Amazon.com which luckily ships to every country.
As I mentioned above, if you’re not into buying a whole, separate product; just grab a shimmery (or pearly) nude colored eyeshadow. Works just as well. Some great ones are Stila’s Kitten Eyeshadow and MAC’s Shroom Satin Eyeshadow.
After getting a highlighter product, it’s time to get the “de-highlighter” product, in other words the exact opposite – while the highlighter is meant to highlight the skin, this product is meant to deepen and shade the skin. While there are many products – some made for contouring – I find the most natural looking are bronzers. Here are my top picks:
- MAC Bronzer. The first bronzer I ever tried was by MAC, and they are really one of the best. In fact, like their blushes, I’d recommend any bronzer made by MAC.
- Bobbi Brown Bronzer. Bobbi Brown is also one of my favorite bronzer-makers, because her colors are always very light and natural looking. I use their lightest color, but see which one suits your skintone best. You can buy her bronzers online internationally at Amazon.com, Nordstorm and John Lewis.
- Kevin Aucoin The Sculpting Powder. This product is a favorite for contouring and it’s no surprise why – great product (very fine, so goes on lightly and natural) and it doesn’t look orange. Buy it internationally at Barneys and Amazon.com.
- Smashbox Step-by-Step Contour Kit. Want a full all-in-one product? Like the name says, this Smashbox palette have highlighting and bronzer powders for a real sculpted look. Grab it at Amazon.com, which ships to every country.
- Benefit Hoola Bronzer. Again, one of the best bronzers made, and one of my favorite as well. it’s the perfect shade: it’s a standard brown that’s not too muddy and not too orangey either (bronzer pet peeves!). You can buy it at Sephora.com and ULTA (both US) or internationally at John Lewis, Debenhams and Amazon.com.
3. Contoured Angle Brush
Don’t let these contoured angle brushes scare you! They look kinda weird, no? But this is really needed for sculpting and shading your cheekbones. Here are some of the best I’ve tried, for all budgets:
- MAC Large Angled Contour Brush #168. Probably the most famous, and my favorite to be honest. I bought it years ago and haven’t looked back. You can buy it at Amazon.com or Nordstorm which ships to every country.
- e.l.f. Angled Contour Brush. This affordable brush does the job and does it well, especially if you’re just a beginner in contouring. Once you go “pro”, you can upgrade your brush. You can buy this one internationally at Amazon.com or my favorite, iHerb.com, which has it super cheap!
- Sephora Pro Angled Contour Brush #75. Sephora is the beauty destination for every beauty lover, so you can bet their in-house brand is great. Buy this brush at Sephora.com, of course. That site is for US only, but go to your local Sephora, I am sure they’ll have it too.
- Sigma F40 Large Angled Contour Brush. Sigma makes amazing brushes at even better prices – they are seriously worth ever penny. Buy it internationally on Amazon.com.
If you’re not into buying another brush, you can also just grab any old blush brush and stick your finger through one side of it so it has a “scoop” shape, although that can be a bit annoying after awhile.
Now that you’ve got all your tools, here’s what to do.
- Grab your angled contour brush and bronzer. Swirl the brush around in the bronzer powder, say 5 times, and then “tap” the brush on the back of your hand to let any excess powder fall off.
- Look straight into the mirror, and suck your cheeks in, Zoolander style (as shown on the right). See those two shadowed lines that are forming? That’s where your bronzer is going. Point your brush on that shadow and gently sweep some color there, and then up in a crescent shape up towards the top of your ear.
- Step back and check your work. Suck your cheeks in again; is that line that natural shadow-y area now filled with bronzer? Success! If it’s too light, go over a few more times. And if you’ve overdone it, take some tissue, scrunch it up in a ball, and gently, in circular motions, wipe off the extra bronzer.
- Repeat on your other cheek.
- Next, grab your highlighter. If it’s a liquid highlighter, squeeze a few drops onto the back of your hand and pat your index and middle finger into it. Make sure to wipe off any excess. If it’s a powder highlighter, grab another blush brush (any is fine) and pat in some product.
- Look straight onto the mirror again and apply your highlighter above your bronzer “line”. If you’re using a liquid highlighter, dap a few drops of the product and blend into your skin, if you’re using powder, apply it as you normally would powder products. The point of the highlighter is to “bring out” the cheekbone; while the bronzer was to create some depth. If you don’t know which area I’m talking about, it’s the space that’s right under your eye area, right before your cheeks. Start from the center of your eye and blend until the end of it.
Here’s an amateur-drawing diagram to show you (brown = bronzer, and white = highlighter):
And just in case you want an “after” shot… check out this sexy model from the top of this article with her smouldering eyes sporting this technique perfectly: bronzed line of the cheekbone, highlighter from the center to the outer corner of the under eye area. Tres chic!
- Make sure your application doesn’t look like two obvious lines – remember to blend, blend, blend.
- You can add a touch of your usual blush (colors like peaches, pinks, etc) to the apple of your cheeks, but remember to keep it very light so it doesn’t look too much.
- If you want your liquid highlighter to last all day, sweep some translucent loose powder on top of it.
I hope my tips and recommendations have helped you to start contouring and highlighting your cheekbones. Please share this post if you find it useful and don’t forget to subscribe to email updates (100% free!) for most makeup articles like this.