Contour and Highlight – THE RULES

I have received so many requests to do a blog dedicated to contour and highlighting. This has become an extremely popular makeup technique which all the girls are going crazy for. Made popular by Kim Kardashian West, this trend is now in full effect. Did you know that the term ‘contouring’ actually originates from Pakistan? It was made popular by Makeup Artists and the like years ago on brides, for photo shoots and editorials. It reached us here later – but has always been around. Contouring has quickly made a name for itself in the beauty industry and now everyone is using it in their daily makeup routines (myself included)

Contouring gives shape to an area of the face and enhances the facial structure through makeup. It is not suppose to be noticeable – but subtle. It’s all about the artistry and illusion!


A few things to keep in mind when purchasing products for contouring:

  • Stick with matte. Avoid shimmer at all costs. Contours are suppose to be matte and the only highlight must be the shimmer. Texture is key!
  • Don’t be tone deaf. Find a contour product that creates the illusion of an actual shadow, so tones like beige, brown, taupe and grey.
  • Customise your complexion. Powders give a matte finish to contour and creams will result in a dewy finish. If your a beginner, you can start off with a cream based product if it helps you to blend easier. I personally prefer to blend with powders and find them easier to work with.
  • Brushes matter. It’s all about that brush honey! You should own at least 2-4 brushes to contour with. I have one to contour with and one to highlight. One for my nose and of course my trusty Beauty Blender to cream contour with. I like to cream contour when I go to parties or weddings and set it with my Anastasia Beverly Hills powder contour kit. The Mac 168 is a popular choice for fans contouring all over the world – although, I am now using my Zoeva 127 because I just love it (also I have my eye on the Zoeva Paint Brush!) A little tip for you girls though, is to adapt a fan brush into your routine – it is great for feathering product into the hairline, under the jawline and around the cheekbone for a precise air brushed finish (I have just discovered this technique)
  • Blend, Blend, Blend! – Hard lines are not a good look. You absolutely need to blend your contour otherwise harsh lines will show on your face. I like to use a buffing brush to blend my (powder) contour with and of course my Beauty Blender for cream contouring. I use a MAC 182 to buff any harsh lines available to purchase here. Don’t forget to add some happy colour to the apples of your cheeks and a bit of sheen (highlight) to further enhance your complexion. I always opt for a peachy pink blush for a natural looking finish (for example, Mac Melba, available here) and then for my highlight (which really varies as I own hundreds of them!) I will say Mac Soft & Gentle as it is probably the most readily available one. Most of the others I own are limited edition *cry face* So for an everyday highlight, I would generally just brush the top of my cheekbones, down the bridge of my nose and a slight hint on the chin for super duper fresh looking skin.


  • Start soft. Build your pigment as you go along so you can shape clearly. Use circular motions under the the jawlines, the sides of the temples and under the cheekbones.
  • Build then buff. Soften the lines with a buffing brush or Beauty Blender.
  • Less is more. Over contouring can be too much for a fresh face I just contour my cheekbones and nose for every day wear and then do the jawlines and temples when I am going out. I don’t like an over contoured face.


In a nutshell

1) Contour
2) Blush
3) Highlight


Step By Step – My Daily Contour Routine

  • Prep skin, cleanse, tone and moisturise
  • Prime skin with a good primer
  • Apply foundation (avoiding the eye area) with a Beauty Blender
  • Apply concealer under the eye 2-3 shades lighter than foundation in a triangle shape
  • Set with translucent powder under the eye and any other areas that are oily (set using MAC 129 Brush or my Beauty Blender) and then go over it with shade ‘Banana’ from my ABH Contour Kit
  • Apply the ‘Contour’ line with my Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit in the colour ‘Java’ with Zoeva 110 Brush to strengthen the bone structure
  • Contour above the temple to add depth to the face again with Zoeva 110 and ABH Java. Also do this under the jaw line to slim the face.
  • Apply contour line to the sides of my nose using ‘Java’ again
  • Blend the contour on nose with shading brush by Zoeva 227 (soft definer)
  • Buff out and smoothen contour under cheekbones with MAC 182
  • Apply MAC Studio Fix Powder to whole face (light sweep) to remove any excess shine and set makeup12) Apply Mac Melba (available here) to my apples
    Buff out and smooth with MAC 182 – this will add dimension to my face and give a pretty glow
  • Using Crown Deluxe Chisel Fluff brush, highlight on high points (cheekbones, brow bone, cupid’s arrow) You can use your fingers after to blend out if you wish. Regarding the brushes to use for when highlighting – use whatever you feel comfortable with. It is all about trial and error. I use a different brush to highlight with everyday depending on what type of highlighter coverage I want.

Tools to use:

Contour Tools

  1. Beauty Blender available here
  2. Micro Mini Beauty Blender (for under eye highlight) available here
  3. Real Techniques Miracle sponge available here
  4. Pro Wedges available here
  5. Zoeva 109 Paint Brush available here
  6. MAC 163 Flat Top Contour Brush available here
  7. NARS ITA Brush available here
  8. Zoeva 110 Face Shape Brush available here
  9. MAC 168 Angled Brush available here
  10. Real Techniques Sculpting Brush available here
  11. Tarte the Slenderiser Brush available here
  12. Real Techniques Contour Brush available here

Products to use:

Cream Contour

  1. LA Girls Pro Conceal HD available here
  2. Laura Mercier Flawless Contouring Palette available here
  3. Smashbox Step By Step Contour Stick Trio available here
  4. Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Contour and Highlight available here and here
  5. Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer available here
  6. Illmasqua Gel Sculpt Face Contouring Stick available here

It is best to cream contour first if you are looking for strong definition and this is a popular method used for wedding looks and parties. You then set the cream contour with a powder contour with the following products:

Powder Contour

  1. Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit available here
  2. Kat Von D Shade + Light Palette available here
  3. Makeup Revolution Sculpt and Contour available here
  4. Sleek Face Contour Kit available here
  5. Illamasqua Sculpting Duo available here
  6. Too Faced Cocoa Contour Chiseled to Perfection available here
  7. Smashbox Step by Step Contour Kit available here

Obviously you don’t need to use all these brushes and products at once. This is just a handful of what is available to use. Feel free to experiment and see what works best for you. Remember, it’s not just about the products you are using, but also technique. Keep practising. The more you do, the better you will become. A lot of women don’t feel confident contouring, but if you follow these easy steps and start small, you will be just fine. Practise makes perfect!

The price points for most of these products is a mixed bag and I wanted to include readily available products for every price range. There is low end and high end – something for everyone. I have put all the links above so you can find them easily.

If you guys really want to push the boat out with your contour kit, then the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow is  must try:


Available at most luxury department stores, this is priced at a steep £49 and worth every penny….

You can buy it online in Selfridges here.

The end result of the contour and highlight should look a little something like this:


The contour looks quite strong in this picture because it just catches the light, but that was the desired look (Yes that’s me)

What’s your favourite contour technique? Comment below and let me know!


*Images taken from Pinterest unless stated.



  1. Ashliqua
    September 25, 2015 / 8:16 pm

    Having done extensive research into the origins of the word contour (the base of the word contouring), I believe it is a French word with an Italian background, but please feel free to prove otherwise (with something other than a goodness gracious me clip)

    • September 25, 2015 / 8:20 pm

      Hi Ashliqua. Thank you, but I was referring to the technique of contouring from makeup and which country made it popular not the actual word itself 🙂

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