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Highlighting and Contouring 101

Wouldn’t we all love to have perfect, movie-set lighting following us everywhere we go? Or how about our own hair and makeup team to make us look like supermodels every day? Exactly where is this magical fountain of youth and great bone structure? 

Although the top-model treatment is not reality for the majority (if not all) of us, it’s still possible to get a glammed-up face at home. The solution? Highlighting and contouring techniques. Highlighting and contouring have made their way to the mainstream after celebrities like the Kardashians introduced us to the beauty of an airbrushed Instagram selfie. The terms are now universal to anyone with an affinity for selfies and hyper-sculpted cheekbones. 

So, just how do you get the look? And what is the difference between the two? We are breaking down highlighting and contouring techniques for beginners that will take you from plain to reign. 


To recap: highlighting and contouring are makeup application techniques that, when blended together, bring out what you feel are your best features while diminishing your least favorite. Contouring is applied first to create natural shadowing, followed by highlighter to accentuate (or “highlight”) your favorite features. 

Before you start applying the techniques, there are some things to keep in mind. First, make sure you’ve determined your skin’s natural undertones before selecting your contour and highlighter shades. Your contour should be a shade darker and slightly ashy so it looks like a natural shadow. Highlighters, on the other hand, should be a shade warmer with some yellow tints so your skin doesn’t appear too chalky. Next, shimmer. When it comes to shimmer, it’s important to glow, not “sparkle.” The shimmer level in your products should be soft and look as natural as possible. 



Apply your contour first to get a more defined outline of your face and help guide your highlighter application. 

Edges of the forehead 

Begin by drawing an arc of contour along the top of your forehead just under the hairline. The arc should start outside of one eyebrow and end at the outside of the other, the end points about two inches down toward each eyebrow. 

Hollows of the cheeks 

This step is what gives you the ultra-defined cheekbone look. To find your hollows (where your cheekbones start and end), make a fish face by sucking in your cheeks. Apply contour on the outer edges of your face and in your hollows, moving closer towards the mouth. Stop about an inch before your reach your mouth. 

Side of the nose

Contouring the sides of your nose gives the illusion of thinness and straight structure. Simply apply thin, vertical contour stripes along the sides of the bridge. 


For a continuous, even tone, blend contour underneath your chin and along the jawline. 


Now it’s time to emphasize your best features. 

Center of the forehead 

You can find the center spot by the left and right of your inner eyebrows and dabbing a square of highlighter in between, but not between the eyebrows themselves. 

Tip of the nose 

Stencil a tiny line down the bridge of your nose just above the contour. 

Tops of your cheekbones 

Use thin strokes to apply highlighter on the top of your cheekbones, angling the outer rims upward to accent the height of your cheeks. 

Top lip 

Your Cupid’s bow is the little groove between the two peaks of your upper lip. Put highlighter here, just where it meets your top lip. 


Once your face is full of these lines, it’s time to blend. Use a clean, shaped makeup sponge to gently blend your contour and highlight shades together, adjusting as you work your way down your face. Finish as you normally would: apply translucent/finishing powder lightly throughout your face and blush on your cheeks to add natural dimension. Apply any other makeup you wish and voila! Whether you’re going to an event or just out with friends, you’ve built the foundation for the red carpet look of your choosing. 


Would you like to create red carpet looks for a living? Get started now at Pivot Point Academy! 


Pivot Point Academy
144 East Lake Street, Suite C
Bloomingdale, IL 60108

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