Product Series: Contour & Highlight

by Sarah

Having covered all the base products within the Product Series, it’s time to move onto the fun part: colors! And first up on the list is a classic technique – which has taken the commercial makeup industry by storm in the last couple of years: Contour & Highlight.

I did extensive posts on contouring and highlighting where I talked about how to effectively use these techniques. Click the following links to learn all about Contouring and Highlighting:

 Contouring For Different Face Shapes  –  Contouring To Enhance Features  –  Highlighting

Product Series: Contour and Highlight

Today however, is all about contour and highlight products and there’s quite a few options to consider….


In a nutshell, contouring is shading certain parts of the face to mimic natural shadows to help bring dimension to the face. Hollows of the cheeks, sides of the nose, under the jawline or perimeter of the face – depending on each individual’s face shape – are some of the most commonly contoured areas of the face.

The most common misconception about contouring is color. Unfortunately, as a makeup artist, I’ve been cringing watching some makeup brands make an absolute killing with their version of contour/highlight palettes which have nothing to do with true contouring. If you’re seeing social media posts bombarded with faces sporting orange tinged hues and streaks all over their faces, this is the reason why.

The purpose of contour as I mentioned above, is to mimic shadows. And natural shadows are gray. Of course using a straight up gray color for contouring is not conventional for everyday makeup but a true contour product should NOT have any warmth to it. It should be cool toned with taupe/gray hues within it and contain NO shimmer.

Contouring products can be in powder or cream form, though personally I prefer cream contour formulas, as building up powder contouring can turn muddy or ashy if not done correctly. As always, gradual application and blending is key.

Here are some “true” contouring products, as well as some new releases which have gotten closer to what contour should be. Compacts featuring both contour and highlight products are a bonus as they cater for all your sculpting needs.

Click on the product pictures below to shop

Becca Lowlight/Highlight

Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder / Becca Lowlight/Highlight Perfecting Palette / Smashbox Contour Trio / MAC Blunt powder / Smashbox Contour Kit


Highlighting is the opposite of contouring. We use highlighters on areas of the face where light would naturally hit and this enhances or brings forward the areas we’d like to show off. Tops of the cheekbones, bridge of the nose, above the high points of eyebrows are some of the areas we tend to concentrate on.

Those of you who have been following me for some time would know I LOVE highlighters. But of course not just any highlighters. Though it’s a personal preference, I’m not a huge fan of highlighting products which feature glitter or sparkle. I’m more of a subtle shimmer kinda gal.

Highlighters come in powder, liquid and cream form and if you type “highlighter” in the search engine above, you’ll see numerous review/swatch posts of some of my absolute favorite highlighters. Here is a list of some of my must-haves…

Click on the product pictures below to shop


Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed / Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid / Hourglass Ambient Palette / Colourpop Highlighter / MAC Mineralize Skinfinish

Contouring and highlighting technique has been around for as long as makeup itself and once you establish a style that suits your own face shape and features…and of course the right products to use, it can definitely make a huge difference to the overall look of the face.

Do you contour/highlight? What are your favorite products? xx


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Trisha June 11, 2015 - 2:16 am

Hey Sarah….You’re a gem!! Love this post and your preferred products. I do some highlighting with Becca products but I never really got into the contouring part. I guess the products that I saw people using kinda scared me, lol so I never really tried it. I like the Smashbox concept with the stick, I just don’t prefer their products. Once Max Factor went overseas their products just seemed to suffer. Heading to NYC this weekend, I will stop in Sephora and try some of these items on my skin. Thank you for always sharing your expertise and please keep sharing. : )

Sarah June 11, 2015 - 5:27 am

Hi Trisha! Yes I hear the same thing from many people about contouring whereas with the right products, it’s really a very simple yet effective process. The Smashbox pencils are probably the most convenient out of my list, but if you don’t prefer their products, Tarte and Clinique also make contour pencils which are still within the “acceptable” shades. I have Tarte’s The Sculptor in No:3 which blends really easily. Otherwise Becca’s contour/highlight duo is pretty good and you can also buy only the contour shade in a single compact (without the highlighter). For powder options, I definitely recommend Kevyn Aucoin. If you want something you can slowly ease into – almost an in-between of a bronzer and contour to begin with, you can try NARS Laguna bronzer. It’s marketed as a bronzer but it’s got a flat cool toned shade to it. One of my all time favorites for beginners ;) Enjoy NYC! I’m so jealous!! :) xx


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