Express Contouring Tips for Beginners

Michael Brown

Beauty Expert

Contouring is the makeup technique of the moment.

It really has changed the world of makeup in the last year, even though it has been around for decades,. It first appeared on stage and in screen and now is used by thousands of women daily.

The application of contouring sounds easy, but boy can it go terribly wrong if you use incorrect shades for your skin tone. When applied correctly it is the anti-ageing genius of makeup artistry.

What is Contouring?

Contouring consists of highlight and shade. Highlight is used to add light to the face, like a spotlight and will bring areas forward. Shade, or contour as it’s also known, is the face shaper, it is used to re-define and sharpen features, creating a hollow to recede areas.

When used together they create a contrast which is how we get such instant results. Add some good lighting and you can appear years younger!


Every makeup decision I make is relevant to the results by using highlight and shade. Always ask yourself, do I want to bring forward this area, or hide it?

What to Use?

Contouring plays a big role not just in complexion but also for all areas of the face. Any product shade that is of a light nature or has a metallic/shimmer through it can be a highlight. Any product that contains a lot of depth and is also matte in finish can be a used as shade.

In saying this, even if you have a darker shade that is of a metallic nature, it will still reflect light, bringing an area forward. As long as the highlight to shade tones is contrasting, you will create a contour as long as the application is in the correct placement.

With this chart in mind, follow the principles using the correct texture/finish and know exactly why you are applying a product on the face – rather than just applying it for the sake of where you think it may go.



We must also know the areas of your face that you want to either bring forward or recede. For example, a round face wouldn’t use as much as blush as it is a plumping tool, a stronger shade under the cheekbone with lengthen the face, not widen it – these are things we must think about before contouring! 


This is the most talked about parts of contouring, as it is where we can re-define our facial features.

Using something as simple as a lighter shade concealer to your skin tone on the highlight points of the face – cheekbone, brow bone, centre of face, cupids bow of top lip and the chin – will bring forward and lift these areas naturally as they will reflect the light and appear bigger and more forward.

I prefer a concealer or liquid/cream highlighter than a powder as powder can be a tad dry and fall into expression lines easily.

For a shade tone, something quick and easy is your daily bronzer. As long as it is matte, it will sharpen up your features when placed in the hollows of your face, contrasting against the light of your highlight. 


Never go more than two shades lighter or darker than your skin tone with highlight and shade – we want realistic, blended beauty not stripy lines all over our face.


For eyes, the main concern is the eye socket area – this is where we tend to get a little puffiness, or a folding eyelid, looking heavy or downturned. The more shade we place on this area, the more lift and structure we gain. For this, I always use my bronzer as bit of a stencil to map out the shape I want and to give better blend than going straight in with a very heavy depth shade – it’s easier to build depth than to remove!

Less light on the eyes is actually more anti-ageing – the more light we have could bring forward areas we are trying to recede, so go easy on highlighting the eyes as more shade will lift and open your eyes. Keep any light/metallic shades on the mobile eyelid to attract light when eyes are in motion, allowing your socket to always be structured with a matte shade to the depth of your choice.


Once you believe you have added enough shade to your socket area, open it, relax it naturally and look forward to see where your eyelid skin sits and blend/shade accordingly. You want to recede back any unwanted skin that is puffy or heavy, which is hard to do when the eye is closed and the skin is stretched.


Even with lips, we need to think about if we need more highlight or shade. The majority of women want bigger and fuller lips, therefore nice bold shades with a hint of shine work best. If you have very large lips and want them looking smaller, it’s best to use deeper, matte shades – it’s all about the balance.


I love to play with and mix colours and quite often for lips I use a slightly deeper shade on the outer areas and then a brighter shade on centre area, this gives great plump to the mouth.

The Celebrity Result

 Even J LO is getting in on the contouring act – this should make us feel better that celebs are just real people, but we can all have a touch of celeb in our daily lives with the right highlight and shade.


Gone are the days where we purchased products because it was a pretty colour, or it was so sparkly you just had to have it. Half the time these aren’t going to give you the results you are after compared to nude tones with only hints of metallic and colour.

A matte bronzer or taupe eye shadow doesn’t always look as pretty at the makeup bar than that of a bright, shimmer colour, but I can tell you I have more use and success with them in terms of lifting and re-structuring the face so give it a try!

My Product Tip

Some easy new contouring products to get you started are the Clinique Sculpting Chubby Sticks (RRP $42 each)

There are 2 different shades of highlight to suit all skin tones and are easily blended into the skin for a no-mistake application.


Jennifer Lopez images: Left: Image via Instagram @jlo Right: Image via


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