Strobing: The New Contouring Trick We Cant Stop Talking About

Michael Brown

Beauty Expert

Hands up who just mastered the art of contouring? Hands up who is still mastering it? Yes, I thought the second question might have more hands up.

Well I am here to say; it’s all about Strobing: Using more highlight than shade to lift the face and add more youth!

Now before you start thinking, not another fancy new makeup technique to master, it is actually quite simple, as if you were contouring already, you were hopefully applying one part of it correctly; the highlighter!

Strobing is basically a new term for highlighting. Bringing forward the frontal parts of the face (where we tend to get sun burnt first) giving a youthful pop to the face.

Not that hard right? Lets break it down:


Contouring VS Strobing

Contouring has been a big trend this past year for beauty, but has really been around as an anti-ageing makeup technique for decades. I learnt the technique fifteen years ago during my dancing days, applying stage makeup!

Contouring is using highlight and shade tones to re-define your facial features. Using a shade deeper than your skin tone, that is also matte shade tone, will recede an area. This is normally applied in the hollows of the face: under cheekbones, temples, sides of nose, eye sockets etc.

The problem is, we have become contouring obsessed, and some of our shade tones have become too visible and almost muddy. What was an anti-ageing technique for some have become dark lines on our faces. Not cool people! Yes it can be called an art form on Instagram, but we really need to tone down the shading.

When adding light as a contrast to the shade tones used on the frontal parts of the face or actually on a bone, this pushes an area forward as light reflects when applied, making the area appear larger and fuller.

Together it is contouring; a face sculptor and an instant lift.

Why Strobing?

When adding light alone to the frontal areas of the face after the application of foundation and concealer, apply to the centre of face, above cheekbones, brow bone, cupids bow of lip and under the eye (only after concealing dark circles of course). This adds volume to that area, meaning it instantly lifts, creating a slight shadow to the area around or next to it.

This means that by highlighting before shading, you’ve improved your skin’s youthfulness and added a slight plumping effect. Plus it looks more natural than adding a dark shade tone to the face. This is Strobing.

Strobing is quick, much easier than mastering the shading application, and still gives a youthful glow to the face.

As long as you know your product, skin tone, and where to apply, you can instantly turn your skin from drab to fab in seconds. It can also be used as an instant refresher later in the day when you’re feeling fatigued.


Now, there will always be a place for adding shade; some areas just need more of a hollowing to recede away puffiness. But Strobing has taught me to use highlighter first. Note the youthful change in the complexion, and then shade accordingly. Don’t just reach for the shade brush and find yourself in a muddy mess. Light is key to youth!

Where to Highlight?

I am sure by now that you have seen a contouring chart. No? Well here is one. An unblended look at where we should be placing highlight and shade to re-define our facial features:

Contouring chart

Take this chart as a guide. See the white areas? That’s adding highlight and that is where Strobing is applied.

So after your foundation application to even your skin tone, and after you have concealed the hard to please areas of the face, especially those dark circles, its time to add light to the frontal parts of the face to see the magic it gives; light, youthfulness, volume!

Once blended, take a step back from the mirror and look at your face as a whole. See a difference? Your skin should be glowing with this newfound volume and light. You should feel plumper and definitely more radiant.

Then, if needed, add a little shade in areas that need sharpening up, mainly the eye socket if puffiness is present and under cheekbone for the rounder faces.

Strobing is about creating more light than shade for a brighter, more lifted look than what over-shading can give.


Where there are lines, there are creases. This means expression lines are creating tiny hollows. By adding more light to the skin, it really does lift up these hollows to create a smoother glow to the skin, hence the light reflecting, anti-ageing angle of strobing.

What to Use?

Just like in contouring, we should be using a light shade on the face, no more than two shades lighter than our skin tone.

Pale/fair skin: Milky, Champagne tones. Avoid pink.

Medium skin tones: Rose, pearl tones.

Deep/olive skin Tones: Golden

I prefer to use cream to liquid highlighters for strobing as they reflect the light better. It’s OK to have a teeny bit of shimmer, but not too much. We don’t want a disco ball face.

I also love to use a little face highlighter before foundation on the areas I am going to strobe. I find this acts as a double action, and gives a ‘lit from within’ approach to the overall look.


When using highlighter on the face, it is important to not use products with too much of a dewy consistency for the rest of the face, otherwise glow could be confused for sweat. Not good!

I use a semi matte foundation, a matte blush and a touch of powder through the centre of the face, so my Strobed areas are the only shine on the face, for balance and pop.

If you are very oily, you can use a powder base highlighter with a touch of shimmer to get the same effect, but less shine.

So, in closing…

Always correct the skin tone before using a highlighter, and use a highlighter before applying your shade tone. This should help us not look overly bronzed and muddy when trying to create that perfect shading.

Happy Strobing!

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