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The Magic of Makeup: Contouring

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Ottawa chapter.

You must’ve heard all the hype about highlighting and contouring techniques? So what’s the deal you ask? Well, countless celebrities have been using this age-old technique to help sculpt their faces for that picture-perfect look. Highly known celebrities like Kim Kardashian, Eva Longoria and Jennifer Lopez all use this technique to add shape as well as definition to their faces to transform their bone structure and accentuate their best features. You can find comfort in the fact that every single woman that has appeared on magazine covers have had this makeup trick done. But, rest assured, the look can be created on your own in the comfort of your own home.


With New Years just around the corner this means loads and loads of pictures! Try this masterful makeup technique to get the picture perfect look for this season. Here are some tips on how to achieve this complexion perfection.

So let’s start with the simple question, what is contouring and highlighting?


It is a technique in which you use dark or light shades to help hide or draw attention to facial features. This technique helps add definition, structure as well as dimension to the face. Quite simply, light shades help highlight and bring the areas in the foreground, while the darker shades push them back, giving depth and shape to your face. By using these makeup techniques, you are manipulating light and shadow on your face, creating this desirable illusion. All in all, no need for plastic surgery, you can alter your face shape with makeup by using contouring and highlighting tricks. Yes please!!!


The perfect canvas to showcase the effects of contouring is the famous American socialite, Kim Kardashian; her well-known prominent features are the result of this dramatic technique. She’s been open to letting the public know about utilizing this magic makeup technique.

Every face shape has its different tips and tricks but here are the main areas to focus on for contouring and highlighting.


  • Use a powder or foundation about two shades darker than your natural skin tone and apply with an oval-headed cheek brush or sponge, as well as a larger brush for blending.
  • You can use this technique on your cheekbones, nose, and jawline. To find your natural cheekbones, just suck in your cheek or make the “fish face” (you know it!) and hollow them out with the contouring shade. To add emphasis, try shading the area in a tadpole shape.
  • To get the effect of a slimmer nose, shade either side of the bridge of your nose, starting from below the bridge and ending right above the nostrils.
  • The main areas that are contoured are:
    • The hollows of the cheek – Illusion of having great cheek bones.
    • The creases of the eyelids – Illusion of more depth to the eye sockets.
    • Around the hairline – Illusion of a small forehead
    • Underneath the chin and down the neck – Illusion of a more defined jawline.
    • The sides of the nose – Illusion of a narrower nose. To shorten the nose just contour the tip of the nose.



  • Use highlighting shaded on the higher planes of the face such as the brow bones, cheekbones, nose, chin, cupid’s bow, which is the double curve of the human upper lip, under the eyes and on the inside of the tear ducts. Here, the idea is to mimic the effect of light reflecting on the face.
  • You may use any powder or cream highlighters if you have fair skin, but if you have darker skin, you can use a foundation that is one to two shades lighten than your natural skin color. There are many varieties of highlighters, some are matte and some shimmery, however those that have a lot of shimmer aren’t very natural which doesn’t make for a subtle, natural glow that we are looking for.
  • All you need to do is apply the cream or powder with a finger, brush or sponge, a medium-sized  cheek brush for the powder application and blend with any large brush.

These two techniques work in combination. You can relate yourself to the highlights and contouring diagram shown above, these are very harsh strokes to show exactly where all of the techniques are applied. The number one thing to remembering when using this technique is to blend, blend, blend! By properly blending, this will get rid of any harsh lines, or any access makeup. So always start light and build as you go along.

This technique is especially handy for women with round faces. Explaining, rather than showing, can be a bit unclear so check out YouTube, there is a number of videos and photographic tutorials catering to this awesome technique. This will be especially handy for all of you who are more visual people. So go ahead, experiment with this technique, when done properly it can do miracles. It’s pretty simple, highlight your good features and just contour the rest.






I am a fourth year student at the University of Ottawa in Communications studies. Throughout my studies I have obtained experience in the field in the Federal Government and have just recently been selected as an intern for a great Communications and PR firm. Aside from my work and studies I spend a whoooole lot of time and money on my wardrobe. Over the years it has become crystal clear that I have an addiction, a fashion addiction. Which leads me to affirm that I am a self proclaimed shopaholic. Shoes and purses, accessories, tops and bottoms, any component that lies within an ensemble, I love it all. My bank account has fallen prisoner and therefore victim of my serious addiction and I have decided to share the plentiful knowledge I have gathered no thanks to my "problem". The first step is acceptance, check! I hope my tips and tricks will serve the readers as they have me, although my diminishing savings account would say otherwise. Well that is me in a nutshell.