Contouring and Highlighting Basics

Contouring and highlighting are one of the makeup techniques that every makeup addict should master. They can totally transform your face by playing up your features and downplaying your flaws and they usually go hand in hand.

Rule of thumb: Darker colors push back areas while lighter colors bring them forward.

So are contouring and highlighting necessary for everyone? No but everyone can definitely benefit from a little contouring and highlighting. All you need is practice and make sure everything is well-blended (seriously, who would want lines on their faces?!)

Contouring and highlighting also look best under evening lighting so if you are going to be in an environment with really bright light, I would recommend keeping it to a minimum.

What You Will Need
* To contour, you will need a color that is one to two shades darker than your foundation. You can use a brown eyeshadow, bronzer or a darker foundation.

* To highlight, you will need a color that is one to two shades lighter than your foundation. You can use a shimmery white/beige eyeshadow, a lighter foundation or a highlighter.

* I highly recommend using pressed powders or cream formulas as they are the easiest to use. Remember to pick a color that is neutral, i.e. one that is not too yellow or too pink.

Areas to Contour
* Under your cheekbones
* Along both sides of your nose
* Bottom of your chin
* Jawline
* Creases of your eyes
* Temples

Areas to Highlight
* Front of the forehead
* Along the bridge of your nose
* Right above your cheeks
* Inner corner of your eyes
* Browbone
* Center of your chin
* Cupid’s bow (lips)

How To Contour/Highlight
Simply follow the picture taken from Kevyn Aucoin above, and blend the lines by gently pressing the color onto your skin. You can use your fingers, a brush or a sponge but I would recommend a sponge for best results. Make sure there are no harsh edges and be careful not to blend the different colors together. Remember to start out a little at a time – it is always easier to add more color – and experiment to find out what works best for you.

Phyllis Li is the Founder and Editor-in-chief of Makeup For Life, one of the top 50 beauty blogs that focuses on celebrity makeup breakdowns, product reviews, makeup tutorials and all things beauty. Having lived and traveled in North America, Europe and Asia, she was exposed to different techniques and products at an early age and hopes to put a global perspective towards beauty. Phyllis won the Best Content Award by Total Beauty in 2008 and has been featured in various publications and websites including ELLE,, Yahoo Shine!, AOL Stylelist, Nylon Korea, VOGUE China, Ming Pao Daily (Canada) and Shanghai Weekly. In 2010, she was appointed one of the nine Real Women Ambassadors in the United States to take part in the Latisse® Wishes Challenge, working with Hollywood celebrity Kathy Ireland and raised over $400,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant wishes for approximately 54 children. In 2012, she teamed up with luxury skincare brand TATCHA and released a limited-edition 3-Piece Set of her favorite beauty products. Phyllis currently lives in Chicago, US. She is a regular contributor to Shanghai Daily's StyleHai Magazine and a member of the Glam Beauty Network.


  1. hi
    i duno why out of the blue there’s 2 tiny blobs of blood on my face,but they seem to be just under my skin… i cant rub ’em off…
    how can I get rid of them?
    please help me!

  2. Hey! I’d love to see a demonstration of this, like a before and after pic of yourself. So we can see what it looks like after you’ve done it.

  3. Hi
    I just realized that you know almost everything having to do with makeup and that I no longer have to browse though google again for makeup tips. Really, the database is -here-.

    I’m recommending this to my friends =]

  4. Penny, of course Asians can wear bronzers! It is all about finding one in the right shade and applying it the right way.

  5. Found this discussion via Google…thanks!

    A highlighting area that is shown here on that image from the Kevyn Aucoin book is not mentioned in the list of areas to highlight. Can someone explain how to go about highlighting that area? Why isn’t this ever mentioned in the tutorials?

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