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How to Contour and Highlight Your Face Shape like a Pro?

Updated: Oct 19, 2021

Pull focus to the best parts of your face by using bronzer and highlight in strategic ways.

We’ve all heard that the “ideal” face shape is oval - but something most people don’t know is that you can use makeup to change your face shape in a matter of minutes.

How to Contour and Highlight Your Face Shape like a Pro?

I remember the first time I saw an infographic about “face shapes.” I was reading Seventeen Magazine and flipped to a page with different faces on it and phrases like “heart” and “square” next to them. I immediately ran to the mirror and followed the instructions on the page to see what face shape I had. Some magazines told me I had an “oval” shape, and others said mine was “oblong.” For years I was upset that my face was too long and looked to celebrities like Liv Tyler and Sarah Jessica Parker to be my oblong face inspiration.

How to Contour and Highlight Your Face Shape like a Pro?

But then I discovered the unbelievable art of contouring and highlighting and realized I could take my oblong face shape to an oval one within just a few minutes.

To put contouring and highlighting into simple terms - it’s basically using bronzer to darken certain areas of your face and using a highlighter to brighten other areas. Applying dark and light areas to deliberate parts of your face can give the illusion of them being smaller or larger, and modify your face shape in small parts.

The first step to consider here is which parts of your face you want to darken (by contouring with bronzer) and which parts of your face you want to lighten and enhance (by highlighting with a highlighter).

Here are some tips to use when considering your specific face shape:

Face shape: Round

The round face generally appears chubby. Contouring makes the cheekbones look sharp and up and narrows the forehead.

Face shape round

Face shape: Oval

The face is much longer and narrow. We contour the upper hairline region to make the length look smaller. It is recommended to highlight areas of the face.

Face shape oval

Face shape: Square

Contouring the corners of the forehead and jawline to make a face appear narrow. And to soften their sharp jawline.

face shape square

Face shape: Diamond

In this face shape, your cheekbones are the widest point of the face compared to the forehead and chin. We contour only the cheekbone area to give a narrower face look.

Face shape diamond

Face shape: Heart

The widest area on the face is the forehead. We try to slim down the forehead and contour around the cheekbones for a sharper look.

Face shape Heart

Contouring and highlighting is an interesting way to look at your face. It turns out, a lot of this comes down to just knowing the angles and areas of your face and applying makeup accordingly.

The next thing to think about is what type of makeup you want to use for contouring and highlighting. You can, of course, use bronzer and highlighter with a brush in powder form, but recently contouring and highlighting kits have been made popular.

There are sticks of this made popular by Fenty and Kim Kardashian that provide a more intense makeup look when you apply them.

 Fenty and Kim Kardashian

An important step to contouring and highlighting - whether you use powder or a stick form of the makeup - is to blend it out well! The secret of this makeup technique is that it provides a subtle shade to areas of your face, and if the makeup isn’t blended well, you run the risk of looking a bit more Halloween than Couture.

If you’re new to this technique, it’s best to start by applying a small amount of product and working your way up to using more. Brushes or makeup sponges are best to use when contouring, and a dabbing motion is an ideal way to apply this. If you use stroking motions when applying this makeup, it won’t blend into your face as smooth as a dabbing motion would.

There are also different tools to consider for different parts of this transformation. Contouring with darker products means you could use thicker tools to apply them (makeup sponges and thick, angled brushes), but when you highlight parts of your face with light makeup, you could use a tapered brush.

Contouring also provides you with a great peek into the world of makeup artistry as a whole. Once you learn about your face shape, it’s easy to find celebrities and influencers with face shapes similar to yours - and once you have the skills of contouring and highlighting, it’s easy to use makeup to get a similar look to anyone you desire.

There are lots of skilled makeup artists on YouTube who can help walk you through different contouring and highlighting techniques to achieve these looks. One of my favorite makeup channel on YouTube is Forever Beauty, who is a pro at identifying face shapes and suggesting contouring techniques to get their look.

If you’re completely new to the world of contouring or determining what your face shape is - try downloading a helpful app to figure out how you want to shape your face.

The Forever Beauty app (available in the App Store and Google Play store) provides makeup and face yoga tutorials. There are tutorials that provide step-by-step tips on how to contour, or you can check out the face yoga tutorials if you want to improve your face shape without using makeup.

Lastly, I want to stress that contouring is a fun makeup technique to try, but it’s never completely necessary for a look! Makeup is a great way to enhance the features we love, and play down our features that we’re less fond of, but there is no “perfect” face shape. I spent a lot of years fretting over my long face shape, and wishing I had a “heart” face shape, but the more I’ve learned about contouring and watched makeup videos on this technique - the more I’ve found that all face shapes have an incredible and unique beauty to them!

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