Rant & Rave: Contouring and Highlighting

This Week’s Topic: Contouring and Highlighting

Share: Tell us what you love, hate, or are otherwise indifferent to about contouring and highlighting. Is it necessary? Does one matter more than the other?

my answer: I think contouring can have a major impact in photos, and it’s always worth doing for special occasions. Highlighting is something that I think is easier to do and thus is something more readily incorporated into a regular routine, and it’s more “fun” since you can use a whole slew of products, finishes, etc.

Thanks to Amy for today’s question!


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Sunny @ Mostly Sunny Avatar

I systematically contour because I take a lot of photos of myself, and my face looks much slimmer with some contouring. Highlighting is a step that I tend to skip when I’m pressed for time, but when done right it is absolutely beautiful!

Yelena B Avatar

I love to contour! Its definitely not something I will do everyday because I just dont have that much time in the morning but I agree with Christine. Every special occasion I made sure to put emphasize onto contouring.

Ani_BEE Avatar

When i do full coverage foundation I have to do Contouring and Highlighting because you end up looking flat in person and in photo’s. ;)I like my dewy shimmer hilighter but i usually break out a matte highlight first as well for all my looks to give a true shape rather then just glow.

Rae // theNotice Avatar


I very rarely highlight (visible shimmer drives me absolutely crazy), but I contour pretty much every day. If I’m wearing anything at all on my face, chances are, I’ve also contoured!

In terms of not getting to mix it up with products — says who? 😉 I use whatever I feel like using, and with my skintone, I tend to reach for matte eyeshadows rather than actual contouring powders. A lot of my greys and plums end up on my cheeks instead of my eyes (or on both!)

Lisa J Avatar

I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of contouring on a daily basis, but if I’m going somewhere where a lot of pictures will be taken or something, I’ll add the step to my makeup. I think it looks a bit odd in real life, but in photos it definitely is worth the effort…as long as it’s BLENDED WELL…LOL! Highlighting on the other hand is a step I never skip. It makes such a difference both in person and in photos! Everyone can benefit from a good highlighter IMO. My all time favorite is Dior’s Amber Diamond…expensive, but lasts forever!

Lately, however, I’ve really been loving the effect of Becca’s Skin Perfector. It’s gorgeous and you get a ton in the package! It gives a VERY dewy glow, which some may not like, but I love! It can be used on top of makeup, too, instead of mixed in with foundation or as a base for a more subtle glow. It’s quickly becoming my new favorite!

xamyx Avatar

The “planes” of my cheeks are on the smaller side, so blush can look a bit odd on me, and often takes more time than I care to put into it. Contouring & highlighting, however, are just second nature for me when it comes to application, and my facial structure lends itself naturally to both.

For everyday application, I tend to go for more natural shades. I use NARS Zen in the hollows & blend upward into the highlight, typically NARS Nico. The combination of the two also adds a natural warmth to complexion, and just looks more natural. I’m still looking for an HG for more intense looks, though.

JEN Avatar

I LOVE highlighting but not so much contouring. I highlight everyday but contouring I save for special occasions or for those events that include a lot of photography. Highlighting to me is more fool proof and it looks natural with everyday makeup. Contouring can look really made up to me and I don’t like that for everyday looks.


“Is it necessary?”
I love contouring and highlighting but I wouldn’t say it is necessary. For me blush is much more necessary for adding colour and giving definition.

“Does one matter more than the other?”
Contouring is great for pale skintones for adding colour and for rounder faces as it slims the face and can create higher cheekbones. Highlighting looks great on darker skintones and contouring on paler skintones.

Jennie Avatar

the most I do is highlight my brow bone, lol. So, no. I’m very pale and I always feel like contouring shows up on me too much. I can never not see it as obvious, but I don’t feel like I need it that badly anyway.

Joni Avatar

I love highlighting but not contouring. I have really flat cheekbones, but my face is too thin to contour them without looking bad. So I rely on highlighting to add shape and make my face look less slim.

Jasmine Avatar

I hope someone can help me since I’ve been thinking about contouring. I don’t know what shade to use for my skin tone! (NC37) Any help would be appreciated.

Miss J Avatar

I would try something like MAC Sculpting Powder in Shadowy. You could try Sculpt, but it might be too light. You could also try Benefit Hoola Bronzer, which I know a lot of people love. If you’d want to try a cream product, you could choose a concealer or foundation that’s 2-3 shades than your regular foundation.

Liz Avatar

I usually only highlight and contour when I’m going out with either my friends and/or my husband. Maybe one or twice a week, I’ll throw on a little highlighter if I’m wearing a matte blush.

Tori Avatar

I have pretty oily skin and live in a humid climate. Plus I have a couple of open pores along my cheeks. They’re not really obvious unless my face becomes shiny though but this combination usually guarantees that unless I pull out all the stops – careful monitoring of how much moisturiser and sunscreen I use, application of foundation and setting with powder (necessary because I tend towards powder highlight formulations) – highlighter has a tendency to highlight (pun intended) my flaws as time goes on but doesn’t hugely upgrade the way my face looks in the first place. Certainly not enough to warrant the song and dance I have to go through on a consistent basis.

And my cheekbones go in at a slight angle by the sides anyway, creating a wee bit of shadow so subtle contouring (which is always my goal) is kind of superfluous, at least when I look at myself in the mirror. I don’t take many pictures so maybe I’d change my mind if I did. This is not to say that I have perfect cheekbones but I have a heart-shaped face that does not really reap the benes of slight contouring and it’s so easy to go overboard. That and I need to brush up on contouring skills.

In short, I see the tremendous effect that contouring can have on other people’s facial structure but for me, it takes so much time and effort with not-so-amazing results.

I did buy notorious but I see it as what could possibly be the world’s largest taupe eyeshadow. I love to use it to create an illusion of a deeper eye crease, because I am Asian and have hooded eyes so it’s a great no-makeup look for me.

Veronica Avatar

Contouring is, hmm…like, I get the appeal of it, but I actually think the people who look best contoured are people who already have…contours? i.e. the high cheek bones, the structured face, etc. If that makes any sense. I mean, it’s a great look in photos, but I’ve never quite cottoned to the look on faces like mine, which are rounder and less structured. Additionally, it’s hard to find contour powders that work on my skin tone, which is fair and cooler toned, so I find a lot of them appear too brown or orange-toned on me. I’m hoping somebody dupes Chanel’s Notorious because I’d be curious to see how a grey works for my skin tone.

Highlighting, on the other hand, I do fairly regularly because it’s less time-consuming and easier. Just a touch of sparkle on my cheekbones, the bridge of my nose, the center of my forehead and my chin, and voila! A glowing face. I routinely get complimented when I wear NARS Copacabana or Albatross out. 😀

Miss J Avatar

Veronica, you could try something like MAC Quarry Eyeshadow to contour. I wouldn’t call it a dupe for the Chanel product, but it’s a grey-taupe with a hint of purple/mauve. I think it would work similarly, and it’s a lot cheaper than Notorious! 🙂

Kay Avatar

For any girl that feels self conscious about their round face or baby face, contouring should be your best friend. I have good cheekbones, but my face and chin can be a little fleshy at times, so contouring is a basic step to help emphasize the good and make me look slimmer. My gripe is that they need some good drugstore contouring creams and powders, not bronzers. Nothing gets on my nerves more than the orange stripe look (except the obvious foundation line at the jaw from using the wrong color foundation and not blending properly). As for highlighting, I do that daily too.

donna Avatar

I always contour, just because it’s so easy with my face shape and I love the way it makes my cheekbones look. My face is already quite structured but I like to enhance that feature by doing contour, highlight and blush everyday. it only takes me like 3 minutes more and the effect is just so pretty! I always get compliments on how slim my face looks and I love that since I have lost a lot of weight.

Chiara Avatar

I use a highlighter on a daily base, but I have to admit I rarely reach for contouring products. The main reason for that is because I am quite pale and it is hard to find a cooler toned contouring powder. I’ve tried Chanel Notorious … but no :/

Alley Cat Avatar

I have a serious case of round face, and for me not to look like the moon placed on top of a human body, contouring is a must. I use a matte bronzer (mostly Elf’s Cool bronzer or NYX Matte bronzer in Dark Tan, which are both great for medium-dark skin tones) to make my cheekbones pop out a bit, to make my square jaws less prominent, and to add a bit of bridge to my nose.

I do highlight, but not too much, and never with shimmery, sparkly stuff. There are days when I think that I should sometimes be bold enough to try out highlighting with NARS Albatross or Elf’s Gotta Glow, but I always get cold feet every time I’m on the verge of hitting the Buy button. Heh.

dtan0914 Avatar

Both are necessary for me because both my face and nose are fairly round/big and contouring is necessary to sculpt so that it looks like I have shape! For lazy days I don’t always contour my face, but ALWAYS have to contour my nose. I use highlighter (especially on my nose) because my nose contour looks harsh without the softness of the highlighter.

blueraccoon Avatar

I don’t really do either, but I have a surprisingly large collection of highlighters I keep meaning to experiment with. (I am determined to use the Chantecaille one, although I may use it lightly as more of an all-over powder.) I don’t know about contouring though; I’m afraid I’d get it wrong and end up with brown stripes!

charlotte Avatar

I contour every day, and highlight on special occasions. I have rather fair skin so highlighting does not pack the “punch” for me that it can for those with a more medium to dark skin tone. I actually prefer creme products, but have had a difficult time finding the right tone for my skin, so I normally use powder. My all time favorite is a Revlon mineral marblized bronzer I received in a giveaway on YT, which of course was discontinued by the time I got it and realized I loved it. I’ve tried dozens of other products and can’t quite find a dupe. I like Milani, Rimmel, and NYC.. which I find pretty much interchangeable. Almay also has a really nice one that no one ever talks about. I think my next purchase may be a dark shade of Loreal True Match face powder.. they have a very good selection of warm/neutral/cool tones and I find the blush in my shade (W2) to be very natural on my skin.

Sunny Avatar

Have you ever tried contouring with graftobian creme foundations? I bought a palette for a really inexpensive price, and I use it for foundation, contouring and highlighting and I blend it all into my skin with a wet sponge. I love how subtle and natural it is, but still makes me look more lively, I really recommend it especially if you hav dry skin.

Christina Avatar

I have a pale, round face. I’m still getting comfortable with contouring, as most powders look too unnatural. In the mean time, I have much more fun with experimenting with different highlighters.

Kara Avatar

During the workweek I only wear BB cream but still do my undereye forehead and chin areas. Started practicing with contouring but definitely more when taking pics if anything.

Mietta Avatar

LOVE contouring. I have a fringe at the moment but if I tied my hair back or when its longer and I sweep it to the side I ALWAYS have to contour the sides of my forehead. My hairline looks like one of those receding hairlines that men get and adding in shadows makes it look SOOOO much better!! Highlighting is one of my favourite things to do for the office. I love a bit of sparkle so this way I add some cheer into my otherwise neutral work-makeup. 🙂

Frckls Avatar

Being asian with square jaw keeps making people think I weigh more than I actually am, when they haven’t seen my body. Easy to say, I love contouring!
I also love highlighting and do both on daily basis. Subtly daytime, a bit more have-handed at night.

Oh. And when I don’t contour, I’m almost always asked for ID when buying alcohols. I’m 24 and the age limit to buy alcohols is 16!!

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