Makeup application jargon can sometimes sound so technical that you end up confused whether it’s an actual makeup term or something that’s been made up to just sound intriguing. This series on hollifeblog focuses on defining these terms in the simplest of ways!

How to Contour and Highlight - Makeup Dictionary: Contouring -

Contouring is something that Kim Kardashian-West most likely takes sole credit for, but people were chiseling out their cheekbones long before Kim K flew into popularity. And that’s exactly what contouring is – carving out your face with makeup to create a chiseled look. The aim with contouring is to create shadows on your face to give the illusion of a slimmer face and more defined cheekbones and you can also highlight other parts of your face to brighten and add further definition. Some contour kits come with a highlight too (either shimmer or matte), but some do not.

Contour can either be cream or powder; Cream contours can go under foundation for a very subtle look or over foundation for something less subtle. Powder contour goes over the top of your foundation and setting powder.

It depends on your skin tone, but most people suit a cool-toned contour shade, as it’s more shadow-like than a warm colour and won’t therefore make your face look muddy or orange. You can use many different brush types to contour with, including an angled brush, fan brush or small tapered brush – it all depends on your personal preference and how the product works with each brush. Personally, I like to contour with the Olivia Hale contouring brush as it’s small enough to get a thin line but blends product out really easy to look more natural. Cream contour can be blended out with a sponge or brush.


How to Contour - face chart with highlight, matte highlight and contour lines

brown = contour / cream = matte highlight / lilac = shimmer highlight

Above is a chart of where to apply contour. A lot of people only apply contour under their cheekbones, so don’t feel like you have to do everything this picture says to do, but use it as a guide and experiment until you find a method that works for you.

A few tips to make your contour the best it can be:

  • Blend, blend, blend!!
  • Less is more – you can always add more but it’s difficult to take away.
  • Go over harsh lines with your normal powder brush to tone things down.
  • Look at different face charts for contouring for your face shape.
  • Place your contour slightly higher to elongate your face.
  • Practice makes perfect – don’t expect to be Kylie Jenner overnight!

And here’s some contour kits I found that are perfect for beginners!:

Seventeen Define + Conquer £5.99 - Fair and Medium shades.jpg

As with any makeup technique, contouring requires practice. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t look as instagram-esque as you thought you might! Just keep trying and enjoy the process of learning (and remember, most instagram pics are very edited).


  1. I’ve just started trying contouring after finally finding a contour that actually works for my skin tone. Still very much a beginner, think I’ll have to refer back to this post if I get confused again, lol!


  2. (also I don’t have an email list, it’s down to the use to subscribe to whoever they want. So you must have subscribed at some point. Just click ‘unsubscribe’ in your emails.)


  3. Hi, can you possibly remove me from your email list? I tried to change the settings in WordPress but it isn’t even showing that I’m following you.


    Sent from my iPhone



    • Unfortunately I don’t think I can change that setting, it’s to do with who you’ve signed up with or not – I can’t control who gets the emails and who doesn’t!


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