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Beauty Breakdown - Corrective Contouring & Highlighting.

30 July 2013
Last week I discussed face shapes (post here) and I told you that knowing your face shape can be important for product placement, this week I'm going to talk about how you can enhance your face shape with contouring and highlighting.


I'm going to use the term 'corrective techniques' a few times in this post. I don't want people to feel like there is anything wrong, different or weird about their face shapes when they read this, it is purely a technical term that I was trained to recognise as a step in makeup application. As a makeup artist it is my job to enhance the face of the person sitting in my chair and step one is always asking what a client likes and doesn't like, many times I hear 'I want beautiful cheek bones', 'My jaw is very square and I wish it looked softer' or 'I think my forehead is too large/small'. This is where these corrective techniques come in to play, with a little know-how on product placement you can help to achieve these things.

Traditionally speaking the oval face shape is considered the most desirable or perfect, I know, I know.. No one is perfect, everyone is beautiful. I'm not picking favourites, I'm just talking from a technical point of view. Let me explain; The oval face shape is beautifully proportioned and generally can have any makeup techniques applied without having to use 'tricks' to ensure we aren't dragging the face down, making it look older or making features look disproportionate. When we use corrective techniques on face shapes that aren't oval we are trying to create the appearance of an oval face, therefore making makeup application easier.

So the first step is knowing your face shape, if you're an oval you can move on and read something else or go play with your perfect face, either way, nothing to see here. To determine how we will shade and highlight the face we play the 'Oval in Your Face Shape Game' if you don't like contouring you might hate this game but I will teach you the rules and you can decide if you want to play by them or your own.

Rule 1 - Take your face shape and draw an oval in/over it... or just refer to the picture below (so much easier when someone takes care of it for you. You're welcome).

Rule 2 - Where your shape falls outside the lines of the oval you contour.

Rule 3 - Where your shape falls inside the lines of the oval you highlight.


Grey areas are where we use a contour colour.
Yellow areas are where we apply a highlight.


Oval - No need to do anything, if you want sky high cheekbones you can of course do the traditional hollows of the cheek shading and cheek bone highlighting.

Square - Correct by shading the jaw line and temples (when shading the temples bring the product slighlty up on to your forhead along the hair line). This will help to make the face appear slimmer.

Rectangle/Oblong - Shade the forehead (around the hairline) and chin (underneath, very softly blending up on to the face). This will help to shorten the appearance of a long face. Highlight the jawbone and temples if your face is also quite slim. Blush should be applied along the cheek bones coming up towards the temples.

Heart - Highlight the angles of the jawbone and chin (if your chin is particularly pointed you can add some contour to the very tip). Contour the outer edges of the forehead, blending the product down to your temples. The center of the forehead usually doesn't need to be highlighted. Blush should be applied just below the cheek bones and blended out towards the temples.

Round - Highlight the central area to create a lengthening appearance (between eye brows, down the nose, cupids bow and chin). After highlighting if the desired affect isn't achieved contouring can be applied around the angle of the jaw and temples.

Triangle/Pear - Highlight the forehead and around the temples and contour the jaw line.

Inverted Triangle - Contour the tip of the chin and highlight the jaw line. Contour the forehead, blending down on to the temples if necessary.

Diamond - Contour the tip of the chin and the forehead, highlight the temples and outer law lines. Blush should be applied to the center of the cheekbones and this final step is what will help to complete the oval appearance.

When it comes to what products to use it's all personal preference but ultimately your contour should be a dark brown and your highlight should be very fair to white. I don't recommend using something with shimmer in it and I will explain why in just a moment.

Ben Nye Creme Stick in White and Warm Brown.
As you can see my white stick is a favourite for highlighting whereas I prefer a powder for contouring.

Cream products like the Ben Nye contour and highlight sticks pictured above can be applied under or over foundation. They can be applied to the area directly with the edge of the stick or smoothed on with a finger and blended out again with fingers or a brush. I highly recommend doing this under foundation as I find the result to be a more seamless finish.

Powder products are always applied over foundation. A matte bronzer can be used but take care to ensure that it doesn't have a heavy orange base, matte white eye shadow is a good highlight and it's something most people already own. It is highly recommended that you set any cream or liquid foundations with a translucent powder before applying your highlight or contour colours as they can grab and be so difficult to blend properly resulting in a patchy appearance.

Bronzing powders that contain shimmer should not be used as a contour colour, the reflective properties defeat the purpose of  these corrective techniques, this also applies for shimmery highlights. If you like to use a bronzer or highlight that contains shimmer these should be used after all of the corrective techniques have been completed. A shimmery bronzer can be applied (sparingly!) all over for the glow that they offer and a shimmer highlight should be applied usually to the cheek bones, cupids bow and bridge of the nose for extra dimension. Using these products as a traditional highlight or contour will generally have you sparkling like a disco ball under bright lights and can also make the face appear sweaty.

What are your favourite highlighting and contouring products? Do you think you'll try out any of these techniques to see how it changes your look?

All Products were purchased by myself and I'm in no way affiliated with any of the companies mentioned unless otherwise stated. Links provided are for shopping examples only, I have personally purchased from some (not all) of these online stores but I highly recommend researching before buying.

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2 comments on "Beauty Breakdown - Corrective Contouring & Highlighting."
  1. Hello I know this post is very old but I was wondering if you were based in the UK, because I really want the Ben Nye contouring sticks but I'm not sure where to get them from and was wondering if you had any advice? Thank you Pheebs

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    1. Hello Pheebs :)

      Sorry for the delay in my reply, I was off on a little holiday. Unfortunately I don't know of any place that definitely stocks the Ben Nye Sticks in the UK (I'm in Australia) but my recommendation would be Amazon, try the UK, American and Australian sites because there is bound to be someone who stocks them and will deliver to you.

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