The idea of contouring may conjure images of a Robert Palmer video, but the concept has come a long way since the decade of excess. These days, it’s a technique that you can really use in everyday life to transform your look without anyone being the wiser to the magic. (Kourtney Kardashian told us it’s the one thing she never skips when rushing out the door.)
“Highlighting and shading can be real game changers when it comes to playing up your favorite feature, or to make other areas that you’re less confident about less noticeable,” says Jamie Kern Lima, founder of It Cosmetics. Leading beauty brands are making it even easier with goof-proof products that blend easily and work beautifully. Here’s how to highlight and contour specific areas, with our picks that make it a breeze.
“For a lifted, well-rested look, don’t go under the knife—go under the illuminizer!” says Kern Lima. Applying a sheer cream illuminator along the tops of cheekbones fills the face with youthful light, and also adds a flattering dewiness to dry and aging skin types. Just be sure to skip intense shimmer on this part of the face, warns Kern Lima—you’ll look more sweaty than revived.
Tighten Your Jawline
“Whenever you want to downplay a feature like a double chin, simply apply a matte bronzer to the area to absorb light and minimize it,” advises Kern Lima. Tarte’s chubby contour stick comes with a double-sided brush that makes blending facial areas a cinch. First draw a line directly on the jaw edge, and use the short brush to blur the line. Then flawlessly blend it all in with the large angled brush.
Make Cheekbones Pop
Even the round-faced among us can enjoy some high cheekbone drama. “I like to brush the Radiant Light shade in Hourglass’s Ambient Lighting Palette starting where the ear meets the cheekbone, and down into the hollows to accentuate bone structure,” says makeup artist Moani Lee for Hourglass. Not sure where your hollows are? Just make a fish face, and blend right below where your cheekbones jut out. Then use the lightest shade on the top ridge of cheekbones.
Plump Up Lips
To work your inner Jolie, try this red carpet tip from Lee. Apply your favorite bold lipstick hue, and then dab an illuminator on the center bottom lip and on the top lip at the Cupid’s bow. Then apply a second coat of lip color to marry it all together. Try Make’s Skin Illuminator for a soft pearlescent glimmer; plus, we love that 33 percent of all sales from this link goes to supporting the cooperative movement.
The Strapless Sculpt
When showing off your arms and décolleté, celebrity makeup artist Andrew Sotomayor suggests sweeping illuminator across cheekbones and collar bones, while applying bronzer to the outside of shoulders and arms. “This mimics how a natural tan comes out slightly deeper where the sun hits most, and adds a more sculpted effect,” he explains. Bare Escentuals’ starburst of highlight and contour shades is formulated to glow on both face and body—and comes with a brush.
Lift A Feature
Benefit Fine-One-One, $30
“Simply applying highlighter right on an area you want to lift will draw your eye to the feature, and make it stand up and out,” says Kern Lima. Try slicking Benefit’s sheer brightening Fine-One-One stick on lips, cheeks and eyes to instantly lift these areas. The all-in-one coral pink flush is infused with illuminator that adds a hint of color, too.
Slim Your Nose
Using a small eyeshadow brush, sweep bronzer along both sides of the bridge of your nose and a highlighter down the center—and blend, blend, blend. “The mix of the two shades creates the illusion of a slimmer nose,” says Moani. Try Clarins brush-on illuminator, which comes in three shades, and Dr. Hauschka bronzer, a matte-finish silk powder that melts undetectably into skin.
Brighten Tired Eyes
Blend illuminating powder on the inner corner of eyes, tops of cheekbones, and under the brow bone to fake eight hours of slumber. “The combination of all three areas will lift and open up the eyes to soften any signs of fatigue or lack of sleep,” says Moani. Giorgio Armani’s limited edition palette is an asymmetrical mélange of highlighting hues that wake up and brighten the face.
Highlight your eye color. Flaunt your body shape. Harness your confidence. Take our quizzes to better know yourself and get science-based, individualized advice to embrace your true beauty.
See how your BMI and waist-to-hip ratio is affecting your beauty and health.Take Quiz
Great sex does more than blow your mind—it's good for your heart, your head and your beauty.Take Quiz
Define your curves and discover the best ways to eat, exercise and dress for your figure.Take Quiz
If shopping for eye makeup is one big guessing game, find your best colors here.Take Quiz