Contour and Highlight like a Pro: A Step-By-Step Guide

Written by MaryJo Reeves, L.E., and Brenda Linday, L.E., L.E.I

Achieving the perfect makeup application is easier than it seems. To achieve perfection, understanding the components of facial structure is essential. This guide will answer questions like:

 

  • How do I create a “beat face” using contouring and “lit” highlighting?
  • What do facial shapes differ?
  • Why is contouring important?
  • What is the correct way to highlight?
  • How do I enhance my client’s eyes using contouring?
  • How do I shape eyebrows correctly?
  • How can I enhance lip shape?

 

After mastering the basics, current trends that deliver the perfect look will also be examined.

 

FACIAL SHAPES

 

There are nine primary facial shapes, with variations of each. Contouring is used to fade features, while highlighting accentuates them.

 

Oval

 

The ideal face shape – and the most symmetric – is the oval. The oval can be divided into thirds; its width is three-fourths of its length and the eyes have a full eye width in between. Contouring is done very lightly on the sides of the nose, sides of the forehead, and very lightly under the cheekbones, if definition is desired. Highlight the center of the forehead, then down the nose and center of the chin. Celebrities with oval faces include Salma Hayek, Julianne Moore, Tina Fey, Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and Jessica Alba.

 

Round

 

A round or full face is circular in appearance. It is short and wide, displaying a rounded hairline and chin. With a goal to slim the fuller areas, contour the outside perimeter from the hairline to the temples and the cheekbones to the jawline. Highlight the center of the forehead, bridge of the nose, and the chin. Celebrities with round faces include Beyoncé, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mila Kunis, Queen Latifah, Katie Couric, and Penélope Cruz.

 

Triangle/Pear

 

A narrower forehead with a wide jaw defines this facial shape. Areas to contour include the sides of the face, below the cheeks, and the jawline. Highlight the forehead, bridge of the nose, and tip of the chin. Celebrities with triangular/pear-shaped faces include Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Aniston, Kelly Osbourne, Minnie Driver, Selena Gomez, and Mariska Hargitay.

 

Square

 

This facial shape is as long as it is wide, with a broad forehead and hairline, accompanied by a broad square jawline. It can look masculine and is often very angular. Contour along the four corners and highlight down the center of the face. Celebrities with square faces include Rihanna, Emily Deschanel, Lady Gaga, Lucy Liu, Paris Hilton, and Natalie Portman.

 

Rectangular

 

The rectangular-shaped face is truly just a long square; they are usually one and a half times longer than they are wide. Follow the rules for a square (focusing on the four corners), except do not highlight the forehead or chin. Celebrities with rectangular faces include Jessica Simpson, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Demi Moore, and Kristen Wiig.

 

Diamond

 

A diamond-shaped face is the widest at the temples. The goal is to draw attention to the center of the face and away from the angular edges. Contour the sides of the forehead, then the nose, below the cheekbone, and along the upper jawline. Highlight the upper forehead, upper cheeks, the nose, and the tip of the chin. Celebrities with diamond-shaped faces include Viola Davis, Yvette Nicole Brown, Tyra Banks, Shilpa Shetty, and Serena Williams.

 

Oblong

 

The oblong shape is an elongated oval, being longer than wide. To achieve a symmetrical appearance, contour the sides of the face and the sides of the nose. For desired definition, add the area under the cheekbone. Shorten the length by contouring at the base of the chin. Highlight the center of the forehead, top of the nose, and the chin. Celebrities with oblong-shaped faces include Liv Tyler, Victoria Beckham, Kim Kardashian, Meryl Streep, Drew Barrymore, Raquel Welch, Courtney Cox, and Iman.

 

Inverted Triangle/Pear Face

 

A narrower chin defines this facial shape, with a broad forehead. Areas to contour include the sides of the forehead and sides of the face, below the cheeks. Highlight the bridge of the nose, then the tip and sides of the chin. Celebrities with inverted triangle/pear-shaped faces include Chloë Moretz, Reese Witherspoon, Julianne Hough, Carey Mulligan, Jennifer Love-Hewitt, and Viktoria Beckham.

 

Heart

 

The heart-shaped face has full cheeks and forehead, with a narrow chin. Contour the sides of the forehead and highlight along the center of the face. Celebrities with a heart-shaped face are Halle Berry, Miley Cyrus, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Angelica Bassett, and Scarlett Johansson (long heart); and Eva Longoria and Ashley Olsen (round hearts).

 

Facial Shape Variations

 

The oval shaped face is considered the classic beauty. The goal is to take any shaped face and use application techniques to achieve the illusion of an oval frame and a flattering look for the client.

 

Professionals will inevitably encounter clients with a mixture of facial shapes. They may become challenged by needing to contour a squart (square and heart); a roumond (round and diamond-tipped chin); roval (round and oval); or even a squoval. The goal in these cases remains the same: to look at each “imperfection” and apply contour and highlights to deliver the illusion of the oval shape.

 

ON TO THE EYES

 

Eye shape and proper contouring is crucial to the finished look, as the eyes are the window to the soul. The eyes express mood, temperament, and how an individual is perceived intellectually. The right contouring on the eyes can make or break the all-important first impression. Common eye shapes are: upturned, close set, monolid (Asian), downturned, wide set, protruding or prominent, round, almond, and hooded.

 

Upturned: To achieve a symmetrical look for upturned eyes, like Lucy Liu’s, apply eyeliner and eyeshadow sweeping downward from the outer corners of the eye.

 

Close Set: Highlight below the browbone and inner eyelid to make close set eyes, like Michelle Obama’s, appear wider. Apply eyeliner at the middle of the eyelid and extend it further out than the eye in a straight line. Use a medium-colored base eyeshadow and shade a little farther out than the width of the eye in a full, rounded shape. Next, use a darker color and shade from the outside, on the top of the crease, to give it more contrast.

 

Monolid (Asian): A monolid means that there is no visible crease line below the eyebrow area, with a flat space without any folds when the eyes are open. Highlight the inner corners of the eye, going up and out to the center of the eyelid to create a symmetrical look for eyes like Sandra Oh’s. Next, use a medium shade going above the normal crease area from the outside of the eye, creating a rounded appearance. The dark eyeshadow should be applied in the same manner to define the shape. Do not go further than the center of the eye. Apply liner in a fine line that gets thicker towards the outside edges.

 

Downturned: For downturned eyes, like Rose Byrne’s, highlight below the browbone and the inner corners of the eye. For desired contrast, lightly apply a medium eyeshadow color above the eyelid. Lastly, contour using a darker color eyeshadow along the crease of the eye. For dimension, blend a dark eyeshadow from the outside, going towards the middle of the eye. After applying the eyeshadow, swipe on a thicker application of a deep-colored eyeliner. Start at the inner corners, extending to the outside edges, while sweeping upward.

 

Wide Set: The goal for wide set eyes like Michelle Pfeiffer’s is to draw them closer. This can be achieved by blending eyeshadow and eyeliner into the inner corners of the eye and eyeshadow to the bridge of the nose. Stay away from highlighters that will only accentuate the flaw.

 

Protruding or Prominent: For prominent eyes like La La Anthony’s, highlight under the browbone. Heavily shade with a medium color, especially in the crease of the eyelid. Use dark shades close to the eye, getting lighter towards the eyebrow. Apply eyeliner from the inner corners of the eye to the outside, to correct a bulging appearance.

 

Round: Apply eyeliner from the inner corners to the outside edge, ending in a cat eye, for round eyes like Katy Perry. Highlight the inner corners of the eyelid and under the browbone. For desired contrast, lightly apply a medium eyeshadow color above the eyelid. Lastly, contour using a darker color eyeshadow along the crease of the eye. For dimension, blend the eyeshadow from the outside, going towards the middle of the eye.

 

Almond Shaped: Almond-shaped eyes, like Lupita Nyong’o’s, are considered the perfect shape because they are the most symmetrical. For almond eyes, apply smudgy eyeliner from the inner corners of the eyes to the outside, ending in a cat eye. Merely highlighting the inner corners of the eye and below the browbone draws attention to the inner eye. For desired contrast, lightly apply a medium eyeshadow color above the eyelid. Lastly, contour using a neutral colored eyeshadow along the crease of the eye. For dimension, blend the eyeshadow from the outside, going towards the middle of the eye.

 

Hooded: Blake Lively’s hooded eyes have an extra layer of skin below the eyebrow that covers the crease, making the eyelid seem smaller. Highlighting is minimal, with a light eyeshadow only on the inner corners of the eyes. Next, apply a medium color to the hooded eyelid. Recede fleshy areas of the upper eyelids with medium shading in the inner eye. A dark contouring shade around the crease and outer edges of the upper eyelid give the illusion of a rounder eye. Extend the eyeliner further out to balance the look.

 

Deep Set: For deep-set eyes, like Julianne Moore’s, apply a bright eyeliner from the inner corners of the eyes to the outside. Merely highlighting the inner corners of the eye and below the browbone brings out a deep-set eye. Apply a light eyeshadow color above the eyelid. Lastly, if desired, contour using a darker color eyeshadow (but very lightly) along the crease of the eye. For dimension, blend the eyeshadow from the outside going towards the middle of the eye.

 

AND THE EYEBROWS HAVE IT!

 

The lack of eyebrows makes a face look almost alien-like. The client appears void of all expression. With illness, hormone imbalance, immune diseases, and chemotherapies, a client can lose eyebrows; showing them how to reshape and draw them on can be life-changing and a real self-confidence booster.

 

Common Eyebrow Shapes

 

Classic: The ultimate or perfectly shaped eyebrow has well-balanced arches with perfect symmetry, framing the eyes for a flattering appearance. (see perfect eyebrow shape diagram)

 

Thin and Sculpted: This shape can appear dramatic but make the eyes look close-set, mean, or angry.

 

Horizontal/Flat: Flat eyebrows, with a slight downward turn on the outer edge, give a sad or worried look.

 

Thin and High: These eyebrows always give a surprised look. Usually rounded, they look even narrower because they are so high above the natural brow line. Pamela Anderson rocked the look in the 80s, but that decade ended over 30 years ago.

 

Full: The current trend is towards a fuller eyebrow; however, if too full, the eyebrows accentuate their line.

 

Far Apart: Just as the name implies, the eyebrows are spaced too far apart. Aim for the width of one eye length between eyebrows.

 

Natural: This shape displays stray hairs without a definite line. Hairs that grow below the eyebrow line give the eye a closed in appearance.

 

Unibrow: Frida Kahlo was an artistic icon, but many agree that her unibrow was not a fashion statement. A unibrow can detract from beautiful eyes.

 

The Best Brow Shape to Compliment Facial Type

Brow shape can help a face appear more oval. Consider the following suggestions based on facial structure.

Facial Type

Brow Shaping Tip

Oval

The classic brow with a soft angle

Round

A higher arch tends to elongate a round face.

Oblong and Rectangular

Keep the arch minimal going towards a more horizontal look.

Pear/Triangle

Create a soft arch for a slightly flatter looking brow line.

Square

Create a sharp peak at the end of the arch to make a strong brow that can balance a square jawline.

Diamond

Create a slightly more rounded brow ending with curves.

Heart

A curve up towards the arch and on the tips softens a heart-shaped face.

 

 

LIP SHAPING FOR THE PERFECT POUT

 

Rarely does a woman have perfect lips. Even if she has a symmetrical shape, she may want to look more or less voluptuous. Interestingly enough, “voluptuous” is derived from the Latin word “voluptas,” meaning sensual pleasure and not shape at all.

 

Ideal Lips: The ideal lip shape is slightly fuller on the bottom or a one-to-one ratio, with a well-defined cupid’s bow.

 

Thin Lower Lip: Enhancing this shape is achieved by extending the lower lip below the natural vermillion with a pencil or lipliner to increase fullness. Fill with the client’s favorite lip shade.

 

Thin Upper Lip: This shape is easily corrected by extending the upper lip above the natural vermillion with a pencil or lipliner to increase fullness. Fill in with either a matching or contrasting shade.

 

Small Lips: Use a lip pencil or lipliner to trace around the entire lip vermillion creating a fuller, lusher appearance. Fill in with a shade slightly lighter than the lipliner to make the outline pop.

 

Oval Lips: Extend the outer edges slightly to create a more symmetrical appearance. Fill in with the client’s favorite shade.

 

Large Full Lips: To reduce overly luscious lips, cover the lips with foundation. Using the lipliner, trace inside the lip borders, then fill with the client’s favorite shade.

 

Downturned Lips: Extend the lipliner to the outer corners, slightly below the natural cupid’s bow, but above the lip vermilion. Fill with a complementary shade.

 

Sharp Lips: Add lipliner to extend and soften the angularity, then fill with a complementary shade.

 

Uneven Lips: Enhance the lips by adding lip pencil or lipliner above and below to create symmetry, then, add the client’s favorite shade.

 

Thin Lips: Similar to small lips, use a lip pencil or lipliner to trace around the entire lip vermillion creating a fuller, lusher appearance. If desired, trim slightly at the outer edges. Fill in with a shade slightly lighter than the lipliner to make the outline pop.

 

HIGHLIGHTING AND CONTOURING LINGO

 

New beauty trends pop up almost weekly – staying current with the latest lingo additions is a must.

 

Contouring uses shade to create dimension, add definition, or decrease fullness by fading pronounced features. Contour any areas where more definition is desired, like below the cheekbones, or to fade features like a high hairline, heavy jaw, or overly full face.

 

“Non-touring” is a soft, natural contour and highlight that creates a dewy, illuminated appearance. Kendal Jenner and Gigi Hadid have perfected non-touring according to celebrity makeup artist Renee Sanganoo. This form of contour is for those individuals that hate regular contouring and prefer an illuminated look. Products used are: primer (skin appropriate); BB cream or tinted moisturizer; concealer for any spots; and highlighter (pink for light tones, golden bronze for darker skin). Brush on highlighter above the cheekbones, under the browbone, down the bridge of the nose, and on the cupid’s bow.

 

Natural powder contour is an excellent option for oilier skin, using powder and bronzer, as they can be more natural looking. Bronzers also warm up a complexion.

 

Natural cream contour uses a concealer a few shades darker than the natural skin tone; this is a great option for dry and mature skin types.

 

Highlighting uses light to draw attention to specific facial features. Highlight all areas that the client would like to stand out, including the bridge of the nose, the chin, the browbone, and tops of the cheekbones.

 

Strobing is ultra-highlighted skin to achieve a shimmering, luminescent highlight. Highlights are layered until the desired look is reached; no dark shades are used. Several celebrities, including Jennifer Lopez, use this technique.

 

Matte powder highlight, preferred by those with oily skin, is great for a subtle highlight.

 

Cream highlight gives the complexion a luminous glow using a concealer a few shades lighter than the complexion.

 

Once the basics are mastered, help clients achieve the best makeup looks by keeping these tips in mind. Always apply all makeup in natural light near a window or using a lighted makeup mirror. Draw (suck) in the cheeks to locate the cheekbones, then use the line as a guide. For jawline contour, apply the contouring medium just under the curve of the jaw for a shadow-like effect. Begin with a light application, then build upon it. Match the base foundation color to the natural skin tone to avoid a dark face with a light neck. Always start with a clean pallet – a freshly cleansed and moisturized face, clean application tools, and makeup that has not passed its prime. Finish makeup application with a setting spray or powder to have the perfect “beat face look” with “lit” contouring and highlighting that lasts throughout the day and night.

 

MaryJo Reeves, L.E., national education manager at Obagi Medical Products, is a beauty industry leader, aesthetician, and education manager with over 14 years' experience in the medical aesthetic field. She graduated from Northern Arizona University with a bachelor's degree in advertising. Reeves shares her passion for clinical education and business development with fellow aestheticians, physicians, and skin health providers nationwide. She also acts as a facilitator and trainer at industry events across the country. As a published author, her works include "Primp Queen Fairy Tales - We're Just Like Everyone Else Only Prettier" and "Primp Queen Career Girls - We'll Have the Business Women's Special." This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Brenda Linday, L.E., L.E.I., owner of Linday Aesthetic Consulting, is a licensed aesthetician, licensed aesthetic instructor, and certified aesthetic consultant with over 15 years’ experience in the medical aesthetic industry. Linday serves as a consultant for medical and aesthetic companies desiring to build strong sales and education teams. She develops clinical and sales education content, and trains sales and educational teams, clinicians, physicians, and distributors around the world. Linday is also a featured author in many industry publications. Her passion is sharing her wealth of knowledge with other like-minded professionals who believe that education is the key to building lasting relationships with clients, making each clinician more successful by increasing client satisfaction. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or @lindayconsult

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