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Contouring, Shaping, and Highlighting - What Does It All Mean?

*Post originally written by Olivia J on The Unknown Beauty Blog. If you read this post elsewhere, it has been stolen.

In today's world and today's vast array of makeup, we all want to experiment with everything possible.  Hell, I did and I didn't have the variety most young people have today.  In fact, my first lesson in contouring occurred when I made mud pies as a little girl.  I had mud rubbed on my cheek and wiped it off! Voila, I looked contoured.  In fact, I was actually impressed at how my chubby cheek (notice only one side was done) looked slimmer.  I guess this made my teenage years obsessed with finding out how to reshape my face.

Fast forward.  Well, I don't do it much anymore, but I see many young people in the malls with their face plastered up.  I just want to shake them and say, "Where the hell is the red carpet in this mall?" 

This brings me to the three makeup facial reconstruction techniques: Contouring, Shaping, and Highlighting.  All three look great when great calculated lighting (by a gaffer) is set up.  In just regular lighting; it just looks like makeup.  But does this mean it shouldn't be done in real life? Well, if you don't have time, don't do it.  If you do have time, make sure you have about an hour of your life to spend.  And, if you do want to do it but still look like yourself, there are shortcuts and methods.

Check out: Sculpting the Different Face Shapes


Contouring to me is something to do minimally, especially in this day and age of HD.  Our eyes are more focused and able to differentiate color more today than before.  Therefore, contouring which is actually taking a color like taupe to create a shadow, can look like a stripe of mud. 

The taupe shadow is to reshape the face or to create the illusion of a different shape that really isn't there.  On the eyes the illusion is easier but on the entire face it can be easily seen and judged.  It also divides different planes of the face from others for example the nose from the face, the jawline from the neck.

Check out: What is Bronzer Used For?

So, where do I contour?  Just on the sides of the nose to differentiate the protrusion on the face from the rest.  Also, optionally, lightly on the hollow of the cheeks (but I mostly skip this if I am shaping my face.  Another place would be the jawline.  That's about it.

To use contouring to hide excess flesh is just coloring excess flesh.  If you really want to lose a few pounds on the jawline, I suggest Art Harding's Face Lift and Neck Lift tape.

*Pictures from Frendsbeauty.com

However, with the elastic and the clips, those are easily seen if you don't wear a wig to hide them.  I say go straight for the tape like 3M Blenderm Medical Tape and just tape your face!


Shaping the face which is probably now used to describe contouring, means something completely different to me.  I think of shaping as framing the face.  Basically, enclosing the colors around the eyes, cheeks, and lips from your hair and neck. 

For this, I use bronzer because it is more of tint as opposed to an opaque powder which is used for contouring. 


Highlighting is self-explanatory and it is usually meant to bring forward certain parts of the face.  After years of doing the basic way which I have featured in the tutorials on Into the Palette, I realize that highlighting is really one of the most important product for the face.  Highlighting, when done correctly and well can really enhance the face and look natural.

For highlighting, I prefer using a cream product because it just looks more natural.  I usually use a lighter colored concealer.

Remember, any makeup you apply will be seen by people in just average lighting.  The massively heavy highlighting and contouring you see in photography, film, and red carpet is pretty thick.



Read by the Intelligent! Uncredited, copied, and plagiarized by the idiots!
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