Want that chiselled supermodel look? You need to master the art of highlighting and contouring. To get started, you need the perfect concealer and just a few other items.
Sculpting your face with makeup isn’t as hard you might think! All you need are the right tools and a few guidelines. Ready to get started? Here’s how.
- The Tools
- The Technique
- 1. Create a Base
- 2. Choose the Right Product and Brush
- 3. Map Out Your Face
- 4. Build Then Buff
- 5. Highlight
- Choosing the Right Contour Color for Your Skin Tone
- ✨Concealer Tip #1: Draw your under-eye concealer in a triangle
- ✨Concealer Tip #2: Apply your foundation first
- ✨Concealer Tip #3: Prime your eyelids with concealer
- ✨Concealer Tip #4: Cover zits with green concealer
- ✨Concealer Tip #5: Use concealer on your body
- ✨Concealer Tip #6: Swap your concealer for foundation in a pinch
- ✨Concealer Tip #7: Highlight your lids with concealer
- ✨Concealer Tip #8: Dab concealer over under-eye circles
- ✨Concealer Tip #9: Load up on color-correcting formulas
- ✨Concealer Tip #10: Combine eye cream, highlighter, and concealer to mask puffy eyes
- ✨Concealer Tip #11: Blot your concealer to prevent caking and creasing
- ✨Concealer Tip #12: Hide eyeliner mistakes with concealer
- ✨Concealer Tip #13: Line your lips with concealer
- ✨Concealer Tip #14: Plump your lips with concealer
- ✨Concealer Tip #15: Reshape your lips with concealer
- ✨Concealer Tip #16: Line your brows with concealer
- ✨Concealer Tip #17: Contour with two shades of concealer
- ✨Concealer Tip #18: Line your collarbone with concealer
- ✨Concealer Tip #19: Mix your moisturizer with concealer
- ✨Concealer Tip #20: Play around with different formulas
- First things first: What concealers are best for this technique?
- 4 Cool Ways to Use Concealer for Face Contouring
- How to Contour and Highlight Your Face with Concealer
Concealer: You want a concealer that’s approximately two shades lighter than your skin tone. For an easy fix, makeup artists love Napoleon Perdis Pro Palette Concealer. This palette gives you three shades, so you can highlight as well as cover dark under-eye circles and blemishes.
Matte foundation: It’s really easy to go too dark and create an unnatural look with bronzer. For a foolproof contouring product, opt for matte foundation. BECCA Ever-Matte Shine Proof Foundation is a top pick. This product’s natural finish helps create the illusion of shadow, and it come in a great range of shades.
Prefer an all-in-one kit? We love the Laura Mercier Flawless Contouring Palette. With three matte creams for shading and two highlighting creams, you can gradually build up the light and dark tones, so your face sculpting never looks overdone.
1. Grab your dark foundation. Trace the area alongside your temples. If you want to minimise a large forehead, create a wide line next to your forehead.
2. Draw a line under your cheekbones. Even if your bones aren’t pronounced, you’ll be able to feel them. Create a thick line of dark foundation in the hollow part of you cheek.
3. Blend, blend, blend! Use a damp beauty blender to create a natural look.
4. Use your concealer to create a wide line in the middle of your forehead. Add a line down the bridge of your nose. Finally, create a small dot on your chin. Remember, less is more. You can always go back, but it’s a pain to start over. If you’re a newbie, work with a tiny bit at a time until you master the technique.
5. Use a damp beauty blender to blend in the concealer.
6. Use a fluffy makeup brush to add loose powder. We adore Laura Mercier Loose Setting Powder in Translucent. This step ensures everything is 100% blended and sets everything in place, so your hard work won’t wear off during the day.
Ever wondered how to contour like a pro? Thanks to the billions of ace makeup artists on YouTube, everyone’s becoming a bit more of a beauty expert these days. This is great news: Pro techniques are now available to everyone, which means we can all look Instagram-ready at every opportunity. But on the other hand, if you’re not paying careful attention (or you’re watching the wrong tutorial), things can go from pretty to pretty scary in a flash.
Contouring, a technique previously reserved for runway models and fancy photo shoots, is now becoming part of many people’s daily routines — thanks in part to celeb and Instagram makeup artists who share the same love for the chiseled look. Soooo, what is contouring, exactly? “Contouring is giving shape to an area of the face and enhancing the facial structure through makeup,” says Beau Nelson, Kristen Stewart’s longtime makeup artist. “It’s not supposed to be noticeable — just a subtle definition.”
So, how exactly are you supposed create the subtle illusion and not a full-on Instagram filtered face? Read on to learn how to contour your face and create a natural, pretty-looking result.
1. Create a Base
After you apply your foundation and concealer, brush on a light layer of translucent powder to your face to create a clean base so the contour can go on smoothly.
2. Choose the Right Product and Brush
“If you’re using powders to contour, you’ll get a more matte finish. If you use creams, the result will be more dewy,” says pro makeup artist Pati Dubroff, explaining that it’s best for beginners to start with creamy products, since they’re easy to blend and build.
No matter what formula you choose, however, it’s best to stick to matte finishes. “Always avoid shimmery products,” says Pati. “Contours are meant to be matte, while highlight is meant to have shimmer.”
Contouring isn’t a job for full, fluffy brushes. “Start with a smaller, fluffy eyeshadow brush so you have more precision,” Beau says. “You should buy two, one for contouring and one for highlighting.” Just about every makeup artist in the world swears by MAC 217 Blending Brush. Another great trick is to adapt a fan brush into your routine — E.L.F Cosmetics has a fantastic, low-priced option that’s great for feathering products into the hairline, under the jawline, and around the cheekbone for a precise, airbrushed finish. You also might want to check out E.L.F.’s affordable Blush Brush.
3. Map Out Your Face
When applying the contour itself, build pigment as you go and use your bone structure as a guide. Use circular motions to sweep color to the areas you want to look smaller or hollow out. The basic places for contouring include the area under the jawline, the sides of the temples, and the hollows of your cheekbones. The sides of the nose and the hairline are also areas people sometimes choose to contour.
4. Build Then Buff
If you have a lot of sharp lines from applying your color, Pati recommends using a clean cotton pad to remove excess product. “Use a regular foundation brush or a damp egg sponge and tap it into the contour to make sure there’s no demarcation,” Pati advises. In other words? You absolutely need to blend it in. “Don’t forget to add some happy color to the apple of the cheek and a bit of sheen to the cheekbones to further enhance the complexion.” Opt for a peachy-pink for a natural-looking flush (we like Tarte’s Amazonian Clay Blush in Peaceful), then add luminizer just at the top of the cheekbones, down the bridge of the nose, along your cupid’s bow, and a hint on the chin for super-fresh skin. Our longstanding favorite is RMS Living Luminzer, and both Pati and Beau suggested Kevyn Aucoin Celestial Powder in Candlelight.
Highlighting is a great complement to contouring. Where contouring basically darkens the areas of your face that are in shadow, highlighting lightens the areas that the light would naturally hit. Taking the extra step of highlighting enhances the overall effect of contouring. To highlight, take a clean brush and apply a light shade of color to the brow bone, the top of your cheekbones, the center of the forehead, the bridge of the nose, the center of your chin and the top of your cupid’s bow.
Choosing the Right Contour Color for Your Skin Tone
Now that you’ve got the basics of how to contour down, it’s time to choose the right color for your unique skin tone. This might seem like it goes without saying — but how many times have you seen someone walking around with the dreaded foundation line? With contouring, one shade most definitely does not fit all.
I’ll be honest with you: I used to think concealer was the most self-explanatory product in my makeup bag. Like—what more can you do than swipe it under your eyes or on top of your zits, right? Welp, wrong, ’cause apparently, concealer can do way more than hide your annoyances (spoiler: you can also use it on your eyelids, collarbones, and even your back). Ahead, I rounded up 20 game-changing concealer tips, tricks, and hacks that’ll pretty much change the way you apply your makeup (for real).
✨Concealer Tip #1: Draw your under-eye concealer in a triangle
The biggest mistake you’re probably making with your under-eye concealer? Not drawing it in an upside-down triangle. When you sweep your product directly under your eyes (i.e., right on top of your bags or dark spots), you’re actually emphasizing the area, not concealing it (especially if your shady spots extend way farther than your lower lash line).
An inverted triangle—think: the base should be under your eye, with the tip pointing toward your cheek—brightens up your entire face, regardless of how many hours of sleep you got. Try it out yourself with one of these top-rated concealers:
This Vegan Concealer Tarte Double Duty Beauty Shape Tape Contour Concealer ulta.com $27.00 This Long-Lasting Concealer MAC Studio Fix 24-Hour Liquid Concealer nordstrom.com $23.00 This Lightweight Concealer Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Instant Retouch Concealer sephora.com $26.00 This Hydrating Concealer Jouer Cosmetics Essential High Coverage Liquid Concealer sephora.com $22.00
✨Concealer Tip #2: Apply your foundation first
I’ve definitely learned this one the hard way, y’all, since concealer has been the first step in my makeup routine for years (which, if you want a sheerer, no-makeup makeup look, is totally fine). When you apply concealer first, you actually end up removing most of it when you sweep on your foundation or powder. If you start with foundation, though, you’ll need way less concealer overall and get a more full-coverage finish, since you’re basically applying it on top of a base. Some of my favorite foundations to get you started, ahead:
Sheer Coverage and Dewy Finish Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint glossier.com $26.00 Medium Coverage and Natural Finish Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick sephora.com $47.00 Medium-Full Coverage and Radiant Finish Too Faced Born This Way Foundation sephora.com $39.00 Full Coverage and Matte Finish Estée Lauder Double Wear Stay In Place Makeup ulta.com $42.00
✨Concealer Tip #3: Prime your eyelids with concealer
Not super down to spend extra $$ on an eyeshadow primer? Concealer is actually a godsend for preventing fallout and creasing (yup, really). Just dab a little concealer along your lids with your fingertips before you start on your smokey eye.
✨Concealer Tip #4: Cover zits with green concealer
If your classic concealer just isn’t cutting it when it comes to zits, try swapping it for a green formula, which can help cancel out redness. Gently tap a green-tinted concealer (I’m a fan of Physicians Formula Conceal RX or Dermablend Color-Correcting Powder Pigment) directly onto your zit, avoiding the surrounding skin. Then, use a cotton swab to blend a tiny bit of high-coverage concealer (one that matches your skin tone) on top of the zit to really camouflage it. Finish off with a sweep of setting powder and you’ll be good to go.
✨Concealer Tip #5: Use concealer on your body
Concealers aren’t just for your face—if you have a zit on your chest or back that needs covering, dab on a creamy concealer and top it with setting powder. Continue alternating between concealer and powder, waiting a full five minutes between each “coat” until you’re left with the coverage you want. Not sure your setting powder is up to the task? These are some of my favorite formulas:
This Long-Lasting Setting Powder Huda Beauty Easy Bake Loose Baking & Setting Powder sephora.com $34.00 This Matte Setting Powder Cover FX Matte Setting Powder sephora.com $35.00 This Brightening Setting Powder Stellar Cosmic Face Setting Powder sephora.com $30.00 This Lightweight Setting Powder Make Up For Ever Super Matte Loose Powder sephora.com $31.00
✨Concealer Tip #6: Swap your concealer for foundation in a pinch
If you find yourself without concealer (been there), place a small dot of liquid foundation on your zit/under eyes/nose/wherever, wait a few minutes for the formula to set, and then lightly blend it out with your clean fingertips. The trick is to wait until the foundation dries and thickens a bit (it will eventually reach the consistency of concealer) before trying to blend it. If you blend it too soon, the foundation will look too sheer and rub off, leaving you with some not-so-concealed spots.
✨Concealer Tip #7: Highlight your lids with concealer
Give your eyelids a nice little highlight with the help of a concealer that’s slightly lighter than your skin tone. Divide your lid into three tiny sections (the inner V, the middle, and just below the brow bone) with a concealer stick, then gently blend with your fingertips. The result? Bright, well-rested eyes that definitely hide the fact that you went way too hard at happy hour.
✨Concealer Tip #8: Dab concealer over under-eye circles
If your under-eye circles are looking a little darker than usual, try dabbing an orange or peach concealer (which cancel out dark, blue shadows) with your ring finger. It sounds very old-school, but it’s legit: Your ringer finger is actually the weakest of your fingers, so it’ll apply just the right amount of pressure to blend your concealer without pulling at the delicate skin around your eyes.
✨Concealer Tip #9: Load up on color-correcting formulas
I’m of the belief that everyone should own a few color-correcting concealers, especially if you’re dealing with discoloration. Your color-correcting strategy depends entirely on your skin tone and concerns, but generally, you’ll want to look toward pale-pink concealer to brighten blue-toned spots on fair skin, peach concealer to neutralize blue/purple shadows on medium skin tones, orangey-pink concealer to cancel out dark spots on dark skin tones, yellow concealer to offset purple or darker-toned shadows on olive or tan skin, green concealer to neutralize redness, and lavender concealer to cancel out yellow tones.
L’Oréal Anti-Fatigue Magic BB Cream lorealparisusa.com $10.99 Marc Jacobs Beauty Cover(t) Stick Color Corrector sephora.com $42.00 Dior Fix It 2-in-1 Prime & Color Correct sephora.com $36.00 Estée Lauder Double Wear Yellow Custom Coverage Correcting Duo ulta.com $19.20
✨Concealer Tip #10: Combine eye cream, highlighter, and concealer to mask puffy eyes
The secret to hiding tired, puffy eyes? A combination of eye cream, highlighter, and concealer, which brightens and lifts your brow bones for a wide-awake look. Just mix all three products on the back of your hand and tap it into your skin with your fingertips for a natural finish.
✨Concealer Tip #11: Blot your concealer to prevent caking and creasing
After applying concealer, blot the area with a thin tissue to prevent the product from settling into the creases around your eyes. And if your concealer tends to look a little cakey around midday, split a tissue into two layers and use one side to dab away excess oil.
✨Concealer Tip #12: Hide eyeliner mistakes with concealer
If your cat eye looks a little shaky, dip an angled brush into liquid concealer and clean up any jagged lines (which is, like, way easier than removing it altogether and starting over). One of these top-rated brushes should do the trick:
E.L.F Studio Small Angled Brush amazon.com $2.99 Ulta Angled Eye Liner Brush ulta.com $10.00 Sigma Beauty Winged Liner E06 amazon.com Morphe M165 Angled Liner Brush ulta.com $3.00
✨Concealer Tip #13: Line your lips with concealer
Keep your lipstick from bleeding or smudging by tracing your lips with a dab of concealer (a fine-tip brush will help you get super-precise lines). You’ll be amazed at how sharp your lips will look.
✨Concealer Tip #14: Plump your lips with concealer
While we’re on the subject, concealer can also make your lips look a lot plumper. Start by filling in the middle section of your lips with a light concealer, blending it out with the warmth of your fingertips. Finish off with a nude lip gloss (like NYX Intense Butter Gloss or Bare Minerals Gen Nude Buttercream Lipgloss) for a slightly iridescent look.
✨Concealer Tip #15: Reshape your lips with concealer
Want to completely reshape your lips? Start by covering them with a thin layer of concealer, then trace just slightly outside your natural line with a creamy pencil. Continue to fill in your lips with the pencil for a matte look, or finish off with a lip gloss.
✨Concealer Tip #16: Line your brows with concealer
Define your arch by lining above and below your brows with a concealer that’s one shade lighter than your skin tone. You’ll want to blend it out with your fingertips, since your body’s warmth helps soften and diffuse the product (which, IMO, is always easier than whipping out a brush).
✨Concealer Tip #17: Contour with two shades of concealer
Amp up your going-out look by contouring and highlighting with two pencil concealers: One formula should be two shades darker than your skin tone, and the other should be two shades lighter. You’ll use the lighter shade around the areas of your face that naturally catch light (like your cheekbones and T-zone) and the darker shade in softer areas (like your forehead and jawline). Blend it all out with a buffing brush for a smooth, natural finish.
✨Concealer Tip #18: Line your collarbone with concealer
Alright, bear with me, but lining your collarbone with concealer is such a pretty addition to any nighttime look. Just shrug your shoulders and draw a thin layer of light-colored concealer on your collarbone (the area that protrudes), then trace your natural contours (the shadows) with a concealer that’s two shades darker than your skin tone. Blend it all out with a damp makeup sponge, eliminating any harsh lines.
✨Concealer Tip #19: Mix your moisturizer with concealer
Create your own tinted moisturizer by mixing a dollop of face cream with a solid amount of liquid concealer. Your skin will feel nice and hydrated, with a super-subtle tinted finish.
✨Concealer Tip #20: Play around with different formulas
Still haven’t found your ride-or-die concealer? Don’t be afraid to play around with different formulas and various amounts of coverage—it’s all customizable.
Related Story Ruby Buddemeyer Beauty Editor Ruby is the beauty editor at Cosmopolitan, where she covers beauty across print and digital. Brooke Shunatona Brooke Shunatona is a contributing writer for Cosmopolitan.com.
Like eye shadow, blush, and just about every other makeup technique in the book, there are more ways than one to contour and highlight your face. For proof, just look to YouTube and Instagram: You’ll find everyone from self-taught influencers to professional artists experimenting with different methods on the regular. Think we’re exaggerating? Check out the nine highlighting techniques that went viral in the past year alone.
It’s worth mentioning that many of these methods (for instance, the flare highlight) may not stick around forever. But one that should stand the test of time involves using concealer to both sculpt and brighten the face. After all, there’s a reason Too Faced launched its best-selling Born This Way Multi-Use Sculpting Concealer, and why makeup artists like Kasey Adam Spickard swear by Tarte’s Shape Contour Tape Concealer for their shading and illuminating needs.
If you want to streamline your makeup routine to fewer products and steps, adopting this trimmed-down approach could be a serious game-changer (not to mention time-saver) for you. Without further ado, we’ll let the pros break down how it’s done.
First things first: What concealers are best for this technique?
Before you even think about the application process, make sure you have a concealer that lends itself to this specific method. For instance, you don’t want to use a concealer that’s too dewy, seeing as it’s more likely to break down throughout the day, or one that’s too drying, as this will make it much harder to blend into a natural-looking finish. Instead, experts like Elisa Flowers and Joanna Schlip recommend a formula that falls somewhere in between, such as Cle De Peau’s classic cover-up, which Schlip says she likes especially for brightening under the eyes since it’s not too dry. For contouring, she’s also a fan of Bobbi Brown’s Instant Full Coverage Concealer, because it’s opaque but still blends out easily and beautifully.
Both artists also recommend using concealer palettes to contour and highlight, because they generally have a broader range of shades to choose from, which is particularly helpful when working on different clients with varying skin tones. Flowers highly recommends the Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Underpainting Color Correction Palettes: “There are six palettes ranging from very fair to deep, and each comes with four medium-to-full shades of creamy concealer so you can custom-blend what works best for you,” she explains. As for Schlip, she’s a huge fan of the RCMA Palettes, a makeup artist staple considering they contain a whopping 18 shades per palette, allowing you to mix and match as needed.
4 Cool Ways to Use Concealer for Face Contouring
Our not-so-secret secret is that we expect most, if not all, of our products to work double-duty. Cheek stain doubles as lip pigment, and brown eyeshadow helps fill in our brows. But, there’s one tube in our makeup bags that could do so much more: concealer.
What we normally slather onto zits and undereye circles has many other applications. We tapped makeup artist Tina Turnbow to show us five techniques that turn our old cover-up into a highlighter, brow accent, lip definer, and more.
Ahead, find her step-by-step instructions for using concealer to get a gorgeous face. Don’t you just love a good multitasker?
If you haven’t plunked down the cash for a contour kit with a shadow powder and highlighter, your concealer could sub in a pinch. “Make sure you’re using one that’s about two shades lighter than your skin tone,” Turnbow says.
Start with your contour powder. Find your cheekbones, and slide the pigment just below them in a downward motion. “It should end a couple of inches away from the corner of your mouth,” Turnbow says.
Product used: Kevyn Aucoin The Sculpting Powder ($44; sephora.com)
Next, apply your concealer. “It should create a halo effect around your eyes,” Turnbow says. Use your fingers to pat it on along the tops of your cheekbones. Then, bring it up until it reaches just above the tip of your eyebrows. “Look for a concealer with a radiant aspect to it,” she says. “This will help attract the light.”
Product used: NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, ($29; nars.com)
For your nose contour, use the same shadow you swept under your cheekbones. Focus it along the two edges of the bone. “Start right under the ends of your brows, and bring it down to the tips,” Turnbow says.
Your concealer should sit in the center of your nose. Swipe it in a downward motion, to the tip. Then, blend your three lines together. “When you blend, make sure you’re still able to see the product,” Turnbow says. “People tend to over-blend and erase the work they just did. Instead, just blur the edges so that they’re less noticeable, but still there.”
The result is bright, beautiful, and so easy to do. It’s contouring that works in real life-not the crazy sculpting you see on the red carpet all the time.
- By Refinery29
You might not think of concealer as contour makeup, but using a creamy, long lasting stick concealer is one of the easiest ways to achieve a gently sculpted, photo-ready look. And guess what? We just launched a certain BAREPRO 16-Hour Full Coverage Concealer that’s up for the task…
How to Contour and Highlight Your Face with Concealer
1. Select two shades of concealer, one that is 2-3 intensities deeper and one that is 2-3 intensities lighter than your skin tone, depending on your desired level of contrast.
2. Apply the deeper concealer shade in the hollows of your cheeks to sculpt and define cheekbones and along the sides of your forehead near the hairline to visually shorten the forehead.
3. Using light pressure, use the Shade & Diffuse Eye Brush to apply the darker shade along sides of your nose for a slimming effect.
4. Apply the lighter highlighting shade directly above the darker contour shade on your cheeks, down the bridge of your nose, center of your forehead and chin to bring light to the center of your face.
5. Using the Blurring Buffer Brush, buff in the lighter highlight areas first with long back and forth strokes, then blend in the deeper contour areas.
6. Use the Shade & Diffuse Eye Brush to blend your nose contour.
And that’s it! It’s (actually) that easy to master subtle, you-but-improved contouring. You can keep the chart handy while you’re perfecting your technique, but we’re pretty confident you’ll have the hang of it in no time.
This is part of our series of 4 Easy, Essential Concealer Techniques. Learn how to use BAREPRO 16-Hour Full Coverage Concealer to cover dark circles and check back to learn even more natural-looking concealer tricks and tips.