How to Contour and Highlight with Every Type of Face-Sculpting Product

My favorite makeup artists shows you how to use creams, sticks, palettes and bronzers, once and for all.
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My favorite makeup artists shows you how to use creams, sticks, palettes and bronzers, once and for all.

Laramie and I have so much fun working together. It shows in the work that we make. Whether she is painting me or a model on set, Laramie gives the best face. She has the rad talent for making skin look really natural--very much the trend right now--so she's been ahead of the game for awhile.

Contouring is everywhere these days, from the TV to the runway, and it can be really overwhelming to the amateur makeup user. The sheer amount of tools and products available to get this effect is staggering!

This is just a tiny portion of what is on the market--lux, drugstore and everything in between:

Middle L to R: Revlon Photoready Skinlights in Pink Light, Peach Light, Bronze Light, Bare Light. Clockwise from top: Revlon Highlighting Palette in Desert Bronze, Almay Smart Shade Powder Bronzer in Sunkissed, Palladio Herbal Mosaic Powder in Sunkissed, MAC Studio Sculpt Defining Powder; Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Contour in Curvy Contour, Palladio Herbal Concealer in Medium, Tarte The Sculptor in Park Ave Princess 1, Palladio Herbal Concealer in Light; Make Skin Illuminator in Nor, Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlight in Hefty Highlight, Glo Minerals Luxe Liquid Bright Concealer in High Beam and Sunburst, Wander On The Glow Illuminator in Coral Glow; La Bella Donna Vision of Mineral Lights in Bronze, Marc Jacobs #Instamarc Light Filtering Contour Powder in Mirage Filter, Tarte Park Ave Princess Palette; Laura Geller Baked Sculpting Bronzer & Highlight Palette in Porcelain, Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Duo in Golden, Laura Geller Baked Gelato Swirl Illuminator in Gilded Honey, Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Duo in Pink Light, Maybelline Master Hi Light in Mauve and Nude

Middle L to R: Revlon Photoready Skinlights in Pink Light, Peach Light, Bronze Light, Bare Light. Clockwise from top: Revlon Highlighting Palette in Desert Bronze, Almay Smart Shade Powder Bronzer in Sunkissed, Palladio Herbal Mosaic Powder in Sunkissed, MAC Studio Sculpt Defining Powder; Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Contour in Curvy Contour, Palladio Herbal Concealer in Medium, Tarte The Sculptor in Park Ave Princess 1, Palladio Herbal Concealer in Light; Make Skin Illuminator in Nor, Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlight in Hefty Highlight, Glo Minerals Luxe Liquid Bright Concealer in High Beam and Sunburst, Wander On The Glow Illuminator in Coral Glow; La Bella Donna Vision of Mineral Lights in Bronze, Marc Jacobs #Instamarc Light Filtering Contour Powder in Mirage Filter, Tarte Park Ave Princess Palette; Laura Geller Baked Sculpting Bronzer & Highlight Palette in Porcelain, Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Duo in Golden, Laura Geller Baked Gelato Swirl Illuminator in Gilded Honey, Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Duo in Pink Light, Maybelline Master Hi Light in Mauve and Nude

Fortunately, Laramie knows her way around a shade or two and was able to sit with me and talk about all the different ways to get this effect. She and the awesome makeup artists from Book Your Look do this in the form of hands-on lessons, so if you are local you can get this treatment in person! They even do makeup parties where an artist helps you sort through your makeup bag and show you how to use it to the fullest (which is a super-fun bachelorette party idea).

This is what I looked like with basic complexion makeup and groomed brows and lashes, prepped for the big C:

Gawd, my skin just looks super-natural. Gotta love it!

Gawd, my skin just looks super-natural. Gotta love it!

Natural cheekbone action

Natural cheekbone action

Highlight and Contour Sticks

Run under cheekbones and blend upward. Tarte's The Sculptor is a perfect shadow tone that blends into foundation seamlessly.

Run under cheekbones and blend upward. Tarte's The Sculptor is a perfect shadow tone that blends into foundation seamlessly.

Trace the sides of the nose and blend away from the bridge of the nose.

Trace the sides of the nose and blend away from the bridge of the nose.

Now take a highlighting stick like Clinique's Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlight and sweep from the laugh lines up the cheekbones to the temple.

Now take a highlighting stick like Clinique's Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlight and sweep from the laugh lines up the cheekbones to the temple.

Here's a side view. You can blend by dabbing gently with your fingers.

Here's a side view. You can blend by dabbing gently with your fingers.

Sticks are a truly foolproof way to get the chiseled look. Easy to apply and easy to blend, they're perfect for the less experienced, as well as travelers. 

The Tarte stick is super crucial and comes in three shades, and the Clinique highlighter was also a great color for more than a few skin types. I have used the Make Illuminator in Nor before for the under-eye area, but it's far better suited to cheekbone poppin! We also tried the awesome On The Glow Illuminator from Wander Beauty, and that golden highlighter and coral blush will def be keeping me well lit all summer long.

After getting the chubby treatment.

After getting the chubby treatment.

Cream Contour and Highlighting

Laramie buffed out any hard lines with a beauty blender, leaving our perfect base intact and ready for more playtime with these rad Revlon cream pigments

Laramie buffed out any hard lines with a beauty blender, leaving our perfect base intact and ready for more playtime with these rad Revlon cream pigments

Apply a color that's a few shades darker than your natural color with fingers and blend upwards with a foundation brush or contour brush. Laramie used Bronze Light on me.

Apply a color that's a few shades darker than your natural color with fingers and blend upwards with a foundation brush or contour brush. Laramie used Bronze Light on me.

Take a pink-toned color to accent cheekbones, dab high on cheeks and blend. Here is Bare Light.

Take a pink-toned color to accent cheekbones, dab high on cheeks and blend. Here is Bare Light.

Cream highlighters like this Revlon option are great multitaskers. Mix some in your foundation for extra glow, or use straight to accent features. It's available in so many places and has a great color selection. This was developed by a backstage makeup artist to give skin a lifelike glow under cameras and lights. The price makes it easy to get more than one shade for the ultimate effect.

A side view of the goods.

A side view of the goods.

Matte Contour Powders

A matte highlighter will accent the bridge of the nose, cupids bow, cheekbones, and if you're me, Gaston cleft without adding shimmer.

A matte highlighter will accent the bridge of the nose, cupids bow, cheekbones, and if you're me, Gaston cleft without adding shimmer.

The Marc Jacobs #Instamarc contour palette is perfect even for beginners. We used the Mirage range to add shadow to the hairline, jawbone, and temples

The Marc Jacobs #Instamarc contour palette is perfect even for beginners. We used the Mirage range to add shadow to the hairline, jawbone, and temples

This is the finished look with a bit of Almay and La Bella Donna's Matte Bronzers on top as cheek color

This is the finished look with a bit of Almay and La Bella Donna's Matte Bronzers on top as cheek color

Matte contouring provides the contrast needed to nail the look without the shimmer that's over the top in daylight. The Marc Jacobs palette is idiot-proof, as I was able to use it before Laramie's instruction with minimal blending and get away with it. The compact is enormous, with tons of product and an HD mirror, making it a super-worthy purchase. 

The drugstore op, Almay, comes in a few shades and is multipurpose. Maybelline's Master Hi-Light in Mauve is great for contouring on darker skin tones, and La Bella Donna's Vision of Mineral Lights mini palette is silky and comes with four cute tones to play with.

The face looks glowing without being glittery and shiny.

The face looks glowing without being glittery and shiny.

Bronzer

By using bronzer in a few different shades including bronze, beige, and pink champagne, Laramie achieved the same awesome cheek-chiseling effect, but with more shimmer.

By using bronzer in a few different shades including bronze, beige, and pink champagne, Laramie achieved the same awesome cheek-chiseling effect, but with more shimmer.

Here, Laramie used a smidge of the fun tawny rose blush from Tarte's Park Ave Princess palette plus a smidge of the Wander On The Glow Stick's Coral side.

Here, Laramie used a smidge of the fun tawny rose blush from Tarte's Park Ave Princess palette plus a smidge of the Wander On The Glow Stick's Coral side.

Bronzer looks are great for any skin tone and especially nighttime looks. The Laura Gellar Baked Bronzer was such a bright and poppy champagne shade, and it blended beautifully and my face still looked awesome, like, six hours later!

Post bronzer look. Holy hell! I am in love! 

Post bronzer look. Holy hell! I am in love! 

I had so much fun learning how to properly contour my face. It's been fun experimenting with the stuff I had, but now I really feel educated enough to do it right. I think when I am taking the time to do my whole face, I can quickly swipe in two or three places to get myself an express cheek job, but would def take the time to go all the way now that I know the deal.

  • What is your fav spot to highlight or contour?
  • Are you a cream, powder, or bronzer contour-er?

Makeup: Laramie Glen

Photos: Darnell Scott