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How to Contour and Highlight Different Skin Tones

different makeup for different skintones

Contouring can seem like a daunting addition to a makeup routine at first. We’ve all witnessed an unblended dark patch or a cheek that shimmers so much that it glares. What’s more, it certainly doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. While one shimmery highlight might accentuate the cheekbone of someone with a lighter skin tone, it may wash out a darker complexion. For that exact reason, we’ve gathered a few of our Illamasqua experts to provide you with all you need to figure out how to contour and highlight in a way that suits you.

Keep reading for our best highlighter and contour for dark to light skin along with our top tips to master this face-sculpting step.

Kirsty’s Contour and Highlight

Shade- Light

highlight and contour on light skin

Which products?

I chose the Beyond Liquid Highlighter for highlighting as it blends so easily into the skin and gives a dewy effect, perfect for spring and summer when I want more of a natural, glowy look.

For a face contour, I chose Gel Sculpt. This contour also helps with this as it isn’t too harsh on the skin so keeps my complexion looking fresh and natural all whilst giving my cheekbones a more chiseled look.

Which shades?

I went with Gel Sculpt in the shade Outline because I have fair skin so this goes well with my undertones and compliments my skin tone well.

I chose the Beyond Liquid Highlighter in the shade Daze because it has more of a cool undertone which also compliments my fair skin, I feel like it really gives me a glow on my cheeks!

Your tips on how to contour and highlight for beginners

  • I apply the highlighter with my ring finger as it helps warm the product up and I feel like I can blend more easily with my fingers than I can with a brush.
  • I dab it onto the tops of my cheekbones, under my eyebrows, on the tip of my nose, and on my cupids bow above my lip.
  • With Gel Sculpt, I like to dab it on again with my fingers to just below my cheekbones. I use a fair amount and go back in with my beauty blender to make sure it’s blended to perfection.
  • I also like to apply it on the sides of my nose, around my forehead, and on my jawline to give a more bronzed look!

Shop Kirsty’s Look

Jess’ Contour and Highlight

Shade- Light/Medium

highlight and contour on medium skintone

Which products?

I chose the Spectacular Face Palette and Deity Beyond Powder. The 3-in-1 palette contains all I need for contour and highlight, which is perfect for me as I travel a lot. Beyond powder has always been popular within the Asian community, and since reading the reviews, I decided to go for it!

Which shades?

When choosing a face contour for my medium skin tone, it’s important for me to chose a shade that won’t make my makeup look dirty. The shade has to be dark enough to add dimension and definition to my face but still look natural overall. The contour in the face palette, Silhouette, matches my skin perfectly and is easy to blend out.

The blush Katie provides me with a naturally face-lifting look and makes me look healthier and flushed from within. It’s a popular shade for Asian girls as well to create the cute and innocent Japanese-style makeup looks.

I chose Deity as my highlighter because it has been such a hot product for Asians. It’s been given the nickname of ‘socialight’ (a highlighter that gives you the look of a socialite). This is because it looks like you are lit from within your skin after applying. It looks subtle on my face yet still gives me that sheen to accentuate the high points of my face.

Your tips on how to contour and highlight for beginners

  • I start with applying Silhouette with a face contour brush along my hairline, jawline, and on the side of my nose.
  • I also apply it slightly under my cheekbones so it slims my face and gives definition.
  • I don’t apply the blush straight onto my cheeks. Instead, I like to use it to lift my face as well. I apply it on the side of my eyes and around temple. I also like to apply some on the tip of my nose to create a healthy, natural look.
  • Finally, I use a highlighter brush to apply Deity on the highest point of my cheekbones, the bridge of my nose, and slightly underneath my eyebrows. 

Shop Jess’ Look:

Laura’s Contour and Highlight

Shade- Medium

highlight and contour on medium skin

Which products?

I chose the Beyond Powder Highlighter and Colour Correcting Bronzer as I have quite naturally oily skin so I prefer to use powder-based products to achieve a more matte finish to my look. Plus, I find them much easier to use compared to liquid/cream textured products. I can start off lightly and then build the product if I want a more defined look. I also have some acne scars on my cheeks so I really like the fact the bronzer has a colour-correcting strip to even out my skin.

Which shades?

I have a naturally tanned skin tone so I feel like the shade OMG in the Beyond Powder Highlighter really compliments my complexion. It’s a golden, champagne colour which I much prefer compared to lighter/pearly shades.

The medium bronzer in the shade Flare is the perfect shade for me to add that sun-kissed glow without looking too orange or having a ‘mucky brown’ look.

Your tips on how to contour and highlight for beginners

  • After I have applied primer, foundation and concealer I contour and highlight my face. I use the bronzer to contour the areas I want to define – my nose, lower cheekbones, jawline and forehead.
  • I start with a small soft-bristled brush to define the areas I want to contour and then I will go in with a contour brush to buff out the product and build if I want a bolder face contour.
  • Highlighter is usually one of the last products I apply in my whole makeup routine. I use a fan highlighter brush and sweep the product at the top of my cheekbone and then down the middle of my nose with more focus on the tip.
  • OMG is very pigmented and a little goes a long way so I make sure I start off light and build if I want more!

Shop Laura’s Look:

Martha’s Contour and Highlight

Shade- Deep

highlight and contour on dark skin

What products?

I chose the Gel Sculpt and Beyond Powder. I chose the Gel Sculpt as I prefer to use a contour stick for precision so I can blend it out and add more if I need to and can continue to blend to give a more natural look.

The Beyond powder is great if you want a subtle highlight as well as if you want something a bit more dramatic in the evening. It can be used both day and night. I prefer power highlights so I can add a light amount, and then add more on top if needed.

Which shades?

I went for the shade Shadow in the Gel Sculpt. This shade works well as a face contour for dark skin. It blends nicely without being too harsh.

I like warmer golden tones for my makeup, so the Beyond Power highlighter in the shade Epic suited me well.

Your tips on how to contour and highlight for beginners

  • The Gel Sculpt is very easy to use. You can use it either as an outline around the cheeks and nose or you can dab in areas and build up the contour.
  • When I’m building up the contour, I use a beauty blender to blend the contour out.
  • I use a small powder blending brush to blend the highlighter around the cheeks above the contour, under the eyebrow and on the nose.
  • You don’t need to use too much with this highlight, as it shows up on the face straight away!

Shop Martha’s Look:



Josie Wilkins

Josie Wilkins

Writer and expert

Josie is an online content creator with a degree in journalism. In her free time, she's jade-rolling or buying over-priced candles. When she's not doing either of those, she's digging deep to find the latest makeup essentials.