Google On The Dressing Table: How to Contour, Highlight and Apply Blusher!

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6 April 2013

How to Contour, Highlight and Apply Blusher!

Clockwise from top left: MAC Harmony Matte Blush, Bobbi Brown Bronzing Brush, Nars Albatross, MAC 129 Brush, Bobbi Brown Matte Bronzer, Real Techniques Setting Brush, Dior Amber Diamonds.
Hi guys. Today's post is a little how-to that i was inspired to write after a girly night in my with my best friend and sister in law. We were talking make up as you do and both of them said they were unsure about blusher - where to put it, what shades to go for etc and it occurred to me that there may be a few readers of my blog
who have the same doubts when it comes to that aspect of applying make up so i thought i would try to photograph what i do to apply every day contouring, highlight and blush; the three steps that go together to emphasize your cheekbones and give a healthy pop of colour to the complexion. I have to apologise for the terrible 'selfies' pictures but i hope they do the job and illustrate what i am going to try and explain!

This picture below is simply to show how my cheeks look before i begin to contour and highlight and with no blusher. I have foundation and eye make up on but nothing else.

So to begin with i contour my cheekbones. For those of you who don't really know what that means, it is essentially just creating or emphasising the shadow that you have under your cheek bones naturally. In doing so you make your cheek bone more prominent which makes your bone structure look better and your face appear thinner - result! To do this you want to chose a shade that is similar to the natural colour the shadows on your face are, you can try experimenting with different mirrors/lighting to see where the shadows fall naturally. I find that for my skin tone, which is currently very fair, a cool toned mauve colour works best, such as Harmony from Mac or Douceur from Nars, and when i have a bit of colour on my face in the summer i tend to use a matte bronzer as shown in the top picture. It's usually those blushes that don't jump out at you as very exciting colours that work best for contouring! 

I like to apply this with my MAC 129 brush (any small to medium sized fluffy brush will work) and begin to buff it in in small circles starting just underneath the highest point of my cheek near my ear and working down to the point that is roughly level with the outer corner of my eye. You don't want the contour to come too far into the center of your face, although this is just a rough guide as obviously the dimensions of peoples faces are very different. You can see that on my face the shadow is very diagonal where as on others it looks much more horizontal. The secret is really examining the shape of your face and your bone structure and then trying to enhance it. To prevent the contour from looking like a stripe across your cheek you need to blend it well working in small circles rather than a backwards and forwards motion and also take a little bit of it up onto your temple near your hairline. Other areas that you can apply a contour shade are around your hairline on your forehead, along your jawline and down the sides of your nose. These are all areas on your face where it's flattering to have shadows but it takes practice and experimentation to see what works for your face and i would strongly recommend to start off lightly and then build the colour up because it can look terrible if you are too heavy handed!

MAC Harmony applied as a contour
The next step i take is to highlight; this is almost the reverse of the contouring, using a light reflective or shimmery product to emphasize the high-points of your face. I found this really difficult to photograph using my iphone because it is quite a subtle effect which is only really obvious when you can see how the light bounces off the skin as you are moving your face around. This is another post i am writing thinking it would be so much easier to show in a video but i'm just not sure about joining the YouTube world... 
Anyway, back to the subject at hand. I like to use the Real Techniques setting brush for highlighter because it allows you to be quite precise but is really soft and fluffy so the product can be blended out well, and the highlighter i used was Dior Amber Diamonds although any powder, cream or liquid highlighter will work. Some of my other favourites are MAC Strobe Cream, Nars Albatross and  The areas of the face you want to highlight are: the top of the cheek bones, so just above the contour, the brow bone which can be just below the eyebrow or slightly above the brow as well, down the center of the nose, the cupids bow, the center of the forehead and the center of the chin.

Bobbi Brown Blush in Nectar
The last step is to apply blusher. You can go for a natural shade if you're not confident with bright colours but one thing to remember is that although some blushes can look really bright and scary in the pan, they don't translate that way on the skin. The colour i'm wearing in the picture above is a Bobbi Brown blush in Nectar that looks like really bright pink in the palette but i think it gives quite a natural flush. 

I think one of the most common mistakes people make with makeup is where they apply blusher, and its not surprising given that there is a lot of conflicting advice out there. I find what works for me is start on the outer half of the apple of your cheek- the round part of the cheek that becomes more prominent when you smile. I then work the colour back and upward to blend in with the contour and highlight. I don't like to take the colour across the whole of the apple of my cheek because i think it can give a bit of a 'clown' effect, but again, its all about experimenting and seeing what works for you. As with the contour i find a really light touch works best, you can add more and build the colour but its more difficult to tone it down once its on the skin. My top tip for this is always top off any excess from the brush onto your hand before you apply it to the face.

This is the finished effect.

I hope this post was helpful for any of you who were not too sure about the contour/highlight/blush minefield! Let me know if it did :) thanks for reading.


  1. This is such a good post, I've bookmarked it for next time I wanna have a go with my bronzers! How beautiful does Dior Amber Diamond look? Eeeek xxx

    1. Ah thanks Gem :-) Amber Diamonds is so gorgeous, i really want to try the pink one now! xx

  2. Great post! I really need to have a go at contouring xx

  3. Fantastic post, definitely picked up a few tips :) xx

  4. Harmony looks lovely. Thank you I found this post to be really helpful :)x

    1. Thank you, i'm so glad it was helpful! :) x

  5. Anonymous13/4/13 15:00

    This is really easy to understand! Thanks for this post.
    Emma xx

    1. You're welcome, thanks so much for letting me know you found it helpful! x


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