How to contour in three easy steps using a bronzer, blush and highlighter

Rose Gallagher
·5-min read

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Rose Gallagher, 30, is from Birmingham and has been a make-up artist for 10 years. She has 37,000 followers on Instagram, where she posts make-up tutorials, tips and tricks.

Scroll down to see her product recommendations.

As lots of us are spending more time at home, it’s a good time to get stuck into any make-up skills that require a little bit more practice.

Something women are always telling me that they’re so curious about, but still not sure how to approach, is contouring.

An age-old technique that had a particular presence in black and white movies, this involves adding light and shade to the face to highlight your features.

One of the crucial things to bear in mind when applying any make-up – but in particular when contouring – is that it is much easier to build up your make-up than it is to take it down. Start with a soft touch and build it up as you please.

Rose Gallagher contouring before and after
These subtle changes can make a big difference to your overall look

It’s also worth considering the textures you use and finding something that will suit your skin type.

Creams are great for adding luminosity to dry, tired, skin, and they sit well over textured areas like raised skin or acne scarring, for example.

Powders are easy to blend, and once they’re applied they’re unlikely to move around. These are especially great if you have more of an oily prone skin, but tend to work well on all skin types.

Here’s a guide on where to place each colour within your contour – bronzer, blush and highlighter.

They all sit in different places, so if you’re new to contouring you could start by practising one technique and gradually layer them as you go along.

Bronzer

Though I rarely follow rules in make-up (because I think we all know our own faces more than any one formula can dictate to us), I always apply bronzer to the areas that the sun would naturally kiss.

If you find a sprinkling of warmth across the forehead, nose and cheeks after a day in the garden, that’s the pattern you should follow when bronzing.

If you wish to chisel more so than bronze, suck your cheeks in and follow the natural hollows of the skin. The same can be said for adding a touch of bronze to the natural hollows of the eyelids to really pull together a sun-kissed make-up look.

Take a large, fluffy brush if you wish to achieve a natural finish, or use a denser shape if you wish to create more of a bold, sculpted finish. For an especially sculpted finish, you can even take a little under the jaw line.

Rose recommends:

1. NARS Bronzing Powder in Laguna | £31 from Look Fantastic

NARS Bronzing Powder
NARS Bronzing Powder

2. Trinny London Cream Bronzer | £25 from Trinny London

Trinny London Golden Glow/Bronzer
Trinny London Golden Glow/Bronzer

Blush

Blusher placement can completely transform your make-up, so have fun with it! The lift from blusher can instantly revitalise a tired complexion, and creams in particular are great for adding radiance.

Blush tends to look more flattering and more natural when applied to the fullest parts of the cheeks when you smile. You may also wish to take the slightest touch to the end of the nose, cheating the illusion of a naturally wind-swept complexion.

Rose recommends:

1. Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge | £22.50 from John Lewis

Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge
Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge

2. Charlotte Tilbury Blusher | £30 from Charlotte Tilbury

Charlotte Tilbury Cheek to Chic
Charlotte Tilbury Cheek to Chic

Highlighter

For me, highlighter is the perfect way to create a contoured look without needing to go near the bronzer. All of these steps are designed to work well in unison, but will all make their mark as stand-alone steps. If you’re a total contour beginner, experiment first by making your mark with highlighter.

Use a lighter shade along the cheekbones, under the brow bones, down the nose, on the inner corners of the eyes, and along the cupid’s bow to add lift.

For a natural finish, simply use a foundation or concealer in a shade slightly lighter than your regular base. (Speaking of which – if you do happen to have a foundation or concealer to hand that is too light or too dark, fear not. They’ll probably be just what you need when you’re contouring.)

For extra lustre, use a peachy cream in a shade similar to your complexion. Think shimmer, not glitter, for a flattering finish that you can build for more of a glamorous evening look.

When it comes to contouring, the number one tip I would give you is to trust your own instincts. There are so many one-size-fits-all tutorials online when it comes to this technique, but you know your own face and features better than anyone.

Have a play before you take your make-up off at night, and worst case scenario, no-one will have seen it if goes a little pear-shaped! Best case scenario? You’re ready to make it work when you come to do it for real the next morning. And, contrary to what you might have seen on your Instagram feed, even the smallest touch of product can go a really long way. So, start small and build it up

Rose recommends:

1. Pat McGrath highlighter | £45 from Net-A-Porter

Pat McGrath highlighter
Pat McGrath highlighter

2. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector | £30 from Space NK

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector

You can keep up with Rose’s make-up tips on her Instagram account @rosegallagher or listen to her podcast ‘Beauty from the Heart’ on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and all your usual podcast platforms.