How to: Contour & Highlight Cheekbones

how to contour and highlight cheekbones

Contouring and highlighting – your cheekbones, or all of your face – is a makeup artist secret that have gained popularity with the masses and is becoming big in beauty again. (Especially due to the popularity on a certain celebrity.)

While there are many articles on how to contour and highlight your cheekbones, a lot of them are a lot of work and makes you use too much product – which wastes time and money.

Here are my tips on how to contour and highlight cheekbones – the easiest, fastest, and proper way.

What You Need

To start to contour and highlight cheekbones, there’s only 3 things you need: highlighter, contour powder and a contoured angle brush. Below are more info on getting them.

best highlighters for cheekbones

A highlighter is a makeup product in several formulas (powder, liquid, cream) that will bring some kind of light to your face. The highlight is used to bring out and emphasize, and creates the beautiful glow and highlight to the face. If you can’t get a highlighter yet, you can use an eyeshadow as your highlighter for now. Eyeshadows such as the popular Stila’s Kitten Eyeshadow can work well as a highlighter. You use it that exact same way as a highlighter – it is just a shimmery powder, after all.

best bronzers to contour cheekbones

While there are many products on the market today for the cheekbones (which many made specifically for contouring) I find the most natural looking for the cheekbones are bronzers. And as I explained here, getting the perfect color of the bronzer is important – the wrong shade can make your skin look muddy and blotchy. My favorite is this one, which I think is one of the best bronzers made.

contour angled brushes

Contoured Angle Brush
The last thing you’ll need a special contour angle brush. But don’t let these contoured angle brushes scare you! This is really needed for sculpting and shading in your cheekbones. MAC Large Angled Contour Brush #168 is probably the most famous, and my favorite to be honest. I bought it years ago and haven’t looked back.


Once you’ve got all your tools ready, here comes the fun bit: Application. To begin, keep in mind that the best way to always apply makeup is with a mirror that is titled ever-so-slightly upwards so you can see exactly what you’re doing.

1. Grab your angled contour brush and bronzer.
Swirl the brush around in the bronzer powder and “tap” the brush, at least 3 times, on the back of your hand to let any excess powder fall off. Double check your brush to make sure it’s not full of product. The key here is to be light.

2. Look straight into the mirror.
Make sure your mirror is titled and then suck your cheeks in, making your cheekbones “stick” out. You see those two shadowed lines that are forming underneath your cheekbones? That’s where your bronzer is going. Point your brush on that shadow area and gently sweep some of the bronzer there, and then up in a crescent shape up towards the top of your ear.

3. Step back and check your work.
Suck your cheeks in again; is that line that natural shadow-y area now filled with bronzer? Success! If it’s too light, go over a few more times. And if you’ve overdone it, take some tissue, scrunch it up in a ball, and gently, in circular motions, wipe off the extra bronzer.

4. Next, grab your highlighter.
If it’s a liquid highlighter, squeeze a few drops onto the back of your hand and pat your index and middle finger into it. Make sure to wipe off any excess beforehand. If it’s a powder highlighter, grab another blush brush (any is fine) and pat in some product. Look straight onto the mirror again and apply your highlighter above your bronzer “line”, blending the highlighter on top of your cheekbones – suck in your cheeks if you need them to “stick” out again. Blend the product onto the cheekbones – focusing more on the top, outer area of it, and make sure to blend so it looks like a soft glow.

A Visual Guide

Now, it’s time to check your work. Here’s an amateur-drawing diagram I did to show you (brown = bronzer, and white = highlighter):

Now, check what you’ve done on your face with the image above. Is your product – highlight on the top, contour at the bottom – on those areas? This is how it should look after:

contour and highlight cheekbones

Last but not least, blush

This is optional, but I find a soft sweep of blush color can complete this very structured look.

After highlight and contouring, you can apply blush to the apple of your cheeks to give your face more depth and warmth to the skin – I find that solely highlighting and contouring cheekbones, while very sexy, can make your face look too hollow (especially if you have a long face shape). A touch of blush – just a touch – can make all the difference.

Find out what color is best for you in How To Find the Perfect Blush Color for Your Skintone, and for application steps, check out How to: Apply Blush for Your Face Shape.

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  1. Samantha, I’m so glad to hear that! Good luck on your search for a bronzer… so far the only ones I’ve liked are from MAC. (Bobbi Brown’s were quite nice as well.)

    Faz, my bff is from Sri Lanka, she has darker skin as well. She says in Singapore it’s almost impossible too 🙁 I went shopping with her once and we found a good one at Bobbi Brown – worth a try?

  2. Wow Renee this is a great post that came at the right time! This post must be a godsend LOL because recently I’ve the urge to get a bronzer for more defined cheeks! Thank you!

  3. I wish I could find bronzers that would suit me to contour. It’s impossible to find things for darker skin in SG.

  4. Great tutorial! I graduate this year too and will definitely be playing up all the highlighting and contouring of my face so i have perfect photos.

    What is the best way to make contouring on your nose look the most natural? It never seems to look right to me.

  5. I love this post! Gosh I’ve been using bronzed for a few years & can’t believe I don’t even know about the existence of such contour brushes & that highlighting. Thanks for making our wannabe supermodel dreams come true, Renee! :))

  6. Sarah and Isabel, I am so glad to hear you like this post. Yay! 🙂

    Sarah – blend, blend blend! And don’t put too much powder on your brush in the first place… I think for the nose, it’s better to look a little “unnoticeable” than noticeable. Or, after you apply it, you can go over it with a clean blush brush to kinda “pick up” some of the loose powder.

    Isabel – hahah oh autocorrect, never changes haha! I def recommend getting a contour brush, it’s one of the best things I’ve bought! So, so, good. You are most welcome, thank you so much for reading 🙂 xx

  7. Hey Renee, congrats for being the 2nd runner up in the Glam Asia competition. What a great honour.! Keep up the good work.

  8. Yes, Renee, even though you didn’t win the competition, you still did Singapore proud. Hey, 3rd place is pretty good! Congrats. 🙂

  9. Stacey and Katherine, you are too kind! Thank you so, so much for your sweet comments 🙂 Yes, I am so happy to be 2nd runner up! Even to be in the nominated list was like “whoa, really, me?!” Haha. Thank you ladies <3

  10. Great post! Recently I learned that it’s best to use a dedicated contour product, like MAC Sculpt or MUFE’s Sculpting Kit, rather than a bronzer to contour – the contouring products have less red tones in them so they create a more shadowed look. Matte bronzers definitely work – but contour powders work best.

  11. This is a great instructional, I love highlight and contour videos or blog posts about it, i just recently got into th highlight and contouring and i really like it, I watched so many videos on it, and i just got really into it, i even saw a girl contour her face and nose to look exactly like eminem now that is tallent. It was amazing because the nose lookd just like eminem the face did to and you would never believe that she would be able to do this cause she looks nothing like him, but its amazing what you can do, people make their nose look smaller or straighter,and some people seem to have a problem with that, i dont know why because people have plastic surgery usually instead of just highlight and contour, and if that makes people feel better and look better, then that increases their confidence and they dont need surgery then its a good thing. But i like a natural looking highlight and contour and that seems to be what your showing, and i think you did a really excellent job with it. Especially on a blog its hard to explain how to do it, and it really helps the way you laid it out with pictures and information.

  12. Thank you ladies so much for reading and taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it. 🙂

    Emi – thanks so much for letting me know. I used to use MAC’s taupe and I remember the famous Emote contour colors… had no idea they had a sculpting blush, thanks for that! Will edit the post to include the info xx

  13. This has helped me so much! I’ve read your blog on and off for a while now, though I’ve only just found this little miracle, so I just wanted to thank you for your brilliantly worded, lovely tips that improve me day by day 🙂

  14. Hey Renee
    I Have medium Tone Skin and have round face, Will u plz suggest me which brand items should i use for contouring? can you gimme some suggestions?
    i have MAC Contouring Blush but i am confused about highlighter, YSL is not available in my Country 🙁

  15. Im sorry if this is such a silly question, but does it mean that if you use bronzers, you don’t use blusher? Ive always had the impression that you are supposed to use blusher and then a bronzer if u want to contour a little..if so, where would the blusher be? In between the brown and white parts of your picture? (very useful btw!)

    Thanks for all your help!

    1. Hey Elly!

      Yeah, I think that’s how it usually goes, but you can mix it up depending on what you like! If you want a very prominent look to your cheekbones, skip the blush. If not, you apple it in-between the white and brown line, on the “apples of your cheek” (when you smile, that fleshy bit).

      No problem! So glad you found it useful 🙂

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