A Guide to Contouring and Highlighting Dark Skin

Contouring and highlighting refers to the art of using cosmetics to subtly accentuate your best features while playing down the less flattering ones, to give you a sculpted look. The technique uses darker shades of brown or pink to draw attention away from say, plump cheeks or a double chin, while making use of lighter shades of the same color to make the cheekbones stand out. It’s amazing how a little strategically-applied color can slim down your face and show off your features in the best possible light. There’s something almost magical about it.

The challenge of contouring and highlighting dark skin

Dark-skinned women can find it challenging to master contouring and highlighting, since there isn’t a great deal of information available on the best techniques for such skin types. However, there are a few standard guidelines that you must keep in mind. Using a highlighter that’s too light for instance, can make your cheekbones look chalky and unnatural.

The point of contouring is to create shadows and hollows where there are none. This is done with a color that’s darker than your natural skin – it helps create the illusion of a more chiseled face, especially when used along with a highlighter, which accents your features. Used together, contouring and highlighting techniques can draw attention to your best features, enhancing your cheekbones, making your eyes look bigger and your nose smaller. So how do you know which colors and shades are right for you? Don’t worry, help has arrived.

How to choose the right contouring and highlighting products for dark skin

Eye-shadows and bronzers work well for contouring and highlighting, since they are available in a great many shades. Look for matte-finish products. Try out a few shades that are a little darker than your skin, but not too dark since you could wind up with dirty-looking cheeks. You don’t want to look like you’ve been playing in the flower bed.

It’s not easy finding the right highlighter shade for darker skin, but if you test a few samples, you’re sure to find one that’s right for you. Many choose a shimmery bronzer or shadow with a gold tone – these are very flattering on dark skin.

How to contour and highlight your face:

Let’s start by contouring your cheeks, eyes and nose.

Cheeks: To contour your cheeks, apply a little matte-finish shadow just under your cheekbones, on the hollows of your cheeks. You can also apply a little in the hollow just under the jaw-line to define it.

Nose: Contouring can give you a more slender, elegant nose. Brush a little on both sides of your nose, beginning from above the bridge of the nose, from the inside of the brow. This is meant to be applied only on the sides of your nose, where it meets the cheek, and not on the cheek itself.

Eyes: To contour your eyes, use the shadow just on your eyelids, blending into the crease but not near the brow-line.

Highlighting will balance out the shadows you’ve just created and make your cheekbones more prominent and your eyes more distinctive. Here’s how to go about it:

Cheeks: The trick here is to apply the highlighter in the right place – across your cheekbones. To make sure you get it right, draw an imaginary line from the top of your ear down to the corner of your mouth. Your cheekbone will be midway between the two – brush the bronzer over the cheekbones in the same angle as the imaginary line and hey presto! Your cheekbones are beautifully accented.

Nose: To highlight your nose, simply brush a little down the bridge of your nose. This will complement the shadows you created with the contouring product, giving you a nice, sleek sniffer.

Eyes: Highlight your eyes to brighten them. You can try a golden-toned highlighter with a touch of pink or peach – these shades can be very becoming on dark skin. Brush the highlighter across the brow-bone and see the transformation for yourself.

Tips for contouring and highlighting

1.Always choose a contour color that’s no more than two shades darker than your own skin. Try out different shades at the store to see which one suits you best.


2.When you dip your brush into the contouring/ highlighting product, shake off most of it or brush it onto the back of your hand before applying it on your face. It’s advisable to start with very little color and add more as you go along. This way you minimize the risk of applying too much and having to start over.


3.Make sure you blend the highlighter upwards across your cheekbones. Brush it too low and you might create the fish-face look. You can also apply a small amount to the hollows of your temples for a more defined effect.


4.Always pick highlighters with a warm gold tone. Stay away from silver-toned products, which don’t go well with dark skin.


5.Use a tinted lip-gloss in a warm pinkish shade to complete the look.


6.After you contour and highlight, you might notice that where the two intersect, the effect is not very smooth and uniform. Use a separate brush to blend the two together as a finishing touch.


7.Contouring and highlighting products can be in powder or cream form. Choose the one that works best for you. If you choose powder, remember to stick with powder for all your makeup – from foundation to blush. Consistency is key – using different textures might result in a cakey effect.

Now that you know more about contouring and highlighting dark skin, take time off to find products that will enhance your looks and are compatible with your complexion. Invest in the right ones, try them out and forever banish any fears you might have had about not being able to contour and highlight your face. Practice the techniques a few times and perfect them before you show off your new look to the world. Rest assured, you will find yourself subject to much praise and admiration. And why not? You deserve it.