A beginner’s guide to contouring on mature skin

Want to accentuate your cheekbones? Here's how to contour...

beginners-guide-to-contouring

by Samantha Price |
Updated on

Think contouring is complicated? Think again. Our beginner's guide to contouring shows that applying makeup for older women can be achieved in just a few simple steps. If you dream of beautiful cheekbones but aren't sure how to show off your bone structure to the best of your ability, contouring is the answer.

Contouring involves the use of highlighter and bronzer for mature skin to define, enhance and sculpt the structure of the face. The idea is to create highlights and shadows with makeup for extra definition around the cheekbones, jawline, nose and forehead. You may have heard of contouring, but dismissed it as a technique for makeup professionals. However, it might come as a surprise to learn that it couldn't be easier, and it's a fun make up technique to try as your makeup transitions into the autumn season.

Best makeup for contouring shortlist:

Best contour: NYX Professional Makeup Matte Bronzer - Buy now on Amazon
Best highlighter and concealer duo: ICONIC London Radiant Concealer and Brightening Duo - Buy now on Look Fantastic
• Best highlighter: Laura Mercier Face Illuminator - Buy now on John Lewis
• Best highlight and contour duo: NYX Professional Makeup Wonderstick - Buy now on Amazon

First, prepare your skin with the best primer for mature skin, followed by your favourite foundation and setting powder. Then, apply a contour to the hollows of your cheeks, and a highlight to the lightest parts of your face to create some definition. Blend it all out, and voilà - It really is that simple.

So, if you're looking for a beginner's guide to contouring, read on. In the meantime, we've put together some of our favourite products to help you achieve the look, including the best concealers for mature skin. Here are our favourite products to use when it comes to contouring your face.

The best contours

Best contour overall

NYX Professional Makeup Matte Bronzer
Price: $8.99
Alternative retailers
Target$8.99View offer
Walmart$10.32View offer

NYX is a brand that's seen popularity due to its affordability, and these matte bronzers are one of the highest rated on Amazon. Covering shades from light to dark, warm to cool. While these bronzers are matte, they'll create some definition to your look. Achieve a natural and healthy glow without the shimmer.

Customer review: "Love this bronzer, excellent pigmentation and the colour 'deep tan' suits my skin tone well (I'm Asian and NC35 in Mac). The quality is fab, as good as high end brands. Great value for money."

Pros

  • Highly rated
  • Different shades available
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Too warm for some

Best contour for value

e.l.f. Cosmetics Putty Bronzer
Price: $7.00

Yet another contender for affordability, e.l.f's putty bronzer is the best for value. It's creamy in consistency and has an easily blendable formula. There are a variety of pigmented shades available that can be built up for the desired effect. All e.l.f. products are vegan and cruelty-free.

Customer review: "This is a great true cool tone for pale skin. Absolutely no orange tone. It pretty sheer but very buildable and didn't disturb my foundation underneath. Can't beat the price. Will definitely buy again."

Pros

  • Lightweight creamy consistency
  • Different shades available
  • Easily blendable

Cons

  • Consistency is not for everyone

Best contour for a natural glow

There are four shades to select from Charlotte Tilbury's Airbrush Bronzer range, and while some are more pigmented than others, the medium shade has received some positive reviews. Made from a matte and silky smooth formula, this shade gives a warm and healthy glow when contouring.

Customer review: "I’m 51 and this product really works. Use a big brush and apply in a circular motion all over. Skin feels silky and it lasts all day without feeling too layered"

Pros

  • Highly rated
  • Different shades available
  • Great lasting power

Cons

  • Matching shade can be a challenge

Best contour for pale skin

Tried and Tested by Beauty, Fashion and Wellness Product Writer, Samantha Price.

As someone who's pale, striking a balance with contour can be difficult. More often than not, contour can be too dark or too warm for my skin tone. That's when I tried the Fenty Match Stix Skinstick, in the lightest shade, Soft Amber. It has a creamy consistency, so it feels lovely and lightweight on the skin. It's easily blended for a more subtle, natural look - but is also buildable when you're wanting something a bit more dramatic. I'm such a big fan of this product, I have to say it's my favourite contour. So easy to apply, too. I would also recommend the shade Amber for pale cool toned skin.

Customer review: "I'm a newbie to the makeup world but I wanted to experiment with contouring and with pale skin (think lightest shade possible) I was striking out with other contour sticks until I tried this one in Amber. It's so nice. A little goes a long way and it blends beautifully. I love the look and would highly recommend it."

Pros

  • Many of inclusive shades available
  • Lightweight creamy consistency
  • Easily blendable

Cons

  • A lot of shades out of stock

Best contour for warm undertones

benefit Hoola Matte Bronzer
Price: £25.50 (was £30)

www.boots.com

This bestselling bronzer from Benefit has been created with a soft and blendable formula that applies matte to the skin. Despite having four shades, this bronzer does apply warm, so probably best for those with warmer undertones to try. This bronzer will make you look like you've just got back from your holidays.

Customer review: "Really glad benefit hasn't done to their classic bronzer what they did to their box of blushes. this formula is fantastic, and so is the classic hoola shade. The caramel shade is nice too but definitely more warm toned. The original Hoola is the perfect bronzer yet contour shade. I have repurchased this many times and will continue to repurchase it as long as they don't change this product!"

Pros

  • Compact
  • Different shades available
  • Easily blendable

Cons

  • New formula is not for everyone

The best highlighters

Best highlighter and concealer duo

Iconic London Radiant Concealer and Brightening DuoCult Beauty

Tried and Tested by Beauty, Fashion and Wellness Product Writer, Samantha Price.

I had the pleasure of testing out the ICONIC London Radiant Concealer and Brightening Duo in the shade Cool Fair, and I am absolutely in love with this product. It comes in an easy-to-apply duo stick, with the concealer on one side and the highlighter on the other encased in a slimline gold tube. I have really sensitive skin, and so far, my skin is yet to react.

Hands down, this has to be my favourite concealer that I've ever tried. I was so pleased with how much coverage the concealer offers, covering redness and blemishes without looking too heavy. It blended so effortlessly into my skin, and the shade matched me perfectly while brightening my complexion. I always use a budget concealer and the difference between this and my normal concealer is very apparent.

The highlighter is a lovely cream consistency that applies so smoothly on the skin. It has a subtle, natural, dewy glow that doesn't look shimmery or glittery. It appears to have a cream undertone which is perfect for my shade, not too warm and not too cool looking. Overall, this is a new favourite of mine and I'm sure it'll become a new staple in my make-up bag! I absolutely love it.

Customer review: "The formula of this concealer is super creamy so it blends into your skin beautifully, leaving a radiant finish. Although it's fuller in coverage, it doesn't feel cakey and layers well with other products. I have the shade warm medium and it does a fantastic job at brightening my under eyes."

Pros

  • 17 shades to choose from
  • Offers full coverage without looking heavy
  • A subtle natural glow from highlighter

Cons

  • The amount of concealer is small

Best highlighter overall

Laura Mercier Face Illuminator Highlighting Powder
Price: $39.50
Alternative retailers
Macy's$49.00View offer
Bloomingdale's$49.00View offer

Giving you a subtle glow that can be built up for something more intense, the Laura Mercier highlighting powder is a favourite at John Lewis, with thousands of raving reviews. There are different shades to choose from depending on whether you're looking for something more cool-toned or warm-toned. It also has great staying power for an all day look.

Customer review: "This face illuminator powder is fantastic. It exceeded my expectations as a first time buyer of product. I am sold on it. It is beautifully packaged, it goes on silky, smooth, and gives you an all day glow that enhances your entire face and mood. I have already gotten a few compliments when I’m wearing it. Highly recommend!"

Pros

  • A more luxury product
  • Different shades available
  • Easily buildable

Cons

  • Not as dramatic for some

Best highlighter for concealing

Alternative retailers
Sephora$40.00View offer
Neiman Marcus$40.00View offer
Macy's$40.00View offer

Technically, this is actually a concealer, but go two shades lighter than your foundation and you've got a fabulous highlight that'll look natural with your skin when it's blended in. Not to mention, it'll conceal any dark circles or redness while you're at it. A bestseller at John Lewis and one that's highly rated, definitely an essential for your makeup bag that you can take on the go.

Customer review: "Couldn't be without this product, easy to use, blends well and highlights your skin where needed."

Pros

  • Bestseller
  • Highly rated
  • Different shades available

Cons

  • May run out quickly

Best highlighter for sensitive skin

Alternative retailers
Saks Fifth Avenue$30.00View offer
Target$31.00View offer
Ulta$31.00View offer
Macy's$31.00View offer

Clinique is a trusted brand, known for products that are kind to the skin. If you have sensitive skin, the Clinique Chubby Stick might be the best choice for you. Easy to apply, easily blendable and one that gives you a natural-looking glow, this one is definitely a contender on the list.

Customer review: "I love this chubby contour stick, very portable and easy to take around with me. I use it to highlight and contour and it really works. I use the lightest colour and find it natural and not at all greasy. Comes off easily with make up remover at night."

Pros

  • Lightweight creamy consistency
  • Good for sensitive skin
  • Easily blendable

Cons

  • Only one shade available

Best highlighter for versatility

Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick Compact Highlighter
Price: £31.60 (was £39.50)

www.boots.com

From Bobbi Brown, this compact highlighting palette contains snapshots of mini highlighters that can be used as a blush, eyeshadow or to highlight when contouring. This is a great all-around palette, especially for mature skin. It creates a lovely natural finish and has brilliant staying power, lasting all day.

Customer review: "Great for mature skin. This product can be used as blusher or highlighter giving a subtle glow. Best for people who don't want to carry it in a makeup bag every day as it will crumble after being dropped but I keep mine where I apply my makeup and get every scrap of colour out of the package. I'm on my 3rd palette."

Pros

  • Compact
  • Great staying power
  • Variety of shades available

Cons

  • Quite crumbly consistency

The best highlight and contour duos

Best duo overall

NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick

Rrp: $12.00

Price: $6.35
Alternative retailers
Walmart$13.00View offer

For beginners to contouring, the Wonder Stick from NYX is an amazing entry point into makeup. A must-have, the highly-rated product makes contouring so easy in two simple steps. There are a few shades to choose from, with shades to suit most skin tones. The cream consistency makes it easily blendable so you can achieve a natural look.

Customer review: "As a beginner, this contour stick made it easy to learn how to contour! It's super easy to apply, yeah it may be a tad greasy but it's easily fixed underneath powder, I would recommend using a translucent powder however as the highlighting disappears when using a coloured powder! The only downside to this though is that you don't get much in the stick and runs out really quickly I bought mine about 3 weeks ago and I'm already buying another, well worth the money for what it does and how easy it is to handle!"

Pros

  • Highly rated
  • Easy application
  • Easily blendable

Cons

  • May run out quickly

Best duo for value

Another highly rated product is the Rimmel Sculpting Highlighter Palette, and this highlight and contour duo also includes a blush. There are a few different palettes to choose from depending on the shades you think will suit you best. It has a powder consistency, so may be best for those who want something more subtle. Will give you a lovely shimmery glow.

Customer review: "My natural mixed raced, tanned skin usually looks ashen when I try and add highlighters etc so I usually stay away from foundation and powder and just use blush. But the reviews and price for this persuaded me to give it a go. It arrived super fast and well protected in its packaging and I couldn't wait to try, It looks great and doesn't have the offputting shimmer like so many others. I was able to use the shades together to create a healthy glow which bought back some of the tan I had from summer and it looked really natural."

Pros

  • Highly rated
  • Includes blush
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Too shimmery for some

Best duo for vegans

Similar to the Wonder Stick by NYX, Barry M's Chisel Cheeks is a good affordable option for beginners or those just starting out with makeup. The application couldn't be easier and with a creamy consistency, these products are easily blended on the skin. Barry M is a vegan-friendly brand known for its cruelty-free products, so for those who practice a vegan lifestyle, this highlighter and contour duo is a perfect choice.

Customer review: "I am new to contouring so decided to take a chance on this product. It is excellent value for money, and comes with great instructions on the back of the box, however, I feel they are a little oily/greasy for my skin type. They blend and cover well, and I’m pale so the colours do blend to your skin tone, but as a personal preference, I like less oily makeup products. I’ve given this a 4 because it is perfect for people new to contouring, has good coverage and is excellent value for money."

Pros

  • Easy application
  • Easily blendable
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Only one shade available

Best duo for easy application

Maybelline Facestudio Master Contour Face Contouring Kit

Rrp: $12.99

Price: $9.98
Alternative retailers
Walmart$9.98View offer

Contouring is made easy with Maybelline's Contouring Kit. Each pan of powder even comes labelled with contour, blush and highlight steps so you can follow the process easily. A powder consistency for those that prefer it, this highlight and contour palette can be easily blended for a finished look.

Customer review: "Love this contour kit and have been using it for several years. I am Asian and tan well in the summer, but in the winter I am more on the fair side. I use light to medium in the winter and medium to deep in the summers when I've gotten more sun and colour. Perfect all in one blush, bronzer and highlighter for travelling. My only wish is that it came with a good little brush!"

Pros

  • Easy application
  • Easily buildable
  • Includes blush

Cons

  • Too warm for some

Best duo for buildability

Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit
Price: £33.60 (was £42)

www.boots.com

For beginners, this contouring palette by Anastasia Beverly Hills is a good choice because it contains undertones from cool to warm, so you can experiment and see what works best on your skin. One that's good for transitional seasons as you can go cooler or warmer with your makeup as you see fit. A product with great lasting power and fantastic buildable potential.

Customer review: "The shade pans are quite generous in size and have a great blendable formula to sculpt and define features, Overall, this is the perfect beginner palette because of the wide range of colours to work with buildable colour payoff and seamless blendability I highly recommend!"

Pros

  • A more luxury product
  • Variety of shades available
  • Great lasting power

Cons

  • Could include a darker palette for all skin tones

FAQs

How to: A step by step guide on contouring

1) Prep

Before applying your base, you'll want to apply a primer over all of the areas of the face. to allow your makeup to stay on for longer. Not only does a primer give your skin a youthful glow, it also creates a barrier for the foundation. As a result, your foundation applies much more smoothly.

After that, it's time to apply your foundation. Or, if you're going for a more casual look, the best BB cream or the best CC cream. You might also want to set your base with a light dusting of powder and some setting spray, so that your makeup stays in place throughout the day.

2) Contour

When it comes to choosing a contour shade, you may want to determine whether you have a cool undertone or a warm undertone first. A contour should be at least two or three shades darker than your foundation, and match your skin's undertone.

Just like finding your correct lipstick shade, using a shade too cool or too warm for your skin won't look cohesive. However, this may change through the seasons as you experiment with warmer and cooler tones. Changing your make-up through autumn, winter, spring and summer allows you to keep your makeup fresh.

When it comes to the application, follow the natural curve of your cheekbone, sweeping the product from the hollows of your cheeks to the top of your ear. Also apply to the underside of the jawline, around the hairline and temples, as well as the sides of your nose. When you're happy with the desired effect, blend this in.

3) Highlight

Finally, highlight the highest points of your face. You can do this by using concealer a few shades lighter than your foundation. Apply underneath your eyes, on the bridge of your nose and on top of your cheekbone. Depending on your choice, you may also want to use a cream stick highlighter or a highlighting powder.

Using an angled brush or your fingers, apply the highlighter on top of your cheekbone in a diagonal motion outwards towards your temples. The tip or bridge of the nose, corners of the eyes, browbone, and cupid's bow are also popular places to highlight.

Apply your blush as normal on the apples of your cheeks. You can even use a peach or pink shimmer highlighter here to give you a radiant glow. Blend all of the applied highlighter for a natural look. After one more spray of setting spray, you're ready to go!

How to: Highlight and contour on mature skin

Here's a video tutorial we found useful by experienced makeup artist, BrittanyBearMakeup on YouTube. Watch this beginner's guide to contouring below:

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