Contouring and Highlighting for Dark Skin

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Contouring dark skin

One of the essential techniques to learn for any makeup application is contouring—and although it seems intimidating at first, it’s actually fairly easy to master. We recently covered contouring basics, but now we have remixed that article to share some tips and product recommendations for those with darker skin tones.

“When you contour, the underlying idea is the same, no matter what skin tone you’re working with,” says Los Angeles–based makeup artist Brande Bytheway. The end goal? “Contouring is all about playing up your natural features,” says Brande, who recommends practicing and playing around to discover what works on your particular face.

To recap, there are two main techniques in contouring: lowlighting and highlighting. Lowlighting refers to using a darker color wherever there’s an area of the face or feature you want to recede or de-emphasize. Highlighting is the opposite: using lighter colors on areas you want to emphasize or bring forward.

Here’s how to perform basic contouring and highlighting on the cheeks, eyes, and nose, plus product picks! As Brande notes, AJ Crimson’s line of makeup offers a really wide range of foundation shades and BBs to fit most any skin tone. 

Cheeks

Start with the cheeks

If you’re a beginner, try out the technique on the cheeks first—it’s really simple. For this look, we started with a clean base using AJ Crimson BB+D cream in Shade 7. Then, using a medium angle brush, we applied Inglot Eye Shadow #63 AMC, a matte shade, on the hollow of the cheeks (or right underneath the cheekbone). That’s the lowlight, and every time you do a lowlight, you want to balance with a highlight. In this case, we used Inglot AMC Multicolour Bronzing Powder #87 along the cheekbones to bring them forward.

If you’re adding luminizer on dark skin, Brande suggests a bronze-based product like this, rather than something pearl-based. “This will give you more of overall natural glow. If you’re color is too pearly, on dark skin, it can look like you have a line of frost,” she says. Brande also noted AJ Crimson’s wide range of foundation and BB shades. “The range is wide enough that almost any skin tone will find something that works,” she says.

Nose

Contouring the nose

Here, we did light contouring on the nose, using the same lowlight and highlight shades we used on the cheeks (see above) Starting at the inner corner of the brow, we brushed a small amount of the lowlight shadow along both sides of the nose. Then we applied the highlight down the bridge of the nose. To finish, we blended the two together with a clean brush.

Eyes

Contouring for eyes

Contouring and highlighting the eyes can really make them pop. For this look, we started with Inglot Eye Shadow #327 and Inglot AMC Pressed Powder in 68 as the lowlight, applying it into the crease and blending well. Then, we countered that with a highlight brushed right along the brow bone—we used blended two shades here, Inglot Eye Shadow #312 and #405. We finished the eyes with Anastasia Brow Wiz in Ebony on brows. 

For darker skin, Brande suggests choosing a highlight shade that has yellow or orange in it. “If you pick a product with too much of a cool undertone,” she explains, “it can look ashy once it oxidizes, as though it’s floating on top of the complexion. A peachy shade like Inglot’s #312 works well on dark tones, because it will blend in and give you a nice bright pop,” she says.

Finishing Touches

Contouring finishing touches

To complete the look, we added cream highlighter (Luminize from Too Faced’s Natural Face Palette) to the higher plans of the face—the cheekbones, brow ridge, and down the bridge of nose. Lastly, we layered Inglot Lipstick #410 under Too Faced Summer Sun Shines Lip Gloss in Papaya Slushie on the lips. Done!

Before and after of contouring