Contouring Vs Strobing: The Foolproof Guide

by Selen Hurer

Many people think The Kardashians invented contouring. They’re wrong. First used by Elizabethan stage actors, it’s been around for centuries. And it’s easy to see why. It works brilliantly under harsh studio lights and is great for theatre and drag – the Kardashians probably use it because for much of their daily lives, they are under those harsh lights. However, for everyday life, it can look very unnatural, almost mask-like, and masculine.

Using techniques such as strobing will help you to enhance and highlight your features naturally, without liking like a zebra! The main difference between contouring and strobing is that highlighting is usually paired with contouring using dark and light shades, whilst strobing is purely highlighting and has a very dewy finish. It should have a naturally beautiful feature enhancing effect, but as with all things that look effortless, they do require practice. Highlighter, for example, needs to be applied with caution to specific areas. If you aimlessly spread the product all over your face, your glow will quickly become an oily mess.

Here’s my Foolproof Guide To Strobing:

1. Apply highlighter on areas that catch the light. Dot along the tops of your cheekbones, down the bridge of the nose, above the cupid’s bow, below your brow bone and in the corners of your eyes.

2. Oily skin. Avoid cream or liquid-based highlighters. Opt for powders instead and avoid areas that naturally have a little shine (e.g. forehead and chin) along with any breakouts.

3. Avoid glitter highlighters. They’re terrible for the pores - makes them more obvious.

4. Avoid the frosted 90’s look. Choose the correct shade of highlighter to match your skin tone.

  • Fair skin: Pearlescent, bright ivory or champagne tones are ideal. Avoid warm red undertones.

    Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Highlighter (available in 10 shades / £16). I’m in love with these beautifully silky powders. The creamy (yet oil-free) formula doesn’t cake the skin and the light-reflecting pearls leave it looking naturally illuminated, whilst blurring away imperfections. I recommend the soft, luminescent ‘Pearl’ white shade for fair skin tones and ‘Champagne Pop’, a beautiful pink champagne tone, for light to medium skin.
  • Medium – olive skin: Choose products with peach or golden undertones like Cover FX Custom Enhancing Drops in Sunlight (available in 7 shades / £34). These highly concentrated liquid illuminating drops are extremely versatile. They can be worn on their own, mixed with moisturiser or foundation, or simply dotted over your make-up. Go easy though – a little goes a long way and you can always add more if needed.
  • Tanned – brown – darker skin: Terracotta and warm bronze tones work best. Avoid frosty and cool shades; they can leave the skin looking ashy and dull. Iman Luxury Highlighter in Hot Shot (available in 3 shades / £12.95) is perfect. With its rich creamy-satin formula, the beautiful shimmer stick glides onto the skin smoothly and effortlessly. So versatile, as well as highlighting the areas on the face, it can also be used to add a pearlescent sheen to any lip colour.

5. Finishing touch. For a subtle glow, try Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter (available in 7 shades / £30). This magic product doubles up as a primer and can be applied underneath foundation for a subtle lift and polished finish. The filters are also skin-toned - no glitter or shimmer distracting from your imperfections. Instead skin is naturally illuminated, and lines and pores less visible.

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