What is the Difference Between Strobing, Highlighting & Contouring?


Trying to figure out the best way to add a little shimmer into your life? We break down the techniques for you right here, and explain the benefits of each. Whether you like to highlight just in spring and summer, or all year long, there’s something for everyone.  

What is Highlighting Makeup?

Highlighters both reflects light and brighten areas of the face or body where they’re applied. On the face, highlighting works in tandem with contouring techniques to enhance bone structure.

Body highlighting, on the other hand, just means using highlighter to brighten the skin and add a little shimmer. Contouring can be used on the body, but it’s not necessarily part and parcel of highlighting as it is on the face.

What is Strobing Makeup?

Strobing is very similar to highlighting, but ever-so-slightly different. The products and techniques are the same. While highlighting is a sister technique to contouring, strobing involves the use of highlighters or illuminators on their own. The goal is to strategically add brightness or clarity to your complexion, for a dewy, healthy-looking complexion.

When used sparingly, strobing makeup achieves a more natural, dewy finish to your makeup, so you look refreshed and healthy. It has an added benefit of being easier to apply than contouring makeup as well.

What is Contouring Makeup?

Contouring involves the use of shading to define cheekbones and facial structure. Makeup for contouring is generally a couple shades darker than your skin. A secret trick of makeup artists (before they started posting tutorials on YouTube and Instagram!), contouring and highlighting generally work in tandem to play with the effects of light and shadow on your face. “It’s not supposed to be noticeable -- just a subtle definition,” makeup artist Beau Nelson tells Teen Vogue. Most contouring makeup is designed for the face, whereas highlighting and strobing products are made for the body as well.

One important difference between contouring and highlighting: contouring makeup has a matte finish and most highlighting makeup has a shimmer. Intimidated by contouring makeup? You’ll find plenty of tutorials on YouTube, or you can go to a makeup counter and ask an artist for some advice on your particular features.

Can I Contour Without Highlighting?

Yes, you can. However, if you think of contouring as the use of shadows to define bone structure, those shadows are more effective when contrasted with areas of brightness.

If you don’t like shimmer on your face, it’s possible to highlight with the use of concealer that’s a couple shades lighter than your skin. You can also use just a hint of highlighter to tame the shine a little.

When is it Best to Strobe vs. Contour & Highlight?

Depending on your face shape and features, contouring can really sculpt your features. Don’t have well-defined cheekbones, but always coveted them? Contouring & highlighting, when done correctly, can make your cheekbones pop, and either accentuate or minimize other features as well.

Contouring and highlighting definitely take more time. If you love makeup, that’s probably not a deterrent, but for those wanting a simpler beauty routine, strobing is certainly lower maintenance. Special occasions, when you know you will be photographed, might be worth the extra time spent on makeup, however.  

Should I Use Strobing Makeup or Highlighter if I Have Acne?

Depending on the location of your breakouts, it’s still possible to get your glow on. For cystic acne or heavy breakouts all over your face, you might want to consult your dermatologist before introducing new makeup products.

For minor breakouts, you’ll want to avoid applying highlighter directly onto blemishes. Highlighters tend to draw attention to rather than conceal acne, so as long as you’re applying it to clear spots, you should be good.

Can I Use Highlighter or Strobing Makeup on My Body?

Products will generally indicate on the label whether they’re strictly for the face, the body, or if they’re both a face & body product. If you’re tempted to use a face product on your body, be careful of your clothes unless the product says it’s waterproof or smudge-proof.

BeautyGARDE Face & Body Highlighter

Our cream-based face & body highlighter is completely waterproof and smudge-proof! It won’t mess up your clothes. That’s right: zero transfer. Change from your daytime to evening outfit, and BeautyGARDE Face & Body Highlighter will not come off with your clothes. It won’t rinse off in the pool or with a little sweater, either.

The innovative roll-on sponge applicator gives you blending and building control. Apply as little or as much as you like: a thin swipe of cream on your cheeks for a subtle, dewy complexion, or highlight away for a complete glow baby look. You can also use our versatile highlighter in combination with your favorite contouring makeup.

BeautyGARDE Face & Body Highlighter rolls easily onto your shoulders, décolletage, collarbone, or down your legs – anywhere you want to wear it! If you want just one versatile product to use anywhere on your body, this is it.

The portable tube will fit easily in your purse, beach bag, or carry-on luggage, too. No fragile, breakable container or extra brushes to worry about. For harder to reach areas like your cupid’s bow or the inner corner of your eyes, put a little on your finger and use it as an applicator.

Want to learn more about highlighting? Check out these other articles in our series:

BeautyGARDE Clean Cleansing Oil

Makeup remover and cleanser in one, our Clean Cleansing Oil easily wipes away all waterproof makeup, including face & body highlighters and waterproof mascara. Full of skin-boosting vitamins and antioxidants, Clean Cleansing Oil moisturizes while it absorbs makeup, dirt, and pollution from your face.

Our cleansing oil is non-comedogenic, too, so it won’t clog your pores. In fact, the anti-inflammatory power in our oil blend -- including geranium, olive, vitamin E, castor, and rosemary oils – fights acne and promotes collagen production. Make it part of your nightly skincare routine!

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