These days, it’s hard to find anyone that doesn’t have a secret stash of the best contouring makeup in their bag. It’s one of the easiest ways to achieve that flawless, Instagram-worthy look without pricey and risky procedures and layers upon layers of filters.
Because we don’t walk around in real life with invisible force-field-like filters on our faces, top contouring makeup does the job for us. Though that sounds like an awesome upgrade. Only got 4 hours of sleep? There’s a filter for that. Filled up your cup with mommy juice instead of water one too many times and look like the Crypt Keeper? There’s a filter for that.
13 Dreamy Contour Products From Powder To Creamy To Naturally Sculpt Your Face
All jokes aside, contouring products are no joke. They sculpt and highlight our best facial features — and tone down the ones we don’t love as much. With the proper technique and the best contour products in your kit, it is possible to master a natural, fresh-faced look.
Gone are the days of heavy layers of cream and powder, harsh lines, and cartoon-like exaggeration. Recent trends in skin show us that contouring is all about playing with light and tricking the eye in a realistic way.
If you’re a newbie to sculpting, there are tons of tutorials out there. Ultimately, you need to know your face shape. Know your undertones. And from there, you can pick your formula. From gels to powders and everything between, there’s something out there for every skin and preference. Even if you’re a contouring pro, it might be time to re-think some of the tools in your beauty arsenal. New formulations and innovations in the past year are totally worth the hype.
We recommend choosing at least two products: a shadow or shading product and a highlighter. Go for believable shades without the glitter. The goal is to mimic your skin — but better. Take a look at what we recommend as the top picks for contouring.
1. KKW BEAUTY CRÈME CONTOUR STICK
From the family that made modern contouring ubiquitous (The Kardashians), KKW Beauty offers 12 shades of creamy formula in a twist-up stick, from fair to deep dark II. This formula is super blendable for areas you want to sculpt, and the cream stick allows for light or heavy coverage. As with many of the best contouring makeup, you can blend with fingertips or a brush. The packaging is great for travel, too.
2. DIOR BACKSTAGE CONTOUR PALETTE
This compact with 4 powder-based colors is a great all-in-one. It’s easy to see why it’s repeatedly the best contour product, for runway shows and everyday life. In each compact, there’s a tab of light and dark shimmery highlighter shade and a light and dark matte contouring shade. The shade range isn’t as customizable as others, but Dior promises they suit all skin tones. You’ll definitely want to use your contouring brushes with this one.
3. FENTY BEAUTY by Rihanna Cheeks Out Freestyle Cream Bronzer
Packaged in an octagonal, mirrored compact, there are seven shades for cool-toned fair skin to very deep skin tones in this range. Rihanna’s brand is vegan and cruelty-free. The cream bronzer warms up your natural sun-kissed spots or creates soft contouring for the cheek, jaw, nose, and forehead. For subtle, soft contouring that looks like a million bucks, this is one of the top contouring makeups.
4. KVD Vegan Beauty Shade + Light Face Contour Refillable Palette
A refillable powder palette with 6 universally flattering shades for contour and 3 for highlight, the KVD formula is also paraben- and phthalate-free. Each color can be refilled, so if you’re obsessed with a particular shade — or want to augment your kit with a different hue like the lavender shade and light — you have the flexibility. This is one of the best contouring makeup picks for those with lighter or medium skin tones.
5. HUDA BEAUTY Tantour Contour & Bronzer Cream
This buildable, blendable cream-to-powder formula suits fair skin and the deepest of skins with cool undertones. The packaging is luxe and cool for the price point. And since a little goes a long way, the .42oz will last a long time. Fans absolutely rave about the healthy glow they achieve with the tan tour. Its status as one of the top contouring makeups available is undeniable.
6. danessa myricks Balm Contour
Niche but the beloved brand, Vanessa Myricks’ Balm Contour is a professional, elegant product. With an eye on skincare, too, this formula is enhanced with hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and other ingredients that nourish the skin. Designed for a natural look, this product claims to reduce the appearance of fine lines and pores for a flawless look. Vanessa advises applying under foundation for a more subtle look and wears over foundation for a more sculpted effect.
7. TOM FORD Shade and Illuminate
Super luxurious with a cult following, the dual shade cream highlight and contour (in three strengths) has high marks for being one of the best contouring makeups on the market. The super-sheer formula wears beautifully and is a wonderful gateway for those who are new to cream contour and want to treat themselves with something extra special.
8. SMASHBOX COSMETICS STEP-BY-STEP CONTOUR KIT
This trio of powder-based pigments comes in light/medium and medium/dark palettes. Each contains a highlight, a contour, and a bronzer — plus a brush for application and a built-in mirror. This might be the best contour makeup for beginners because it comes with an application guide that will help you contour based on your face shape. Reviewers note it looks great on camera and in person — which is true to the Smashbox ethos.
9. e.l.f. Cosmetics Contour Palette
A drugstore favorite, you can’t beat the price point of this palette. Vegan and cruelty-free, this compact of four powders is designed for contour, shading, sculpting, and brightening areas of the face, from eyes to cheeks to nose and jawline. The payout is buildable and reviewers note that they don’t oxidize to orangey hues on lighter skin tones. One of the top contouring makeups that won’t break the bank.
10. Physicians Formula Bronze Booster Highlight + Contour Palette
Another affordable drugstore find, the Physicians Formula blend is oil-free, hypoallergenic, cruelty-free, and is free of fragrance and gluten. This three-shade palette won’t offer deep contouring but will extend the life of your tan, enhance your glow, and help you achieve radiance. Packaged with an angled brush for all-over or targeted application.
11. NYX Professional Makeup Highlight & Contour Pro Palette
From a brand that regularly breaks the internet with awesomeness, the NYX Professional powder-based palette is designed to help you take your look to the next level. It’s refillable, so you can swap out a pan or two when you’ve used up your favorite shades. This is easily one of the best contouring makeup kits out there and is swatched on fair, medium, tan, and dark skins.
12. NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick
Another great find from NYX, this wonder stick lives up to its name. Dual-ended and perfect for travel, this cream-based contour and highlight stick makes adding definition to your face as easy as a few swipes. Smooth, non-streaky, and convenient, this product would be given 10 out of 5 stars by some users if they could. In a variety of shades, including a Universal stick, this is one of the best contour products for budget beauties.
13. UOMA Beauty Double Take Contour Stick
Make people do a double-take when they see you with this dual-ended cream contour and highlight stick. Branded as a power couple that helps you contour like a pro. These formulas are creamy, melt on contact, with a uniform payoff. Long-wear and infused with fruit extracts for hydration, the contour is matte and the highlighter will help you achieve some excellent strobe action. Pro Tip: apply some powder if you get a little heavy-handed with the shine.
FAQ About Contouring Makeups
What is the best makeup for contouring?
It depends on your underlying skin tones and the type of foundation you plan to wear. If you have dry skin, go with a creamy product to add moisture and melt into the skin. For skin that's oily go with a powder contour to mattify. If your skin tone is fair, powder products may work best for you because they don't oxidize and won't look orange after they dry on the skin.
Is cream or powder contour better?
Cream is best for dry skin types and is very blendable on liquid and cream foundations. The powder blends best over the powder foundation but sticks on liquid and cream foundations, making it more difficult to blend. Cream contour can also oxide on fair tones and look orange, so a powder contour may be a better option for you.
What type of contour is best for beginners?
Our recommendation is the Smashbox Cosmetics Step-By-Step Contour Kit. It is a great kit for beginners and comes with a guide to help you apply the product. It has a contour, highlight, and bronzer to take the guesswork out of buying the right shade. If you don't like powder, choose a contour that isn't much darker than your skin tone. It won't show as many mistakes. Just be sure to choose one with the undertones of your skin. This is another great option if you are getting started.
How do you contour makeup for beginners?
Start simply by applying a small amount of product under the cheekbones where you want to emphasize shadows and around areas that you want to appear less obvious. Build up product as needed, and blend as you go. You should aim to make your face appear as oval as possible and contour the parts of the face that fall outside that shape.
Can you use bronzer as contour?
Yes, however, if you don't have a warm skin tone, this may not be a good option for you. If you are going to use bronzer as contour, choose a shade that is darker and cooler than your current bronzer. Contour products tend to be more blendable and less prominent once they are blended out, but you could manage a contour with bronzer if you find the right shade.
13 Of Today’s Best Contour Products That Are On Everyone’s Must-have List
Top makeup artists recommend studying your unique facial features and shape to achieve the best results. Even if you’ve watched every tutorial or have been contouring for years, try freshening up your technique by placing your contour in the shape of a 3 that goes next to your hairline, under your cheekbones, and down to your jawline. Always, always blend down. Follow with a subtle highlight in those areas of your face that would naturally reflect light.
The best contouring makeup really comes down to personal preference. With 13 picks at all price points, you can experiment until you find your ride-or-die.
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