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- Contouring plays with shadows and highlights to help give you instantly sculpted cheekbones — no fancy treatments required.
- Our top pick is the Lorac Pro Contour Palette, and it comes with six buttery-soft contouring and highlighting powders to suit a range of skin tones, and a multi-purpose brush for convenience.
Contouring is one of the more intimidating makeup techniques, but the basic principle is actually pretty simple.
At its root, contouring is about making use of shadows and highlights to help sharpen the look of your cheekbones and give your face a more sculpted appearance.
There are many ways to go about it, but really, all you need is a cool-toned brown powder, cream, or liquid that’s a shade or two darker than your skin tone, and highlighter. Blend the contour in the hollows of your cheeks and along the hairline and jawline to create a chiseled line, and place the highlighter on the high-points of your face — cheekbones, tip of the nose, center of the forehead, and Cupid’s bow. The key to a realistic contour is to blend, blend, blend — there should be no harsh lines between the makeup and your skin.
Most contour kits have a mix of contour and highlighter shades to play with. A basic palette might have as little as two colors, while a more advanced kit can include up to six or eight. For everyday use, you probably won’t need a ton of shades, but makeup artists and people who want a full glam look might want a larger palette to create more depth.
The best contour kits you can buy:
- Best overall: Lorac Pro Contour Palette with Contour Brush
- Best drugstore: NYX Highlight & Contour Pro Palette
- Best luxury: Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow Contour Duo
- Best cream: Fenty Beauty Match Stix Trio
- Best travel size: NARS Contour Blush
The best contour palette overall
The Lorac Pro Contour Palette comes with a brush and six versatile, blendable powders in a mix of matte and shimmer finishes to contour and highlight.
For an essential contour kit that covers all the basics, you can’t go wrong with the Lorac Pro Contour Palette.
It includes six powders (three contouring shades in in Light, Medium, and Deep, and three highlighting shades in Beige, Yellow, and Shimmer), and with a multi-use domed brush designed to sculpt, shade, and highlight those cheekbones. The two matte highlighting powders can also be used to set undereye concealer and create a more subtle highlighting effect.
In my experience, Lorac’s face powders are extremely buttery, blendable, and pigmented. Use a very light hand and slowly build up the color for your desired effect. If you’re new to contouring, Ulta has a helpful video that shows you how to use most of these shades to create more dimension.
Best Products calls this the best contour palette on the market. It’s also been featured on Refinery29 and has a 4.5 average star rating on Ulta based on more than 670 reviews. “This palette is *near* perfection. The formula is so amazing – super light and creamy, and I use all but the highlight shade almost every day,” writes one shopper.
Pros: six shades, comes with a nice brush, suitable for use around eyes
Cons: not all skin tones can use all the shades, not refillable
The best drugstore contour kit
The NYX Highlight & Contour Pro Palette is an affordable kit that covers the bases with eight contouring and highlighting shades.
The NYX Highlight & Contour Pro Palette is an incredible value — eight contour and highlight powders for just $25.
Most of the powders are completely matte, making them easy to match and blend together for your unique skin tone match. The round pans are also removable so you can refill the palette whenever you run out of the shades you use most often — just swap in the replacements and keep on doing your makeup.
The palette doesn’t come with its own brush or mirror so you’ll need to stash both in your makeup bag, and some shoppers said they wished the highlighter shades were shimmery. That being said, $25 for a packed palette like this is still a great value.
“This is definitely my go-to contour palette. I am more comfortable blending powders than creams for contour and this is so warm and blendable. I just wish the highlight shades were more blinding,” writes one Ulta shopper.
Pros: refillable, affordable, eight shades, mostly matte, vegan and cruelty-free
Cons: some reviewers say the highlighters are very subtle
The best luxury contour palette
The Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow Contour Duo is a luxurious pick that’s great for beginners and pros alike, with two large pans of contour and highlight powders in gorgeous packaging.
Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow Contour Duo is the least complicated contour palette you can buy. It comes with a bronzing contour powder and soft, shimmery highlighter, all wrapped up in gorgeous rose gold packaging. This is a pricey item at $68, but the pans are huge compared to other contour kits and the color payoff is stunning.
Some contour kits (including ones in this guide) are matte, which provide realistic definition but can lack glamour. Both the contouring and highlighting shades in this palette from Charlotte Tilbury have a super-shimmery finish that “makes you look like you actually have good, glowy skin,” writes a Sephora shopper.
The palette comes in two color stories to suit a variety of skin tones — Light/Medium and Medium/Dark. A few reviewers do note that the deeper palette is still not deep enough for some skin tones, so keep that in mind and seek out reviews from shoppers with similar complexions if that’s an issue.
Pros: large pan size, two color options, beautiful highlighter
Cons: expensive, contour shade isn’t totally matte
The best cream contour kit
The Fenty Beauty Match Stix Trio is a curated trio of concealer, contour, and highlighter so there’s no need to guess your shade.
The pre-bundled Fenty Beauty Match Stix Trio eliminates all the guesswork, giving you exactly what you need for defined cheekbones without any of the extras. If you don’t want to mess with multiple powders you might not use, this is a great streamlined option.
Each trio comes two Match Stix Matte Skinsticks for contouring and concealing, and one Match Stix Shimmer Skinstick shade for highlighting. The sticks are magnetized so they can nestle together for storage and be found easier when they’re dumped into your makeup bag.
Since its inception, Fenty Beauty has championed inclusivity in its shade range. But if you don’t find your particular contour, concealer, and highlighter combo in the five curated trios, you can buy each one individually for your own custom kit.
The cream-to-powder formula is really blendable and long-lasting, and Byrdie editors call this the best contour kit overall. Sephora shoppers give the product 4.1 stars based on more than 1,300 reviews. “They glide on and are so easily blended with a brush,” writes one shopper.
Pros: pre-bundled options for different skin tones, magnetized packaging, cruelty-free
Cons: trios are not customizable,
The best travel-sized contour kit
The NARS Contour Blushgives you razor-sharp cheekbones in the palm of your hand with two matte contouring powders.
NARS makes some beautiful cheek products — I’m a big fan of the iconic Laguna Bronzer, several of its blushes, and now, this travel-friendly Contour Blush palette. If you need a basic matte contouring kit small enough to toss in a purse, this is it.
This palette comes in five shades, so it’s great for a variety of skin tones. Each compact features a deep shade for contouring and bronzing, and a lighter one for highlighting. Both shades are completely matte, so if you want a blinding highlight, you won’t find it here. But for a more subtle look, these powders are soft, buildable, and versatile for everyday use.
Pros: travel-sized, matte finish provides natural highlight and contour, five shades for different skin tones, talc-free
Cons: highlighter side is much smaller, expensive, doesn’t come with brush
Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit ($40): This is a makeup-artist favorite with three contour shades, matte and shimmery highlighters, and a popular yellow-tinted powder. While it’s highly rated, it’s constantly sold out online, and the pan refills, one of the major draws for this palette IMO, are hard to find online as well.
E.l.f. Cosmetics Contour Palette ($6): While it doesn’t have as many shades as our top drugstore pick, this is a super-affordable and easy-to-use pick for beginners who don’t want to splurge. There’s also a cream version of this same palette, though some Amazon reviewers say not all the shades blend smoothly.
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