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Contouring has been one of the latest trends in makeup artistry. This alone has helped put makeup and similar beauty products in the spotlight. But how do you contour? And what are the best contour palettes out there?
Why Should You Contour?
With contouring all over social media, you may wonder if this extra step is really necessary. This depends on your preference.
Many people love contouring in order to change the shape of their face, i.e., creating defined cheekbones, slimming down a jawline, and changing the shape of the nose. Others simply use contour to accentuate their features.
What if you love your natural face shape? There’s no need to add extra product if you don’t want to. But there are contour palettes available that still create dimension and depth while working with your natural face shape.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Contour Kit
While there are several great contour palettes out there, you’ll want to know exactly what you’re looking for. Here are the most common buying factors to consider when searching for a new contour palette.
Face it, really good makeup isn’t exactly affordable. But does that mean you need to spend top dollar on a contour palette? This depends on how much you can and is willing to spend.
Fortunately, there are good affordable dupes to some of the more expensive contour palettes. You’ll look amazing and won’t break the bank.
If this is your first time contouring and you’re not sure what you want, it may be a good idea to try some palettes you can get at your local drugstore.
In-Store vs Online
The next factor you’ll want to consider is whether you’ll want to buy a contour palette at a store or online. Just about all drugstores and major beauty retailers sell contour palettes. But let’s face it, we like the convenience of buying products online.
One of the reasons I would buy a contour palette in-store is to test out the product before using it. But if you know what you want, then definitely buy it online if you can.
Contour palettes are available in two different formulas:
There are also liquid products, but you can’t buy them in a kit. Therefore, we’ll focus on powder and cream contour palettes.
So, how do you decide? If you’re not sure about your preference yet, take the application into consideration.
In my opinion, a cream contour is more finicky than powder. In other words, it takes more time to blend. You have more flexibility with powder; you can opt for a sheer contour or a more intense one just by adding a certain number of layers.
Powders are also easier to apply and blend, so they’re more ideal for a beginner.
You’ll also want to consider the brushes. Cream contours are typically applied with a sponge-like a Beauty Blender, but I’ve applied my cream contour with a flat brush and had fine results (I’m not the biggest fan of Beauty Blenders).
If you plan on applying powder contour, it’s recommended you choose an angled brush. Again, I’ve used a simple flat brush with fine results. Your skin type will also impact your results. For example, if you have dry skin, you’ll have better results when using a cream contour kit and a powder one if you have oily skin.
Skin Color and Undertone
One of the lesser-known struggles of finding a contour palette is finding one for your skin color and undertone. The best course of action is to find a palette that mimics the natural shadows on your face, but that’s not always realistic.
Here’s an easy guide to follow:
- Fair-to-medium skin tones: neutral taupe shades
- Tan and olive skin tones: deeper shades
- Dark skin tones: the deepest shade you can find (unless you plan on contouring with lighter shades)
You’ll also want to choose the best shade for your undertone. There are three undertones: cool, warm, and neutral. If your skin tends to look yellow, you have warm undertones. If your skin looks pink, you have cool undertones. And if you have a combination of both, you’re neutral.
Here are the best contour shades for undertones:
- Warm: bronzed contour
- Cool: peachy bronzer
- Neutral: you have more options, just don’t go for a bronzer that’s too orangey
Blush and Highlighter vs. Contour-Only
There are many contour kit options. Some only have one darker and one lighter color, while others offer a myriad of shades and even have blushed. While a darker and lighter color is essential to a proper contour, many people like to soften their look with a blush.
Another reason to consider a contour palette with blush is to combine the blush and bronzer for the perfect look. That’s what I did with a contour palette I have. Some people also prefer using the highlighter as a setting powder, though I wouldn’t use a highlighter for this purpose.
What About a Bronzer?
Many contour kits include a bronzer. But what’s the point of this? And can you contour with a bronzer? While they look similar, they have a different purpose.
Contours create the illusion of shadows on your face, manipulating your natural face shape. Since your contour is meant to look natural, it will likely be matte. Bronzers make your complexion look warmer by highlighting where the sun naturally hits your face. This is why bronzers tend to be shimmery.
Can you use a bronzer as a contour? Everyone has different opinions. In my opinion, as long as the bronzer is matte and isn’t too orangey, I say go for it. Can you use both a bronzer and a contour? Sure! A bronzer will add more golden tones to your skin. With the contour, you’ll have a more sculpted, sun-kissed glow.
But do you need a bronzer? Not at all. If you want to combine a contour with a bronzer, feel free to look for a kit that includes a bronzer. Otherwise, all you need is the darker contour shade with a highlight.
There’s no right answer on which option to choose — it’s all about preference. If you want to experiment, choose a contour palette with several color options. If you want to wear specific shades on a daily basis, choose a palette with one dark and light shade.
A reason to choose a contour kit with a couple of different shades is to mix the colors together, creating the perfect contour look. However, this takes a lot of blending and is pretty advanced.
I’ve also heard of people using a multi-shade contour kit for eyeshadow. This way, you can truly do many makeup looks in one kit!
While contouring can make you look amazing, using the wrong palette can easily ruin your look. That’s why you should take your skill level into consideration.
Generally, powders are the easiest to apply and blend. However, there are cream contour palettes that have a more natural look, ideal for beginners. Beginning contour palettes also include instructions that you can easily follow.
Best Contour Kits
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time for you to pick your new favorite contour kit! Here are a few of our recommendations to get you started.
e.l.f. Cosmetics Contour Palette
I personally love everything I’ve used from e.l.f. Even though they’re cheap, their products are still of great quality. That’s why their contour palette is first on our list. Their contour palette is a powder formula for four shades: two contours and two highlighters, though I would argue one of their highlights is a little dark.
You can easily find a color that matches your skin tone or mix them together to find the perfect shade. The powders are easily blendable, ideal for those of all skill levels. Their hues are also pigmented so you can define and sculpt your face easily.
- Easy to apply
- Buildable pigments
- Matte contour with a shimmery highlighter
- Not the best packaging
Anastasia Beverly Hills Powder Contour Kit
When I personally think of a high-quality contour kit, the Anastasia Contour Kit is what comes to mind. The powders are all very blendable and do their job extremely well. You can contour just about everywhere. And with six shades, you can find a color that works with your skin tone.
- Great for contouring beginners
- Blends nicely
- Pigmented colors
- Also comes in a cream form
- Some people complained they broke out when using this product
Lorac PRO Conceal & Contour Palette
I’ll be honest, I never cared for many of the products I got from Lorac. But this palette is too amazing to ignore. The palette features three matte contour shades, three matte highlighters, and an illuminator. The shades are available in a powder formula that’s easily blendable.
The best part about these powders is they stay in place for hours. Unless I use a contour from Too Faced or another major brand, the colors seem to disappear from my skin. This palette also includes a domed brush, ideal for beginners who may not have a contour brush.
Even though the brand is owned by celebrity makeup artist Carol Shaw, this palette is ideal for users of all skill levels.
- Creamy powders that are ideal for all skin types, including dry skin
- Easy to blend
- Buildable, can be a natural or dramatic contour
- Perfect for both beginners and professionals
- Lots of variety in terms of color
- Some of the colors don’t show up on all skin colors
- Product size is pretty small, will use most of the pan up when used on a daily basis
Aj Crimson Artist Kit
Feel like spending $150 on a contour palette? If you’re truly looking for a cream contour palette that works, the price may be worth it. The palette features six shades all in the same beeswax formula. The palette is ideal for all skin types, is water-resistant, and lasts all day.
- Long-lasting and water-resistant
- Ideal for all skin types and colors
L’Oreal Paris Infallible Contour Kit
While L’Oreal is a brand that has always been a hit or a miss for me, their contour palette is actually pretty good quality. The Infallible Contour Kit has four shades and the colors are pigmented enough to also use as a concealer.
If you’re looking for a drugstore multitasking contour kit, this is definitely a good option.
- Doesn’t look orange
- Very natural looking
- Offer different color options
- Some of the colors have been discontinued
Fenty Beauty Match Stix Trio
Fenty Beauty is not a brand I particularly care for, but these cream stick contour products are really cute. Even as a cream, they’re very blendable and lightweight. Unlike many cream contour kits, you can actually blend with these extremely well.
One thing I will always give Fenty is its ability to make makeup products ideal for all skin colors. This is the case with this palette. The kit is available in four skin colors: tan, deep, light, and medium. Each kit has three colors that are matched perfectly for the best skin color. Every kit includes a contour shade, concealer, and a highlight.
- Lightweight, even for a cream formula
- This actually might be discontinued? I found some on Amazon but not on the Fenty or Sephora websites, so I’m not sure.
- Not the best packaging
Danessa Myricks Cream Palette Essentials
If you have a darker skin color and are struggling to find a good contour palette for you, then you should consider the Danessa Myricks Cream Palette. The palette has six diverse shades. While they’re cream, they blend effortlessly and are waterproof for long-lasting wear.
- Vivid but still natural-looking
- Some reviewers complained the pigments didn’t last very long and the palette wasn’t actually waterproof
Dior Contour Palette
If you love the flawless airbrush look, then you’ll need something super high-level. How much better can you get than Dior? Even though this palette is ideal for professionals, the colors are easy to work with. This makes the Dior Contour Palette the perfect high-level contour kit for beginners who want to buy the best-of-the-best.
This palette comes with four colors that are all in powder formula. They’re super blendable, with both matte and shimmery options. What if all of the colors don’t work for your skin color? You can use them as an eyeshadow! I also love how small and compact this palette is. So many contour palettes are massive, and this one fits perfectly in my makeup bag.
- Dramatic look
- A versatile palette, can also be used as an eyeshadow
- Only really works for certain skin colors (fair-olive skin)
- Very shimmery
Charlotte Tilbury Bronze & Glow Contour Duo
Do you still struggle to find a contour palette for your skin color? Charlotte Tilbury emerged with the perfect solution: a deep taupe and champagne highlighter that works with just about everyone. If your skin is pale, this palette will create beautiful definitions that won’t make your skin look muddy. And if you have tanned and olive-tone skin, these colors will create a beautiful luminance.
The colors are also easy to blend, ideal for users of all skill levels. Since there are only two colors, this is the perfect everyday contour palette for users who like to keep things simple.
- Subtle colors, great for a simple contour or bronzed look
- Powder is light
- Small case
- Worth the money
- Quality product
- Some complain the bronzer/contour shade is too light
- Too sheer, especially for those who want an intense contour
Beauty Bakerie Mini Contour Palette
If you have medium skin tones and really want an extravagant contour, you’ll love this travel-friendly palette by Beauty Bakerie. The palette includes a contour shade, blush, and highlighter. The shades are all ideal for users with warm undertones and are extremely simple to apply.
This is the perfect palette for those who aren’t savvy with contouring and those who are always on the go, as well as experienced MUAs who just want a simple contour palette.
- A very soft and natural contour
- Blends perfectly
- Not too many color options
Lovecraft Beauty Blush Palette
Okay, I’ve had this palette for months and this whole time I thought the apricot blush was a contour shade. Oops. Oh well. Probably why this color has always looked way too orange on my skin. There are no rules to make up, right?
Regardless, I absolutely love this palette! First off, I never heard of Lovecraft Beauty. There are three blushes in this palette: one peach, one rose, and one apricot. They’re all powder formula and very layer-able.
As I said, I would use the apricot as a contour shade but it’s too orange. What I would do is mix it with the rose color, Altheda. The result is a lovely peachy shade.
I applied a light concealer to my cheekbones and right under where I contoured. Then, I blended it all in. I think I used too much concealer because my blush disappeared (I simply reapplied it). The result is that lovely Dauphine/Altheda contour, but one that looks more natural.
- Looks great on all skin tones
- Technically not a contour palette
- Difficult to blend
- Need good brushes
How to Contour
Now that you have your perfect contour palette, it’s time to try it out. If this is your first time contouring, we promise, contouring isn’t as hard as it looks and this technique is definitely not only for the pros! Follow these simple steps to get the most perfect contour.
Put on your foundation and concealer before contouring. If you’re wearing cream contour, you’ll apply it before your powder. But if you’re using powder contour, you’ll apply the contour after your face powder.
Start by applying the dark shade. First, identify where you want to apply it. Most people apply the darker shade a little below their cheekbones, though you can also apply it on the sides of your jaw to slim your face or the sides of your nose to make your nose more defined.
Not sure where you want to apply contour? Follow the natural shadows of your face. You can do this by looking in the mirror. Make sure you’re in a room with the best possible lighting. You’ll be able to see where the shadows hit your cheeks as well as your jaw, chin, and nose.
Apply the highlighter or lighter shade. Most people apply this down the length of their nose, their cheekbones, inner corners of their eyes, and the brow bone.
Blend it all together. If you applied a cream contour, be sure to set it with setting powder. Finish off your look with a setting spray.
Get Your Contour On!
Contouring your face will help you get that perfectly sculpted look you see on celebrities and your favorite influencers. Once you find the right contour shade, the rest is easy. All you need are the right products and the best contour guide to get started. Try the products we recommended or go out and experiment with different palettes!
Do you need more face makeup recommendations? We offer a whole guide for you. Check out the brands and products we love!