Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Believe it or not, people have been contouring their faces since the sixteenth century, but we can all agree it wasn't mainstream until the Kardashian era (which is to say, sometime around 2012). In any case, the makeup technique is truly a game-changer. You can sculpt your cheekbones and make your face appear narrower or shade your upper-forehead to draw attention down to your eyes. You can make your nose look straighter, define your jawline, or create the illusion of a longer neck. The possibilities are endless—that is, if you're equipped with the right products. Luckily, contour kits come with everything you need (except maybe a brush and a blender sponge) to achieve the lifted, sculpted look you're going for.
We appreciate options with multiple shades, allowing you to blend colors for a customized effect. Many also come with a highlighter color, which is key to creating a pro-level dimension. "When I look for a contour palette, I make sure it is suitable to use on a wide range of skin tones, first and foremost. I also think the formulation is very important. For example, I like my contour to be pigmented and blendable," says BenkoVancouver-based makeup artist Amanda Benko.
With that said, these are the best contour kits available today.
Best Overall: Lorac PRO Conceal & Contour Palette
Sliding into the number one slot, we've got the Lorac Pro Contour Palette. Developed by celeb makeup artist Carol Shaw, this brilliant kit has three matte contour shades, two matte highlighters, and a shimmery illuminator. The ultra-pigmented powder is velvety-soft and totally blendable, going on smooth and staying in place for hours. Unlike most other contour kits, this palette even comes with a domed brush for precise application and a natural-looking finish.
Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Cream Contour Palette
On a budget? No problem. This powder palette by e.l.f. comes with four show-stopping hues you can mix, match, blend, and build for a perfectly defined look. You'll get two contour shades and two highlighters for sculpting and emphasizing your best features.
Best Drugstore: L'Oréal Paris Infallible Total Cover Concealing & Contour Kit
High-quality contouring products aren't something you can only get at luxury makeup counters— and this drugstore pick by L'Oreal Paris is proof. It has four creamy shades for concealing imperfections, evening out skin tone, defining your bone structure, and highlighting your cupid's bow, brow bones, nose, and temples.
Best Splurge: AJ Crimson Artist Kit
Up for splurging on something truly special? Check out the AJ Crimson Artist Kit. This high-end palette has six buildable shades, all hand-poured, thanks to the buttery beeswax-based formula. The gorgeous water-resistant colors are ideal for all skin types and last for up to an impressive 18 hours.
Best Cream: Fenty Beauty Match Stix Trio
If you like cream formulas, you can't go wrong with Fenty Beauty's Match Stix. The lightweight formula is perfectly buildable and effortlessly blendable, leaving you with a flawless, defined complexion.
This set is available in four shade ranges (deep, tan, medium, and light), each with three colors. You'll get a color-corrector for concealing, a dark shade for contouring, and a shimmery stick for highlighting.
Best Powder: Anastasia Beverly Hills Powder Contour Kit
If you prefer powders, we recommend this silky-smooth blendable palette from Anastasia Beverly Hills. With six stunning shades, you'll have everything you need to nail the illusion of a slimmer nose, a softer jawline, a smaller forehead, or higher cheekbones.
Best Multitasker: Dior Backstage Contour Palette
For a professional-level airbrushed effect, check out the Dior Backstage Contour Palette. Benko loves the super-buildable matte and shimmery finish in this runway-worthy kit. "It makes a gorgeous eyeshadow palette as well, so it's multi-functional," she tells Byrdie.
"It's small, compact, easy, and extremely practical," says Paris-based makeup artist Andreea Ali. "I love the colors in this palette—no wonder it's so often out of stock. It can be used anywhere on the face and works for a makeup artist, as well as for a makeup lover."
Best for Dark Skin: Danessa Myricks Beauty Waterproof Cream Palette Essentials
This cream contour palette from Danessa Myricks is ideal for darker skin tones. It comes in six shades, ranging from deep espresso brown to warm medium beige. The ultra-smooth waterproof formula blends effortlessly for a seamless statuesque look.
Best for Medium Skin: Beauty Bakerie Brownie Bar Mini Palette
People with medium skin tones should reach for Brownie Bar, Beauty Bakerie's take on the travel-friendly contour palette. With these three beautifully warm colors in your makeup bag, you'll have all the essentials for contouring, highlighting, and bronzing, whether at home or on the go.
Best for Olive Skin: Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow Contour Duo
Cool-toned contour colors with slightly golden tints tend to work best for complexions with olive undertones, as warmer hues can end up looking a little muddy. With that said, the deep taupe contour and champagne highlighter found in Filmstar Bronze & Glow create flattering definitions and a dazzling hint of illumination on olive skin tones.
"I would say this is the perfect contour and highlight duo that every woman could use," says Ali. "It's easy, has a satin finish, and is incredibly easy to blend. And the fact that there are only two colors in the palette makes it all so much easier to use."
Best for Fair Skin: Kevyn Aucoin Beauty The Contour Book: The Art Of Sculpting & Defining Volume III
Cooler hues also work well for those with fair skin, and The Contour Book gets the shades exactly right. "I haven't seen any other palette having that grayish tone that we actually need to contour. This one also has two highlighters and a blush, which I find very practical," says Ali.
Best for Beginners: Smashbox Step-By-Step Contour Kit
If you're a contouring novice, we suggest Smashbox's Step-By-Step Contour Kit. This easy-to-use palette has a deep contour, a bronzer, and a highlighter, all with a complexion-enhancing matte finish. The compact has a built-in mirror and comes with a pro-level blending brush, too.
Best Palette: Vodisa 10 Cream Contour Kit
This affordable palette by Vodisa comes with 10 of the most common contouring, color-correcting, and highlighting shades. The colors range from deep chestnut to ivory and everything in between. Not only that, but the silky creams are super-blendable and oh-so-smooth.
Best Portable: Wet n Wild MegaGlo Contouring Palette
When you're traveling or just out and about, you'll be glad to have Wet n Wild's pocket-sized contouring compact. With a deeper hue for sculpting and defining and a lighter shade for showcasing your finest features, this little duo is just the thing for creating a flawless look while on the go.
For an A+ contour kit that pulls out all the stops, your best bet is the Lorac Pro Contour Palette. Developed by the trusted mind of an experienced celebrity makeup artist, it comes with three stunning matte contour colors, plus three brilliant highlighters and a pro-level brush. However, if you prefer something without a double-digit price tag, we recommend the e.l.f. Cosmetics Contour Palette. With four gorgeous, blendable shades, including two contours and two highlighters, this kit gives high-end palettes a run for their money.
What To Look For In A Contour Kit
Powder vs. Cream
"When looking to buy a contour kit, you have to first decide if you want a powder or a cream formula. If you're a beginner, I would suggest you go for powder formula, as it's easier to use," says Ali.
Creams tend to be a little more blendable, and they work well for those with dry skin. However, many powder formulas are notably silky and smooth, as they're designed to be both blendable and buildable. Similar to setting your foundation with a powder, some people use a cream formula and then set it with a contour powder.
"Typically, contour palettes have around six to eight colors, but unless you're a makeup artist, you don't actually need that many colors to contour and sculpt your face," explains Ali. For beginners and anyone who doesn't want or need the works, she suggests kits with two to four colors. That said, palettes with several hues allow you to blend colors to create your perfect shade.
Contour is the yin to highlighter's yang. In other words, the opposite hues complete each other, making up the two essential components of a pro-level makeup routine. That's why most contour kits come with both deep and light colors.
"The lighter colors in the kit can be used to either brighten and highlight or just to set your makeup in place if it's a powder formula," says Ali. Some palettes have both highlighting shades (which might be matte or shimmery) and color-correctors (usually with more of a yellow or pinkish tint).
Why Trust Byrdie?
Commerce writer and Byrdie contributor Theresa Holland has several years of experience covering skincare and makeup products. She learned to contour from The School of YouTube and has been practicing her sculpting and highlighting techniques for the better part of a decade. Theresa's favorites from this list include e.l.f. Cosmetics, Anastasia Beverley Hills, Fenty Beauty, and Wet n Wild.