These Contour Sticks Will Give You the Sculpted Cheekbones Dreams Are Made of

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Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

Once upon a time, not so long ago, the art of contouring—using shadows and darker colors to define and reshape your face—was a makeup technique almost solely reserved for the pros. That’s most definitely not the case anymore. Thanks to a massive influx of new contouring products, not to mention the impact of a certain mega-famous Hollywood family (five bucks if you can guess which one), contouring is now more commonplace than ever before. 

The secret to mastering the move? The end goal is for it to truly be undetectable, and for everyone to think that you were simply born with a bone structure that’s just that good. In order to do so, your contouring product should be two shades deeper than your foundation. You’ll want to apply it in a few strategic spots: along your temples, under the cheekbones, along your jawline, and down the sides of your nose. Then blend, blend, blend before adding foundation and highlighter to balance things out.

And when it comes to choosing a contouring product? Keep in mind that creams will always be more blendable than powders, a good option if you’re a beginner or are looking for a more natural result. Enter the beauty of a good contour stick. Not only are they super creamy, but they couldn’t be easier to use. Simply swipe one on, no extra tools or tricks are required.

Check out the best contouring sticks to try now, below.

Our Top Picks
This contour stick is a staple in his eponymous makeup line, and it has a creamy, buildable formula with a matte finish.
This pale caramel tone is ideal for light complexions, offering full-coverage color that’s also buildable.
The deep shade of this contouring trio really takes the contouring cake for dark skin.
This affordable dual-ended stick features a contour shade on one side and a precisely paired highlight hue on the other.
It has a moisturizing core rich in coconut, castor seed, and sweet almond oil, making it choice for dry skin.
This clean formula is free of questionable ingredients and loaded with natural oils, shea butter, and beeswax.
Despite the fact that it’s a liquid, it still feels lightweight and dries down extremely fast without ever streaking or smudging.
Believe it or not, you can use a foundation as a contour color, and this is our favorite.
Best for All Skin Types:
Ogee Sculpted Face Stick at Ogee.com
This pick is great for all skin types because it contains jojoba oil which helps to hydrate and balance out the skin.
This splurge-worthy option is infused with good-for-your-skin ingredients to hydrate the skin, absorb oils, and more.

Best Overall: Makeup by Mario Softsculpt Shaping Stick

Makeup by Mario Softsculpt Shaping Stick
What We Like
  • Comes in a variety of shades

  • Built-in applicator

  • Matte finish

What We Don't Like
  • On the pricier side

With a list of celeb clientele that includes names such as Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian, makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic certainly knows a thing or two about contouring. (After all, we really think it could be renamed kontouring solely because of how mainstream the Kardashians have made it.) This contour stick is a staple in his eponymous makeup line, and it has a creamy, buildable formula with a matte finish. We’re impressed by the fact that it comes in an extensive line-up of six shades, all with varying undertones, and has a built-in brush on the other end.

Shades: 6 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Fair Skin: Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour & Highlight Stick

Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour & Highlight Stick in Shadow
What We Like
  • Buildable color

  • Matte finish

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it is hard to blend

Contouring can be tricky (heck, we may even go so far as to say risky) for those with pale skin. After all, go too dark and no matter how much you blend, it’s still very easy to end up stripe-y. That’s why this pale caramel tone is ideal for light complexions, offering full-coverage color that’s also buildable, super important when you’re trying to add shadows to pale skin.

Shades: 4 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Dark Skin: Fenty Beauty Match Stix Trio

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Match Stix Trio Deep
What We Like
  • Great options for dark skin

  • Comes with two shades and a highlighter

What We Don't Like
  • Sticks could be a little bit bigger

Contouring can also prove a little bit tricky when you’re trying to deepen already dark skin, but happily, there are now lots of choices for brown-skinned girls. Our girl Rihanna got it right with her stick threesome; while there’s a set of three for light, medium, and tan skin, it’s the deep shade that we really think takes the contouring cake. You get two matte colors for concealing and contouring, plus a highlight shade to finish everything off.

Shades: 3 per set | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Fenty Beauty Match Stix Trio

Byrdie / Khera Alexander

What Our Testers Say

If you’re looking for an uncomplicated product that takes the guesswork out of choosing your perfect shades, Fenty Beauty nailed it.” — Khera Alexander, Product Tester

Best Drugstore: NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick

NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick Concealer
What We Like
  • Rare drugstore option

  • Comes in a variety of shades

  • Comes with a highlighter

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note the color isn’t long lasting

This helps take the guesswork out of the whole ‘contour, then highlight’ thing. The dual-ended stick features a contour shade on one side and a precisely paired highlight hue on the other. It also comes in options for fair, medium, and dark skin. Not to mention that you can get it at the drugstore, which is not always the case when it comes to contouring products.

Shades: 4 per set | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best for Dry Skin: Glossier Haloscope

Glossier Haloscope
What We Like
  • Dermatologist-tested

  • Very creamy color

  • Great for sensitive skin

  • Moisturizing

What We Don't Like
  • Only one contour color option

  • Shimmery

While this may technically be called a highlighter, this bronzy hue pulls double duty as either a bronzer or contour tone. The color itself is super creamy, thanks to a (visible) moisturizing core rich in coconut, castor seed, and sweet almond oil. It not only helps the stick itself glide on seamlessly but also ensures your complexion stays dewy.

Shades: 3, but only 1 for contouring | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No

Glossier Haloscope

Byrdie / Ashley Rebecca

Best Natural: ILIA Illuminator

Ilia Illuminator in Summertime
What We Like
  • Very creamy color

  • Moisturizing

  • Easy to blend

  • Can get lighter shades for highlighting

What We Don't Like
  • Only one contour color option

  • Stick could be bigger

  • Shimmery

An all-time favorite among team Byrdie, this chubby stick is squeaky clean. We’re talking about a formula that’s free of questionable ingredients such as parabens and synthetic fragrance and instead is loaded with natural oils, shea butter, and beeswax. It’s these guys that give this an ultra-silky texture. Use this deeper tone for contouring, and pick up one of the other three shades to use as a highlighter.

Shades: 4, but only 1 for contouring | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Liquid: Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Contour Wand

Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Contour Wand
What We Like
  • Buildable color

  • Built-in applicator

What We Don't Like
  • Only comes in two shades

Liquid formula fans will appreciate this pick. It’s super easy to dispense the product right out of the tube, then blend it right into the skin using the built-in cushion applicator. And despite the fact that it’s a liquid, it still feels lightweight and dries down extremely fast without ever streaking or smudging. Not to mention that it makes it much easier to impart more sheer color than you’d get with a cream.

Shades: 2 | Byrdie Clean: No | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Foundation: Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick

Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick
What We Like
  • Comes in a variety of shades

  • Multi-tasking formula

  • Water- and sweat-resistant

What We Don't Like
  • Not ideal for beginners

  • On the pricier side

Believe it, you can use a foundation as a contour color. The nice thing about that is that if you’re already using it as your base, you can stick within the line and easily find the color that’s two shades darker for the best contour tone. Regardless of whether you’re using it all over or just to sculpt your features, we’re fans of this classic. It’s creamy and hydrating, though also contains light-diffusing powders to create the appearance of smoother skin and absorb excess oil (not to mention is water- and sweat-resistant on top of all of that). Plus, there’s an option for every skin tone.

Shades: 30 | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: No

bobbi brown skin foundation stick

 Byrdie / Khera Alexander

What Our Testers Say

"My application looked smooth, and the buildable coverage the Skin Foundation Stick provides allowed me to place more product in the areas I needed without my skin looking patchy or thick." — Khera Alexander, Product Tester

Best for All Skin Types: Ogee Sculpted Face Stick

Ogee Sculpted Face Stick
What We Like
  • Great for all skin types

  • Very creamy color

  • Easy to apply

What We Don't Like
  • On the pricier side

No matter whether your skin is dry, oily, or somewhere in between, this formula works universally well. Why? The star ingredient is jojoba oil, somewhat of a unicorn in the skincare world because it is both super hydrating and helps to balance out your skin’s natural oil production. (On top of that there’s also tapioca powder in the formula, which makes for a subtle mattifying effect.) Jojoba oil also gives this stick its mega-creamy consistency, and we also love that the chunky size makes for easy application.

Shades: 4, but only 2 for contouring | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best Splurge: Westman Atelier Face Trace Contour Stick

Westman Atelier Face Trace Contour Stick
What We Like
  • Multi-tasking formula

  • Two shades are very universal

  • Easy to blend

What We Don't Like
  • On the pricier side

Sure, this stick is costly, but we think it’s worth every penny for a few reasons. One, it really can be considered a makeup-skincare hybrid, given that the formula is packed with good-for-your-skin ingredients. Think things such as jojoba seed oil, oil-absorbing kaolin clay, and even special pigment technology that pulls double duty as an anti-pollution shade. Even though there are only two hues to choose from, they look great on a wide array of skin tones, and they can be blended either with your fingertips or a brush with equally great results.

Shades: 2 | Byrdie Clean: Yes | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Final Verdict

Contouring can make a big difference in terms of the end result of your makeup look, and contour sticks are one of the easiest ways to do so. The Makeup By Mario Soft Sculpt Shaping Stick (view at Sephora) is our favorite since it is available in a wide range of shades and has a built-in blending brush on one end. The NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick (view at Ulta) is an affordable drugstore fave, a dual-ended option that comes with a highlighter, while the Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation Stick is a good multi-tasking product. Technically a foundation, it comes in 30 different shades, including plenty of great contour colors for pretty much all complexions.

What to Look for in a Contour Stick

Hydrating Ingredients

Even if your skin is on the oilier side, the addition of hydrating ingredients will help ensure the stick glides smoothly along your skin and blends in well. One universal option? Jojoba oil, which works well for all skin types.

Built-In Brush

If you want to really keep it simple for yourself, consider choosing one of the contour sticks that comes with a built-in brush for blending.

The Shade Options

Ideally, your contour color should be no darker than two shades deeper than your foundation color. Products that come in a wider range of options tend to make it easy to find the best shade for you.

FAQ
  • How do you use a contour stick?

    You’ll want to apply it strategically along your temples, down the sides of your nose, under your cheekbones, and along your jawline. Blend, blend, blend, then apply foundation. Finish by adding a highlighter to help add dimension and balance things out.

  • What other products should you use with contour sticks?

    Per our previous point, you definitely need to use a foundation after the fact (or risk your face looking very streaky). Highlighters are also usually recommended to help balance out the contouring effect and help reflect light off your face.

  • Is a contour stick the same as a bronzer?

    No. While you can sometimes get away with using one product in place of both, contour sticks tend to come in tones that tend to be a bit more muted since the goal is to mimic the effect of shadows and depth on the skin rather than add color.

Why Trust Byrdie?

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Despite spending her entire career as a beauty editor, her makeup routine is admittedly pretty minimal. Since she doesn’t use contour sticks regularly, she relied on extensive research and reviews to compile this list of products.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough contour sticks from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

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