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When you want a more sculpted jawline, a slimmer-looking nose, or cheekbones that pop, contouring is the way to go. Once a trick largely reserved for the pro makeup artist crowd, the technique has undoubtedly gone mainstream. Sure, it can seem intimidating at first, but contouring correctly is surprisingly easy—so long as you’re working with the right product.
Choosing the right formula and/or wrong colors can result in muddy streaks, rather than that structured jawline you were hoping to achieve. Pairing a contour tone with an accompanying highlighter will help—the duo is what helps you achieve the most natural end result.
Whether you’re a contouring pro or just testing the waters, check out our list of the best cream contour palettes—they'll make your makeup routine easier than ever.
Best Overall: NYX Professional Makeup Highlight & Contour Cream Pro Palette
Offering plenty of options and at a super affordable price, you can’t go wrong with this palette. It boasts a whopping four shades each of highlighter and contour—much more than most offerings, particularly at this price point. They’re all soft and creamy, melting seamlessly into the skin for a natural look.
Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Cream Contour Palette
Despite the ultra-affordable price tag, this quad comes with plenty of options. We greatly appreciate that there are three contouring shades in different bronze hues, allowing you to mix and match to find the most flattering one for you. The brightening shade adds the perfect contrasting pop.
Best Drugstore: Maybelline New York Facestudio Master Contour V-Shape Duo Stick
We love and appreciate a good palette, for sure, but this simpler stick is choice for product minimalists. The stick features half a contouring shade and half a highlighting shade; use the former to sculpt and shape, then simply turn it over to use the other half to add brightness and radiance. It truly couldn’t be easier.
Best for Beginners: Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Cream Kit
There’s a good reason why this palette flies off the shelves time and time again. The three highlighting hues and three contouring colors can either be mixed together or used on their own. Either way, they’re so silky and blendable that even contouring newbies can’t go wrong. Plus, all of the shades have a unifying satin finish that makes the end result much more natural, unlike many flat formulas that can easily come across as chalky.
Best for Fair Skin: NYX Professional Makeup Cream Highlight & Contour Palette in Light
Contouring can prove to be tricky for those with fair skin. Go even the slightest bit too dark and you easily start to look, well, like you’re trying really hard to contour. That’s what makes this option such a great choice for those with lighter skin. The contour shade isn’t too dark and has a balance of cool and warm undertones that will flatter most complexions. You could even mix it with a little bit of one of the two included highlight shades if you want to go slightly lighter.
Best for Medium Skin: CoverGirl TruBlend Contour Palette in Medium
The trio of shades in this palette work great on their own but can be mixed and matched, too. Neither too light nor too dark, they’re especially flattering on medium skin. The formula is creamy yet oil-free (a major win for those with acne-prone skin) and is beautifully blendable. Fun fact: This palette was designed by makeup industry legend Pat McGrath so you know it’s going to be good.
Best for Olive Skin: Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Contour Skinstick
In true Fenty fashion, shade inclusivity is the name of the game, and these creamy contour sticks are no different. Available in seven shades, there are several nice options that flatter olive skin (Mocha and Truffle being two of them), though they’re all easily layered, making it easy to find the most flattering hue for you. Bonus: the cream-to-powder formula dries down to a matte finish and has great staying power.
Best for Dark Skin: UOMA Beauty Double Take Contour Stick
As is the case with fair skin, finding a contour color that works on deeper complexions is also challenging; after all, it has to be dark enough to make an impact. This brand places a huge emphasis on shade inclusivity, which is why this dual-product stick comes in six shades, half of which are geared toward darker skin. Each stick has a contouring tone on one end and a complementary highlighting tone on the other, both of which tout a creamy formula with plenty of color pay-off, thanks to a 30% concentration of pigments.
Best Splurge: Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate Highlighter & Shader Duet
Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue vouches for this luxurious pick. The inside includes one contouring and one highlighting color, each selected to pair perfectly with the other. Not only are the shades beautiful and natural, but the texture is also creamy enough to dab on with your fingertips when a brush isn’t available. Plus, the chic and sleek compact looks and feels oh-so-special.
Best for Oily Skin: Tarte Tarteist PRO Glow Highlight & Contour Palette
Often, creamy formulas don’t stay put on oily skin—instead, they'll slip and slide off your face. That’s why we like that this one-stop-shop offers both cream and powder options; layer the two for ultimate staying power and to amp up the intensity. There are four highlighting colors and two contouring ones, all of which are infused with the brand’s signature Amazonian clay to help balance oily skin.
Best Stick: Smashbox Studio Skin Shaping Foundation Stick
We’ve said it once (okay, more than once) and we’ll say it again—we freaking love any and all kinds of makeup that comes in stick form. The ease of use and application can’t be beat. This one also takes the guesswork out of finding your right contour tone. It features foundation on one side, so just figure out that color, because the contour shade on the other side is specially chosen to be perfectly complementary.
Best Natural: Lily Lolo Sculpt & Glow Contour Duo
Back in the day, you’d be hard-pressed to find a natural contouring product. Happily, that’s no longer the case and this product is proof positive. The contour shade is more of a bronzer, ideal for those looking for a more subdued effect, and comes as a pressed powder that’s silky soft. It's paired with a creamy highlighter that's rich in argan and sunflower seed oils. Both are squeaky clean and free of potentially problematic chemicals.