Best contour palette

Makeup Palettes & Sets

It’s easier to build up contour products than it is to remove them. Start with a small amount of powder or cream and only add more if you need additional definition.

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Which contour palette is best?

Contouring has become one of the hottest makeup trends in recent years, and it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. With a contour palette, you’ll have all the products you need to contour your face to perfection in one convenient package.

Contouring uses shade and light to shape your face, so you can make full cheeks look slimmer or your jaw more angular. Contour products are dark in color to mimic shadows on the face, adding dimension and a more sculpted look. Some palettes also include lighter tones, though, to help emphasize areas you want to highlight. If you want a well-packaged, vegan, cruelty-free option, the Kat Von D Shade + Light Face Contour Refillable Palette is the top choice.

What to know before you buy a contour palette


Contour palettes are available in two formula types: powder and cream. Both types can work well, but you may prefer one formula to another based on your skin type.

Powder contour palettes are ideal for anyone with oily skin, because they have a completely matte finish on the skin. The powder formula can also help absorb excess oil from your face to cut down on shine. In addition, powder contour products are usually easier to use than cream products and blend away more easily if you make mistakes, so they’re excellent for beginners or anyone who prefers a subtle contour. 

On the other hand, cream contour palettes are an excellent option for those with dry skin. The creamy, emollient formula glides over flaky patches and often adds hydration to the skin for a more flattering look. However, cream contour products usually apply more heavily and can be difficult to blend out, so they may not be the best choice if you’re new to wearing makeup. While powder products apply better with a brush, cream contour palettes usually work best if you use a makeup sponge like a Beauty Blender for easier blending.

Cream contour products don’t wear as long as powder formulas either, which can be a big problem if you live in a humid climate. You can help extend the wear of cream contour products, though, by setting them with a translucent powder or a powder contour in a similar shade. 

Shade selection

Most contour palettes are available in limited shade offerings, but the shades can typically work for a wider range of skin tones than a foundation or concealer shade. For example, most brands offer “Fair/Light,” “Medium” and “Deep/Dark” shades. Each palette usually contains at least three shades, so you’ll have a better chance of finding the perfect contour shade for your complexion.

Keep in mind that a palette should have a color that’s about two shades darker than your skin for proper contouring. For highlighting, it should have an option that‘s two shades lighter than your skin tone. 

In addition to choosing a contour palette with the correct shade depth for your skin tone, you should also consider your skin’s undertones when selecting a contour palette. Your skin can have cool, warm or neutral undertones. If your complexion has pink or beige tones, you’re usually cool-toned. Skin with yellow or olive tones is generally warm. If your skin doesn’t lean cool or warm, it’s typically neutral. Compare the shades in a contour palette to your skin to make sure that the undertones match. 

What to look for in a quality contour palette

Number of shades

A contour palette should have at least three shades: a contour, highlight and bronzer or blusher. Some may offer multiple contour shades to give you options, depending on how bold you want your look to be. That’s why you can find palettes with up to six shades — these offer the most versatility and allow you to get the exact look you want.

Included brush

Some contour palettes come with a brush, so you have everything you need to contour in one convenient package. This is an excellent feature if you’ll be traveling or like to carry your palette in your bag for touch-ups throughout the day. 

If you’re new to contouring, though, you may need to experiment with different types of brushes and sponges to find the best application technique for your needs. In that case, choosing a palette with a brush may not be as important. 


Some makeup products contain ingredients with some safety concerns. If you prefer clean beauty products, look for a contour palette without the following ingredients:

  • Parabens, which are preservatives that may affect hormone function.
  • Phthalates, which are lubricants that may affect the endocrine system. 

Instead, look for palettes that contain beneficial ingredients such as:

  • Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that protects the skin and reduces inflammation.
  • Mineral pigments, which are gentle, all-natural iron oxides that help color makeup products.
  • Amazonian clay, which is an all-natural ingredient that can actually help detox the skin. 

How much you can expect to spend on a contour palette

Contour palettes usually cost between $20-$110. Drugstore palettes with lower-quality ingredients generally range from $20-$30, while palettes with average to high-quality ingredients typically go for $30-$48. For luxury brand palettes with the highest-quality ingredients, you’ll pay between $50-$110.

Contour palette FAQ

Can I use my bronzer to contour?

A. A few bronzers may be suitable for contouring, but many are not. That’s because bronzers are usually too warm to create realistic-looking shadows on the face. Some bronzers also contain shimmer to provide a sun-kissed glow, but contour products should be completely matte to look natural. You’re better off choosing a palette or compact specifically designed for contouring to make sure it will work well. 

What’s the best way to apply a contour palette?

A. It depends on the palette’s formula, but you definitely need a brush or a sponge to apply contour products. Powder palettes work best when applied with a brush. In particular, you should look for a brush with an angled or tapered head, so you can apply the contour powder in a specific area. On the other hand, if you choose a cream contour palette, a sponge is a better option. You can squeeze a sponge to fit into tight spots, but it also helps to use a sponge with a pointed tip for precision. 

What are the best contour palettes to buy?

Top contour palette

Kat Von D Shade + Light Face Contour Refillable Palette

Kat Von D Shade + Light Face Contour Refillable Palette

What you need to know: Featuring all-matte powders, this contour palette is refillable, so you can replace the products when you run out. 

What you’ll love: It includes three matte contour shades and three matte highlight shades. The powders are extremely pigmented and last all day. The compact and mirror offer both an attractive look and excellent durability. The formula is vegan and cruelty-free.

What you should consider: The powders can create some fallout when you apply them.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top contour palette for the money

Tarte Tarteist Pro Glow to Go

Tarte Tarteist Pro Glow to Go

What you need to know: An ideal option for travel, this compact palette has all the products you need for contouring on the go. 

What you’ll love: The powders are all highly pigmented, so a little bit goes a long way. It includes a glowing highlight that doesn’t contain any noticeable glitter or shimmer. The shades blend out easily. It’s surprisingly affordable too. 

What you should consider: The powders have a bold vanilla scent that may not appeal to all users. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Smashbox Step by Step Contour Kit

Smashbox Step by Step Contour Kit

What you need to know: A simple, easy-to-use contour palette, this option provides step-by-step instructions for a perfectly contoured look.

What you’ll love: It features a contour powder, bronzer and highlight. The included instructions tell you where to apply each product. It blends extremely well and doesn’t contain any parabens or phthalates. It works well for medium or darker skin.

What you should consider: The darker shades are often too dark for fair or light skin. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Sephora, and Ulta


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Jennifer Blair writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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