The 10 Best Contour Sticks, According to Makeup Artists and Editor Testing

If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, WWD may receive an affiliate commission.

If you weren’t born with a chiseled cheekbones or a jawline that could break glass, store-bought is just fine. It’s true; the best contour sticks can work to give you the illusion of a more sculpted face while adding a bit of color to your complexion. The goal of contouring, of course, is not to change your face altogether but to enhance and accentuate your natural features, according to celebrity makeup artist Carolina Dali.

Neil Scibelli, celebrity makeup artist and key makeup artist at the New York City Ballet, explains that contouring is a makeup technique that brings out the natural contours of your facial structure by mimicking the shadows that would appear in your cheekbones, jawline, and forehead. “Ultimately, contouring can give a more sculpted and chiseled look to the face,” says Scibelli. To get that lifted look, he says to follow the “three-method” and put product where the sun would naturally create shadows on your skin: across the forehead, right under the cheekbones and below the jawline. Celebrity makeup artist Brandy Allen adds that you’ll want to apply contour after foundation but before blush and bronzer in your makeup routine and use soft lines, as harsher lines will be harder to blend in.

In the world of contour, we’ve got palettes, powders, as well as liquid and cream sticks. Contour sticks are the easiest to use, especially for beginners, as you can easily dab them onto your skin and even blend them in with your fingertips. In fact, contour sticks have changed a lot over the years, especially since we last saw Kim Kardashian release her viral KKW contour stick collection (though we’re sure more are on the way with her new line). The category is now experiencing a rebirth, as it’s more popular than ever before with a slew of recent launches. According to Spate, the search term “contour stick” experiences an average of 52,000 monthly searches. What goes around always comes back around, but not without undergoing modification — this evolution is mirrored in cream blushes and liquid blushes, as well as the “underpainting” technique dubbed my Mary Phillips, which utilizes emollient products for a naturally sculpted finish.

Nowadays, contour sticks are far more subtle as they use better color theory to provide believable definition without making your skin look painted on or overly defined. There’s way less worry that it’ll be so obvious that you followed a contour stick tutorial or concerns that someone is going to tell you that you need to blend better. According to Dali, “The colors look truer to nature, and the warmth and cool color balance are much better. We see less of the orange or gray cast in contour. The formulas are creamier and easier to blend.” A lot of contour sticks also contain skin-bettering ingredients like hyaluronic acid and shea butter, so they’re a total two-in-one. 

Ahead, Allen, Dali, and Scibelli share their picks for the 10 best contour sticks to suit every skin tone and budget. Keep reading to find the best contouring stick to snatch your face.

Top Contour Sticks of 2024

Editors’ Choice: Best Contour Sticks of 2024

Contour sticks are newly available in a range of formulas ranging from stiff creams that drop pigment exactly where you want it to watery liquids that blend in like watercolors. Other factors that go into selecting the right contour stick are your skin type and tone: Certain formulas cater best to fair or deep complexions, while others wear best on dry or oily skin. Another factor? Your preferred level of glam — whether you go for full-coverage everything or more of a no-makeup makeup look. Given the variation in the category, our editors narrowed down our top three contour sticks rather than one best overall. Below, our winner’s circle.

  • Makeup By Mario Softsculpt Shaping Stick: The best contour stick for beginners is hands-down Makeup by Mario’s formulation. This product was carefully created to include shades that look natural on fair to deep skin tones, eliminating the need for you to worry about shade-matching your skin to avoid looking orange or gray. A built-in brush also takes out the guesswork on applying the product, as the bristles buff the product to perfection.
  • Milk Makeup Sculpt Cream Contour Stick: If you’re after natural-looking contour, Milk Makeup’s contour stick is the tool for the job. The pigment applies softly onto skin and gives you control over where you place the product and how much you apply. Our testers also rate this formula for its extensive shade range that leaves no skin tone left out.
  • Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Contour Wand: For a high-glam makeup look, it’s Charlotte Tilbury and only Charlotte Tilbury. This contour wand delivers an intense contour that chisels out cheeks and jawlines for a sculpted look. But the formula’s radiance does that without making the contour look painted on — it has a radiance to it that mimics the finish of healthy, bouncy skin.

Sign up for WWD Shop’s newsletter to get the scoop on the best in beauty and style with in-depth reviews of exciting new releases and buyer’s guides to find the products you need to try ASAP.

Editors’ choice

Makeup By Mario Softsculpt Shaping Stick

Shade range: Light, Light-Medium. Medium, Medium-Dark, Dark, Dark Deep
Color payoff: Medium
Sephora Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

Think of the Makeup by Mario Sculpting Stick as a BOGO deal — one side features a creamy, blendable formula with a matte finish, while the other side boasts an easy-to-use angled buffing brush, eliminating the need to carry a makeup brush when applying makeup on the go (raise your hand if you’ve ever applied your makeup in a moving vehicle). While many brushes attached to makeup products are so-so, this one is the exception with five nubs within the head of the brush to ensure an even application. It melts right onto the skin and goes on like butter, making it super easy to blend into the skin. It’s almost always sold out, so act fast when you see it in stores — it’s the best cream contour stick you can find.

Editor testing and review notes: “This contour stick got me back into the sculpting category when it launched in 2021. The main selling points: It’s blendable and buildable, making it nearly impossible to mess up; the built-in brush is honestly perfect for applying the product; a little goes a long way. I also love that the shade range provides plenty of options for my fair skin during winter as well as warmer options that can carry me through summer, when my skin’s a little warmer.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $32

10 Best Contour Sticks of 2024

Editors’ choice

Milk Makeup Sculpt Scream Contour Stick

Shade range: Toasted, Stoked, Simmer, Sizzle
Key ingredients: Thyme extract, sunflower seed Oil
Color payoff: Sheer
Sephora Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars

Ranging from fair to very deep, this Sculpt Cream Contour Stick from Milk Makeup is both matte and cool-toned, ideal for those desiring a more natural look. Enriched with sunflower seed oil for hydration and a thyme extract blend for nourishment, this formula blends seamlessly, ensuring no harsh lines are left behind. This best cool-toned contour stick’s teeny-tiny size makes it perfect for on-the-go touch-ups, fitting easily in your makeup bag (or even pockets), and rest assured, you’re not shortchanged — each stick provides more than 1000 swipes.

Editor testing and review notes: “This tiny contour stick provides major bang for your buck — a few dots are all you need to cover my cheeks, jawline, and perimeter of my forehead. The product seal on the top of the pigment does remove a bit of the product before the first use, but beyond that, I have no critical notes. The chubby shape of the product goes on in soft strokes, helping me to create a believable sculpted look.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $24

10 Best Contour Sticks of 2024

Editors’ choice

Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Contour Wand

Shade range: Light to Medium, Medium to Deep
Color payoff: Sheer to full
Sephora Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Nordstrom Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

Allen’s pick for the best splurge contour stick is Charlotte Tilbury’s Hollywood Contour Wand. “It’s definitely a keeper in my makeup kit,” she says. This water-based formula blends flawlessly, and leaves you looking super snatched. Unlike a traditional contour stick, it’s more of a wand with a cushion applicator that requires you to squeeze the tube and tap, tap, tap it onto the skin. This application method allows for a less harsh and more natural appearance. Just be careful not to squeeze too hard, or you’ll end up wasting product.

Editor testing and review notes: “Few liquid contours hold a candle to Charlotte Tilbury’s gorgeous formula. Beyond carving out my cheekbones and creating a shadow effect on my jaw, it also warms up my complexion to the point that bronzer is optional — and rest assured that it doesn’t read orange. The cushion tip delivers a good amount of product per dot, so I really only need two dots per cheek and three on my forehead to get great dimension.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $42

10 Best Contour Sticks of 2024

Best drugstore contour stick

Nyx Wonder Stick

Shade range: Fair, Universal Light, Light Medium, Medium, Medium Tan, Rich, Deep, Deep Rich
Color payoff: Full
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

According to Allen, Nyx’s Makeup Wonder Stick is versatile and easy to use, making it a great option if you’re in search of an affordable two-in-one contour stick that combines a deep, long-lasting contour with a highlighter to bring it all together. “The colors are so beautiful,” she says. I still remember saving my allowance money to purchase this when I was in middle school, and while I have an arsenal of products at my disposal nowadays, I still reach for this when I don’t want to splurge but need something reliable. There are eight shades to choose between, and all of them are vegan and cruelty-free. 

What testers say: “The contour sticks works well and blends well for long wear use. The highlighter goes on smooth and isn’t too bright. Great addition to your makeup routine!”

Price upon publish date of this article: $13.14

10 Best Contour Sticks of 2024

Best contour stick for beginners

Fenty Beauty Match Stix Contour Skinstick

Shade range: Soft Amber, Amber, Amber Suede, Mocha, Suedish, Truffle, Espresso, Ebony, Caviar
Color payoff: Medium
Sephora Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

Both Allen and Scibelli love Fenty’s Match Stix Matte Contour Skinstick, a subtle yet highly-pigmented contour with a matte finish for natural definition. The last thing you want is a contour that’s actually a bronzer, as contour is meant to be cool-toned because you want to create shadows. Fenty recently released more shades in the cool-toned family, so there’s no worry of looking overly bronzed or, god forbid, orange.

What testers say: “Amazing!! I’ve been looking for a contour that has more of a grey undertone as contour products easily look orange on me. This is easy to apply, very  smooth, and the finish leaves a beautiful contour without the orange!”

Price upon publish date of this article: $32

10 Best Contour Sticks of 2024

Tarte Sculpt Tape

Shade range: Soft Bronze, Cool Bronze, Medium Cool Bronze, Warm Bronze, Deep Bronze
Key ingredients: Shea butter, licorice root, diamond powder, porcelain flower, mineral pigments
Color payoff: Sheer to full
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

Approved by none other than Alix Earle herself, the Tarte Sculpt Tape is worth trying if you’re a fan of cushioned-tip products. It contains moisturizing shea butter, licorice root to color correct, and diamond powder to blur imperfections. You only need a few drops and a good buffing brush to blend it into the skin for a natural your skin but better makeup look. There are five different shades to choose from, offering both cool and warm-toned options, so it really is a matter of personal preference.

Editor testing and review notes: “I expect full-coverage, high-glam products from Tarte — so I was surprised to see how beautifully natural this product looks when I buff a few dots on my skin. Once used, it can be tricky to twist the product open and closed (pro tip: use a brush to pick up any excess near the cushion tip so you don’t waste the precious formula, then use a tissue to seal it closed or open it up).”

Price upon publish date of this article: $36

10 Best Contour Sticks of 2024

Lys No Limits Cream Bronzer Stick

Shade range: Motivate, Harmony, Courage, Strength, Worthy
Key ingredients: Rosehip Oil, Green Tea Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Niacinamide
Color payoff: Full
Sephora Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

After being sold out for months, the viral Lys No Limits bronzer stick is finally back in stock. Super creamy and chock-full of skin-friendly ingredients like hydrating niacinamide and rosehip oil, you can apply it with a brush or directly on your face — its angular shape makes it easy to sculpt different parts of the face. It’s so creamy that you can even blend it in with your fingers if you’re short on time. And because it’s highly pigmented, there’s no fear that it’ll disappear into the abyss as you blend it into the skin.

What testers say: “The best cream bronzer I’ve ever tried. The melt into my base perfectly and are super long wearing as well.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $20

10 Best Contour Sticks of 2024

Maybelline Facestudio Master Contour V-Shape Duo Stick

Shade range: Light, Medium, Deep
Color payoff: Medium
Amazon Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars
Walmart Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.5/5 stars

If you ever won an award for your childhood coloring skills, then you’re all set to master the Maybelline Contour Stick, no matter how bad you think you are at contouring. Similar to a crayon, this contour stick easily glides across the face and is dual-ended, with one side for adding definition and another side for highlighting. It’s super affordable and comes in three creamy matte shades. Some reviewers warn that it may wear off throughout the day, but it’s nothing a little setting powder or face mist can’t fix.

What testers say:  “This works really well! Goes on smoothly and stays put. The crayon-like tube is user friendly — anyone can master.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $13.75

10 Best Contour Sticks of 2024

Nudestix Nudies Matte All Over Face Bronze Color

Shade range: Deep Maple, Terracotta Tan, Beach Babe, Bondi Bae, Sunkissed, Sunkissed Cool, Bondi Belle, Manilla
Key ingredients: Vitamin E
Color payoff: Medium
Ulta Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Sephora Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

Fans of Sofia Richie know that, thanks to her role as the beauty director for Nudestix, she’s almost always wearing the brand. So, if you’re looking to recreate her signature glowy makeup look, the key is the Nudestix Nudies Matte stick, a long-wearing, all-over sculpting stick. The shades vary, leaning more towards warm tones than cool, making it perfect for achieving that beachy glow. True to its name, all of Nudestix’s products come in a stick format, showcasing their mastery of stick formulations. The product blends on super easily and even comes with a blending brush at the bottom, making it easier than ever to get ready quickly.

What testers say: “This product glides on so smoothly and leaves a really nice glowing finish. I love that there is a brush included which works amazing to help spread out the product.”

Price upon publish date of this article: $35

10 Best Contour Sticks of 2024

Westman Atelier Face Trace Contour Stick

Shade range: Biscuit, Truffle, Ganache
Key ingredients: Jojoba seed oil, berryflux vita, kaolin clay 
Color payoff: Medium
Sephora Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars
Nordstrom Top-Quality Store Badge on Google: 4.8/5 stars

It’s nearly impossible to mess up your contour with the Westman Atelier Face Trace. It easily glides across your skin and blends in without the need for force, thanks to hydrating berry flux vita and jojoba seed oil. It also contains kaolin clay, which absorbs excess oil, so there’s no worry of a shiny face — you want your contour to be subtle, after all. For fans of the no-makeup-makeup look, this is one of those rare makeup products you may use until its dying day. 

What testers say: “Best contour I have ever used! Perfect shade, not too warm or ashy. Blends beautifully with brush or fingers and works well layered under powder bronzer. Will be repurchasing when I run out!”

Price upon publish date of this article: $48

What to Look for in the Best Contour Sticks 

There are so many different contour sticks on the market, and it can be difficult to know where to begin especially if you’re new to contouring. Consider the below criteria when you’re choosing a lucky winner.

  • Shade Range: In an ideal world, every contour stick on the market would come with a vast shade range. Unfortunately, many of them operate on a very basic fair, medium, dark basis. However, among the brands listed above, there are a few that formulate for all skin tones and offer expansive options. “I look for a contour stick that has the right color balance of warmth and coolness in accordance with the skin tone of the person I’m working on,” says Dali.
  • Ingredients: To find the best contour products for you, Scibelli suggests first assessing your skin care needs. “Do you have dry skin and need hydration in your products, or are you on the combo to oily side and like products that mattify skin?” he says. “If you’re looking for hydration, opt for ingredients like hyaluronic acid or skin-savvy oils like jojoba oil or shea butter, which are common in stick products and help bind the makeup to skin when it’s parched.” (Conversely, Scibelli explains that loose powder alternatives are great for oilier skin types, or to use for TV and stage makeup when performers may be working up a sweat).
  • Finish: When it comes to the finish, you can choose between sheer, medium, and full coverage. For those with fair skin, Scibelli suggests opting for a contour shade that is sheerer and less pigmented. Additionally, there are creamy, matte, and dewy or shimmery sticks available on the market, and the choice depends on the look you’re aiming for. Creamy contour sticks often provide a smoother appearance and blend easily. A matte finish typically means no shimmer and is ideal for creating lines that closely resemble shadows. Both matte and creamy contours work well for an everyday makeup look. A dewy finish complements highlighter and is suitable for makeup looks meant to be more exaggerated, such as an evening makeup look.
  • Packaging: The main difference when comparing powder, liquid, and stick contour products is texture and feel. Allen explains that contour sticks are easier to use and beginner-friendly. If you’re looking for a quick draw-and-blend option, contour sticks are probably for you. There are also contour wands with cushion applicators that are easy to use but can quickly waste product if squeezed too tightly.

How Do You Use a Contour Stick?

Dali’s approach to contouring is to keep it minimal and natural-looking. “I don’t like to see any harshly drawn lines because that’s not something we see in nature,” she says. When applying contour, she first turns down her beauty light and envisions what the features would look like in a candle-lit setting.

She recommends prepping the skin with makeup primer and making sure it is well-moisturized so the contour can glide on smoothly. Then she applies a thin veil of foundation, followed by contour, and uses concealer to perfect the complexion. “Using a large, cream product-friendly brush, start by warming up your forehead around your hairline, bringing the color around the perimeter of the face, tracing along the jawline and chin,” she explains. With a medium brush, apply along the cheekbone, adding a touch more color to the mid to outer (closest to the hairline) part of the cheekbone. From there, with a small cream product-friendly brush, trace along the nose, around the tip, applying a bit more contour to the areas of the nose you want to slightly slim or lift.

If you’ve never contoured before, it may be intimidating, but to achieve a realistic sculpting effect, Dali explains that you need to apply contour along the highest points of the face, where the sun naturally kisses your features the most—along the hairline, on the cheekbones, along the jaw, and around the nose, especially on the center of the nose.

In the end, she seals the contour with a sheer veil of translucent powder. “My go-to is the Shiseido Synchro Skin Invisible Silk Pressed Powder. It contains shea butter which gently boosts moisture and soothes the skin,” she adds.

How to Choose the Best Contour Stick Shade for You 

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to makeup, but Dali’s number one rule of thumb is to avoid contour colors that are drastically darker than your own, as well as colors that are too orange or too grey. “If your skin is fair or light, I prefer a contour that’s warm yet neutral,” she says. Ensure your contour is only a few shades darker than your skin, especially when you’re tanned. If your shade changes throughout the year, she suggests choosing a color that’s a couple of shades darker than your skin when you’re tanned.

For medium skin tones, Dali suggests opting for a contour stick shade that’s warm and has the right balance of olive/warm undertones. For darker skin, choose a contour color that’s several shades deeper than your own skin tone. “I prefer to use a color that’s rich and warm but not too yellow/orange,” she explains. She also warns against contours that are too cool/grey, as they can leave a grey cast and make the skin appear dull.

How We Chose the Best Contour Sticks 

Since 1910, WWD — often referred to as “the fashion bible” — has been the leading industry voice of authority for senior executives in the global women’s and men’s fashion, retail and beauty communities, while also informing the consumer media that cover the market. Today, WWD’s breaking news and trend coverage continues to be a trustworthy resource for both fashion insiders and consumers alike. Our shopping editors continue to uphold WWD’s editorial standards and values with quality, expert-backed product selections.

In order to select the best contour sticks, we cross-checked customer reviews, researched products and new releases, and narrowed down a list of the 10 best contour sticks on the market. We also interviewed experts, watched hours of TikTok reviews, and tested the products on our own to ensure our list caters to different skin types and skin concerns. Learn more about us here.

Meet the Experts

Untitled design 25

Carolina Dali is a New York-based makeup artist and mens groomer. Her clientele includes celebrities like Gisele Bündchen, Julianne Hough, Constance Wu, Storm Reid, Natalia Dyer, Ella Hunt, and Sydney Sweeney.

Untitled design 27

Neil Scibelli is a New York City based makeup artist. His work has been seen on national television, in print and online magazines, on the red-carpet, and across major runways during New York Fashion week.

Untitled design 26

Brandy Allen, a native of Los Angeles, started working in make-up at the age of 18 while earning her bachelor’s degree in Journalism.

Meet the Author

Iman Balagam is a freelance writer with over five years of experience covering the beauty industry. Her work has been featured in outlets like Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Byrdie, and Harper’s Bazaar. To write this story on the best contour sticks, Balagam interviewed experts, tested products, and researched the market to select top options for different skin types and skin concerns. With her cherubesque face, she heavily relies on contour sticks and Gua Sha wands to get her through. 

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top