The beauty industry can churn out as many contouring products as they want, but I will never, ever part from my beloved contour sticks — the fastest, least-fussy route to enhancing the angles of your face. The best contour sticks are super creamy formulations that you can blend out with your fingers, a makeup sponge, or a brush without looking streaky or cakey. Your ideal contour shade should be two shades darker than your foundation, which creates a believable (not Addams Family-esque) shadow. Even more efficient if your contour stick is dual-ended with a complementary highlighter shade, like a few of the picks listed ahead.
Contour sticks obviously contour really well, but they can be used for multitudes of other purposes. Depending on the shade, you can also put it to work as a bronzer, neutral blush, brow pomade, or eye shadow. (I think they work especially well as a crease shade.)
Also great: You can buy some of the best contour sticks on Amazon at extremely budget-friendly prices. Scroll on to shop six favorites — all with under-$15 price tags.
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1. The Best-Seller
NYX's best-selling Wonder Stick makes for an approachable, low-commitment foray into contourland. Points in its favor: Price, six-shade range (a lot for a contour stick, let alone one from a drugstore brand), and its handy, dual-sided design: contour on one end, highlighter on the other — done and done.
- Available shades: Deep, Deep Dark, Deep Rich, Light, Medium, Universal
2. Best For Dark Skin
Considering that most brands offer extremely limited shade ranges, it can be tough for people with dark skin to find a contour stick that works for their complexion. But these multi-use sticks from Black Radiance were specifically formulated for medium-to-dark skin tones. Technically a foundation stick, the tip is a bit less precise than a contour stick proper — it’s a little flatter, rather than pointed, since it’s designed for allover application — but the brand specifically mentions that it's suitable and even ideal for contouring. It also has an angled brush built into one side for easy blending, and each shade rings up at less than $10. What's not to love?
- Available shades: Beautiful Bronze, Brownie, Cashmere, Cocoa Bean, Bronze Glow, Cappuccino, Chocolate Dipped
3. Best For Pale Skin
Contouring can be an intimidating proposition for people with fair-to-light skin tones, as the whole thing can so easily veer into vaudevillian territory. Not typically the intended destination. But this KIKO Milano contour stick in Hazelnut strikes the right balance between drama and realism. As lots of happy Amazon reviewers can attest, the cool-toned caramel shade works well on just about every light skin tone, much like Fenty’s contour stick in Amber — not too orange, not too dishwatery, but just the right shade to mimic the shadow cast by your cheekbones. The silky-smooth formula is hypoallergenic, too, as an added bonus.
4. The Korean One
This Etude House Play 101 Stick became an instant best-seller when it launched in Asia a few years ago, so I was very excited to learn that you can get the updated version, legit, on Amazon. The angled tip hugs the contours of your face for maximum control — drag the flat end along your cheekbones, temples, or other larger swaths of skin, then use the skinnier end wherever you want more precision (down the sides of your nose, for instance). The effect here is subtle and powdery, rather than slick and creamy. In addition to the three dual-sided contour sticks, it also comes in a color-correcting peach/yellow version.
- Available shades: #1 Original, #2 Intense, #3 Natural, Color Contour Duo #1
5. Best Budget Buy
All the contour sticks on this list are reasonably priced, but you simply cannot beat the under-$3 price tag on this one from wet n’ wild. (What even costs under $3 anymore!?) Since it’s technically a foundation, the shade range is way more generous than what you’d typically find among contour shades. If you like the formula, pick up a darker shade for your contour, and a lighter shade for a matte highlight. The grand total for both products will still round out to less than most two-in-one contour sticks.
- Available shades: Amber, Buff Beige, Classic Beige, Classic Ivory, Cream Beige, Golden Honey, Shell Bisque, Shell Ivory, Soft Beige, Soft Ivory, Toffee, Vanilla Beige
6. Best Shade Range
These foundation sticks from Mehron are typically used for stage or costume makeup, hence the appearance of Swamp Thing-green and Avatar-blue in the collection. But among their approximately one million shades you’ll find colors that exist naturally, too, and the ultra-blendable formula can work beautifully as a contour, as several fans can attest. They’re formulated to stand up to “extreme performance conditions,” like hot stage lights and excessive sweating, so they’ll certainly withstand the stressors of your normal, non-performative day. This makes them ideal for very oily skin types, or people who are looking for long-wearing makeup that will not budge under any elements.
"Goes on SUPER creamy and is buildable," one Amazon reviewer noted. Another person wrote (about shade Medium Ebony), "Nice color for dark skin [—] I use it as a contour make up for my cheeks and nose area. Like it a lot. Doesn't cake up."