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How To Choose The Best Contouring Shade

What Color Is Best For Contouring?

We’ve all seen the YouTube videos that talk about using a bronzer to contour your face. I know I’ve been guilty of doing this in the past, but I’m here to set you all straight. Bronzers are not contour powders. There may skin tones for which a bronzing shade may work as a contour shade. But! This bronzing shade can never work as a contour shade and a bronzing shade on the same shade!

Let’s first talk about what a bronzer is. “Bronze”. A bronzer is something you use to give your face that really nice sun-kissed look. If you’re looking a little pale because it’s been a while since you’ve spent some time outside, then you’ll want to use a bronzer to just give your face a little bit of warmth.

Now let’s talk about what contouring is. Contouring is the art of creating shadows. The end goal of contouring your face is to make your face look more defined. Maybe you want to make your cheekbones look a little more prominent, or maybe you want to give yourself a temporary nose job. Or maybe you have a large forehead, and you just want to make it look a little smaller. That’s what contouring is for!

So if contouring is the art of creating shadows, maybe we should think about what a shadow looks like? If you’re outside looking at your shadow, your shadow probably isn’t orange. (And if it is, then something is probably wrong with your eyes and you should see a doctor!).

So what color is your shadow? It’s grey! Now, I’m not saying that you should use a grey color to contour. Please don’t do that!

But, because a shadow is grey, if you want to create a shadow on your face, then you should choose a color that is your skin toned mixed with some grey tones. That is to say that the best contouring shade for you should be darker than your skin tone, but it should also be cooler than your skin tone.

So you’ve been told that you should use a bronzer for your contouring, and maybe you think it works just fine. And that’s because a bronzer has done one part of the job. It’s darker than your skin tone, but since it’s orange/warm toned, that means that it’s not going to look as natural as it can! But hey, it’s just makeup. So if you like what you’re working with, then keep doing what you’re doing 🙂

Now what? If you’re a drugstore makeup fanatic like me, you might know that the drugstore doesn’t really carry a whole lot of shades that match this description. You’ll see lots of foundation colors and some bronzers, but not much that is dark and cool like a true contour shade should be.

A lot of drugstore brands have been coming out with contouring products. Some are hits and some are misses. A lot of them however seem to be geared towards light skin tones. But to be honest, some of the drugstore brands are making contour palettes that are more on point with true contouring shades than some of the high end brands.

For general purposes, here are some drugstore and high end contour kits to check out. More detailed information for specific skin tones can be found below 🙂

Choosing The Right Contour Color - NYX Blush in Taupe

Drugstore Contour Products

I talk about this one a little later, but the Maybelline Master Contour palette is a really nice example of cool toned contouring shades without being too cool. Perfect for a natural contour.

You might also want to check out the NYX blush in Taupe. A really nice cool toned brown.

The L’Oreal Infallible Pro Contour Kit also seems to have a really nice taupe/brown color, although I’m not a huge fan of how the highlighting and contouring shade are meshed together in the palette.

You’ve really just got to keep your eyes out. I found this awesome JLB Contour Kit at Ross, and I love it!

High End Contour Products

The Smashbox Step-by-Step Contour Kit has perfect contouring shades, and it even walks you through how to contour your face. (Keep in mind that contouring isn’t the same for everyone since we all have different face shapes, but it’s still a neat addition).

I won’t go on and on about these, because that would have to be a completely different post. But some of the key products to check out are the Kevyn Aucoin Contouring Palette, Kat Von D Shade & Light, and the Fiona Styles Sheer Sculpting palette.

Personally, I would stay away from the Anastasia Beverly Hills Powder Contour Kit as the shades are really, really warm toned. (Just thought I would throw that in there since the product seems to be very popular).

Maybelline Master Contour Palette - Why You Can't Use Bronzer As A Contour Color

Light Skin

The Maybelline FaceStudio Master Contour palette is has a great contouring shade for those with lighter skin tones. It’s contour shade is a medium brown with cooler tones, but it’s not too cool. It’s just right! The shade light to medium is really geared more towards lighter skin tones in my opinion, but it can also be used for the lighter medium skin tones.

Medium Skin

Maybelline’s Master Contour palette also comes in a medium/deep shade, and this is really great for most of those medium tones. You will get a pretty natural contour with this shade, so if you want to add a little more depth to your cheek bones, you might have to add in a little darker shades. It just kind of depends on exactly the tone of your skin. There are lots of different factors. You can build up a contour, so it can either be natural or give your cheeks a nice chiseled, defined look.

NYX has a blush called Taupe, and this is a really nice taupe-y brown color. Perfect for that little bit more dramatic contour. It can be used on some lighter skin tones, but it looks best on lighter-medium to medium skin tones.

Another great option for those of you with medium skin is the NYX Highlight & Contour Pro Palette. It retails for $24, so it’s a little pricey, but you also get 8 different shades. The lightest contour shades in this palette will be best. Note that a few of these shades are a little too orangey to be used for contouring, but you can always use those shades as bronzers. (And yes, you can use a bronzer and a contouring color at the same time!)

True Contour Colors/Powders - NYX Highlight & Contour Pro Palette

Dark Skin

If you have darker skin, it’s going to be a little harder to find something that you can work with as a contour shade, but not to fear, I have some products for you 🙂

Again, the NYX Highlight & Contour Pro Palette is a great option with some nice cool toned browns. A few of these shades are dark enough to be used on deep skin tones!

Smashbox also makes  a really great contour palette. It’s a little pricey as it’s a high end product, but you get 3 shades for contouring, the darkest of which is great for those with darker skin.
So there you have it! I hope this post helped with your contouring color needs, and I’ll be doing a post of on how to contour your face (based on your actual face shape) very soon!

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