contour and concealer palettes

Cream Vs. Powder Contour Makeup

Cream Vs Powder

The art of contouring our faces with makeup is a practice that has been around longer than the Kardashians. Professional makeup artists have been using the principles of contouring for some time now, regardless of the cream vs powder contour question.

But thanks to said celebrity contour queen, it’s only recently become a mainstream makeup practice.

Da Vinci could contour with the best of us!

According to Collins Dictionary, to contour is to shape or mold, to conform to the contour of something. And my, haven’t we become fixated with our contouring of late?

The big dilemma is really just about what product to use for your contouring? Cream vs powder? What is best for you? Is there a right and a wrong? How do you contour without looking overly made up?

Let’s take a look and find out the answers to all of these questions, and more!

Why Contour?

As we’ve learned, contouring is essentially using a makeup product to help sculpt, define and shape our faces.

We use contouring products to help slim, shorten, lengthen, or hide certain things that tend to probably only concern ourselves (and no one else!).

Nevertheless, contouring can go a long way to give you confidence, help you feel ready to face the world, and in my job, help me create characters and various looks on performers.

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What Products Should I use to Contour?

Okay, so you’re a beginner in all of this? Well, you have come to the right place!

There is no need to feel overwhelmed about contouring!

The most important thing to remember is to start small. You can always add more product, and you can always blend more. With makeup, it’s easier to add than it is to take away! (This is a great rule-of-thumb across the board too).

You can use almost any makeup product to contour. As long as it’s a little darker than your skin tone, it’s going to achieve the desired effect.

I have also used cheek colors at a pinch, for a little soft contouring under the chin, in the past. I also love doing this around the hairline, or in the temples sometimes too. Particularly if my client’s face needs some extra warming up.

So having said that, you can use the following products to contour (in no specific order):

  • cream contour palette
  • powder contour palette
  • cream contour stick
  • a foundation that is approximately 2-3 shades darker than your natural skin tone
  • a concealer that is approximately 2-3 shades darker than your natural skin tone
  • a matte eyeshadow this is a neutral brown tone
  • even a lipstick that’s the right tone!
  • a cream product in a brown tone

Basically, whatever works for you. There are no rules with products, only basic color theory and principles.

Try to remember this: pure white is the total reflection of white light. As a shade gets darker, the pigment absorbs more light and reflects less light. Once you reach pure black, the shade absorbs all light and reflects no light.

Therefore, a darker shade will give the illusion of depth, and a lighter shade will give the illusion of coming forward or protruding, being highlighted.

Understanding these notions will help to successfully create the illusion that the contouring is aiming to achieve.

Applying Cream and Powder Contour for Beginners

As I touched on, contouring helps us sculpt our face. So essentially we are using light and shade to add dimension and depth.

Let’s say you want to create a stronger cheekbone.

You will apply the product inside the deepest part of your cheekbone and feather it off to where the apple of your cheek is. It should blend seamlessly up into your hairline, without a build-up of product.

There should be no visible brush strokes or product. In applying the contouring product successfully, you will give your self more prominent cheekbones.

You can go a step further and apply a highlighter to the top plane of your cheekbone. This will help this part of your face “jump out”, or look more prominent.

Again, thinking about light and shade principals, the lighter the color, the more prominent the area becomes. But more on highlighting another day 🙂

You can also use contouring under your chin, on the tip of your nose (if you have a long nose), or down the sides of your nose to make it appear more narrow. On your eyelids, to help create a desired eye structure or shape. Also in your temples, or around your hairline if you have a large. forehead.

I have used contouring in makeup on an actress to help her look like a real-life character she was playing, that had a different face shape to her own.

It’s a really fun and subtle way of changing the look of someone’s face and when done well, can be very effective.

How to Apply Cream Contour

I like to consider contouring as part of the foundation. Because, in theory, the facial structure, or form IS the foundation!

So once you have applied your foundation and concealer, then you can apply your cream contour product.

Again, look for all of the spots you are aiming to shade and create depth with. Start with just a little product on your brush.

Okay, so if that leads you to ask “What brush should I use for my cream contouring?”, then we should take a step back and learn a bit more about makeup brushes.

What works best for me, or you may not work best for someone else, so all I can tell you is what I like to use.

And that is a nice wide brush, with either an angled edge, or a rounded toe (the edge where the end of the bristles are). I find that the angle allows to follow the curves, and really get in to help sculpt and create depth right where you need it.

So dip your favorite brush into your product and begin SCULPTING!

When contouring, I always start at the other end from where you need the product to fade away. ie. for the cheekbone, start at the hairline and then you can feather off as the brushstroke sweeps inwards towards the center of the face.

Under the jaw, apply from the deepest area in underneath the ears, and sweep forwards and upwards to blend out.

On the nose, work downwards along each side of your nose.

Then, if you need to soften anything, you can come in with a second brush that is free of any product and blend to your heart’s content!


Why Choose A Cream Contour Product?

Using a cream vs a powder contour product has many benefits.

It may work best for you, particularly if you have dry skin.

The consistency of a cream contour product is also more dewy and skin-like than a powder. You can really create some subtle, natural effects with a cream contour product.

Be sure to set any cream product well, as they are going to warm up on your face if you do. And nobody wants a slidey-face of patchy makeup any time of the day or night!

I would also suggest a cream contour product vs a powder contour product for the more mature skin type.

As we get older, sometimes gravity can do an unkind job of contouring for us. So it’s important to keep in mind how to contour well as a more mature lady. You may not even need to contour the temples or cheek bones.

But if you do, keep it soft and subtle, and rely on your highlighting and blush or cheek colors to give you a glow as well as help sculpt your face.

Contouring under the jawbone may be exactly what you are after, as you can create a lovely jawline where the skin may prevent it from naturally occurring.

Cream Vs Powder Contour for Acne Skin Concerns

As long as you apply your foundation well and have covered the color of your acne, contouring may well be a great tool to help camouflage those nasties that are doing everything to ruin your day!

It may take a little more time, but by applying the same principles of light and shade, concealing your spots over the foundation and setting them well, will make contouring a breeze.

Yes, by a little concealing with a color that is ever-so slightly darker than your skin tone, you can create the illusion of the skin surface being flat where a spot is.

So instead of potentially highlighting (and making the spot more visible) yes, you are essentially shading it to trick the eye. This is a great concealing hack that may take some practice to master, but once you have the right colors for you, this will be a go to if you battle acne in your life.

The rest is the same process; just ensure you use a brush with very soft bristles, as you want it to sweep over your skin, or even lightly stipple and not pick up (and remove) the product that is covering the spots in question.


Best Cream Contour Products


E.L.F. Cream Contour Palette

Makeup Forever Ultra HD Foundation Palette

This is a very warm-based palette, but a great place to start for fair to medium skin tones. A good, drugstore budget-friendly starting point to experiment with your contouring skills.

E.L.F. Cream Contour Palette


This is probably one of my most used staples in my makeup kit these days.

So much so that I have 3 of them floating about! I use them for men a lot, and I can pretty much do all my corrective work with one of these palettes if I have to!

They are so versatile and can take care of contouring on a textured face with ease.

makeup forever ultra hd foundation palette
Makeup Forever Ultra HD Foundation Palette



Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Cream Kit

This is one of those hard to come by, grab it when you see it palettes. A soft, creamy consistency of 3 buildable, blendable shading colors and 3 highlighting colors you can mix and match if needed. A versatile and easy to use palette. For fair to medium complexions.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Cream Kit


NYX Professional Cream Contour and Highlight Palette

This palette available in 3 color ranges, is perfect low-cost, drugstore option if you’re starting out and looking to experiment with a cream consistency and in need of extra coverage at the same time. For medium skin tones.

NYX Professional Cream Contour and Highlight Palette


Contour Sticks

NYX Wonder Stick

Available in 6 different shades, this dual-ended stick with highlight-contour combination will makeup light work of your facial contouring. Affordable and accessible. From fair to deep complexions.

NYX Wonder Stick


Fenty Beauty Match Stix Trio

As the name states, a trio of gorgeous cream sticks that will conceal, contour and highlight in the set. Available in 4 different color ranges from light to deep skin tones.

Fenty Beauty Match Stix Trio


Makeup Forever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Stick Foundation

Another great, high coverage option available in a whopping 21 shades. This range will provide satin finish with medium to high coverage all in a creamy, buildable foundation stick. Ideal for normal to dry skin types. For all skin tones and complexions.

Makeup Forever Ultra HD Invisible Cover Stick Foundation


How to Apply Powder Contour

When it comes to the application of your powder contouring product, the principles are the same. The order of your application may be a little different to that of a cream contour product. But basically you’re looking to achieve the same end results.

I do like to apply the powder after all of my foundation and concealers are applied.

I love to use powder contouring palettes.

They just work for me, and I love having the full range of contour and highlight pigments at hand in one go.

This allows me to very quickly apply both my contour and highlight shades and have the groundwork for the face application done and dusted!

Sometimes if I feel like it, I even use the contour powder to do a little sculpting on the eyelid, over the outer brow edge and into the temple area. For me, a powder contour product has a lot of versatility.


Why Choose A Powder Contour Product?

Powder contour will work wonders if you have oily skin. It will also give you a matte finish.

I love using powder contour products, and honestly probably do more so than creams. It’s just my personal preference.

A powder contour finish vs a cream contour can lend itself to a more dramatic and evening look if you’re going extra glam for that special occasion as well.

Tarte Tarteist Pro Glow Highlight and Contour Palette

Another contour palette that often feels like it’s on the endangered list! You can really tell that this is a popular one too.

And although we’re talking about powder products in this section, the beauty of the Tarte Pro Glow Palette is that it offers you both cream and powder contour/highlight products all in the same palette. Your one stop contour shop!

This will work wonders if your skin is oily, in part due to the Amazonian Clay ingredients that will help to absorb the oils in your skin. For light to medium skin tones.

Tarte Tarteist Pro Glow Highlight and Contour Palette


Best Powder Contour Products

Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit

Probably my most used, go-to powder contour kit. Find it featured in my full Makeup Station Breakdown here. The kit contains 3 contouring and 3 highlighting tones, perfect for soft and subtle contouring and highlighting all in one. For fair skin tones.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit


Black Radiance True Complexion Palette

These powder palettes provide warm tones to help sculpt and shape. In the powder vs cream contour game, these are definitely a firm contender for me, as they are soft enough to create subtle contouring, and can also be built upon for a more dramatic or evening look. For medium to dark skin tones.

Black Radiance True Complexion Palette


Hoola Matte Bronzer

So, this may be my rule-breaker in the cream vs powder contour game!

I adore the Hoola Matte Bronzer.

And although I would generally say bronzers are a strict NO for contouring, the Hoola Bronzer really doesn’t contain the shimmer that we are trying to avoid when contouring. For light to medium skin tones.

Benefit Hoola Matte Bronzer


Why do we want to avoid shimmer in our shading?

Well, a shimmer/metallic finish in a product falls under the light reflecting principle of well, reflecting light. So although a bronzer is designed to give you a hint of color in your complexion, the subtle shimmer it contains will help add a “glow” to your skin.

While, a contouring product should be free of any shimmer (or light reflecting particles) if that makes sense? Basically the shimmer is fighting against the shading that your are trying to create!

Supply List for Contouring

  • Good lighting – if it’s slightly focused over head, it may create some of the shadows that you want to achieve with makeup, so go for nice bright even lighting.
  • Clean mirror – fairly self explanatory. You want to be able to see yourself well, to contour successfully!
  • Good quality makeup brushes – as we discussed, be sure to have a few angled and rounded large brushes in your collection to bother apply and blend your contour product. Some half-sized brushes will also be useful to contour smaller areas like your nose or eyelids.
  • Contouring Makeup Products – hopefully you have found something in our list of suggestions that works for you. Or you’re willing to try a new product and you strike gold with it!
  • Your gorgeous face and a little bit of time – try never to rush this – especially if you’re starting out. Remember, this is a simple process and will become such once you get the hang of it and the right products that work for you. But don’t rush it!

The Verdict of Cream Vs Powder Contouring

So there it is, I have presented both sides of the contour case. The cream vs the powder contour products.

And both types feature some wonderful products.

I use both cream and powder contouring products, and sometimes I use both.

So in possibly a highly anti-climactic fashion, I say that the verdict is up to you. What works for you is what wins out in the end!

It all depends on what you like, and of course, what your skin likes.


  1. Sarah Corwin says:

    NYX So Taupe blush is a great cool toned contour

    1. Absolutely! It’s a beautiful tone! Nyx have a lot of great products!

  2. Taylor says:

    This is such a helpful blog post. I use a powder to contour my face, but now I really want to try a cream. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much! Cream contour products are really versatile and useful. Great for winter months and the dry skin that usually accompanies the season!

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