Face it---contouring is not leaving the beauty world anytime soon. At the beginning of 2015, many were quick to declare the trend as passe, but the perfectly-defined complexions of Kim Kardashian, Nicki Minaj, and Jennifer Lopez (not to mention all the inspired tutorials on YouTube) beg to differ. Though more extreme versions are better left on reality TV, a little contouring around the perimeter of your face gives your makeup an almost HD effect, and adds dimension to an otherwise uniform foundation tone. Of course, placement is key, and if you're new to the game, figuring out exactly what to do with all of the contour palettes currently on the market can be quite the struggle. We put together a list of our four favorite contouring kits, and broke down each one by skill level so rookies and pros alike can find their perfect match.
BEGINNER: Benefit 10 Bronzing and Highlighting Duo, $28; benefitcosmetics.com.
You want to learn the art of chiseling a sculpted cheekbone, but when even the thought of blush is intimidating, a no-fuss palette that does all of the work for you is a must. Benefit's 10, a two-in-one palette that combines a champagne-toned highlighter with a tawny bronzer, takes the guesswork of how your hues should be layered, and the included rectangular brush is actually key in creating the look rather than acting as an unnecessary component. Simply swipe the tool over the entirety of the dual-sided pan, place the brush directly on your face with the lighter side on top, then blend back and forth to diffuse the color. Once your contour is in place, work a damp makeup sponge around the edges to blur the powder in with the rest of your makeup.
INTERMEDIATE : Marc Jacobs #Instamarc Light Filtering Contour Powder, $49; sephora.com.
This isn't your first time trying your hand at the contouring game, but your method is still a far cry from the Paint by Numbers-esque face charts decking your Makeup Inspiration board on Pinterest. Your contouring routine doesn't, and shouldn't, have to be complicated, and Marc Jacobs' new #Instamarc palettes take a minimalist approach to the technique. Available in three versions to flatter every skin tone, each compact is equipped with everything you need, and nothing you don't---meaning, a shading powder and a matte powder highlighter. Because the two hues complement each other perfectly, you can layer and blend to get the seamless graduation in color sans harsh lines, or an overly-shimmery appearance. Use a dense brush to pick up and place the shading powder under your cheekbones, chin, down the sides of your nose, and around your forehead, then soften the hue with a fluffy powder brush. With the same powder brush, sweep the highlighter down the center of your nose, onto your forehead, and across the tops of your cheekbones.
ADVANCED: Anastasia Premiere Contour and Highlight Kit, $40; nordstrom.com.
Though that Kardashian Kontour isn't practical for your everyday life, beating your face to perfection is a regular routine for you, and you've been known to turn up the contrast for a night out. You don't need any direction as far as where to shade and where to highlight, thank you very much, but aren't planning to break out an airbrushing machine anytime soon. Beauty Bloggers and YouTube makeup gurus alike tend to sing the praises of Anastasia's Contour and Highlight Kit to the tune of Beyoncé's "7/11," and no surprise here, the palette lives up to all the hype. Each of the powders stay true to the color in the pan, and the formula is perfect for oily or problematic skin prone to breaking out---the matte texture works wonders at hiding bumps or any uneven tones. As an added bonus, the 6 shades also moonlight as eye shadows.
CERTIFIED PRO: Mehron Celebre Pro-HD Cream Contour and Highlight Palette ($80; amazon.com).
Your own handiwork challenges that of celebrity makeup artists, and you can transform a face full of lion-esque concealer and bronzer stripes into a flawless finish that puts all other #NoFilter selfies to shame. We admit, we're pretty jealous, and Mehron's Pro-HD Cream Contour palette is perfect for you with 12 blendable hues that work on literally every complexion. In general, cream products can be a bit tricky for beginners to work with, but considering your skill level and the brand's beginnings in theatre makeup, the pairing couldn't be more perfect. The each cream is also jam-packed with Vitamin E, pomegranate, and aloe vera to keep your complexion hydrated, and thanks to the oil-free formula, even sensitive skin types can get in on the fun.