The 8 Best Contour Brushes of 2023 That Will Flawlessly Sculpt Your Features

Tarte Double-Ended Cheek Brush beautifully blends creams, liquids, and powders.

We independently evaluate all recommended products and services. If you click on links we provide, we may receive compensation. Learn more.

Best Contour Brushes of 2023

InStyle / Marcus Millan

Though contour trends have waxed and waned over the years, the beauty technique continues to be timeless, and it’s not going anywhere any time soon. “Sculpting is all about creating the illusion of shadow and reflection of light on the features to help them stand out,” says Nick Lujan, celebrity makeup artist and Director of Artistry & Education at Kevyn Aucoin. “In essence, you are casting shadows on your features.” By adding in that shadow with a bit of makeup, you can carve out your cheekbones, chisel your jawline, and even transform your nose. 

And while you can certainly sculpt your face with a bit of cream makeup and your fingertips, you’ll get the best results — regardless of the contouring formula you use — by using a brush made for the job. With so many options on the market (and in so many different shapes!), it can be a challenge to determine which tool is best for your needs. While it seems fairly obvious that you wouldn’t contour your nose with the same brush you’d use to carve out a strong jawline, that doesn’t mean it’s clear which one is best for each feature.

Whether you’re using a cream or a powder, sculpting your nose or your cheekbones, or are looking for a total multitasker, we’ve curated the best contouring brushes on the market. Overall, Tarte Double-Ended Cheek Brush proves to be the most versatile with its dual-ended design that beautifully blends creams, liquids, and powders. 

Best Overall

Tarte Double-Ended Cheek Brush

Tarte Double-Ended Cheek Brush


What We Love: The double sided brush cuts down on makeup bag bulk.

What We Don’t Love: The fluffy nature of the brush heads make them better suited for creating more natural shadows rather than serious sculpts.

While Tarte’s makeup may get all the hype (Shape Tape, anyone?), the brand’s brushes are total sleeper hits. The vegan bristles are among the softest we’ve ever tried, and though we try not to pick favorites, this dual-ended brush is unmatched. Highlighter, foundation, blush, bronzer, contour, setting powder — the double-sided brush can apply them all. The angled head with more densely-packed bristles is best for chiseling out features with contouring makeup or blending out foundation, while the fluffier, domed end seamlessly buffs on blush, adds a glow to the high points of the face with highlighter, and can create a sun-kissed look with bronzer. 

A multifunctional tool is fantastic for those trying to save money and space within their routines. However, these brushes are on the fluffy side — while that’s not the worst thing for creating a seamless finish with foundation, it means it’ll create a more subtle contour when using creams. Don't get us wrong, this brush still creates a beautiful contour when using creams, but we prefer this tool with powders because it especially carves out a gorgeous, natural sculpt with bronzer.

Price at time of publish: $32

Brush material: Synthetic|Features: Two different brush heads for multiple uses|Vegan: Yes

Best Budget

e.l.f. Cosmetics Contouring Brush

e.l.f. Cosmetics Contouring Brush


What We Love: This very narrow, flat brush can be used not just on the cheekbones and jawline, but also on smaller, more precise areas.

What We Don’t Love: The density of the bristles can sometimes deposit too much product, and lift the makeup already applied underneath.

It’s hard to beat the price of this e.l.f. makeup brush — and even better, it’s easy to find! Despite the low cost, the synthetic bristles are high quality, with a very soft feel and minimal shedding. The narrow design of this brush means it can be used on noses as well as cheekbones (depending on your bone structure) with all types of formulas. That said, it’s most compatible with cream products. 

Whether you prefer to use creams, powders, or liquids, just be sure to use a light hand, as the tight synthetic bristles could end up spackling on makeup or pulling up the foundation or you already applied.

Price at time of publish: $7

Brush materials: Synthetic|Features: Flat chiseled head|Vegan: Yes

Best Splurge

Chanel Les Pinceaux de Chanel Contouring Brush No° 109



What We Love: This sleek, all-black makeup brush feels very luxe and looks it, too.

What We Don’t Love: The size of this brush limits its versatility, which may be frustrating given its steep price tag.

It’s hard to beat Chanel when you’re looking to add luxury to your beauty routine (or your vanity, if you love a stylized shot for social media). The synthetic bristles on this elegant brush are very, very soft and not densely packed, making the tool best for using with powders. This makeup brush is designed to not only contour, but set your look with loose or pressed powders — and yes, you can use it with bronzers or blushes too, if you wish. 

However, the brush head is rather large, which makes it best reserved for contouring larger areas of the face, such as the cheekbones, jawline, or forehead. This is definitely not a tool to nose contour with — save another tool for sculpting that feature — so if you’re looking to save money by investing in a very versatile brush, this may not be the one for you.

Price at time of publish: $60

Brush materials: Synthetic|Features: Large, fluffy head|Vegan: Yes

Best for Cream Contour

Crown Pro Deluxe Angle Contour Brush C453

Crown Pro Deluxe Angle Contour Brush C453

Crown Pro

What We Love: This tool is makeup artist-approved and just as budget-friendly as one you’d find at your local drugstore. 

What We Don’t Love: If you’d rather check this brush out in person before you invest, you’ll likely be out of luck — Crown Pro has very few retailers in the United States.

Though this tool can be used with both cream and powder formulas, celebrity makeup artist Natalia Thomas names it her go-to specifically for cream contours. “I love a densely-packed brush with synthetic bristles to deliver a dense application of color that blends out seamlessly with a few swipes,” she says. The size and angle of this brush head makes it perfect for chiseling a cheek — it sits right in the hollows of the cheekbone — so it’s best for sculpting out larger features. While it is very hard to beat the price of this brush, you’ll likely have to buy it online as it’s not widely available in stores. 

Price at time of publish: $9

Brush materials: Synthetic|Features: Angled brush head|Vegan: Yes

Best for Powder Contour

Smith Cosmetics #131 Multi Task Buffing Brush


Smith Cosmetics

What We Love: The fluffy bristles of this half synthetic, half natural fiber brush create an airbrushed look with powder contours.

What We Don’t Love: It’s not vegan.

If you prefer all-synthetic bristles, then keep scrolling. However, if you don’t mind and are interested in one of the most flawless finishes you can get from a brush, this one from Smith Cosmetics is worthy of your consideration. It uses a 50/50 mix of synthetic and goat hair bristles to effortlessly buff out harsh lines and create a seamless-looking contour with powder products. “The natural fibers absorb some product for an overall softer finish,” explains Thomas.

Price at time of publish: $37

Brush materials: Synthetic and goat hair bristles|Features: Fluffy dome-shaped brush head, long handle|Vegan: No

Best for Nose Contour

Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez Liquid Touch Concealer Brush

Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez Liquid Touch Concealer Brush


What We Love: The precise domed head of this brush mimics the shape, size, and ability of a fingertip for easy blending.

What We Don’t Love: Some reviewers say this brush to starts shedding bristles after just a few weeks of regular use.

When contouring the nose, Thomas likes using a brush with a head that’s about pea-sized to dime-sized in diameter, including this one from Rare Beauty. Don’t be fooled by the fact that the tool is labeled as a concealer brush — it can be used to do everything from hiding blemishes and under-eye circles to applying eyeshadow and yes, nose contour. We love that the cleverly-designed tip is supposed to be comparable to a fingertip for easy blending, too. Some users of this brush have experienced significant shedding pretty early in their tool’s lifespan, though, so take care when cleansing and be sure to let your brush air dry on its side or better yet, upside down so as not to soften the glue with residual moisture.

Price at time of publish: $18

Brush materials: Synthetic|Features: Small, domed head|Vegan: Yes

Most Innovative

ICONIC London Precision Duo Contour Brush

Iconic London Precision Duo Contour Brush

Iconic London

What We Love: The double-ended brush is specifically designed to contour the nose as well as larger features; plus, the end for nose contouring has a very unique shape.

What We Don’t Love: The specific size and width of the nose contouring brush may not work for all noses.

See that divot on the smaller end of this brush? It’s so you can dip the tool into a contouring formula and swipe it down the center of your nose, creating a narrower appearance with one fell swoop. There’s nothing else like this out there, so if you appreciate a good nose contour but hate how time consuming it can be, this brush may be a good investment for you. 

It even has another end with a fluffier brush, which can be used to sculpt out the cheeks, jawline, and temples. Because the nose side features densely-packed bristles and the other side is more loosely packed, we recommend using a cream and powder contouring duo with this brush. That said, while this tool is almost too ridiculously clever, it won’t suit everyone’s nose. You can still use the tapered end to nose contour, though — just skip using the cutout and turn the brush on its side to use a more traditional technique.

Price at time of publish: $28

Brush materials: Synthetic|Features: Two different brush heads for multiple uses|Vegan: Yes

Best for Travel

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Portable Contour & Concealer Brush


Fenty Beauty

What We Love: It’s rare to find a mini contouring brush — this one’s not just petite, but is also retractable and comes with its own cap.

What We Don’t Love: The bristles are a bit stiff, which can get uncomfortable around the eyes.

If you’re someone who travels regularly, does makeup during a long commute, or just enjoys having everything they need for touch ups throughout the day, this travel-friendly tool from Fenty Beauty is a must. More brushes should come with caps like this one — it makes sure that dirty bristles won’t gunk up the inside of your makeup bag. Designed to be used with the brand’s Match Stix Sculpting Stix, its synthetic bristles easily blend out a creamy contouring formula. That said, while it blends out fluids and creams nicely, you may prefer to use your finger over this tool when it comes to concealer. The stiffer bristles could irritate the very delicate skin under the eyes if you’re particularly sensitive.

Price at time of publish: $24

Brush materials: Synthetic|Features: Tapered bristles in a retractable brush|Vegan: Yes

What to Keep In Mind

Bristle Type

You’ll usually have two choices when it comes to makeup brushes: Synthetic or natural — or in some cases, a mix of the two (which is the case with the Smith Cosmetics #131 Multi Task Buffing Brush). If you’re vegan, prone to allergies, or simply hate washing makeup brushes, you’ll want to go with synthetic bristles (they’re easier to clean!). “[Synthetic bristles] usually last forever if you take care of them,” adds Lujan. Different bristle types may be better for different formula types (more on this below), but it’s more important that the brushes are made well — the bristles should be soft (a sign of high quality), and securely glued into the brush.

Brush Size

We all have different makeup goals, and those goals determine which brushes we should use, especially when it comes to their size and shape (for example, you’d never use an eyeliner brush to apply foundation to your whole face). When contouring, Thomas says that a brush with a head no larger than a quarter will effectively contour the majority of youe face. However, if you’re sculpting your nose, something smaller, like the Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez Liquid Touch Concealer Brush, will be able to deliver a more targeted contour.

Contour Formula

Before you select a brush, you should know what kind of contouring formula you plan on using: Powder, cream, or liquid. Not all brushes will give you that flawless sculpted finish you’re after with every formula, so make sure to select a tool that is compatible with the contour of your choice. For cream or liquid contour, look for a densely-packed angled brush that will seamlessly smooth the formula into your skin (Crown Pro Deluxe Angle Contour Brush C453 is our top pick for cream contour). On the other hand, seek out a fluffier brush for powder contour as it will lightly buff in the product without leaving any streaks. (Smith Cosmetics #131 Multi Task Buffing Brush works superbly with powders.) 

And if you use a mixture of all three depending on the occasion, our best overall pick, Tarte Double-Ended Cheek Brush, is double-sided and blends out every type of contour beautifully.

Your Questions, Answered

What brush should I use for contour?

Having the right tools for any job is key, contouring makeup included — and you shouldn’t rely solely on one brush to get the job done on every feature of your face. As you might have guessed from applying other makeup formulas, the larger the feature you’re contouring, the larger your brush head should be. 

“For smaller features like the nose, you want to find a smaller brush shape for better control,” says Lujan. “Some eyeshadow shader brushes make excellent shapes for sculpting the nose, eyes, and smaller features. Just be sure that they are cleaned of wild colors and textures before using.” Don’t be afraid to shop outside the box: Our pick for nose contouring, Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez Liquid Touch Concealer Brush, is actually a concealer brush.

Then, consider the density of the bristles. How tightly the bristles are packed in the brush will make a difference in your application, depending on the type of formula used and how defined you want your contour. Lujan recommends seeking out a dense brush for cream or liquid formulas. Adds Thomas, “this will allow you to blend seamlessly and quickly.” 

Dome-shaped brushes, like powder, blush, and angled blush brushes, will create more of a diffused look, which is often best created with powder formulas. “These brush shapes will give you smoother results with powder,” says Lujan, “though it may take more layers to build intensity.” The ultra-fluffy brush head of Chanel Les Pinceaux de Chanel Contouring Brush No° 109 creates a hyperrealistic contour thanks to the loosely-packed bristles.

Lastly, consider the materials used to create the bristles of your brush. You’ll find brushes that use synthetic fibers, natural bristles (often hairs that are naturally shed by an animal over time, though not necessarily), or a mix of the two. Lujan prefers synthetic bristles as they can be used with all types of formulas and are typically easier to clean. Thomas likes both synthetic and natural bristles. “The fibers of a natural bristle brush have ‘pores’ that absorb some of the product and help to diffuse it, creating a more natural finish,” she says. “For a stronger impact, use a synthetic brush as the bristles have no pores and deliver a heavier application of color.” One of her top picks, Smith Cosmetics #131 Multi Task Buffing Brush, combines both goat hair and synthetic fibers for a versatile brush that can be used with all makeup textures to create a more natural look.

How do you use a contouring brush?

Whether you use powder or a cream/liquid formula, there is one pro tip that will make all the difference in your application: “Always work your product into the brush bristles before you apply it to your face,” Lujan advises. “This will ensure there aren’t any dark spots to blend and there is less chance of powder product fallout.”

The type of formula you’re using can make a difference in how you apply your product, as well. For example, not all cream or liquid contouring formulas fully dry down. For these, Thomas suggests painting the contour directly from the packaging onto the skin, blending it out using short, intentional strokes.

When using powders, start with a light hand using a sweeping motion. “Add more layers gradually to increase tone and depth as desired,” says Thomas. If you’re using a blend of both creams/liquids and powder formulas, Lujan says to start with the former, then set your work with translucent setting powder before switching over. “This will create a smoother canvas for blending,” Lujan says.

Can I use a sponge to contour?

Both of our pros agree that a sponge is not the right tool for a precise contour, but it can be used to blend out cream contour. “Since sponges absorb some of the product, they are wonderful finishing tools, but I still apply cream contour with a brush first to get the color to go exactly where I need it rather than chancing any missteps by blobbing on the product with an amorphous object,” says Thomas. When buffing out your contour, Lujan recommends bouncing a damp sponge on the skin using light pressure, which will create a seamless gradient effect.

Why Shop With Us

Emily Orofino is a freelance writer, editor, and consultant with over a decade of experience in the beauty industry. The makeup category was her first love within beauty and she has tried thousands of products throughout her lifetime — and more specifically, has been contouring for about 20 years now, experimenting with cream and powder formulas alike as well as various applicators. For this piece, she interviewed celebrity makeup artists and contouring experts Natalia Thomas, who has worked with stars like Zazie Beetz and Karlie Kloss, and Nick Lujan, Director of Artistry & Education at Kevyn Aucoin, who has worked with Beyoncé and Kim Petras, among others.

Related Articles