Whether you love a multi-step routine or a simple soft sculpt, contour brushes are your best bet for nailing your liquid, powder or cream contour – and the key to a seamless makeup base. With A-Listers like Kim Kardashian and Hailey Bieber taking the technique to new heights, more defined cheekbones, jaws and noses are on everyone’s wishlists – and it turns out that using the right brush could be the difference between a clean contour and that dreaded muddy finish.
“Denser brushes that are packed with bristles help to thinly layer product on to the skin and are particularly good with cream formulas,” explains makeup artist Rose Gallagher. Prefer something more natural? “Go for a fluffier brush, because every sweep gives only a soft wash of colour.”
As someone who has often swayed towards more natural-looking makeup, I found myself a little nervous at the prospect of contouring – but once I picked up my makeup brushes and gave it a go, there was no turning back. Especially because it’s now easier than ever to look sculpted and snatched, thanks to a whole host of expertly-designed contour brushes that have both full glam girlies and those that tend to keep things a little more low-key covered.
Originally, contour brushes were made of animal hair – because the natural texture helped with a more flawless application, especially when it came to powders. But these days you’ll find that most are cruelty-free, and are instead made from synthetic bristles. Makeup artist Monika Blunder explains: “They’re vegan and are usually easier to clean and faster to dry compared to natural fibres. They’ve come a long way in the last few years so sometimes you can’t even tell the difference between natural and synthetic bristles.”
To help you find your pick, we’ve put together a carefully-curated list of the best contour brushes on the market, including MUA-created favourites (looking at you, Mario Dedivanovic), cult brands and brushes that won’t break the bank. We’ve also taken the time to scour through thousands of customer reviews and test the options below first-hand. Below, we’ve included everything you need to know about contour brushes, with expert-led info and your burning FAQs answered. So, buckle up and get scrolling…
Best contour brushes at a glance – our top picks:
- Best contour brush overall: Kevyn Aucoin The Duet Contour Brush, £42, Space NK
- Best affordable contour brush: e.l.f. Contouring Brush, £6.50, Amazon
- Best contour brush for sculpting: Morphe R3 Precision Pointed Contour Brush, £15, Morphe
- Best contour brush for nose contour: Rare Beauty Liquid Touch Concealer Brush, £17, Sephora
What is a contour brush? Which one should I use?
Contour brushes come in a few different shapes and sizes, with each one giving specific results. “You can find some brushes that are extremely dense with a flat top, which tends to create a sharper contour line. These are usually designed for cream contours,” says celebrity and royal makeup artist Hannah Martin. Contour brushes like these can often be named foundation brushes and are useful across your base makeup as well as for sculpting. “Pointed brushes are great for focusing product in the hollows of the cheekbone, whereas the most common angled contour brush can come either tightly or loosely bound and in a range of sizes to get into the nooks and crannies of the face,” Hannah says. These can sometimes look more like an angled blush brush, except the bristles are often more densely packed together.
When it comes to choosing which contour brush to use, you’ll need to consider a couple of things: am I using a powder, cream or liquid formula – and which part of the face am I contouring? If you’re using a cream and contouring the cheekbones and jawline, Monika suggests choosing a “slightly larger brush, on the denser side” like a large angled contour brush, whereas if you prefer powder formulas you’ll be best off going for something that looks more like a powder brush – fluffier and softer than your more traditional sculpting brush.
For nose contour, it’s all about precision. According to makeup artist Ruby Hammer MBE: “a small, precise brush is best for controlled, defined, chiselled areas like the nose and eyes.”