Best Luxury & Budget Highlighting Contouring Products

by Molly Gardner

Hi and Low mixing has become de rigueur in the fashion world.  I see Forever 21 worn with Chanel all the time on my Instagram feed, a.k.a my World News.  It’s all about knowing which items to save on and which to splurge on.  I want to apply it as best I can to contouring and highlighting because I get asked a lot about how to contour on a budget and I really think to get your best contouring, you can combine high end and affordable products and get your contour and glow popping.

It’s all about finding the right products.  Now usually, I am a big believer that you should use the highest quality you can for your skin products: foundation, concealer, etc. because a higher quality product will end up looking more like real skin and tends to blend better.  They also usually have more pigment, meaning you use less product each time, meaning the product lasts you longer and you end up saving money.

That being said, there are ways to get quality products without spending a zillion dollars and there are some drugstore picks that are amazing, high quality products at a great price.

The key for me is to find contour shades that are true shadows, without any warmth, and highlight shades that reflect light without glitter.  As always, I use my beauty blender sponge to blend everything after I apply it (even powder).  This gives me the most natural look.

I know it might seem nuts to get a cream and a powder, but I truly think for the most defined-but-natural looking contouring, and also contouring that lasts, it’s important to start with a cream and set with a powder.  I’ve tried every single highlighting and contouring method with creams and powders combined or on their own and this is my favorite method.

LOW (under $20):

Contour powder:  Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour individual pans, $14 each, no case.  I love and use “Fawn” everyday.  I bought mine before you could buy individual pans or make your own six piece set.  I might have made my own, and done half “Fawn” and half “Java” for my skin tone ($40 and comes with a case, which works out to $6.67 each including the case).  Then I’d have contouring powder for the rest of my life.  If you don’t have a banana and peach shade to set your concealer, though, the original kit would be a great buy and you could use “Havana” as your bronzer.  But if you want a great powder on a budget, the $14 individual pan is worth every penny.  It is such a creamy powder and blends perfectly.   You will never get a harsh contouring line with these powders.

*These do need to be popped into a Z-palette ($20), Make Up For Ever metal palette ($14), or some kind of empty kit to store them in.  Which adds to the expense.  But don’t hesitate to take an old blush or bronzer container and pop out the empty metal pan and put your new products in there.  Your Anastasia pan just needs to be covered, so this works just as well as anything else.  Check out youtube for “depoting” videos and see the pic below.

Cream highlighter:  Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector, travel size .68, $19.  I love this highlighter, it’s incredibly pigmented without looking like highlighter.  Gives you gorgeous, glowing skin.  This “travel size” container is actually a lot of product, more than most full size highlighting products that I’ve purchased.  It comes in Moonstone or Opal.

Cream highlighter: Revlon Skinlights, $13, 1 oz.  Best drugstore illuminator I’ve ever tried.  It’s so pretty on.  I like “Bare Light” and “Pink Light.”  They discontinued this for awhile and it was selling on ebay and amazon for $90.  WHAT.  It’s great stuff, especially set with the next powder on the list…

Powder highlighter: Physician’s Formula Mineral Glow Pearls, in Beige Pearl, $14, .28 oz.  This is a beautiful shimmer powder!  The beige pearl shade has shimmer, but not glitter.  It looks great on.  It’s a great dupe for the Becca Shimmer Skin Perfecting Powder in Opal.  It’s such a huge drugstore win!

Contour Brush:  Makeup Geek Angled Contour Bush, $9.99 +$2 shipping.  I use this to apply the Becca cream contour.  It’s the perfect size for contouring and blends the cream perfectly.

Contour Brush:  Sonia Kashuk Core Large Angled Brush #113, $9.99.  If you have not tried Sonia Kashuk brushes yet, you must try them!  I like the black handled professional series brushes the best, but this core collection is also amazing.  I’ve had this brush for years and it still performs perfectly!

Highlighter Powder Brush: Bdellium Tools fan brush, $12.  This is another great quality line.  This brush is soft and blends highlighting powder well and sets undereye concealer by picking up just the right amount of powder.  The ends lengths of the bristles are varied, so you get a full base, but lighter ends so it picks up just a dusting of highlighting powder, which is a good thing.

Highlighter Powder Brush:  E.L.F fan brush, $3.  Great inexpensive brush.  Doesn’t blend as well as the Bdellium, but it’s the perfect size and does pick up a good amount of powder.  I have two of them in my kit so that I always have a clean brush.

HIGH (over $20):

Contour cream:  Becca Lowlight sculpting cream, $38.  Ok, even for me, this was hard to spend $38 on.  Which is insane because I’ve literally spent more on burritos in a 3-day span.  And I would spend $38 on a cute dress that I wear a few times, so why shouldn’t I spend the same on a product that I use daily?  But I digress…From the first swipe it was absolute true love with me and this contour cream.  And that never happens.  I usually have to work with a product for a bit to get it to work it’s best for me, but this was instant love.  It’s the perfect shadow contouring shade.  It finishes matte and smooth, not tacky to the touch in any way.  I use it on it’s own or over foundation, then set it with the Anastasia contour powder in Fawn.  It’s very pigmented, so a little goes a long way.  I have used this daily for a month (I even checked my Instagram to make sure of the date on this) and it looks barely touched.  This is a “long haul” product.  Worth the investment.

Highlighting powder:  Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed, $38, .28 oz.  See a trend here?  These Becca products are worth every penny.  The pigment is so incredible that you just need the lightest touch.  I love Moonstone and Opal.

Brush (+ Bronzer):  The brush from Benefit Hoola Bronzer or any of their blush boxes is an awesome contouring brush!!  $28 for product and the brush comes with it.  I can’t tell you how many of these I threw out because I couldn’t figure out how to use them as a blush or bronzing brush.  Argh!  If only I could get back in time.  I did save one, PRAISE, and it’s great for applying and blending the Anastasia contouring powder.  The Hoola bronzer is a great bronzer, the color is amazing and natural and has no shimmer.  I don’t love it as a contour powder, I know some people do and use it for that, but for me, it’s way too warm on me for contour.  I do use it daily as a bronzer, dusted lightly across the apples of my cheeks, my temples, and my chin and neck.  So if you are going to buy a bronzer, get this one and save the brush for contouring.

Highlighter cream: Benefit High Beam, $26 for .45 oz.  This is one of my Holy Grail highlighting products.  It looks good on every skin tone.  Seriously.  I used to wear this before highlighting was a “thing” and before people really knew what it was and people would always ask how I made my skin glow in pictures.  High Beam.  All day errday.

Brush: If you want to go all out for a brush, Tarte’s “Slenderizing” Bamboo Contour brush, $32, is incredibly soft and has two sides, I use the larger side for blending.  Full review on it here.

Also, watch out for store sales and both drugstores and higher-end makeup stores.  Drugstores regularly run sales for 40% off Physician’s Formula and Sephora and Ulta have both sent me 15-20% coupons this month.   Download the Shopular app on your phone (it’s free) if you don’t get the Sunday paper and want to know the drugstore sales.

I feel like every product above is a ROCK STAR.  But, if I had to start a highlighting and contouring set from scratch again and try to stay under $100 total, I’d probably pick these.  (Also, I know $100 is still a lot of money, my name isn’t Molly Trump…yet.)  You can click right on the name to shop:

Becca Lowlight cream ($38)

– Anastasia single in Fawn and put it in an old cosmetic case ($14)

Revlon Skinlights in Bare Light or Pink Light ($13)

Physician’s Formula Pearls Powder in Beige Pearl ($14)

Sonia Kashuk or Makeup Geek Contour brush ($10 each)

E.L.F. Fan Brush ($3)

Total: $92

I am a coupon and sale warrior and would hoard coupons and wait for a sale on both of these drugstore options.  I march into a 40% off drugstore sale with my coupons in tow like P.Diddy walking into a club in the 90’s.  It’s party time.

If you are like, MOLLY, come on, I can really only spend $30, I’d pick either the Skin Lights (for drier/normal skin) or the Physician’s Formula (for normal/oily skin) for my highlighter and the Anastasia single for my contour, with this E.L.F. brush for contouring.

I hope this list helps.  I have tons more highlighting and contouring products I like and have tried, but I feel like this is a solid list of staples that you can mix and match from within your budget and store availability.  Please let me know below if you want any details on any other products and if I’ve tried it, I’ll let you know.


Same order as above, just zoomed in.

Same order as above, just zoomed in.



Anastasia “Fawn” popped into an old blush container.

highlighting-contouring-budget-high-end-products-becca-physicians-formula-benefit-anastasia-review-swatches-dupe.jpeg highlighting-contouring-budget-high-end-products-becca-physicians-formula-benefit-anastasia-review-swatches-dupe.jpeg highlighting-contouring-budget-high-end-products-becca-physicians-formula-benefit-anastasia-review-swatches-dupe.jpeg

Feel free to share this post of Facebook or pin and of the pics to Pinterest.  You can follow @girlgetglamorous on Instagram.  If you try any of these products and post an Instagram pic, please hashtag your pic #girlgetglamorous and I’ll repost some!  Thank you for reading!

Go Get Glam!


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