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Makeup by Mario’s SoftSculpt Shaping Stick delivers believable definition wherever you swipe it
If your makeup bag is overflowing with tubs, tubes, and compacts, play a game of pick-up sticks. Stick makeup products are a compact and convenient way to even out your complexion and define your eyes, lips, and cheeks. And these days you can find a stick for every step of your beauty routine.
The brilliance of makeup sticks is that they’re multitaskers: Stick foundation can be used to spot-conceal breakouts, stick blush works beautifully as lip color, and stick bronzer can warm up your eyelids in a single swipe. They’re also unparalleled for travel — they don’t take up much space, and makeup brushes are optional, as you can dot the product directly on your skin and blend with your fingertips in a pinch. We’re particularly fond of Makeup by Mario SoftSculpt Shaping Stick, which features a creamy, buildable formula in shades that complement a variety of skin tones.
Ready to slim down your beauty routine? These are the best makeup sticks to buy:
Makeup by Mario Softsculpt Shaping Stick
What We Love: The formula’s texture glides well on dry, combination, and oily skin types.
What We Don’t Love: It’s tricky to retract the formula into the packaging if you twist too much out.
Mario Dedivanovic is a force in the field of beauty: Yes, he’s Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist, but he’s also a highly intentional product innovator. His namesake brand’s SoftSculpt Shaping Stick is proof — the creamy contouring stick adds neutral warmth wherever you apply it, and it’s easy to build up or blend out for your desired effect. The brush attachment has dense, soft bristles that buff out the product beautifully, and it detaches for easy cleaning. And the range of shades lets you choose one that looks natural on your skin tone, no matter how fair or dark your complexion is. Just be careful with how much you twist out, though, because it doesn’t retract well.
Coverage: Medium | Shades: 6 | Finish: Demi-Matte | Size: 0.37 oz | Cruelty-free: Yes
NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick Contour & Highlighter Stick
What We Love: The small stick pairs two complementary shades.
What We Don’t Love: The pigmented bullets may break if you apply the product with too much pressure.
This double-ended wand has a multitude of uses: Buff the deeper toned end onto your cheeks and jawline for definition, swipe the lighter end onto the high planes of your face for a subtle gleam, or blend either onto your eyelids for a creamy wash of color. You can choose from eight shades with varying depths and metallic undertones. We love it for travel and on-the-go touch ups.
Coverage: Buildable | Shades: 8 | Finish: Dewy | Size: 0.28 oz | Cruelty-free: Yes
Westman Atelier Baby Cheeks Lip + Cheek Cream Blush Stick
What We Love: Nourishing ingredients like vitamin E and organic jojoba oil enhance the formula.
What We Don’t Love: You’ll need to retouch frequently if you use it for lip color.
If you’ve tried anything from Westman Atelier, you know that the brand’s products are easy to use and feel like cashmere on your skin. This formula is no exception. While it’s marketed as a blush, it can also enliven your lips and lids. The pigments are ultra creamy with a subtle radiance courtesy of ethically sourced mica. What sets this apart from other blush sticks is the shade range and ingredient list: The hues range from earthy rose to hot pink, and the formula packs skin-loving jojoba oil and vitamin E. It doesn’t last quite as long on the lips as it does the cheeks, so make sure to keep it on you if you step out of the house.
Coverage: Medium | Shades: 7 | Finish: Satin | Size: 0.21 oz | Cruelty-free: Yes
Huda Beauty #FauxFilter Skin Finish Buildable Foundation Stick
What We Love: It’s waterproof and stays put for up to 10 hours.
What We Don’t Love: The formula can feel drying on dehydrated skin.
If you equate waterproof foundation with a full coverage stickiness, think again. Huda Beauty’s foundation stick delivers sweat-resistant pigments in a soft, diffused finish. The formula’s square tip can easily edge into creases around your nose and the inner corners of your eyes to blur away discoloration. A little goes a long way, and it’s best to apply on moisturized skin for a smooth result. With nearly 40 shades to choose from, you’ll have no trouble finding your match. We wish it felt a bit more hydrating, though, so we suggest layering a moisturizer or lightweight serum underneath.
Coverage: Buildable | Shades: 39 | Finish: Natural | Size: 0.44 oz | Cruelty-free: Yes
Merit Bronze Balm Sculpting Bronzer
What We Love: Most bronzers are only available in a few shades; this one comes in five.
What We Don’t Love: You may need to touch up after a few hours of wear.
Makeup artist Jenna Menard loves this formula for its neutral undertones, which allows you to use the product for bronzing and contouring. The balm contains fatty acids to moisturize your skin while you wear it, but it’s not greasy — it feels featherweight on the skin once you buff it in place. It’s super sheer, so you can build it up to your desired level of depth. Menard likes to blend it onto the perimeter of her face, with extra pigment along the cheeks and jawline for a warm, defined look.
Coverage: Sheer | Shades: 5 | Finish: Natural | Size: 0.44 oz | Cruelty-free: Yes
Milk Makeup Lip + Cheek Cream Blush Stick
What We Love: The light color payoff imparts a no-makeup makeup look.
What We Don’t Love: It’s creamy, so it may disrupt foundation underneath it if you apply it with too much pressure.
The beauty of cream blushes is that they enhance your skin’s radiance (powder blushes, on the other hand, tend to have a mattifying effect). This one by Milk Makeup delivers hydration with mango butter, avocado oil, and apricot oil, and you can dab the pigments on your lips, too. It’s small, but the pigments are saturated so the stick goes a long way.
Coverage: Sheer | Shades: 8 | Finish: Dewy | Size: 0.21 oz | Cruelty-free: Yes
Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Contour Skinstick
Best for Contouring
What We Love: The cream-to-powder tint is easy to blend.
What We Don’t Love: It may feel drying on some skin types.
The difference between contour products and bronzer boils down to undertones. Bronzer warms up the skin, while contour formulas are cooler, which imparts definition. Each shade of Fenty Beauty’s contour stick has just the right amount of coolness to it so you’re able to sculpt away without the pigments looking painted on or muddy. The stick’s rounded tip makes it easy to define larger areas like your cheeks, as well as smaller features like your nose.
Coverage: Buildable | Shades: 9 | Finish: Matte | Size: 0.25 oz | Cruelty-free: Yes
Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer SPF 27
What We Love: The brand reformulated the concealer earlier this year to include an expanded shade range.
What We Don’t Love: It can settle into fine lines if you don’t blend it in well.
Finding a good concealer can be as tricky as finding an eye cream that actually depuffs. Clé de Peau Beauté’s formula is a Goldilocks pick. It’s matte enough to camouflage breakouts without making them shiny, but also delivers a touch of dewiness that brightens up the under eye area. You can swipe it directly onto your skin and dab it into place — no need to reapply.
Coverage: Full | Shades: 13 | Finish: Demi-Matte | Size: 0.17 oz | Cruelty-free: No
Charlotte Tilbury Colour Chameleon Eye Shadow Pencil
What We Love: The brand designed the pencils to accentuate different eye colors.
What We Don’t Love: The pencil’s width makes it tricky to sharpen.
Powder eyeshadow can fall onto your under eyes when you apply it, which is a real pain if you’ve already applied concealer. These pencils erase that issue entirely, and allow you to swipe the shade exactly where you want it. The formula has a good slip to it, so you have some time to blend the color with a brush or your fingertips. A light dust of shimmer in each shade lends subtle (not sparkly) radiance.
Coverage: Medium | Shades: 9 | Finish: Shimmery | Size: 0.056 oz | Cruelty-free: Yes
Hourglass Cosmetics Vanish Flash Highlighting Stick
What We Love: The pigments relax into skin, and don’t crease after hours of wear.
What We Don’t Love: You might feel the bullet tug on your skin when you apply it.
This stick’s Toblerone shape is on purpose: The triangular tip allows you to apply the product on smaller features, like your cupid’s bow or the inner corners of your eye. With five shade options, you can choose your favorite kind of illumination, whether it’s a warm candlelit look or an icy sheen. The cruelty-free formula is made without fragrance or talc, so it’s safe to dab on your skin, eyelids, and lips for a little glow exactly where you want it.
Coverage: Sheer | Shades: 5 | Finish: Shimmery | Size: 0.21 oz | Cruelty-free: Yes
Flower Beauty Scribble Stick
Best for Lips
What We Love: It’s retractable and includes a built-in sharpener.
What We Don’t Love: The formula isn’t meant for long wear, so you’ll need to touch up every hour or two.
Celebrity beauty brands are a hot topic right now, and this hybrid product by Drew Barrymore’s Flower Beauty gets Menard’s stamp of approval. While it’s designed to work as a lip liner and eyeliner, the product packs ingredients like sunflower seed oil and vitamin E that hydrate on contact, so it’s great for all-over lip color. The pink, plum, and tawny shades give all skin tones flattering options to choose from.
Coverage: Full | Shades: 8 | Finish: Matte | Size: 0.04 oz | Cruelty-free: Yes
NudeStix Blot & Blur Mattifying Primer Stick
Best Mattifying Stick
What We Love: The stick format allows you to spot treat areas of excess oiliness.
What We Don’t Love: You can’t touch up with the product over foundation, so you may need to blot throughout the day if you’re extra oily.
Setting powder eliminates shine on contact, but it can be unwieldy to travel with and leaves some skin types feeling dull. Enter NudeStix’s mattifying stick: Instead of setting after you apply makeup, this grips product in place as you work. The balm-to-powder bullet puts your skin in soft-focus to even out the look of pores and texture, and eliminate unwanted shine. Volcanic ash and silica work to absorb excess oil for instant blurring, whether you apply makeup on top or not.
Coverage: Sheer | Shades: 1 | Finish: Matte | Size: 0.35 oz | Cruelty-free: Yes
What to Keep in Mind
Choose a finish that complements your skin type. If you’re dry, a creamy option with moisturizing ingredients will work well with your skin. And if you’re oily, matte options will help to tamp down shine. Most foundation and blush sticks have some hydration in them, so go with a light gel moisturizer before applying if you’re on the oily side.
“Anything that can be worn for more than one purpose is always high on my list,” says Menard. This allows you to streamline your makeup bag and create easy, attainable makeup routines, she explains. Many sticks that are designed for one step in your routine can do more than that: Highlighter sticks can moonlight as eyeshadow, and blush colors transfer well onto the lips.
Your Questions, Answered
What do makeup sticks do?
“Almost every type of face makeup can be made as a stick,” says makeup artist Jamie Greenberg. Menard agrees, noting that there seems to be an option for everything now, from foundation to makeup remover. Stick formats help with easy, precise application. Since they package pigment in a bullet rather than a compact or tub, you can apply them directly onto your skin as you do lipstick, so they’re a great on-the-go choice.
Should you blend stick makeup with a brush?
“It all depends on the goal of your look,” says Menard. Blending colors out with a brush will deliver a diffused effect, while using your fingertips keeps the product you’re applying stay concentrated and rich in pigment. “I love to draw right on the skin with the stick and then create shapes and structure with a brush,” says Menard. “But I also love to tap on color to my finger first then transfer it to the face as this allows you to feel the texture and see the pigment before it’s on your complexion,” she explains.
Are foundation sticks better than liquid?
“Sticks travel better, tend to be lighter, and are less complicated to use,” says Menard. “Foundation sticks tend to have a bit more coverage, so you can use sparingly but still create a flawless skin look,” she adds. While you typically blend a thin layer of liquid foundation all over, stick foundations allow you to apply where needed and let the rest of your skin breathe. Your skin type also informs what works for you: Greenberg notes that stick foundations are generally best for oily skin types.
Why Shop With Us
Claire Sullivan is a freelance beauty writer with four years of experience reporting on the beauty industry and testing products. To find the best makeup sticks, she swatched formulas and spoke with two makeup artists, Jamie Greenberg and Jenna Menard, who shared the products they love to use on clients — and on themselves.
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