Contouring: for its bad press, done well it can add dimension, definition and on some days, life, especially if you’re tired or feeling puffy. These palettes promise easy, step-by-step sculpting, but do they deliver?

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In the ring: Collection #BlushandGlow Palette vs. Lancôme Blush Subtil Palette

The vital stats:

Collection #BlushandGlow , £4.99

Press release promise: “This quartet palette is all you need to create a perfectly defined contour and a blushing glow in an instant! Choose from a matte bronzer, matte pink blusher, shimmering pink blusher and a neutral highlighter. The super soft powders are easy to apply and blend easily on to the skin, giving you flawless cheekbones and a beautifully radiant complexion.”

Lancôme Blush Subtil Palette , £29

Press release promise: “3 simple steps to contour, blush and highlight your complexion. Experience our new generation of powder: silky and creamy for smooth, even application.Blends seamlessly, builds from sheer to intense colour. Won't settle into lines or pores and does not look powdery on skin. All-day wear, stays colour true. It's make-up artistry made easy!”

The battle: Strobing may be vying for contouring’s beauty buzzword crown, but the subtle sculpting of features isn’t going anywhere. Thankfully the ‘painting by numbers’ popularised by ‘you know who’ has suffered a ‘technical knockout’, due the fact that making our face look like an OS map prior to leaving the house is frankly ridiculous. In its place we have embraced subtle product placement in shades that suit us, and if we can achieve it using just the one product or palette, all the better. Contouring palettes have graduated from the garish to the grown up, and economising on blusher, bronzer and highlighter is certainly convenient. Here’s how high street and high end measured up…

First round: I used both palettes, on alternate days, before work, to test both longevity and ‘natural’ wear; stripey bronzer and space cadet highlighter are about as subtle as a flying brick during daylight hours.

First up for a weigh in was Collection, and due to its simple cardboard packaging it definitely adhered to ‘lightweight’ criteria. A small magnet ensures that it closes rather than flaps about in your bag, which is a plus, but I still wouldn’t bash it about too much. The four products within the pan are equally proportioned and generously sized, and a ‘hints and tips’ description on the back of the palette advises as to order of application (whether you opt for a matte or shimmering blusher is up to you/ dependent on your skintone). So far, I’m impressed.

Challenger Lancôme was heavier yet sleeker, showcasing a three pan palette sized according to how much product you should use for each step. Products are also displayed in order of use from left to right (bronzer, blusher, highlighter). This one may initially appear to deliver less on first glance, but it’s got its head in the game. It also has a mirror in the lid, but for the price that’s to be expected.

Second round: As neither palettes came with brushes (wise call- they’re normally far too fiddly), I used an angled kabuki brush for contouring, fluffy blusher brush and smaller angled brush for highlighting along cheekbones and at the inner corner of the eyes.

Getting to work with Collection, unfortunately I found the bronzer far too dark for my colouring. It looks just like a delicious slab of chocolate, which might work on a darker skin tone, but it looked about as natural as cocoa powder when dusted under my cheekbones. It is matte, however, which is a good thing as far as contouring goes ( here’s why ), and it would make for a great deep eyeshadow if multitasking is on the menu.

Following #BlushandGlow’s instructions (not sure about this hashtag as product name business), I applied the highlighter next. I would normally do blusher before highlighter, and I definitely wasn’t down with applying it under my eyes as suggested. It seems odd that it wasn’t recommended to apply just above the cheekbones too, but niggles aside, the highlighter isn’t too spangly; glitter particles are subtle, and while the highlighter tone was too warm for me, it would give off a nice golden gleam if you had a tan or naturally darker skin.

As for the blusher, providing both a matte and a shimmery option is a nice touch, especially given the low price point, and while the matte blusher was a little too ruddy for me, it’s a beautiful dusky rose that would suit olive skintones. The sheeny blusher on the other hand is brighter, and perhaps because it aligned with my naturally rouge tendencies it actually looked more convincing. I would advise not being too heavy handed at any point with this palette, and blending in the blusher well especially, as otherwise it does appear to sit on the skin a little. If you do wield  a decent set of brushes , you shouldn’t end up in the contouring sin bin.

Contender Lancôme was more contouring as I knew it given the order of product application, and the Rose Flush 01 version was ideally matched to my paley pale skin. The matte bronzer was so bang on, I wish there was more of it (it’s a bit of a slim pan for full on bronzer brush action), and the blusher was a flattering light pink, living up to its illuminating credentials without a full on disco ball effect. The highlighter was also a good match for me; a soft shell pink with a subtle gold undertone. I can see some people finding the highlighter a bit too pink, but it worked for me.

Third round: The ‘did it last?’ litmus test. Both performed commendably in terms of wear, without needing topping up or tweaking throughout the day, but I have to say that I looked fresher at the end of the day post Lancôme contour (likely because the colours suited me and the finish was more ‘luminous’). Lancôme was the most soft and blendable in terms of application and result, but the glimmery Collection blusher might well become a staple- it’s a complexion enlivening winter walk in powder form.

The winner: For less than £5, Collection puts up a superb fight, and might well top the tables should your skin be a bit darker than mine (not hard). In terms of texture, finish, colour and ‘convincingness’ however, Lancôme won most rounds, so is the ultimate victor. There’s the price to consider, but you can’t win ‘em all…

Do you have a favourite contouring palette? Let me know below.

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