It’s been some time since we’ve heard about bronzers, and unfortunately, their popularity seemed to have waned in recent years. However, they totally deserve a second chance this summer! Bronzers are a makeup product that gives a sun-kissed look to the skin, and before contour, they used to be all the rage.
Recently, we are seeing bronzers coming back into regular use, but in a slightly new and different way from how they were used in the early 2000s. Bronzers can lend a youthful, sun-kissed, and even whimsical touch to any makeup look.
If you want to reintroduce this underrated makeup product into your routine, I’ve got some great advice about all the types of bronzers out there, how to choose the right one for you, how to apply bronzer beautifully, and I’ll also make it clear what the difference is between bronzers and other makeup products. Oh, and as always, I have some incredible bronzer recommendations coming your way!
Types of Bronzers
There are different types of bronzers you can go for, depending on their texture and the easiness of application. Take your skin type and your makeup skills into consideration when deciding on what bronzer will work best for you.
Pressed Powder Bronzer
This is the classic bronzer choice. A pressed powder is easy to carry and easy to apply, without any mess. Pressed powder bronzers should be applied lightly and blended well, or you risk having your makeup look muddy.
Loose Powder Bronzer
Loose powder bronzer is a little tougher to carry, and it can create a mess easily. However, it is usually a better bang for the buck, because it tends to contain more product for the same price as a pressed powder, and has no fillers.
Applying a loose powder bronzer is almost the same as applying a pressed powder.
These delicate pearls of powder are a luxurious way of applying bronzer. They are multi-colored little balls of bronzing powder, sitting together in a container. As far as comfort and convenience go, pearl bronzers are somewhere between a pressed and a loose powder, and tend to have more shine in them.
Cream bronzers can be better for those with dry or mature skin, and are definitely better for anyone who wants the softest glow possible. They are much more forgiving if you’ve applied too much, and since they are best applied before setting powder, they will always look softer once powdered. Cream bronzers come in both sticks and jar packaging.
Liquid bronzer is very similar to cream bronzer, but with a thinner texture that might require a bit more work to blend. Liquid bronzers are well worth the effort, because you can achieve an incredible glow, and you can also blend them into your foundation for an all-over glow.
How to Choose the Best Bronzer Based on Skin Tone
Start by figuring out your undertone (cool, neutral, or warm), to guide which undertones you will look for in your bronzers.
• Bronzers for Cool Undertones: If your skin has cooler, pinker or beige-based undertones, opt for a cool toned bronzer with a bit of a taupey finish.
• Bronzers for Neutral Undertones: Most bronzers will likely look great on your skin. You’re looking for neutral shades, and even a bit of red in your bronzer won’t hurt.
• Bronzers for Warm Undertones: Many bronzers run the risk of looking too orange or red on warm-toned skin, so definitely opt for more golden bronzer hues.
Next, you’ll want to choose a bronzer based on how dark your skin is. Those with light and medium skin tones can easily choose a bronzer that is about 2 or 3 shades darker than their skin tone. The paler you are, the more important it is that the bronzer will be easier to blend away, in case you over-apply.
Those with darker skin, however, might have a difficult time finding a bronzer dark enough to show up (not to mention that effect might not work so well on their skin). Instead, a bronzer with a bit of a glow or a reddish tint can give a touch of warmth to the skin.
• Bronzers for Fair Skin Tones: To gently tone down the natural pink tint of alabaster skin tones and to add that desirable touch of warmth, go for warm beige, pale and honey shades of bronzer. You should avoid overly yellow or brown tones, but instead pick bronzers with a hint of rosy undertone not to deprive your complexion of its healthy glow.
Also make sure your bronzer is sheer, as it blends well and doesn’t look too harsh against your pale complexion.
• Bronzers for Medium Skin Tones: Those with medium skin tones should consider amber and golden tones to even out the skin tone and add a youthful radiance.
• Bronzers for Olive Skin Tones: Those with olive skin tones already have a natural tan, therefore picking a neutral shade of bronzer is your best bet.
• Bronzers for Dark Skin Tones: Darker-skinned beauties can pick sweet cocoa and chocolate bronzer tones, giving preference to warm, golden browns instead of neutral ones that tend to wash out deeper complexions.
How to Choose Bronzer Based on Skin Type
To get that even application and glowing look, you also want to learn how to choose the best bronzer for your skin type.
• Bronzers for Normal Skin: Chances are you could use any kind of bronzer, so it is strictly a question of what your favorite application method is.
• Bronzers for Dry or Mature Skin: Powder bronzers (especially shiny powder) can emphasize dryness and wrinkles, so you might prefer liquid and cream bronzers, which have a more moist finish. Alternatively, make sure your skin is adequately moisturized before you apply any powder-based bronzers.
• Bronzers for Oily Skin: You should opt for powder-based bronzers. They will give you that coveted tan, without making your skin look too shiny. If you have larger pores or acne scars, you should avoid shimmery bronzers, because they can emphasize the uneven skin texture.
How to Apply Regular Bronzer
• Always start your makeup with a clean and moisturized faced.
• With a fluffy powder brush (Mr. Right is a classic, but if you are nervous about over-applying product you might prefer something like this fan brush), starting from the outer parts of the face, and working your way inwards, lightly apply bronzer to the high points of your face: the forehead, the cheekbones, the tip of your nose, and the tip of your chin.
• With a more compact powder brush (either clean, or loaded with a bit of your face powder), blend away any excess product and harsh edges.
• Finish off your look as you normally would with eye and lip makeup. You can also add highlighter, contour, and blush, but they are totally optional!
How to Apply Cream or Liquid Bronzer
• Begin with a clean and well-moisturized face.
• Apply your primer and foundation as you normally would.
• Gently apply the bronzer to the high points of your face: forehead, cheeks, chin, and nose. If you’re using a stick cream bronzer, the applicator is very straightforward.
• If your bronzer comes in a jar, use a medium-stiff synthetic brush like Sephora’s Classic Multitasker Brush. Avoid sponges or a beauty blender, because they will deposit too much product.
• Blend out the edges in light, circular motions with a sponge.
• Apply concealer if necessary.
• Set everything with a translucent setting powder, so as not to cover too much of your hard bronzing work.
• Finish off with your usual eye and lip makeup. Blush, highlight, and contour are optional.
Bronzer Makeup Tips and Tricks
• If you get darker in the summertime, your matte bronzer can work well all over the face, to lightly darken up your pale wintertime foundation – just make sure it doesn’t contain too much shimmer, and that it matches your undertone perfectly.
• A matte bronzer can also double as a contour powder, so you can really switch it up depending on your mood.
• You can mix a liquid bronzer with your foundation, either to slightly darken it if necessary, or to get an all over glow.
• You don’t have to apply bronzer only to the face! A pale décolletage can also be bronzed up with the same powder or liquid bronzer you use on your face.
• If you’re short on time while doing your eye makeup, a more matte bronzer can work well as a crease shade, while a shimmery one can look beautiful as an eyeshadow for the lid.
• If you are having a very difficult time finding the perfect bronzer shade, think outside the box. Try looking at a pressed powder foundation that is a couple of shades darker than your skin; those tend to have a much broader color selection, so you will be likelier to find a perfect match.
• For a rustic, youthful look, apply bronzer a little more liberally on your cheeks, and across your nose. It’s an almost sunburned look that has become popular on Instagram, because it looks unique and innocent. Pair it with faux freckles for extra whimsy.
Bronzer vs. Contour Powder
Whereas a bronzer is a product darker than the skin tone that is meant to give the face a more tanned appearance, a contour powder is a product darker than the skin tone that is meant to work like a shadow in order to give the face a more defined and slimmer appearance.
A bronzer is normally applied to the high points of the face like the cheekbones and forehead, while a contour is applied to the outer parts of the face, and below the cheekbones. You could use some bronzers to contour, and vice versa, because the main difference between the products lies in their application method.
Bronzer vs. Blush
Whereas a bronzer is meant to give a tan or sun-kissed look, the purpose of a blush is to give a bit of lively pinkness to the skin. Blushes are usually a red-based color like peach or pink, while bronzers are some shade of brown or bronze.
Normally blushes are only applied to the cheeks, although in the past it was very trendy to also apply blush to the high points of the face. Some bronzers have a hint of peach or red, and can double as blushes depending on one’s skin tone.
Bronzer vs. Highlighter
While bronzer might seem more similar to (and occasionally even interchangeable with) a contour powder, its use is a lot more similar to that of a highlighter. There are simply two different looks you can achieve: a bronzed goddess with bronzers, or an ethereal being with highlighter.
You simply choose whether to apply bronzer or highlighter to the same parts of your face. You can even achieve a bit of both effects, by using a brighter bronzer that has a glow or a shimmer.
12 Best Bronzers for Any Skin Tone and Type
1. Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Matte Bronzer
This classic matte bronzer can double as a contour powder for almost anyone. Its blendable texture and staying power are sure to please anyone. It works best for those with neutral and warm undertones, and can be picked up at Sephora.
2. Too Faced Beach Bunny Custom Blend Bronzer
You cannot go wrong with a Too Faced bronzer, with Beach Bunny being the perfect shimmery pressed bronzer. It provides a coppery, blendable glow to the skin that would look best on those with medium to dark skin tones. You can find it at Sephora.
3. Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder
These luxury bronzers from Guerlain blend like a dream, with the softest texture imaginable. With 8 different shades, and a gorgeous satiny finish, anyone can find their perfect bronzer. These bronzers are available through Nordstrom.
4. Physician’s Formula Butter Bronzer
Physician’s Formula is like the drugstore version of Too Faced, with their ability to create an endless supply of soft, wearable bronzers. Butter Bronzer gives a gorgeous pearlescent glow, in shades both for light and medium skin tones. You can find it at Ulta.
5. NARS Laguna Liquid Bronzer
NARS Laguna is the perfect bronzer in any form, but as a liquid bronzer it is perfect for dry skin. It gives a subtle, dewy tan (with no shimmer to be found!), and can easily be toned down with a bit of foundation mixed in. This liquid bronzer can be found at Sephora.
6. MAC Bronzing Powder in Golden
Golden is the perfect bronzer shade for anyone with fair, cool toned skin who wants a true bronzer with the tiniest hint of glow. It blends easily, lasts long, and is hard to over-apply. It is available at Nordstrom, along with 3 other colors made in the same winning formula.
7. Bare Minerals Warmth All Over Face Color
This loose powder bronzer can be a little fussy, but the effort is worthwhile. This bronzer has a reddish tint that looks astounding on those with darker skin – just be careful not to make a mess! You can find this bronzer at Sephora.
8. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Topaz
Becca is a brand known for creating high-shine products, and this cream bronzer is no different. It is a shade of golden bronze that warms up pale complexions, and gives golden shine to darker skin tones. You can find it for sale at Sephora.
9. Chanel Soleil Tan De Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base
Light, creamy, and natural are the words that come to mind when thinking of this cream-gel bronzer. It is perfect for those with lighter skin, on its own or over a foundation. It can be found at Nordstrom.
10. IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC + Bronzer
This liquid bronzer also packs an anti-aging punch, with a high SPF and lots of nutrients. It has a very subtle sheen, and can be applied all over the face or only on the high points, and even blended with your foundation. It is available at Ulta.
11. Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Bronzer
This is a bronzer perfect for anyone with oily skin, thanks to clarifying, long-lasting Amazonian clay. The shade itself is lightly glowy, with a neutral finish perfect for cool undertones. This bronzer can be picked up at Sephora.
12. Bobbi Brown Bronzing Powder
This soft, long-wearing bronzer is very pigmented, but also blendable. It is a perfect bronzer for anyone who is tired of shimmer, and wants a matte option. With 7 different shade options, you are sure to find your perfect match. Find this bronzer at Sephora.
Photos via @guerlain, Sephora, Nordstrom