Makeup » Bronzer vs. Contour vs. Blush vs. Highlighter

Bronzer vs. Contour vs. Blush vs. Highlighter

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Bronzer, contour, highlighter, and blush are in many everyday makeup toolkits, but it’s not always easy to understand what each product does and how they differ — let alone how to apply them.

Whether you use them every day and fake it till you make it or find yourself lost when attempting to follow “get-ready-with-me” videos, it’s crucial to understand how these products work to successfully achieve your desired effect.

Below, we’ll explain the uses, benefits, differences, and best application practices of bronzer, contour, highlighter, and blush so that you can apply them to flatter your natural features best.


Bronzer adds warmth and radiance to the skin, mimicking the results of a natural suntan. It’s perfect for achieving a sun-kissed, healthy glow, especially during summer. 

Coming in a variety of shades — with a matte or shimmer finish — bronzer ranges from light to dark for different skin tones. Generally, you should choose a color that’s much darker than your skin tone since it’s used sparingly.

Bronzer is most effective when applied to the high points of the face where the sun would naturally hit, such as the forehead, upper cheekbones, and nose. It’s often sold as a powder, which is best applied with a large, fluffy brush. It also comes as a cream or even drops that mix into moisturizer for an all-over glow. 


Black man blending contour makeup

Understandably, contour is often confused with bronzer. The two products usually look identical: a powder or cream darker than your natural skin tone. The differences, however, are in the intended effect and application. 

While bronzer mimics a suntan, which is why it’s applied to the high points of the face where the sun naturally tends to hit, contour creates the illusion of shadows and highlights. Shadows suggest areas where the skin is sunken, and highlights indicate areas that protrude. The effect of strategically applying contour is the appearance of a more angular face — think higher browbones, a slimmer nose, and more defined cheekbones.

In other words, contouring involves using a matte product, such as a powder or cream, to create shadows and highlights on the face. These shadows and highlights are then blended to create a natural-looking appearance.

Contouring can be used to slim down the nose, create sharper cheekbones, and make the jawline look more angular. This technique is especially popular among celebrities and makeup artists and is often used in photoshoots and on the red carpet.

The main benefit of contouring is that it can help enhance your facial features and give you a more sculpted, defined look. You can also use it to create a more dramatic makeup look, which is perfect for special occasions. On the other hand, it’s not the most beginner-friendly technique because it’s easy to overdo and underblend. 


Blush is used to add a vibrant flush to the face, perfect for giving the skin a touch of color for a healthy, refreshed glow. Blush comes in various shades, from pink to peach to deep red to purple, which all flatter different skin tones. 

Blush is applied to the apples of the cheeks — by that, we mean the area of your cheeks that pop when you smile (or the most pinchable parts). You can also add blush to the nose or other high points of the face in the same areas that you’d apply bronzer and highlighter. Some say that a higher blush placement, starting at the top of the apple and extending toward the hairline, creates a more high-fashion, contoured look. 


Black woman wearing highlighter makeup

The purpose of highlighter is to add a luminous glow to the skin, creating a radiant shine. Highlighter powders and creams come in various ethereal, shimmery shades, from gold to silver to pink. Dewy highlighters are also common, which are usually liquids that leave a natural, non-shimmering shine. 

Like bronzer, highlighter is applied to the high points of the face where the light would naturally hit. Think cheekbones, brow bone, the tip of the nose, and cupid’s bow. Highlighter, when used sparingly, can provide a natural-looking glow. You can also use it to create a more dramatic, glam makeup look when applied with a heavier hand.

Brushing up on your knowledge: bronzer, contour, blush, and highlighter

While these four makeup products may seem similar at first glance, they each have unique benefits and uses. Bronzer and highlighter are both applied to the high points of the face, but bronzer is used to create a tanned goddess glow, while highlighter results in a more luminous, radiant look.

Contour, on the other hand, is used to sculpt the face and create shadows, while blush adds a pop of color to the cheeks for a refreshed and more awake appearance. When used properly, you can use these four items to truly elevate your makeup routine.