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I’ve had a love-hate relationship with bronzers for years because my skin is so fair and has cool-neutral undertones. Still, I’ve discovered some of the best matte bronzer options while struggling to find the ones that work for me.
What’s best for me might not be the best bronzer for you, and vice-versa, but I know a quality bronzer when I see one (even if it is too pigmented or warm for my face). I’m thrilled to give you a starting point so you won’t take as long as I did to find your ideal bronzer shade and formula.
Bottom Line Up Front
The most versatile and best all-around matte bronzer is the NARS Laguna Bronzing Cream. Why?
- It gives a natural, not-shiny finish.
- It’s easy to build up or keep light.
- You could use it as a contour shade because it’s not exceptionally warm.
- It blends well on top of natural skin without foundation and makeup.
For a budget option, try the e.l.f. Putty Bronzer.
My Top Picks at a Glance
Other than the best all-around mentioned above (NARS Laguna Bronzing Cream), here are how my top picks shake out:
- Best matte cream bronzer: NARS Laguna Bronzing Cream
- Best matte powder bronzer: Benefit Hoola
- Best matte bronzer for oily skin: Tarte Amazonian Clay Matte Waterproof Bronzer
- Best matte bronzer for dry skin: NARS Laguna Bronzing Cream or Saie Sun Melt Natural Cream Bronzer (tie)
- Best matte bronzer for fair-light skin tones: Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Bronzer (specifically the Hoola Lite Bronzer) or Tarte Amazonian Clay Matte Waterproof Bronzer (in Park Avenue Princess)
- Best matte bronzer for medium-deep skin tones: Fenty Beauty Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer
- Best matte bronzer on a budget: L’Oreal Infallible 24H Fresh Wear Soft Wear Matte Bronzer, e.l.f. Putty Bronzer (tie)
I looked for bronzers that come in a range of shades. Some ranges are more expansive than others, though. Some only come in one or two shades, but something about it makes it versatile anyway.
I chose cream and powder bronzers to accommodate application preferences and different skin types. Matte products are often linked to oily skin, but a matte bronzer in a cream finish, for example, can still work on dry skin.
I covered a range of price points. There are options from drugstore to high-end.
Other important things I considered:
- How pigmented a bronzer is (more isn’t always better)
- Versatility (can you use it as a contour shade, too?)
The 10 Best Matte Bronzer Options
NARS Laguna Powder was my go-to for years (I had it in a duo with Orgasm blush, and the combo was almost perfect for my skin tone). It’s buildable, but NARS doesn’t skimp on the pigment, either, so I had to use a light hand to apply the bronzer.
- Undertones are close to neutral, so it’ll work across skin tones and months of the year
- Pigmented, but not so much that fair-skinned people can’t use it–you definitely get your money’s worth
- Can work for almost all skin tones
- Can be purchased in duo form with blush, which is convenient and my favorite way to keep it on hand
- Other shades (one lighter and two darker) are also available.
- I despise the NARS packaging because it takes almost nothing to make it look dirty. Plus if you keep it around for long enough, it starts to feel sticky.
- It might still be too dark for the lightest of skin tones.
Can you guess what dethroned Laguna powder as my go-to bronzer? Yep, Laguna Bronzing Cream. Again, we get those perfect undertones and the right amount of depth and pigment for this to be one of the most universally flattering bronzers.
- Most shades have neutral undertones (two are warm), so this is a good option if you’re looking for one that does everything from sunkissed to contour.
- You get more product than you might think, and a little goes a long way.
- The jar has a wide enough opening to easily accommodate a brush.
- There are five shades, so it’ll work for almost any skin tone.
- Blends like a dream and will work on virtually any skin type, including dry
- The fragrance might bother some people, but I actually love the light, floral fragrance
- You will probably have to experiment with application methods–stippling brush, powder brush, fingers, sponge, etc. I personally prefer a stippling brush.
- Since they’re all named Laguna (followed by 01 through 05), it might be hard to remember which one you like when it’s time to pick up a new one.
- A little on the expensive side, even though it doesn’t take much product to get the desired effect.
Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Bronzer was in my top two for a long time, but I seem to be between shades, personally. The original is a bit too dark for me if I’m not sunless tanning, and the light one didn’t show up well on my skin.
However, I can see how this could be the holy grail of matte bronzers for other skin tones.
- Matte and shimmer options are available in case you want to mix things up.
- There are four shades to choose from: Hoola, Hoola Lite, Hoola Toasted, and Hoola Caramel.
- If you’re just curious and don’t want to commit to a full-size, there’s a mini available for under $20.00.
- Adorable packaging
- Blends beautifully because the product is so silky
- Kind of expensive at $32.00 for 0.28 oz.
- It’s possible to be in-between shades (I am) and feel that none are just right for you
- I wish they had a more comprehensive shade range
I’m so glad cream bronzers are finally having a moment. I remember having hard-to-blend “creamy” options (usually orange) that tugged at my skin if I wanted anything but a powder.
With its grapeseed oil and colloidal oatmeal for hydrating the skin, this is one of the easiest to spread across dry skin.
They take different undertones into account, so this one is an excellent option to check out if you’re cool-toned or want a more versatile product.
- Creamy and suitable for dry skin
- Easy to blend
- You get 1 oz for $30.00, so it’s one of the more affordable ones per ounce, even though the price tag looks about the same as many other options.
- Only four shades are available; I wish there were more.
- It might show up too warm/orange on fair-light skin tones.
I’m a “give me all the Tarte Amazonian clay products” kind of girl. I love the cheek products, eyeshadows, and everything in between. Of course the Tarte Amazonian Clay Matte Waterproof Bronzer is on my list.
Even though “clay” makes it sound like this would probably be a nightmare for anyone with dry skin, it’s not.
- It looks natural.
- The rosiness in the shades helps add to that just-came-in-from-the-beach look. It also lets you use the bronzer as a blush more efficiently. It even blends easily with a different blush if you choose to use one.
- Suitable for all skin types
- Buildable and a little goes a long way
- There are only two shades.
- I’d prefer the packaging not to have the shade name on the front (nit-picky, I know).
This is one of the newer brands on the list. I’m always blown away by the color selection Fenty Beauty offers, and the bronzers are no exception.
These will add warmth without shimmer to the lightest to darkest skin tones.
- Good shade range (nine shades) that works for most skin tones
- Some shades are perfect for lighter skin tones that always have trouble finding bronzers that won’t turn orange (look for neutral undertones).
- Some shades marked for lighter skin tones can look a little orange (steer clear of warm undertones to avoid this if bronzers tend to turn orange).
- Most shades look too warm to contour with, so these won’t be your most versatile option.
The NudeStix Nudies Matte Cream Bronzer is one of my favorites for traveling or just keeping in a purse for quick, on-the-go applications or touch-ups. I love all-over products like this. There’s even a brush on the end.
- Shades tend to have a rosiness that makes them the perfect bronzer-blush hybrid.
- It can be used all over–eyes, lips, and cheeks.
- Great for on-the-go bronzing (and makeup in general)
- Comes with a brush on the other end
- Cruelty-free and clean
- The brush may feel too small and awkward to be helpful for some people
- A little pricy at $34.00 for 0.25 oz.
The e.l.f. Putty Bronzer is a standout not only because of its price (about $7.00) but because of how blendable it is and its range of shades.
- It’s creamy, so it’s a good option for dry skin.
- Not quite as flat matte as some options can be, but it still looks natural and doesn’t add shimmer or get incredibly dewy on the skin.
- Contains argan oil to moisturize the skin (I’m a huge fan of argan oil for dry skin)
- Most of the shades look pretty warm, so it may be difficult for lighter complexions to make this work.
- The deepest shade isn’t as deep as what some other brands, like Fenty Beauty, have to offer.
- The opening is kind of small to fit a brush into.
I’ve always loved Milani’s products. They’re some of the highest quality drugstore cosmetics I’ve found, and I’m always shocked by how low they’re priced. The only complaint I have about the Silky Matte Bronzing Powder is how few shades there are and how similar the ones they have look.
- Inexpensive–under $10.00.
- The shades aren’t as warm-toned as they might look on websites.
- It seems like it might be harder to track down than some other options.
- There are only three shades.
The L’Oreal Infallible line is full of wins, including their 24H Fresh Wear Soft Wear Matte Bronzer. This bronzer is made for summer, designed to stand up to heat, sweat, and water. Not only that but it’s designed to be worn as a contour shade or as a traditional bronzer. That means you won’t have to put it aside for half the year if you’re not interested in looking tan or bronze in the winter.
- Undertones aren’t especially warm, so it’s likely to flatter most skin tones.
- Lasts and lasts on the skin, and it’s sweat-proof and waterproof, which is what you want from a product so suited for summer.
- Versatile enough to contour with, in most cases
- Not that it’s expensive, but it’s more than most drugstore brands on the list, at about $16.00.
- The shade range is okay, but I wouldn’t be mad if they had more.
Why Use a Matte Bronzer?
There are a few reasons to pick up a matte bronzer:
- You have oily skin and don’t want to add anything light-reflecting to your face.
- You have fair skin and want to look a little sunkissed, even if you don’t tan.
- You need to match your face to the sunless tan on your body and your face doesn’t take to sunless tanners well.
- You want a multi-purpose product you can use all year as a regular bronzer when it’s warm and as a contour during the cooler months.
- You’ll be wearing other light-reflecting products, like blush, highlighter, or even eyeshadow, and don’t want to overdo the shimmer.
- You like the idea of using your cheek shade in the creases of your lids for depth and a little polish on days you don’t have much time to do your makeup. (Check the label to ensure it’s safe to do so before using cheek products around your eyes, though.)
When Not to Use Bronzer
If your goal is to contour–not add warmth to your face–you might want to skip most of the bronzing products and go for something with a cooler undertone. This will create a more realistic shadow effect than a warm tone.
If you can’t find the right shade in face products, look for a matte eyeshadow in the right shade. You can use bronzers and cool-toned sculpting products together. Just use them on different parts of your face. Bronzers go on the high points of your face where the sun would hit. They can also be applied with a large, fluffy brush all over the face for warmth.
You can also use them to sculpt your face in some cases (particularly along the cheekbones and forehead). Matte bronzers are better than shimmery bronzers in this case because they won’t reflect light the way shimmers would. Use light-reflecting products in places you want to stand out and come forward (like the tops of your cheekbones)–not places you want to recede, like below the cheekbones.
Sculpting products should be in areas like under the cheekbones, along the jawline, and at the temples (sometimes). Any area you’d like to recede can benefit from the cool-toned product.
Question: What does a matte bronzer do?
Answer: A matte bronzer adds warmth and the appearance of a light tan to your skin without adding any shine (essential if you have oily skin).
Question: How do you wear a matte bronzer?
Answer: Sweep it along the tops of your cheekbones, temples, across the bridge of your nose, and on the point of your chin for a sunkissed look.
If the shade isn’t too warm, you can use it under your cheekbones and along your jawline as a contour shade (not at the same time you’re using it for a sunkissed glow, though).
This is one way to use bronzer year-round and get the most out of it–apply it on the high points of the face in the spring and summer and then as contour in the fall and winter.
Another option is to use a large fluffy brush to apply it all over your face for a glow, then use a denser, smaller brush to concentrate the color on the cheekbones, temples, etc., and add blush to your cheeks. Be sure to blend the edges.
Question: What type of bronzer is best for oily skin?
Answer: Matte bronzer is better than shimmer for oily skin. I recommend the Tarte Amazonian Clay Matte Waterproof Bronzer to help control oil and avoid adding more shine.
Question: What shade should your bronzer be?
Answer: One to two shades darker than your skin tone at the time (if you tan in the summer, you’ll need a different bronzer than you would any other time of year, for example).
Take your undertones into account, too. Warm-toned people will find a bronzer easier because they usually lean warm. Cool-toned individuals need to look for neutral bronzers or those that lean slightly cool.
Question: Is contour the same as bronzer?
Answer: Of course! You don’t need a foundation to enjoy the effects of a bronzer. Just be sure you have a smooth–but not tacky–finish on your skin before you try to apply a powder bronzer. Otherwise, some of the powder could stick to some areas more than others.
Question: Do you really need bronzer?
Answer: No. Bronzer will add warmth to your skin. In some cases, you can use a matte bronzer to contour (be careful to choose a color that isn’t especially warm for your skin tone to do that, though). Ladies with warm undertones can make this work exceptionally well because of the warm tones in most bronzers.
Question: Can I wear bronzer instead of blush?
Answer: Absolutely. You can add a sunkissed look to your face by using bronzer, where you’d usually apply blush. You can add it to your temples, chin, and across the bridge of your nose, too.
Question: Is it better to use bronzer or blush?
Answer: Neither is better than the other. It depends on the look you’re going for. If you prefer to look sunkissed or tan, use bronzer. Choose a blush if you prefer rosier cheeks that look like a natural flush.
You can wear them together, though. To do this, apply the bronzer to the high points of your face where the sun would naturally hit. Then apply blush to your cheeks, or just apply bronzer all over (lightly) and then apply blush to your cheeks.