Bronzer vs Contour Explained

Bronzer vs Contour: How Each Should Be Used Correctly?

You’ve definitely heard about bronzer and contour, but you might be wondering exactly where they fit into your makeup routine. You could also be new to makeup and wondering if having both products in your kit is even worth it, as they both seem to do precisely the same thing. 

Well, I’m here to tell you that, while it may look like these products achieve the same results, they are pretty different. These two products are placed in entirely different areas of the face, and both have different undertones and finishes.

If you use them together, you can achieve a wonderfully sculpted and healthy glow. Don’t worry if you’re unsure how to use bronzer and contour; I’m here to show you the ins and outs of each product and give you some insider tips on applying them. Without further ado, let’s jump into it!

Main Differences Between Bronzer vs Contour

The main differences between bronzer vs contour are:

  • Bronzer is used to give the face warmth, whereas contour helps give the face shape and structure;
  • Bronzer is used on the parts of the face that usually get hit by the sun, whereas contour is used on the areas that give the face structure; 
  • Bronzers usually have warm or golden undertones, whereas contour has cool undertones.

All About Contour

Contour

Contour is a wonderful thing! In this section, I’ll walk you through what contour is, how to contour your face, some of my favorite contour products and kits, and the different contour formulations available to you. 

What is Contour

Contour is your best friend if you want a sculpted look. Essentially, it’s like applying strategic shadows to give the illusion of stronger/ accentuated cheekbones, a narrower nose, or a sharp jawline.

To achieve this look, a contour product should have a matte finish (unlike bronzer, which can be shimmery); be very careful not to use any shimmer, as that can accentuate rather than create shape and structure in the desired area. 

Also, contour doesn’t have to be drastic and dark to make a difference; nowadays, people embrace more natural makeup looks. Even a light application of contour can accentuate your existing face structure. Contour may seem quite intimidating, but don’t worry; once you’ve practiced it a few times, you’ll be a contour pro.

How to Contour

The first thing you’ll need to figure out before you contour is what shade you need to use. I recommend going three shades darker than your skin tone and within the same undertone range.

For example, if you have a cool undertone, make sure to pick a product that is a cool-neutral tone but is not warm-toned at all. If you pick a product with an undertone that doesn’t match your own, then you’ll end up with a noticeable tinge of orange (too warm) or of grey (too cool) to the skin. 

When it comes to the type of contour formulation to use, I recommend a cream contour product for those with normal to dry skin and a powder contour for those with oily skin. If you’re using a cream product, it works better to apply to primed skin with foundation applied on top.

Powder contour should be applied after your foundation has been applied, as it will get fully covered with a foundation if applied beforehand. 

Now that you’ve got your products figured out, it’s time to apply your contour! Keep in mind to follow the natural shadows of your face and only accentuate what you want to. First, start in the hollows just under your cheekbones; create a small line from the top of your ear to about halfway down your face.

Then apply a small amount just at your jawline, making sure to be light with your hands. Lastly, apply a small amount on each side of the bridge of your nose, being careful not to create thick lines. Once you have these baselines applied, take a clean brush and buff out any excess product to look too dark or heavy. There you have it, you just contoured!

Suppose you’re ever unsure about the application process. In that case, there are some great resources on YouTube that will visually walk you through how to achieve a contoured look.

The Best Contour Products

Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Contour

Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Contour

This contour stick is a cream-to-powder formula that helps you achieve an incredibly chiseled look. The idea behind this formula is that it’s meant to be built onto the skin. I own this match stick myself, and I find that it is best applied with a brush, as it can be quite dense if applied directly onto the skin. If you love stick products, then you’ll love the Match Stix!

Makeup By Mario Soft Sculpt Shaping Stick

Makeup By Mario Soft Sculpt Shaping Stick

This is another contour stick that has received rave reviews. Created by Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist, the sculpt shaping stick creates a buildable and seamless color that isn’t muddy or orange. What’s great about this product is that it’s dual-sided-you have cream contour on one end, and on the other, you have a soft brush that will help you blend on the go.

Sephora Collection Contour Face Palette

Sephora Collection Contour Face Palette

This Sephora Collection Face Palette is a great way to explore contour; you get easy-to-use powders that come in a variety of shades. The only downside is that there will probably be one or two shades that might not work as well for you since this is a universal palette. However, you can’t beat the price point, so I say go for it!

Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Contour Wand

Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Contour Wand

This contour wand is pretty unique! It has an easy cushion applicator for a semi-matte finish that defines features subtly. What’s cool is that you can apply it directly with the sponge applicator and then blend it out with a brush of your choice.

The only downside is that there are only two different shades, fair-medium, and medium-dark. While these could work for some people, they definitely won’t work for all skin tones.

All About Bronzer

Get ready to glow! This section will walk you through what bronzer is, how to use bronzer, the best bronzing products, and the different bronzer formulations available. 

What Is Bronzer

The sole purpose of bronzer is to add warmth to the face. Bronzer is typically applied to the areas of the face that usually get tanned or accentuated by the sun. While contour attempts to add depth in the hollows of the face, bronzer is generally seen on the high points of the face, like the temples and cheekbones. 

As I mentioned briefly before, bronzer typically has a slight shimmer, but it can also be matte. Personally, I prefer a subtle shimmer, as it helps offset the matte finish of contour; if you apply too many matte products to the face, it can risk looking flat.

Something else important that I want to mention is that less is more when it comes to bronzer. If you apply too much bronzer, you risk adding too much warmth to the face, which can leave you with an orange tinge that was once popular in the early 2000s.

How To Bronze

Typically, most makeup brands will have their bronzers arranged based on skin tone so that it’s easy to select your correct shade. Basically, you want to make sure that your bronzer is just a couple of shades darker than your skin tone and slightly on the warmer side. Be careful not to go too dark or too warm, as that can give you that orange Cheeto look. 

In terms of different formulations for bronzers, I recommend a powder bronzer. They are easier to control and buff out; cream bronzers can be fun to work with, but they do end up being more of a hassle than a benefit. To ensure that your bronzer doesn’t go on too strong, I recommend a medium-sized fluffy brush, as that will help you buff out any excess product and create a lovely diffused look. 

Now, you’re ready to bronze! Take your brush and lightly tap it into your bronzer. Take your brush and sweep your bronzer across your cheekbones using a light buffing motion. Then apply it along the perimeter of your face at the temples and the forehead.

You may also choose to lightly tap some product onto the tip of your nose to bring back some warmth to the face. Lastly, I recommend picking up a large clean fluffy brush and lightly buffing out the areas of the face where you put your bronzer; this will ensure you don’t have any areas that look too dark.

The Best Bronzing Products

Benefit Hoola Bronzer

Benefit Hoola Bronzer

The Benefit Hoola Bronzer is a classic cult favourite; it receives rave reviews wherever it’s sold! The secret to the success of this product is that the powder is finely-milled; this ensures that it doesn’t go on too strong and blends out nicely. The Hoola Bronzer comes in four different skin tone shades and one shimmer shade, so you have a few options.

Fenty Beauty Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer

Fenty Beauty Sun Stalk'r Instant Warmth Bronzer

Rihanna hit it out of the park with this powder bronzer! It comes in nine different shades, which I think every brand should take note of! Its formula is also transfer-proof, so you don’t have to worry about it getting on clothes, which is a worry when I use a bronzing powder! Some users also say that they use this bronzing powder as an eyeshadow, which is a brilliant idea.

Nars Bronzer Powder

Nars Bronzer Powder

This bronzer powder comes in eight different shades: four matte shades and four shimmer shades. Many users say that the shade range works well for their skin tone and doesn’t leave them looking orange, which is a major win! I have the shade ‘Laguna’ at home, and I find that it blends beautifully when I use a large fluffy brush.

M.A.C. Cosmetics Bronzing Powder

M.A.C. Cosmetics Bronzing Powder

This bronzing powder is a favourite of mine! I used to be a M.A.C. Cosmetics artist, so I worked a lot with these powders on myself and clients. I love that they give a soft, diffused look to the skin; you can also build the coverage to your desired shade, which is a plus! I wish they had more shades, as I sometimes found that there weren’t enough options for everyone.

The Different Bronzer & Contour Formulations

  • Powder: this formulation is best if you want a softer look. I recommend only using powder on top of foundation, as using it underneath will cause it to be covered entirely.
  • Cream: this type is excellent for a bolder look. Make sure to use a medium-dense brush, as a very dense brush can make your products look too strong. 
  • Liquid: liquid bronzer and contour can be useful for creating buildable coverage. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re a complete beginner, as it can be quite hard to work with.
  • Stick: I love working with stick contour, as you can strategically place it in the exact areas that you want. When it comes to stick bronzers, however, they can be a little trickier to work with.

FAQs

Question: If I Can Only Choose Between Bronzer and Contour, Which One is Better?

Answer: If you can only choose between one of these products to have in your makeup kit, I would definitely recommend bronzer. This is because bronzer can still chisel while also adding color and warmth back into the face. If you want to keep a chiseled look, then lightly buff a little bronzer into the hollows of your cheekbones. Make sure not to lay it on too heavily, as it could end up making the sides of your face too dark. 

Question: What are the Best brushes for applying bronzer and contour?

Answer: I love to use light and fluffy brushes when I’m applying my bronzer and medium-sized semi-dense brushes for contouring, as it gives you more control. Here are some of my top choices:
Sephora Collection Pro Contour Brush #79
Sephora Collection Pro Bronzer brush #80
M.A.C. Cosmetics 109 Synthetic Small Contour Brush
M.A.C. Cosmetics 187 Duo Fibre Brush

Bottomline

When it comes to bronzer and contour, these two products can help you achieve a chiseled look that is sure to wow others! While it can be daunting to jump right into the application, I hope that this article has given you the tips you need to choose your own products and create a full face look confidently. 

If you’re interested in reading more about some of my favorite recommendations, check out these articles:

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