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How to apply bronzer may seem like a simple question, but there are many methods and techniques to get a person’s face glowing. Applying bronzer depends on individual characteristics like facial structure and the end goal the person desires.
It is impossible to recommend a single method for everyone, so I will walk you through this guide on the many ways to apply bronzer!
Bronzers have become a staple for countless seasons ever since their introduction.
The trend experienced a short dip in popularity during the height of the contour era, inspired by the massive popularity of Kardashian and Drag Queen contour styles refined by Kim Kardashian’s makeup master Mario. I seldom do a look today that does not have a bronzer in one of the steps.
Bronzers have come back stronger than ever, and while contour was once a rival, many people like to mix the two or even go rogue and contour while using a bronzer! With the array of different techniques available, we will dive into which ones are there now, which ones have been present from the beginning, and the ones that I use.
Bottom Line Up Front
You can apply bronzer as a replacement for dark contour shades or by itself on the apple of the cheeks, forehead, and nose to give your skin a summer glow. Bronzers are very flexible products, so do not be afraid to go wild and discover new ways to use them!
What is Bronzer?
The first bronzer was created by Guerlain around 30 years ago with their infamous Terracotta Bronzer. At the height of the product’s popularity, Guerlain sold a compact of this exact bronzer every 20 seconds!
According to the brand, these numbers have held up over time. Guerlain and innovation go hand in hand. They have been trailblazers in the makeup industry for a while now with their world-changing ideas. I have never met anyone who disliked the Terracotta Bronzer in my life.
When To Use Bronzers
A bronzer is traditionally applied to give the face a kiss of warmth. To achieve that effect, you need to find the bronzer shades that look good on you and make you feel good. I feel like just following a guide without liking how it looks can ruin the fun part of using makeup, which is what it is all about.
The job of a bronzer is to give your face more warmth dimension, but you can use it as another contour addition or contour by itself.
A Year-Long Wonder
Do not be fooled by those who say bronzers are a summer thing! You can use bronzer all year long. Some makeup lovers think that bronzer is better for warmer weather or seasons, but in my opinion, it is an all-year-round product that you can use whenever you want to add some color to your face.
During the first wave of popularity, makeup artists applied it to give the face a sun-kissed look, with some opting for the completely bronzed fantasy. Looking back at those photos now, I feel many bronzer pioneers went over the top. In parts of the United Kingdom, people still like to mix bronzers with a generous dose of self-tanning lotions for that holiday tan look.
This trend also shows that you can use the bronzer for any occasion and purpose. After all, makeup is a tool to find beauty and happiness.
Bronzer Finishes & Formulas
Bronzers usually come in powder form. They can be matte, baked, or with a bit of shimmer to compensate for using highlight, regardless of blinding or not. We have recently seen the emergence of cream bronzers, which traditionally have a matte finish, but they are not as popular.
There is no objective consensus on whether powder or creams are better. People gravitate to the medium they enjoy the most. I prefer my baked powder bronzers all the way. Bronzer is a very used item but with relatively little variety.
Typically I buy one and use it until the product runs out, even in my makeup hoarder periods.
Bronzer Applying Techniques
I use bronzer instead of the dark contouring shade most would use to darken the features. Having a neutral close to a pink undertone, I can play with different shades. I enjoy the artistry and looking different, but I am strict about applying bronzers. I tend to use my ELF bronzer brush.
This model is a great cheap brush that has been with me nearly since the dawn of time. Bronzer brushes are easy to find and even feature in face kits. As powder bronzer is not a uniquely tricky product to apply with a brush, you can get good results with a cheaper solution instead of breaking the bank.
When applying the contour, I smile widely but without showing my teeth. I start working the brush from where I want the bronzer to begin, leaving a gap between my lips and right directly under the apples of my cheek, covering a bit of the middle of the cheek.
This technique gives it dimension and intensifies the lower part. If using a contour shade that is too dark, I usually use bronzer before my final layer of powder foundation. That allows me to blend it as part of the finishing steps. A blending brush is my usual tool for this step, but I also use angled buffer brushes (from H&M or Essence) to chisel my cheek.
I then make a diagonal upward motion with the brush but without pressing it in. You have to be gentle, as a heavy hand with powder products can lead to streakiness in the result.
I add bronzer to the sides of my forehead as I enjoy making my face longer. This method is close to the most used technique of bronzing the forehead. I make my chin stick out a bit by adding bronzer on both sides, where my cheeks end, working my way up with the brush.
I also contour my nose with a light hand on both sides of the nose, making it seem more dimensional than it is, as going hard with foundation can make it look flat. Some people prefer to add bronzer to the tip of the nose, giving themselves more of a beachy look. This method is a more novel use of bronzer.
Other Bronzer Techniques
Many people prefer to use bronzer to warm the cheeks, sometimes going all over the apple of the cheek. Those who have more accentuated cheekbones may have an easier time using a smaller brush and having the work cut out for them, but sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side.
Each person has a learning curve. It took me months of trial and error to find the best technique. When making alternations, you need to get used to a new face shape.
Another technique for contouring that I learned to use with bronzer is sucking in your cheeks while applying. The method gives it a more model-like look and adds a stricter feeling to the bronzer.
Make sure to move diagonally from the gap where the cheeks start and leave space for the mouth. Remember, keep a light hand as your contour! We do not want streakiness.
My recommendations for the forehead area are more of a personal reference than a guide. Many people contour the top of the forehead with their bronzer. In this method, you start with the sides and keep going up with the brush.
Some fans of this technique leave the middle of the forehead to shine through and give it a more sculpted and defined look. Finding the best method to apply bronzer on your forehead is a matter of trial and error.
Thankfully bronzers can be sheered out with foundation powder or wiped out to start again, so do not feel pressured when applying them.
The Famous Three on the Face
Another well-known technique is to draw the number three from the top of your head, curve it for the cheeks to get the bronzer color, and then finish under the chin, giving your chin more dimension, making it seen and chiseled looking. To draw the number three on your face might feel weird at first, but trust me, it works!
Contour + Bronzer + Blush
If you like to contour but want to incorporate bronzer into your routine, plenty of people bronze between the darker contouring shade and a bit up to where the highlight is. This mix gives the face some warmth. Some users even add blush on top of it all, which I would deem a more professional technique due to how hard it is to get it right, but it looks fantastic when properly executed.
Best Bronzer Products
The bronzer that started it all is still very famous and heavily used. Guerlain makeup is on the bougie end and high-end of pricing, but this classic has been on the market for ages for a good reason.
Despite having terracotta in its name, this bronzer now comes in many shades for nearly all skin tones and different finishes. Many brands milk their products to no end, specifically ones that bring them lots of money.
But when it comes to these bronzers, I applaud Guerlain for the execution. The brand works hard so that everyone can find their favorite shade and finish. The price for the Guerlain Terracotta Bronzer in the USA market and the rest of the world is pretty hefty at 56 USD with only 10g of product.
- You get to own a piece of bronzer history
- The application is seamless
- The shade range lacks muddy tones
- Very costly compared to most bronzers in the market
- A relatively small package
- It is fragranced, which is a dealbreaker for those with allergies or who dislike strong scents on their face
The Benefit Hoola Bronzer is a Sephora must-have. This product is part of the Benefit-craze when the brand became the favorite of every beauty guru back in the golden era of makeup on YouTube. The Hoola Bronzer is great all around, and it will last a long while.
It comes in different sizes, like the famous benefit blushes and highlighters. The most common complaint about the product is the packaging. The square shape makes it cumbersome to handle, but I enjoy it. The Hoola Bronzer stood the trial of time, as people still love and recommend it.
Those who fly often will recognize the Benefit Hoola Bronzer as a nearly eternal presence in the Benefit holiday packs or airport duty-free stores. I first tried this bronzer during a transatlantic trip, and it does live up to the hype. Like other bronzers, it comes in different shades to match different complexions.
- A tried and tested bronzer that
- Available in different sizes so you can start small to trial the product
- Very long-lasting thanks to the large packaging
- A relatively small shade range
- While cheaper than Guerlain, it is still more costly than many other options
It would be impossible to make this list without mentioning the Kiko bronzers. I vouch for them with my entire being, particularly the limited edition ones the brand often releases. My favorite bronzer is the Unexpected Paradise Bronzer, shade 01 Warm Honey. This specific shade has gone out of stock, but Kiko Milano replaced it with 01 Dream Honey.
The catch with Kiko Milano is that while many of their products come out as limited editions, the brand loves to issue new products that are very similar to their previous ones.
The core products in the Kiko line are great, but the limited edition bronzers always take things to the next level. I recommend grabbing any limited edition baked bronzer on offer right now. These bronzers will last you for a couple of years!
- Very affordable prices
- Buildable, allowing for delicate application
- Easy to blend with other products
- As a limited edition item, you need to wait until they restock the same product or release a similar version
Another staple bronzer of many is the Physician’s Formula Butter Bronzer. I, unfortunately, have to stay away from Physician’s Formula products because my skin is allergic to a lot of them, but I admire this bronzer from afar and see how much it works for many.
This bronzer is very easy to find as it is a drug store product. It is affordable, gets the job done, and gives you a beautiful bronze finish. As the name implies, the Butter Bronzer texture has more of a silky finish. Physician’s Formula has many variations of this bomb item. You can find the right one for yourself.
- Easy to find in pharmacies and department stores around the world
- Excellent price
- A unique buttery finish
- Small packaging at only 11g of product
A staple of many Brits, Rimmel has been on the drug store market before makeup hit such an obsessed high-end price. Rimmel was one of my favorite brands growing up, as I would get it from trips, so I still vouch for their quality makeup, even if we have a wide range of makeup these days that makes it hard to choose.
Rimmel bronzers have been popular from the very beginning. Their bronzer lines do not have as many shades as I would like, but if you are lucky enough to find a match, you will have found a bronzer for life. With 14g per package, each unit feels like it lasts forever. The price is fantastic for the quality and quantity, and the product is easy to find in stores and online retailers.
- Good on the wallet
- The large package lasts seemingly forever
- The pan is big enough to dip in with brushes of any size
- A limited shade range. Within that range, a lot of shades still feel very close to one another
Question: What is the purpose of bronzer?
Answer: Bronzers serve to contour your face with a warm tone and give a nice glow. If you love using heavy foundations like me, you may want to give your face more dimension to work with after applying it.
Question: Do you apply bronzer before or after foundation?
Answer: If it is a cream bronzer and you need to sheer it out with a light foundation over it, I do not see why not. But usually, the bronzer is applied after foundation, translucent powder, and underneath the last layer of foundation or finishing powder to make it last the whole day.
Question: Is bronzer necessary?
Answer: Not really, but bronzers are a fun addition to your look. If you want to give your face some warmth or dimension, they are excellent for your makeup kit.
Question: Should you apply bronzer before or after blush?
Answer: I apply bronzer before blushing, but I do not think there is a specific order to follow between these two. You can also leave the bronzer by itself without blush.
Question: Can you apply bronzer all over your face?
Answer: Well, you can, but I would not recommend it. There are better powder products to use all over the face, including tanning solutions for a more natural effect.