What Is Bronzer? A Comprehensive Guide for Makeup Beginners

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To create harmonious and beautiful makeup, you must be familiar with many things — from the brushes and techniques to the right products for someone’s skin type.

Two compact powder bronzer and a brush on a beige background.

If you’re new to makeup, you probably need help figuring out which products to use and how to use them.

While some of the products are pretty straightforward to use, others can be quite complex and difficult to master for beginners. One of these products is bronzer.

Most people are confused between bronzing and contouring since they share major similarities. But note that bronzers and contours are different.

So what is bronzer? How does it differ from contour?

If you’re interested in learning about bronzer — what its uses are, where and how to apply it, how to choose the perfect shade, and more — read on!

What Is a Bronzer? 

A bronzer is a cosmetic product that adds warmth and color to the face and gives the skin a tanned or sun-kissed appearance, making it look glowing and healthy. 

Moreover, bronzers can also enhance your tan, whether artificial or not.

So if you want to look as if you spent time lying under the sun without the risks of UV rays, choosing the perfect shade of bronzer is key.

Some bronzing products come with shimmers. When applied, its light-reflective particles will make your skin sparkle with radiance. 

On the other hand, there are also matte bronzers and other natural bronzer finishes that can add definition and warmth to your skin. 

Bronzers come in cream, liquid, gel, and powder form and can be used for the body and face. But remember that finding the right bronzer shade can be a constant battle, especially for beginners. 

Do be careful when choosing the right bronzer for your skin. Otherwise, it can look muddy or too orange for your skin. 

What Is Bronzer Makeup Used For?

Your face can look flat after applying foundation and concealer. To fix that, bronzers are here to save the day!

What is a bronzer for? What does bronzer do to your face?

As mentioned, bronzer is the ideal makeup product to use if you plan on adding warmth to your skin. 

Similar to contouring, bronzing your nose, jawline, temples, and cheekbones can help you get that sculpted look and add dimension to your facial structure. 

Bronzers can also balance out uneven skin tones and give you a more youthful appearance.

Types of Bronzers

As mentioned earlier, bronzers come in various types: sheer, shimmer, and matte bronzers. 

What makes them different from one another? Which one is the perfect bronzer type for your skin? Let’s find out!

Sheer Bronzer

This bronzer type gives off a subtle, barely-there finish. This is perfect for extremely dark or light skin tones. One of the best sheer bronzers is No Makeup Bronzer from Perricone MD.

Shimmer Bronzer

Shimmer bronzers have shine on them and are available for all skin tones. If you want a summer-like glow, buy a high-quality shimmer bronzer like Milani Baked Bronzer

However, if you have blemishes, it’s best not to use this bronzer type as it will only accentuate them. 

Matte Bronzer

If you prefer bronzers without shimmer or shine, matte bronzers are the one for you. When applied, matte bronzers, like Elizabeth Mott Whatup Beaches Bronzer Face Powder, add a defined sun-kissed glow. Plus, it is subtle but not too subtle like the sheer ones. 

Where Do You Put Bronzer?

Bronzers are meant to be applied on parts of your face where the sun and the shadows would naturally hit, such as the forehead, temples, jawline, and cheekbones. 

Generally, bronzers are applied in a “number three” shape starting from the forehead, cheeks, and jawline. 

The best thing to do is start with a light layer of your chosen bronzing product and then gradually build it up until you achieve the desired effect. 

Don’t forget to blend in circular motions to avoid harsh lines on your skin. For a seamless finish, apply bronzer to your décolletage and neck. 

PRO TIP: Be careful not to apply it all over your face if you don’t want it to look unnatural.

How to Pick the Best Bronzer for Your Skin

Bronzers come in different shades. There are bronzers for cool undertones and warm undertones, as well as light skin and dark skin. 

A woman in a pink polka dot blouse is applying bronzer on her face with make up brush while looking at the camera in front of a plain pink background

It’s important to choose the right shade of bronzer that matches your skin to avoid an unnatural or fake look. 

But don’t worry! Know that there is a bronzer for everyone! Thus, it doesn’t matter whether you have fair or dark skin and whether it’s oily or dry. 

Here’s a comprehensive guide on choosing the best bronzer based on three main factors: 

  • The undertone of your skin
  • Your primary skin tone
  • Your skin type

Choosing Bronzers Based on Skin Undertones

Bronzer For Cool Undertone

Check your wrist. If you have blue- or purple-colored veins, then you have a cool undertone. The best bronzers for you are rose gold and peach pink bronzer. 

Bronzer For Warm Undertone

If you have green-colored veins, you have a warm undertone. Go for either brown or gold shades when choosing bronzers. 

Bronzer For Neutral Undertone

A neutral undertone lies between the cool and warm tones. If you have neutral skin undertones, you are lucky because you can either go with a warm or cool bronzer. Whichever you choose will flawlessly match your complexion.

Choosing Bronzers Based on Skin Tone

Bronzer For Dark Skin

People with dark skin can absolutely use bronzers. If you’re one of them, choose dark and rich brown shades. 

Bronzer For Olive Skin

If you have an olive skin tone and you’re looking for the perfect bronzer, go for golden brown and copper shades. 

Bronzer For Fair Skin

Did you know that bronzers aren’t just for medium and olive skin tones? People with light, fair skin can also use such products. 

However, choosing the perfect bronzer shade for fair skin can be tricky. 

For light to fair skin, peach or rose-colored bronzers that are a bit darker than your primary skin tone works wonders. Basically, you’re looking for bronzers with shades that are more or less within blush ranges.

Choosing Bronzers Based on Skin Type

Bronzer for Normal Skin

If you have a normal skin type, you’re the luckiest because you can opt for any bronzer formula you want. 

Bronzer for Dry Skin

For dry skin, a creamy, balmy bronzer or one infused with hydrating ingredients such as hyaluronic acid is your best friend. This way, your bronzer will look natural and won’t look patchy when applied to your skin. 

Bronzer for Combination / Oily / Acne Prone Skin

Powder-based bronzers are your best friend if you have a combination or oily skin type. 

Since your face is already shiny due to oil, adding shimmery bronzers won’t look good. If you still want to opt for shimmer, go for bronzers with very light shimmer. 

But if you have acne-prone and extremely oily skin, steer clear of creamy bronzers as much as possible. Instead, get liquid, gel, and powder bronzers! 

How to Apply Bronzer?

At this point, you’ve probably learned which bronzer is most suitable for you. Now, let’s head on to the exciting part: a step-by-step guide on how to apply bronzer properly. 

When you have the proper equipment, bronzing becomes easier. By equipment, we mean the right makeup brushes. 

Remember that you cannot use just any brushes to apply bronzer. 

So before we proceed to the detailed steps, here’s a quick overview of the different makeup brushes you may need for bronzing, depending on the formula of the bronzer you’ll be using. 

The Right Brushes for Bronzers

  • For powder-based bronzers, use a powder brush with natural hair bristles that are usually made of animal hair like goat, squirrel, or sable.
    Natural makeup brushes are best used for applying powder-based makeup products since synthetic brushes cannot effectively hold powder bronzers. 
  • Use a synthetic brush for creamy bronzers. Using a natural brush on cream bronzers will absorb the product instead of depositing it onto the skin. 
  • If you opt for a liquid or gel bronzer, you can use your fingertips or apply it with a damp makeup sponge to blend it perfectly and easily. 
  • A sheer and matte bronzer is best applied with a round-headed brush. 
  • Shimmery bronzers should be used with a sculpting brush for a more precise application. 

Step-by-Step Bronzer Application Tutorial

  1. Begin with a clean face. Do your regular base makeup routine: apply moisturizer, primer, concealer, and foundation. 
  2. Apply a translucent powder to set everything.
  3. Choose the right makeup brush and lightly swirl it into your chosen bronzer to pick up a small amount of product.
  4. Tap off any excess powder from the brush.
  5. Start applying bronzer across your hairline and temples.
  6. Then swipe it across your cheekbones. Begin from your ears to the apples of your cheeks. 
  7. Blend the bronzer well on your skin using small, gentle, circular motions. 
  8. Don’t forget to apply bronzer along your jawline. To do this, take the brush from your jaw to your chin and down the neck. 
  9. Repeat these steps on the other cheek. 
  10. Lastly, swipe a bit of bronzer on both sides of your nose. 

Pro Tips When Applying Bronzer

  • Be sure to check or do your makeup in natural lighting to ensure a realistic, sun-kissed look.
  • Blending is key. Do it until you don’t see any harsh lines on your face. 
  • Always use gentle and circular motions.
  • Don’t go overboard with the product. Remember, less is more. 
  • Choose the right bronzer shade for your skin tone and undertone.
  • Apply where the sun and the shadows would naturally hit your face. 

Check out these videos for more bronzing tips and a step-by-step guide:

Is Bronzing Necessary?

Now that you know what a bronzer is and what it does to the face and skin, you’re probably thinking whether applying bronzer is necessary for everyone.

Bronzing can come in handy if you want to add all-over warmth to your face or achieve a specific look. 

However, not everyone needs bronzing. In fact, you can skip this step if you want a simple makeup routine. 

It’s worth mentioning that bronzer is not a necessary cosmetic product. Its use depends on personal preference and skin tone. 

Some people use it to add warmth and color to their skin, while others prefer not to. 

Experimenting with different makeup products and techniques is important to find what works best for you.

Bronzer vs. Contour


The main difference between bronzer and contour is their purpose. Bronzer is used to add warmth and color to the face, while contouring is mainly used to create the illusion of depth and shadow on the face.


Bronzers come in different warm shades and from light to dark. Contouring products, on the other hand, are typically available in shades that mimic the natural shadows on the face, so they’re cool- or neutral-toned.

Application areas

Bronzer is typically applied to the areas of the face where the sun and shadows would naturally hit, such as the forehead, cheekbones, jawline, and nose. 

Contouring is only applied to the areas of the face where the natural shadows fall, such as the hollows of the cheeks, jawline, temples, and sides of the nose.


Bronzer is usually applied with a fluffy brush, while contouring requires a more precise application tool, such as an angled brush or a small fluffy brush.


Bronzer is meant to create a natural and seamless look, while contouring products are meant to create a defined and sculpted look.

Can You Use A Bronzer to Contour? 

Bronzers are often used as contours, but it’s important to note that not all bronzer shades are suitable for contouring.

Bronzers come in different shades, some of them are warmer tones, and others are cool-toned.

Warmer tones bronzers are better for adding warmth and color to the face, while neutral-toned to moderately warm bronzers can be used for contouring.

These neutral-toned and moderately warm bronzers have a gray undertone that mimics the natural shadows on the face, making them a better option for contouring.

When using bronzer for contouring, choosing a shade at least two shades darker than your natural skin tone is important. This will create the illusion of depth and shadow on the face.

Also, it’s important to use a brush that will help you apply the bronzer precisely. See the right brushes for bronzers above.

Finally, use a blending brush to blend the bronzer seamlessly into the skin.

Can You Use Bronzer and Contour Together?

Yes, you can use bronzer and contour together to enhance your face’s natural features and create a more defined and sculpted look.

A photo of a beautiful woman and the hands of a makeup artist applying layers of makeup on her face

When using bronzer and contour together, ensure you understand the difference between the two techniques. 

Start by applying your contouring product to the areas where you want to create shadow and definition, such as the hollows of your cheeks, jawline, nose, and temples. 

Then, apply bronzer to the areas where the sun would naturally hit, such as the forehead, cheekbones, and nose.

Blend the contour and bronzer well with a beauty sponge or a blending brush to avoid harsh lines and an unnatural look. 

Remember to choose the right bronzer shades and contouring products that match your skin tone if you don’t want unnatural results. 

It’s always good to start with a small amount of product and build it up as you go.

It’s also worth mentioning that the use of bronzer and contouring can vary depending on one’s desired final look. Some people prefer to use only bronzer, while others only contouring. 

Experiment and find the best combination that flatters your features and skin tone the best.

What Is Bronzer? Should You Add It to Your Makeup Stash?

Using bronzer every day may not be necessary. But if you want to add warmth and a healthy glow to your skin, you should definitely try bronzers. 

The key is to choose the right bronzer shade and formula depending on your skin tone and undertone. For best results, opt for a color that’s one to two shades darker than your skin. 

If you plan to add bronzing to your makeup routine, we hope this guide helped you discover everything you need to know about bronzers. 

Buy the right bronzer for you to start bronzing now! 

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  • Stephanie Martin

    Stephanie Martin blends her beauty industry background with expertise in communications to lead in the fashion and beauty world. As a fashion and beauty editor, she is known for engaging and informative articles. Her lifelong passion for fashion, makeup, and hair shines through her work, earning her widespread respect among readers and clients. Stephanie's style, a mix of classic and contemporary, makes her a dynamic and influential figure in the industry, inspiring others with her knowledgeable and approachable insights.

  • Kelly Goforth

    With ten years in the beauty industry, Kelly Goforth has mastered the art of hair and makeup. Trained at The Redken Exchange in NYC and mentored by industry legends like Sam Villa and Lauren Hagan, she's a sought-after bridal specialist in Colorado Springs. From managing a Denver salon to now offering bridal hair, makeup, and airbrush spray tans, Kelly's expertise shines.

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