What Type of Bronzer Is Right For You?

Victoria Moorhouse


Bronzer may be in the same makeup family as blush—let’s call it a sister—but the look it delivers is way more about getting a sunkissed, “just stepped off the beach” glow than a rosy blush. The difference between the two is clearly in the color it delivers to your cheeks—and because it has established itself as a spring/summer makeup essential throughout the years, there is a variety of options out there for you to choose from. Similar to blush, you can pick up powder, cream, or spray-based consistencies and matte, solid, or metallic bronze hues to your liking. Wondering what the difference between this and self-tanning is? While self-tanner products produce color that says for days or weeks and can be built upon to create a deeper glow with time, this beauty find is purely temporary, allowing you to choose when you want a healthy glow to show up.

For as many pluses it has, there’s a few tricky trials you could experience in the application of bronzer. A little bit too much of a heavy hand or getting too generous with the product, you could end up looking muddy or even orange.

Decide what bronzer is best for you and get a brush-up on how to apply with this roundup of shopping suggestions and expert advice below.

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Cream-Based Bronzer
Possibly a warm-weather favorite, cream-based blushes have a strong staying power and are ideal if you hate makeup brushes and haven’t yet learned the fine practice of powder application. “Cream bronzers can be used with fingers. They are easy to blend. I use it on the high points of the face and where the sun hits you. I also put a sunkissed look by adding a bright blush on the apples of the cheek,” explains celebrity makeup artist Matin.

Matin prefers this type of blush, as he explains it appears more like skin. So who can benefit from this type of bronzer? While it’s up to personal preference, Matin says that this can be a plus for those with dry skin because of the “softness and blendability of a cream. Those with pale skin can totally use it too, but need to be more “light-handed” so that it doesn’t appear muddy. His favorite products include Laura Mercier’ Gel Bronzer and Laura Mercier Bonne Mine, but there are countless options available.

BH Shopping Suggestions:
NARS Matte Multiple in Altai, $39, narscosmetics.com; Sonia Kashuk Sahara Sunset Bronzing/Blush Stick, $12, target.com; Stila Convertible Color Bronzing Duo, $12, stilacosmetics.com


Powder Bronzers
Like blush, this was probably the consistency that popped into your head immediately when you thought about bronzers. But unlike blush, you might have noticed that there isn’t often varying shades of this type of product (or bronzers in general) but there is reason for it! “Everyone looks to bronzer to give their skin tone a naturally sunkissed shade, which is what separates it from the varieties of a colored blush. The goals are a tanned glow to warm up your complexion, add dimension, or for shadow and sculpting to highlight and hide. How subtle or dark is up to you, which is why the product is not focused on pigment but it’s ability to be buildable in order to create different looks,” explains Butterfly Studio Salon Makeup Artist Francesca Roman.

This type of product is one Roman says is versatile and user-friendly, but might not be the right option for you if you’re looking to cover large parts of the body. The powder option isn’t limiting, though. In addition to matte formulas, you can find metallics, compacts infused with minerals, as well as waterproof formulas. “Some will feel more confident with powders over creams according to their experience and comfort level. They find it not so overwhelming or they favor the finish,” explains Roman who says there is a formula out there for every concern and texture desire, including anti-aging and and oil-free options.

How do you apply this without getting messy? For starters, you’re going to need a brush. Roman suggests one that’s soft and full in order to blend the product out correctly. “My trick is to switch over to a tighter and smaller-sized brush when going back and applying bronzer as a contour for the cheek bone area. The skill to make sure you focus on is blending. With bronzer always comes blend! Blending ensures a flawless finish and prevents the mistake of overusing bronzer/ending up with very dark results,” she explains. Her go-to brands include Chanel, Kevyn Aucoin, and NARS. Another great tip is to start off light—it’s easier to apply more than to take it all off.

BH Shopping Suggestions: CK One Color Cream + Powder Bronzing Duo, $25, ulta.com; Dolce and Gabbana The Bronzing Glow Bronzing Powder, $52, sephora.com; Jouer Mineral Powder Bronzer, $30, nordstrom.com


Spray Bronzers
Yep, these exist! They’re not as popular as cream or powders and most fall under the self-tanning category—not makeup. They’re not as clear and concise with application, and this isn’t the option for you if you’re looking to highlight JUST your cheekbones. It’s hard to get this type of consistency to stick to just one tiny portion of your face. Clarins created a formula for you to add to your moisturizer, while LORAC designed a tanner specifically for your face. If you want a look that can be wiped off at night, this isn’t worth the time and effort.

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