Bronzer vs. Contour: Which One Is Right For You?December 16, 2022
With so many different makeup products out there, it can be intimidating to know which ones are right for you, or even how to tell the difference between some of them. Complexion products in particular can get confusing fast. Between foundation, bronzer, concealer, contouring and highlighting, there are tons of different ways to enhance your skin with makeup. To help you get started, we chatted with celebrity makeup artist Lisa Aharon about the difference between bronzer and contour, two complexion staples.
Bronzer vs. Contour: What Is The Difference?
The key difference between bronzer and contour makeup is when you would use each of them based on your desired effect. If you want to boost the warmth and radiance of your skin, you’ll opt for a bronzer. Contouring is for when you want to sculpt and define your facial features.
What Is Bronzer?
If the word “bronzer” immediately triggers early-aughts flashbacks to cakey, way-too-orange face makeup, we totally feel you. But in moderation and with the right products, bronzer is a great option for creating the illusion of that sought-after sun-kissed glow year round — without having to expose your skin to dangerous UV rays.
“Bronzer is a makeup product that can be applied to warm or contour the complexion,” says Aharon. “It comes in powder or cream form and can come in a matte, cream or shimmery finish.”
What Is Contouring?
Contouring, meanwhile, is actually more of a makeup application technique than a type of makeup itself, though there are some beauty products specifically intended for contouring. But bronzer can also be used to contour, as long as it has a matte finish, explains Aharon.
According to Aharon, “contouring is creating shape and adding dimension to the face” using makeup. “Bronzer is always an option to use as a contouring product — just steer clear of anything with shimmer or shine, as it won’t create the contouring effect properly.”
How and Where to Apply Bronzer
There are several different ways to wear bronzer — it just depends on what kind of look you are going for. “You can choose to wear it all over the face, either layering it on top of your foundation or on its own,” explains Aharon. Try one of these full-face application methods if you’re looking to achieve a fresh-from-vacation tan effect.
You could also concentrate the bronzer solely on the high points of your face, meaning the spots where you might get the most sun naturally. Your high points are your cheekbones, chin, forehead and the bridge of your nose.
Finally, you could use your bronzer as a contour product by following Aharon’s suggestions below.
How and Where to Apply Contour Products
“Using a brush, sponge or your fingertips, you apply your desired product under the cheekbones, on the temples, under the jawline and even along the nose for a slimming effect (if that’s your thing),” advises Aharon. “I like to feel where the cheekbone sits with my fingertips first and then blend the product right below, back towards the hairline.” Ultimately, the exact placement of your contour makeup will vary a little and may take some practice, since every face is different!
If you decide to use a powder product to contour, Aharon recommends that you set your foundation first with a lightweight, translucent powder. This will help ensure that the contour doesn’t stick to your foundation and settle unevenly. Another tip is to tap any excess powder off of your brush before going in with your contour so that it will blend more easily.
Our Favorite Contour Products
Giorgio Armani Beauty Neo Nude A-Contour
Contour makeup doesn’t have to be an intense undertaking. The Giorgio Armani Beauty Neo Nude A-Contour is a water-based liquid complexion product that allows you to define and sculpt your facial features while still maintaining a natural look. Think of it as watercolor paint for your complexion.
Dermablend Quick Fix Concealer
Get this full-coverage concealer stick in multiple different shades, so you can use it both to cover up blemishes and to contour. The stick format makes contouring a breeze, whether you’re a makeup rookie or you’ve been sculpting your cheekbones for years.
Lancôme Teint Idole Long Lasting Foundation Stick
This multitasking foundation stick can be used to conceal, contour and highlight depending on the shades you choose. It can even serve as a full-face foundation. The cream-to-powder formula delivers a transfer-resistant, matte finish that lasts all day.
NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick Contour and Highlighter Stick
We love the NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick Contour and Highlighter Stick because it has everything you need to contour and define your features in one handy tool. Plus, it’s so easy to toss in your bag so you can sculpt and glow on-the-go. Just swipe the stick where you want some definition and blend with your fingers.
Valentino Beauty Go-Clutch Refillable Compact Powder
Who wouldn’t want a makeup product that doubles as a fashion accessory? This versatile powder from Valentino comes in a signature red clutch-compact on a gold crossbody chain. It has a matte finish, so you can choose the right shade for your skin tone and use it to contour.
Our Favorite Bronzers
L’Oréal Paris Infallible Up to 24H Fresh Wear Soft Bronzer
This L’Oréal Paris bronzer went viral on TikTok for a reason. Not only does it give your skin a gorgeous glow, but it’s also sort of invincible. It’s waterproof, sweatproof, transfer-proof and heat-proof. The soft, non-comedogenic formula won’t clog your pores like some powders.
Maybelline New York City Bronzer & Contour
Formulated with whipped cocoa butter, this bronzer goes on ultra-soft and practically melts into your skin. You can use it as an all-over bronzer, or concentrated in specific areas of your face to contour your features.
Urban Decay Beached Bronzer
Be prepared for people to ask you if you just got back from a tropical vacay when you wear the Urban Decay Beached Bronzer. Dust it all over your face, and even on your body, to add a hearty dose of radiance to your skin. Not to mention the palm tree-adorned compact is beyond adorable!
IT Cosmetics Your Most Beautiful You™ Anti-Aging Matte Bronzer, Radiance Luminizer & Brightening Blush Palette
The matte bronzer on this palette from IT Cosmetics is unique because it’s infused with anti-aging ingredients like hydrolyzed collagen and peptides that blur the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Pair it with the Radiance Luminizer for a natural glow.
Glossier Solar Paint
Bronzer doesn’t have to be a dry, matte powder. Glossier Solar Paint is a weightless, whipped gel créme that glides onto your skin. It’s formulated with light-reflecting pearls for unparalleled luminosity.
Merit Beauty Bronze Balm
The Merit Beauty Bronze Balm is our bronzer pick for makeup minimalists. The formula is sheer and buildable, so you can customize your look and go as subtle or as sun-kissed as you’d like. It has a satin finish to ensure that your skin looks natural and dewy.
NudeStix Nudies Bronze
This creamy bronzer is meant to be used all over your face to help you achieve that fresh from the beach look. Swipe it on your cheekbones, nose or anywhere else your heart desires and blend with your fingers or a brush.
Tower28 Bronzino Illuminating Cream Bronzer
You’ll fall in love with the balmy texture of this cream bronzer from cult-favorite indie brand Tower28. Choose between five shades and tap it anywhere the sun naturally hits your face to get that coveted golden hour effect.
Jouer Cosmetics Sunswept Bronzer Duo
This velvety powder bronzer duo from Jouer Cosmetics is formulated with vitamin E that conditions and protects your skin. The two complementary shades can be worn alone or blended together. Aharon also likes using this product to contour since the shades are matte.
Photo: Chaunte Vaughn