The Right Way to Apply Bronzer, According to a Pro Makeup ArtistMay 22, 2023
You may have mastered how to apply foundation for a flawless finish and how to give your cheeks a rosy flush with blush, but bronzer can be tricky for even the most devoted makeup enthusiasts. After all, the wrong shade or formula can end up looking streaky, orange and obvious, as opposed to naturally kissed by the sun. To help you achieve a vacation-worthy radiance and find the best bronzer for your skin tone, we consulted with celebrity makeup artist Darais. Keep reading to get his expert tips for achieving the perfect sun-kissed glow.
What Is Bronzer?
Bronzer is a warm-toned makeup product that helps mimic the flush you’d get from the sun. It deepens your complexion and can be used year-round to give your skin a summery, fresh-from-vacation glow. Bronzer comes in many forms, including powders, balms, creams, sticks and liquids.
What Is Bronzer Used For?
“Contouring is for creating shadows, but bronzing is for achieving a glow and warmth that will get noticed,” says Darias. It’s perfect for warming up your skin and can even be used to darken a too-light foundation, like when you’re adjusting your winter shade to transition into summer.
How to Apply Bronzer
Step 1: Pick a Formula You Love
With a variety of cream, liquid and powder bronzers available, it can be hard to settle on a formula that’s right for you. Keep in mind the consistency of the products you usually like to use and the effect you’re trying to achieve. Liquid bronzers are great for achieving a dewy, fresh-faced and natural look, but they can also come with a bit of a learning curve in application. Cream bronzers are ideal for a dramatic bronze and for those who like to use other cream products, like cream blush — they’re also great for techniques like underpainting. Powder bronzers tend to be the most user-friendly, as you can sweep on a light layer with a fluffy brush or build up the color with multiple layers and a denser, tapered brush — which brings us to your next step.
Step 2: Choose Your Brush
According to Darais, applying bronzer flawlessly is best done with a brush. “The softer the brush, the softer the effect,” he says, “So depending on if you want a more subtle or dramatic finish, you can change the brush based on that.” If you want a lighter, more glowing finish, he recommends reaching for a soft, fluffy brush. And if you want a more dramatic bronze, he recommends trying a dense brush. However, many people prefer applying cream or liquid bronzers with their fingertips.
Step 3: Apply Your Bronzer
Once you finish your base routine, whether you favor a light skin tint and concealer or full-coverage foundation, it’s time to apply your bronzer. Try to brush it on where the sun naturally hits your face, like the sides of your cheeks, around your temples and on your chin — think of making a three-shaped motion around your face. You can also dust a little bronzer across your nose. This will help you achieve a naturally glowy effect, like you’ve been lounging in the sun, minus the damaging effects of UV rays.
Where to Apply Bronzer
“When bronzer first came out, people were told to put it all over,” says Darais. “Instead, use bronzer to achieve a sun-kissed look.” For a softer glow, apply it to the top of the cheeks, tip of the nose and above your temples. “You can also use it sparingly on the neck and under the chin,” he adds. “A touch of bronzer can even this area out with the rest of the face and body.”
17 Editor-Approved Bronzers to Shop Now
L'Oréal Paris Infallible 24H Fresh Wear Soft Matte Bronzer
This buildable, easy-to-use powder bronzer is a favorite among our editors for its extensive shade range and impressive weartime. Available in eight warm, sunny shades, the formula is heat-, sweat-, water- and transfer-proof, with a soft matte finish that keeps shine in check.
Giorgio Armani Beauty Fluid Sheer Glow Enhancer
Add a touch of radiance to your complexion with this liquid bronzer, blush and highlighter hybrid. Flecked with subtle shimmer, the Bronze shade helps to warm up your skin and give an incandescent glow. We love mixing a dab of this with foundation or moisturizer and applying on our face, neck and chest for an all-over glow.
Maybelline New York City Bronzer
Sweep on this silky powder for a subtly bronzed look. The oil-free formula is easy to blend and build, making it a beginner-friendly option that won’t leave your skin looking orange. Plus, you can find this pick in almost any drugstore.
NYX Professional Makeup Matte Bronzer
Achieve ultimate beach babe status with these ultra-pigmented, warm-toned bronzer powders. The vegan formula is velvety and easy to apply — plus, a little goes a long way, making this a perfect budget-friendly buy.
Lancôme Star Bronzer Powder
This long-wearing, beautifully embossed bronzer powder is as pretty on the skin as it appears in the compact. Available in four sun-kissed shades with a subtly reflective finish, it gives you a radiant, fresh-from-the-outdoors glow. The formula is fragrance-free, non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic, making it a reliable pick for all skin types.
Urban Decay Beached Bronzer
These matte, finely milled powders provide a realistic-looking tan that goes on smoothly and streak-free. With rich pigmentation and a velvety, easy-to-blend consistency, this pick will perk up your skin and stay put all day.
NYX Professional Makeup Bare With Me Luminous Cheek Serum
These bronzer-blush hybrids give skin a dewy glaze of color and warmth. Infused with tremella mushroom, the formula is hydrating, sheer and very forgiving, so you can layer on as much as you like without fear of going overboard.
IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Pores Bronzer Powder
Blur pores and bronze your skin at the same time with this talc-free, oil-free bronzing powder. It glides effortlessly on top of skin and gives a soft-focus, diffused glow that helps mask the look of imperfections. It’s enhanced with coconut extract, collagen, hyaluronic acid, peptides and vitamins A, C and E to add hydration.
Urban Decay Stay Naked Threesome Bronzer, Highlighter, Blush
We can’t resist mentioning this sleek golden compact, which features a trio of a sun-kissed bronzer, peachy blush and golden highlighter. Available in three colorways, the cruelty-free powders are flattering and long-lasting, with up to 14 hours of wear.
MILK MAKEUP Matte Cream Bronzer Stick
Swipe on this chubby bronzing stick for a hint of creamy, blendable color, The vegan and cruelty-free formula is the perfect multitasking product that you can swipe across your eyes, cheeks, forehead and body for a summery glow. Mango and apricot extracts hydrate your skin and help this stick glide on easily.
Tower 28 Beauty Bronzino Illuminating Cream Bronzer
This lightweight bronzing balm is infused with a sprinkle of shimmer and kind-to-your-skin ingredients, including mango butter, green tea extract and castor seed oil. It’s easy to blend, non-comedogenic and a safe pick for sensitive skin types. With five shades, from a deep bronze with reddish-brown undertones, to a pale gold, it’s easy to find the perfect fit for any skin tone.
MAKEUP BY MARIO SoftSculpt Bronzer
If you’re worried about your bronzer appearing orange, we love this line’s range of neutral shades. None of the powders lean too warm or too cool, which helps you achieve a natural-looking tan regardless of your skin tone.
Saie Sun Melt Natural Cream Bronzer
We fell in love with these cream bronzers for their soft, easy to blend formula and range of six warm to neutral shades. Hydrating, skin-softening ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, grapeseed oil and elderberry extract are the cherry on top.
LYS Beauty No Limits Cream Bronzer and Contour Stick
This multipurpose bronzing stick adds structure and warmth to the face and blends out easily. Plus, each swipe subtly blurs texture and pores, giving your skin a flawless, filtered effect. The bronzers are formulated with nourishing rosehip oil, green tea extract and sodium hyaluronate.
Juvia’s Place Bronzed Duo
This dual-toned bronzing compact enlivens any skin tone and undertone combination, with a satin finish that one reviewer says makes the skin look “unreal.” It’s highly pigmented, easy to blend and goes on smoothly, without a streaky or patchy finish.
Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer
These matte, blendable bronzers smell like a tropical vacation and make you look like you just came back from one. Infused with lush murumuru butter and essential fatty acids, the formula is a buttery cream-powder hybrid that melts into the skin to provide a natural-looking glow.
Charlotte Tilbury Beautiful Skin Sun-Kissed Glow Cream Bronzer
One reviewer with fair skin says this pick changed her idea of bronzers, thanks to its easy-to-blend formula and lack of orange tones. It’s a creamy formula that stays put through sweat and hydrates the skin with hyaluronic acid, leaving an enviable, post-vacation glow.