Here’s How to Apply Liquid, Cream and Powder BronzersApril 18, 2023
As a pro makeup artist, Emily Oliver is constantly being asked to create a glowing, “bronzed goddess” look on clients — and the trickiest part is choosing the right bronzer for each person. As you’ve probably noticed, bronzers come in all shades and types, including powder, liquid and cream, and there are slight nuances in applying each.
Ahead, find Oliver’s tips on how to apply bronzer with each formula to achieve gorgeous results, plus a breakdown of what bronzer is and our favorite products in each category.
What Is Bronzer?
Bronzer is a makeup product used to contour the face and add glow and warmth to the skin. It comes in many different formats, including powders, creams, liquids and even sticks.
What Does Bronzer Do?
Depending on the texture of the bronzer, it can add a matte or shimmery finish to the face. It also can provide different looks depending on its placement — it can be used to define the cheekbones if applied in the hollows of the cheeks, or it can warm up the skin if applied all over the face and decolletage. Unlike contour products, which are typically cool-toned to mimic the natural shadows of your bone structure, bronzers are usually warm-toned. They’re great for adding a sunny, summer-ready glow without risking a sunburn.
Where to Apply Bronzer
You can apply bronzer anywhere to the face depending on look you’re planning on creating. For an overall glowy look, we recommend applying it to the temples, underneath the cheekbones and a little on the forehead for an overall glowy look. You can also dust a small amount of bronzer across your nose for a natural-looking, sun-kissed flush.
How to Apply Bronzer
Applying bronzer differs based on what type of product you’re using. A powder might be best applied in a “3” on the face from the temple, to the cheekbone, to the jawline. A stick bronzer can be used in the same motion or can be tapped onto just the temples for a little warmth. A cream bronzer can be applied with a brush all over for a glowy sheen.
How to Apply Cream Bronzer
“Cream-based bronzers are fantastic for applying heavier coverage or creating a more sculpted contour on the skin,” says Oliver. She also recommends cream bronzers for those with dry or mature skin. “There’s something so beautiful about the way a cream bronzer glides over the skin, and applying a cream formula immediately after liquid foundation gives a more natural finish.” During application, Oliver recommends using a flat foundation brush to place and blend the product on your skin. Then, if you want to further diffuse the color for a more natural appearance, use a wet beauty sponge to blend it in even more. However, some people prefer applying cream bronzers with their fingertips. Cream bronzers can also be used underneath foundation in a technique known as “underpainting.”
Here, we’re sharing our favorite cream bronzers to help you get the look.
This dual-ended stick is a must if you’re just dipping your toe into cream bronzer or contour. It has a matte bronzer on one end and a sparkly highlighter on the other to help give you a sculpted, long-lasting finish.
Although this is not a traditional cream bronzer, it can be used to add glow to the skin when mixed with foundation. We love that it gives your finished look a glowy, warm touch.
For a bronzer that’s easy to reapply on the go, opt for this bronzing stick. It’s super creamy and pigmented, and it can be used to add a little warmth to the temples, cheekbones or all over for a little glow.
If you prefer a little shimmer for your bronzer, try this option in the West Coast or Best Coast hues. It can be used for a subtle sparkle on your temples or blended in with your foundation for major shimmer.
This bronzing stick gives off a creamy, pigmented finish and a sun-kissed glow. It has a variety of shades that keep undertones in mind — cool, warm and neutral — and can be easily swiped on with a brush or your fingers.
How to Apply Liquid Bronzer
Liquid bronzers are quite easy to work with once you get the hang of them. “I use liquid bronzers on clients who want to have a naturally contoured appearance,” says Oliver. “And because liquid bronzer almost melts into the skin, it’s easy to blend and sits well on top of textured skin, like acne, rosacea and eczema.” You can blend this type of formula using a synthetic hair brush or a sponge. Keep scrolling to check out a few of our favorites.
Add subtle shimmer to your look with this fluid sheer glow enhancer that comes in a bronze hue. It can be used on the cheekbones for a layer of dimension or mixed in with your foundation.
If you want a medium, buildable coverage formula, opt for this liquid pick that will give you a subtle shimmer and bronze finish. It’s oil-free, which makes it a great pick for blemish-prone skin types.
For a liquid bronzer that’s easy to apply, try this option. It has a super malleable formula that you can tap onto your temples with your finger or swipe on with an angled brush.
This liquid bronzer stands out from the pack because it can be used anywhere on the body for a little extra warmth and shimmer. Apply it to your face, decolletage or even on your legs for a sparkling glow that will make you feel like it's summertime (even if it's not!).
How to Apply Powder Bronzer
Powder bronzer is one of the more traditional types of bronzers used by makeup lovers and is typically applied with an angled bronzer brush. It’s a great option for those with oily skin. “When using a powder, make sure to tap off any excess product from the brush,” says Oliver. “Create a ‘3,’ starting from the forehead (moving outward, toward the temple), then under the cheekbone and along the jawline.”
Of course, powder bronzer is also great for contouring.To contour with powder, use a smaller contouring brush for more precise application. In terms of shades, Oliver prefers a taupe bronzer versus a red or terracotta one, as cool tones are better for sculpting.
This drugstore option is a great find if you’re looking for a pigmented, matte bronzer finish. It’s soft to the touch and leaves behind a velvety finish, which is ideal if you have an oily complexion or if you’re looking for a long-lasting look.
This matte bronzer is a great option if you prefer a powder formula or if you have an oily to combination skin complexion. It will help minimize the appearance of shine throughout the day and give you a matte (but not flat!) finish.
For a silky powder finish, opt for this bronzer that can be applied all over the face or anywhere on the body. We love that it leaves behind a smooth look that can help correct the appearance of uneven skin texture.
Add a shimmery bronze to your makeup with this refillable compact powder. It can be used for contour or sparkling highlight or for your face and chest.
If you’re in search of a radiant finish that will give your skin a major glow-up, look no further than this luminous powder. It comes in four bronzing shades and will give you a sun-kissed finish for hours.
This bronzer is a cult-favorite for good reason — it’s super buildable, matte and leaves behind a soft-focus finish. It comes in multiple shades and can be used all over for a subtle, yet noticeable glow.
Get an air-brushed look with this velvety, matte bronzer. It comes in four versatile shades and can be used on a variety of skin tones for a warm flush of glow.
For a bronzer that packs a punch, opt for this dual product that contains cream and powder. Simply pop on the cream product as a base shade and brush the matching powder hue overtop.