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What Is Bronzer and How Do You Use It?

What Is Bronzer? How to Use Bronzer Makeup

14 Mar 2024

Face bronzer is a product that can be totally transformative when used properly. A touch on the cheekbones can quickly wake up tired winter skin; a dusting on the nose can make it look like you’ve just returned from a sun-filled vacation on the French Riviera. But, as with most makeup products, proper application is key—and with bronzer, a little goes a long way. After all, the goal is to look subtly sunkissed, not obviously orange. To help with that, we’ve put together an easy-to-follow guide on how to use bronzer makeup in your everyday routine.

Here, you’ll find out how to apply bronzer for a natural look and get answers to some common bronzing-related questions (like: is bronzer the same as contour? And how do you choose the best shade for your skin tone?). We’ll also advise you on where to put bronzer for an ultra-flattering faux-tanned finish. Learn it all (and more) ahead.

What Is Bronzer and What Is It Used For?

Bronzer refers to a category of makeup products designed to help give your skin a bronzed, sunkissed appearance. It’s typically beige to deep brown in color, with a warm undertone to mimic a natural tan.

There are several different types of bronzer makeup, including powder, cream, and liquid formulas, and each offers slightly different benefits. Matte-finish powder bronzers, like our buttery-smooth Buttermelt Bronzer, are ideal for creating natural-looking warmth sans unwanted sparkle or shine. Liquid and cream formulas, meanwhile, can provide a dewier, hydrated-looking finish.

Bronzer vs. Contour: What’s the Difference?

While contour and bronzer makeup may look similar, in practice, they’re different. Contour is typically used to help define, sharpen, and sculpt your facial structure by creating the illusion of shadows. Since real shadows appear gray, you’ll often find that contour products tend to be on the cooler side of the color spectrum. Bronzer, as we explained, is used to help warm up your skin. As such, it’s usually warmer in tone. Where you apply them differs, too—learn how to use contour in our article Contouring 101: How to Contour Like an Absolute Pro.

What Type of Brush Do You Use for Bronzer?

The type of makeup tool you use to apply bronzer depends on the formula you’re using. If you opt for a powder bronzer, we suggest reaching for a large, fluffy brush, like our Buttermelt Bronzer Brush. Cream and liquid formulas, meanwhile, can be applied with a makeup sponge or even your fingers.

Where Is Bronzer Typically Applied?

To achieve that beachy, sunkissed effect, you should aim to apply your bronzer to places the sun naturally hits. These areas are collectively known as the high points of your face and include the tops of your cheekbones, the bridge of your nose, and the top of your forehead along your hairline. Keep in mind that, unlike contour, bronzer application doesn’t have to be super-precise. It does, however, need to be blended well. Any harsh or obvious lines will look strange, so make sure to really work the product into your skin for a seamless, natural-looking finish.

How to Apply Bronzer for a Sunkissed Look

Now that you’re up to date on what bronzer is and why you might want to use it, keep reading to learn how to use bronzer makeup in your routine.

Step 1: Wash Your Face and Prep Your Skin

Before reaching for any makeup, you’ll want to ensure your skin is clean, hydrated, and primed for products. Start by washing your face with your favorite cleanser, then pat dry and apply your favorite moisturizer and makeup primer. We recommend Face Freezie Cooling Primer + Moisturizer because, as the name suggests, the skincare-makeup hybrid both moisturizes and primes the skin. Alternatively, you could apply your favorite moisturizer and reach for a dedicated makeup primer, such as our BlurScreen SPF 30 Primer.

Step 2: Pick Your Bronzer Formula

Next, decide what type of bronzer makeup you want to use. While you can get bronzer in a cream or liquid formula, we find powder bronzers (like Buttermelt Bronzer) the easiest to work with for their buildability and blendability. You can use less for a more subtly bronzed effect, or apply more for a super-sunkissed look.

Step 3: Choose the Right Bronzer Shade

Once you’ve honed in on what type of bronzer you’re going to use, you’ll need to select a shade that flatters your skin.

How to Choose a Bronzer Shade

Finding your ideal bronzer shade is important because anything too warm can leave you looking a bit orange and anything too dark may come off as muddy. As a general guideline, we recommend opting for a shade that closely matches the tone your skin takes when you tan. If you burn rather than tan, reach for a bronzer that’s one to two shades darker than your current skin tone for a natural-looking finish.

Step 4: Put on Your Base Makeup

Here’s where the application really begins. If you plan to wear foundation and concealer, apply those first. Keep in mind that for a really seamless finish, you’ll want to coordinate your product finishes. In other words, if you’re using a matte bronzer, opt for a matte-finish foundation; dewier or glowier bronzers, meanwhile, pair well with more

Can You Use Bronzer On Its Own?

Yes, you can use bronzer on its own. For a more natural, beachy vibe, forgo the foundation and apply your bronzer directly to clean, hydrated skin. If you have any imperfections you’d like to camouflage, you can spot conceal with a color corrector or concealer, like our medium-coverage Pro Fix Stick Correcting Concealer.

Step 5: Apply Bronzer to the High Points of Your Face

Because the purpose of bronzer is to mimic a natural glow, you want to apply it to areas that the sun naturally hits—in other words, the high points of your face. This includes the tops of the cheekbones, the top of the forehead along your hairline, and the bridge of your nose. Applying your bronzer makeup to these areas will help create the illusion of a natural tan and provide a natural-looking, beachy finish.

Step 6: Buff and Blend

Using soft, circular motions, blend your bronzer out toward your temples with a bronzer brush, taking care to diffuse any harsh lines or obvious lines of demarcation. If you have excess product left on your brush when you’re done blending, lightly sweep it along your collarbones and decolletage to help enhance the beach-bronzed effect.

Step 7: Finish With Blush and Highlighter

Lastly comes the finishing touches: Namely, blush and highlighter (both of which are musts for a convincing sunkissed glow). For a seamless blend, opt for formulas that match the texture and finish of the bronzer makeup you’ve chosen. In other words, if you used a powder bronzer, pair it with a powder blush and highlighter; if you’ve used a cream bronzer, use cream blush and highlighter.

Apply your chosen shade of blush to the apples of your cheeks, then blend a small amount of highlighter onto the very tops of your cheekbones, cupid’s bow, and along the bridge of your nose for added radiance.

Once you’re satisfied with your faux-vacation glow, seal your look in place with a generous misting of setting spray.

3 Bronzer Makeup Looks to Try

If you’re looking for ways to wear your bronzer, keep reading—we’re outlining three of our favorite bronzy makeup looks (and how to get them) below.

Natural Bronzed Makeup Look

Soft, bronzy makeup is the perfect look for warm summer days when you don’t want to wear a ton of makeup (but still look put-together). To achieve this effortless, no-makeup makeup look, skip the foundation and instead apply a lightweight, blendable concealer to your under eyes and any other areas you’d like a bit of coverage. Dust your Buttermelt Bronzer onto the tops of your cheekbones, along your hairline, and the bridge of your nose, and mist your entire face with a long-wearing setting spray. Finish the look with a few swipes of mascara and a hydrating tinted lip balm (our pick: Fat Oil Slick Clicks).

Dewy Bronzed Makeup Look

We love a dewy, no-makeup makeup look. To achieve a naturally-radiant look, swap out your matte foundation for a dewy option, pair your bronzer with plenty of glowy highlighter, and seal your makeup into place with our Dewy Setting Spray.

Bronzer Eyeshadow Makeup Look

Monochrome makeup always looks chic, so when we spotted this hack on TikTok, we couldn’t resist trying it. Essentially, it involves using your bronzer as an eyeshadow for the perfect soft nude eye shade. Simply apply your bronzer to your face as usual, then use an eyeshadow brush like our Tapered All Over Shadow Brush to tap a bit of the powder onto your lids. We love amplifying the monochrome effect by reaching for nude lipstick—it ties the whole look together beautifully.

We’d love to see how our bronzer tutorial works for you! Share a pic of your results on social and tag us @nyxcosmetics!

Next: Is Underpainting the Secret to Natural-Looking Makeup?


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