How To Apply Bronzer Properly And Some Common Bronzer Mistakes

September 16, 2020 By

Learning how to apply bronzer is an essential technique for any makeup maven, regardless of your skin type or the season. Everyone can benefit from a natural-looking, sun-kissed glow. When done right, bringing a warm glow to your face with bronzer can help make it appear slimmer and give off an impression of health and radiance — all without subjecting your skin to the harsh rays of the sun (a definite plus).1

In this article, we’ll cover the difference between bronzing and contouring, how to choose the right bronzer formula for you, and how to avoid some common bronzing mistakes.

What Is Bronzing?

A bronzer can give the illusion of a natural tan and a boost of youthful radiance (a handy trick in the middle of winter, or if you haven’t been out in the sun for a while). It brings warmth to your complexion, and it subtly defines your features, whether you use a shimmery illuminating powder or a matte bronzer.

Since bronzer is often in a darker shade, many people believe it’s a technique interchangeable with contouring. But there are some key differences between the two. 

What Is Contouring?

Contouring is a makeup technique that uses shadowing and shading to sculpt your facial features to help them stand out. Contour makeup often comes in a cool or neutral shade to help achieve this, while bronzing makeup is often in warmer or deeper tones to help mimic a sunny glow. Contouring shades and sculpts, while bronzing brings more radiance and glow to your face.2


Bronzer Vs. Blush

Blush is also known for its similar benefits — it highlights your cheekbones and adds a healthy touch of color. So, what sets it apart from bronzer? Two key factors: The color and where it should be applied.

Blush is often a pop of color in the pink shade range. It helps give you a rosy, flushed look that’s a little more noticeable or made-up. Blush works best swiped on the apples of the cheeks to give a “rosy” or slightly flushed look.

A natural bronzer, on the other hand, brings warmth and dimension to your face. It’s more suited to the natural makeup look. As far as application goes, bronzers are a little more versatile — they should be applied right on your cheekbones as well as your jawline, forehead, and even your decolletage.4

While the rules are loose when it comes to the seasons, traditionally, blush is good for cooler weather, and bronzer works best in giving that summery, beachy vibe. That doesn’t mean you can’t wear blush and bronzer year-round — it all depends on the effect you’re going for (and if you’ve chosen the best shade and formula for your skin).3

How To Apply Bronzer

One swipe too many and your natural glow could become streaked, muddy, or orange — not the effect you want. It’s important to learn how to apply bronzer properly for a natural-looking glow. 

This technique works well for powder bronzer and a fluffy brush, but the same principles and methods can be applied with a cream bronzer as long as you use the right tool. A denser makeup brush or a makeup sponge is better for applying cream formula. Regardless, the secret to is blend, blend, blend and buff it out the best you can for a natural finish.


Step 1: Sculpt Hairline

Apply a small amount of bronzer in small concentric circles from one temple to the other, blending across your hairline.

Step 2: Concentrate On The Cheeks

Load up the brush with more bronzer, tap off excess, and gently sweep over the tops of your cheekbones. Then, make small swirls with your powder brush to blend out the bronzer.

Step 3: Don’t Forget The Jawline And The Nose

If you want to skip contour makeup, you can definitely use bronzer on the sides of your nose to get the same slimming effect! (Check out our ultimate contour guide here.) But as mentioned before, bronzer can also help you mimic a gorgeous, youthful, sun-kissed look. To create this effect, simply brush a small amount of bronzer on the bridge of your nose, close to the tip. This will tie in that bronzed look on the perimeter of your face to the center. 

Then, gently swirl some bronzer on the edge of your jaw all the way to your chin, making sure to blend downwards to the neck.5

Bronzer Best Practices

Of course, your technique is only as good as your bronzing product. If you’re unhappy with the results, it may be your bronzer. Read on to find out which shade and finish is right for you, as well as other mishaps that can make your bronzed look go bust.

Choose The Best Neutral Shade

Whether you’re opting for a little shimmer or a more matte formula, don’t go too deep into the shade range. Remember, you’re going for a subtle tan, not altering your skin tone a few shades darker. Even if you have dark skin, choose a bronzer that’s still in the brown or beige tones — not red or orange.6

For fair skin, you’ll want a bronzer that’s one to two shades darker than your natural skin tone for that natural finish. Those with medium or dark skin can afford to rock bronzer with coppery and brown undertones (even with a touch of shimmer!) to avoid looking ashy and washed-out.7

Pro Tip: Try finding a bronzing face palette that’s already filled with pre-selected shades that can complement your specific skin color.

Go For The Best Brush For Foolproof Application

Powder bronzers are a popular choice, especially for bronzing newbies. This makes a fluffy brush your best bet for a seamless application. Avoid too-small brushes that can’t distribute the bronzing product well — this can result in splotches of color that are too noticeable to be natural.8

Make Your Peace With Matte Formulas


Whether you have oily skin, dry skin, or you’re somewhere in-between, too much shimmer can ruin the effect you were hoping for. This is why matte bronzer formulas (or ones with very subtle shimmer) work best in creating that naturally-tanned finish you’re after.9

Take Your Time

Subtlety is key — don’t overload your brush and be sure to set up your makeup space with good lighting. Take it slow in the beginning. It’s easier to pop into the bathroom to reapply a few swipes of a bronzer than it is to undo a full face of it, so be sparing with your bronzer application until you get it just right.10 

Beat The Bronzer Blues

Like all makeup techniques, a little trial and error is expected until you find what works best for you. As always, use a light hand, spend more time selecting the shades perfect for you, and enjoy the process of nailing that naturally glowing look.


1. https://www.adorebeauty.com.au/make-up/bronzer/guide/bronzing-vs-contouring
2. https://www.adorebeauty.com.au/make-up/bronzer/guide/bronzing-vs-contouring
3. https://www.byrdie.com/bronzer-vs-blush
4. https://www.byrdie.com/bronzer-vs-blush
5. https://www.marieclaire.com/beauty/g3346/how-to-apply-bronzer/
6. https://stylecaster.com/beauty/worst-bronzer-mistakes/
7. https://www.marieclaire.com/beauty/makeup/g1790/best-bronzers-ever/
8. https://stylecaster.com/beauty/worst-bronzer-mistakes/
9. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/makeup/a33010/how-to-apply-bronzer-mistakes/
10. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/beauty/makeup/a33010/how-to-apply-bronzer-mistakes/


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