Everything You Need To Know About Bronzer

Here’s how to keep your sun-kissed glow going through fall and beyond.

A woman seen close-up wearing bronzer to illustrate how to apply bronzer.

(Photo: Courtesy of Milk Makeup)

Bronzer is the easiest and most affordable way to keep a sun-kissed glow going well into the colder months. But when it comes to application, things can get a bit confusing. Where does it go? Does it replace blush? What’s the secret to finding the right shade? We asked Toronto-based makeup artist Temi Shobowale and celebrity makeup artist Pati Dubroff to answer all of our burning questions about bronzer, including how to apply it for a healthy dose of colour that blends in flawlessly.

What is bronzer?

As its name suggests, bronzer is used to replicate a natural summer glow. It’s designed to be applied to the areas where the sun would naturally hit your face to mimic the look of a healthy tan.

How is bronzer different than contour?

Unlike contour, which is typically cool-toned and used to create the illusion of shadows to shape the face, bronzer has golden undertones, explains Dubroff. In a pinch, she says buffing on a bit of bronzer through your cheekbones and jawline will help add a little more dimension to your makeup, but both Dubroff and Shobowale recommend against using bronzer to contour as it tends to make the areas stand out rather than deepen the shadows.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Using Highlighter

How do I find the best shade of bronzer for my skin tone?

A bronzer that leans too muddy or orange can easily ruin the rest of your makeup. The first step in nailing down a natural bronzer look is selecting the right shade for you. “For really fair skin tones, use the softest warmth—almost like a touch of gold but in a matte formula,” says Dubroff. “Medium and darker complexions can play around with deeper shades if it’s blended out well.” She recommends golden-bronze hues to add shimmer and dimension to darker skin. For Shobowale, shade selection has one hard-and-fast rule: “Whether your skin’s undertone is pink, golden or neutral, be sure to go no more than a shade and a half darker than your complexion.”

Should I use a cream or a powder bronzer?

While powders are the most common choice for bronzers and will get the job done beautifully, Dubroff and Shobowale both love cream formulas. Their velvety finish impart a subtle glow and tend to look more natural than powders, says Dubroff. “Creams are what I rely on to add that warmth and depth to the skin.” Shobowale agrees, saying that cream bronzers are an absolute must in her makeup kit as their blendability make it easier to create a dewy, summery finish.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Blush

What is the best way to apply bronzer?

Bronzer should typically be applied over your foundation and concealer. In terms of where to apply it, the classic ‘3’ shape application is a good place to start. “Starting at the top of your temple, take it down to underneath your cheekbone then under your chin in the shape of an inward 3,” says Shobowale. In addition to your cheeks and the frame of your face, Dubroff mentions a few oft-missed areas where some bronzer can do you good, like the bridge of your nose, your neck and collarbone. “For these spots, I like using liquid bronzers as you can put it on your fingertips and then tap it onto your face and neck as well.” And it’s worth mentioning that bronzer makes for a fantastic eyeshadow, especially if you’re going for a beachy monochromatic look.

What brush should I use to apply bronzer?

For powder products, a big, fluffy brush is a safe bet for a natural-looking application. Dubroff also likes using a fan brush for powders as it gives her more control over where she applies the product. “For cream bronzer, I like using a stipple brush as there’s a lot of air between the bristles so it won’t deposit too much product,” she adds. “If you use a dense brush, it will pick up a ton of pigment and deposit too much colour in one spot.” Shobowale’s MVP is the Make Up For Ever 110 Kabuki Brush ($65) for its soft, tapered shape, which makes for easy buffing.

Shop a few of our favourite bronzers below.

Milk Makeup Matte Bronzer Stick

Shop Now

Milk Makeup Matte Bronzer Stick, $33

Available in five shades—including two for deep skin tones—this compact cream bronzer is perfect for to throw in your travel beauty bag.

Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer

Shop Now

Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer, $20

This classic drugstore formula is formulated with murumuru, cupuaçu and tucuma butters, which give it the silky smooth feel it’s known for.

Rare Beauty Warm Wishes Effortless Bronzer Sticks

Shop Now

Rare Beauty Warm Wishes Effortless Bronzer Stick, $36

Thanks to a lightweight consistency that mimics liquid, this cream bronzer glides on easily for a natural-looking glow.

Pixi On-The-Glow Bronze Tinted Moisture Stick

Shop Now

Pixi On-The-Glow Bronze Tinted Moisture Stick, $24

This all-in-one stick moisturizes, bronzes and highlights in one swipe.

Nars Laguna Bronzing Powder

Shop Now

Nars Laguna Bronzing Powder, $50

One of Nars’ most iconic products recently got a talc-free makeover, complete with an extended shade range that boasts nine hues.

Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder

Shop Now

Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder, $68

As the first-ever bronzer, Guerlain’s Terracotta bronzing powder has more than earned its cult following. It’s been a best-seller since its launch in 1984, and it now comes in a variety of shades and finishes that suit every complexion.

Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream

Shop Now

Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream, $62

A dreamy gel-cream texture makes this cream bronzer stand out from the rest.E.l.f. Cosmetics Putty Bronzer

Shop Now

E.l.f. Cosmetics Putty Bronzer, $8

Argan oil and vitamin E condition skin in this small-but-mighty ultra-pigmented bronzing cream.


Dior Forever Natural Bronze Powder Bronzer

Shop Now

Dior Forever Natural Bronze Powder Bronzer, $65

Housed in a chic compact, this bronzer contains wild pansy extract to hydrate and prevent the powder from looking patchy.

While the products in this piece have been independently chosen by our editors, this article contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.

Get Chatelaine in your inbox!

Our very best stories, recipes, style and shopping tips, horoscopes and special offers. Delivered a couple of times a week.