How To Apply Bronzer For the Ultimate Sun-Kissed Glow

How to Apply Bronzer

You may achieve the flawless skin of your dreams with a full coverage, skin-perfecting, skin-smoothing foundation. But you still need a bronzer to make it look real with a touch of dreamy. That’s how powerful of a makeup product a bronzer is. And ever since I’ve realized this, my makeup must-haves changed from foundation and blush to concealer and bronzer.

Bronzer is used in makeup to add warmth to your complexion by mimicking a tan you’d get from the sun. And that’s why a bronzed face is usually described to have a sun-kissed glow. That is when you apply it properly.

The potential problem is when you don’t know how to use or apply a bronzer, you can get a muddy look, darken the wrong areas of the face, create unnecessary shadows, and have an overall dirty-looking makeup.

So if you want to avoid that look and go for that natural-looking sun-kissed glow, below is a step-by-step guide on how to apply bronzer.

Contouring vs. Bronzing

Before diving into bronzer, let’s clear up a few misconceptions. Contouring and bronzing are two different practices that usually require two different products. Here’s how they differ in more detail.

Contouring is usually done with a cool or neutral-toned product, which is usually a contour stick or a contour palette. The aim of contouring the face is to manipulate light and dark colors so that you change the way you look with makeup.

By contouring your face, you can get a more ‘sculpted’ look, make your face look slimmer, give yourself a more defined jawline, or the illusion of an upturned nose tip, and so on.

Contouring needs to be more deliberate and precise so that you create the right shadows on your face. That’s why contouring is not very common for makeup beginners.

Bronzing, on the other hand, is usually done with a warm-toned product, which is usually a compact bronzing powder. The aim of bronzing is to add a touch of warmth to the complexion so that your makeup looks more natural.

By bronzing your face, you can fake a tan, enhance your tan if you have any, create a bronzy look, and so on. Bronzing is more flexible as it doesn’t have to be immaculately placed on the skin. That’s why bronzing is easier for beginners.

How To Apply Bronzer

1. Prep Your Skin

First and foremost, you’re probably going to apply more than a bronzer so it’s important to prep your skin right before moving onto makeup application. And good makeup preparation starts with good skincare.

Wash your face to make sure there’s no makeup or skincare residue from before. Start layering your serums and moisturizers on your freshly cleansed face. Hydrated skin better holds your makeup including your blush and bronzer.

Once your skin’s had time to absorb your skincare products, finish by applying a makeup primer suitable for your skin type. This isn’t just about making your foundation last longer but also about making your bronzer last longer and look smoother.

2. Apply Base Makeup

Apply your complexion products, such as your foundation and concealer, before moving on to your cheek products such as your bronzer and blush. This is especially important if you’re a beginner.

When you don’t know where to place your bronzer, it’s better to have an even-looking base so that you know where you’re applying the product and how it looks. Remember to let your foundation dry before applying your bronzer.

Consider dusting your translucent powder over your cheeks and the outline of your forehead or just where you’re going to apply your bronzer. This is to help your bronzer look smoother and more seamless as it won’t stick to your foundation this way.

3. Choose the Right Bronzer Shade

As a general rule of thumb, you need to choose a bronzer that’s 2-3 shades darker than your own skin tone. If your bronzer is too dark for your skin tone, it will look muddy and dirty. If your bronzer is too light for your skin, it won’t give you the warmth you need to fake a tan.

If you need color recommendations or if you’re not sure how to find the perfect shade match, check out our guide on how to choose a bronzer shade based on your skin tone.

4. Choose the Right Bronzer Formula

There are different bronzer types and they come in powder, gel, liquid, and cream form. To get that fake sun-kissed look, you can consider experimenting with different bronzer formulas. Here’s more detail.

Powder bronzer is the traditional form and is the most commonly used type. Because of the powder formula, it’s suitable for all skin types but is ideal especially for people with oily skin as it also works like a mattifier.

Liquid, gel, and cream bronzers usually have more of a wet, dewy look. That’s why they work better for people with dry skin.

Besides a specific skin type, these types of bronzers are also preferable when you’re going for a no-makeup makeup look, or when you won’t be wearing base makeup.

5. Look For the Right Bronzer Finish

Additionally, bronzers come in different finishes like natural, shimmer, and matte. You can choose the finish based on your skin type or the look you’re going for.

For example, matte finish bronzers are the traditional options as they work for all skin types and they work better if you’re going to be contouring too.

Dewy and subtly radiant finish bronzers look more natural and skin-like, which is why they work great for makeup beginners, and people with textured skin.

If you have aging skin, remember to check out our round-up of the best bronzers for mature skin for product recommendations.

Bobbi Brown suggests avoiding shimmer bronzers completely if you’re going to apply your bronzer all across the face. I usually pair shimmer with matte and apply the shimmer only on the high points of the cheeks to get that radiant highlighter look.

6. Apply the Bronzer Where the Sun Would Hit

Your aim is to fake a tan by applying bronzer on the areas where the sun would hit. These areas are typically the bridge of the nose, the temples, the outline of the forehead closer to the hairline, and the high points of the cheeks. And the universal way to apply bronzer is by drawing a ‘C’ shape.

  • Get a bit of bronzer onto your bronzer brush and tap off the excess
  • Draw a superficial C on the outline of your face
  • Start from the temples, bring it down to the top of your cheek, and then your jawline
  • Repeat the same application with the other side of your face
  • Go over the areas and swirl the brush to darken the color
  • If you’re using a beauty sponge to apply your bronzer, do the same ‘C’ shape by dabbing the sponge onto the skin
  • Once the outline is complete, apply a little amount of bronzer across the bridge of the nose

7. Experiment with Different Placements

Again, you don’t need a precise placement with a bronzer. So you can experiment with different placements to create different looks. For example, here’s something I do on a daily basis and it gives me Y2K vibes.

And that’s applying bronzer by creating a ‘W’ shape across the mid-face. Start by drawing a little horizontal line across the nose bridge.

And then you slowly blend out the bronzer starting from the sides of the nose toward the cheeks. This creates that fake tan look as if you’ve been lying under the sun.

It also creates a little contrast with your undereye concealer. So you have a youthful-looking bronzer look, which is perfect for trying in summer weather.

While the C method brings an overall warmth to your complexion, the W method focuses on the center of the face drawing attention to your eyes and lips. I do this to make my nose and my overall face look smaller.

8. Blend

For the most natural-looking bronzer, make sure to blend the edges of your bronzer. And that can get tricky because you may end up making your face too dark simply by trying to blend your bronzer.

To avoid that, use very small amounts when you first apply your bronzer and slowly build the pigments. Every time you apply your bronzer, make sure to blend it before going in to get more product onto the brush.

Lastly, when going over the harsh edges, get tissue paper and swirl your brush onto it to get rid of residual bronzer. A clean brush will prevent you from accidentally applying another layer of bronzer.

9. Don’t Forget the Neck

Most people go over the jawline to define it and leave it there. But the best way to fake a natural tan is to also go over the neck.

You shouldn’t darken your neck and chest all the way. But apply a little amount starting from the neck and a little toward the chest.

It’s because having brown colors on your cheeks or forehead does not look natural when your neck is all pale. So a few swirls are more than enough to warm the area.

10. Complete Your Look

Now it’s time to check with the rest of your makeup. You can do a little swoop of bronzer on your eyelids to create a monochromatic look. This can look incredibly natural, especially as everyday makeup.

You can also add some blush into the mix. The difference between bronzer and blush is that bronzer adds warmth, and depth whereas blush adds color and vibrancy.

So you can layer the two and add more dimension to complement your bronzy look. You can also try applying a little bit of highlighter on the high points of the cheeks for that glowy radiant look.

11. Clean Up Any Mistakes

Overusing bronzer is a common mistake. If your bronzer got too dark on certain areas, or you dragged it along too much on certain areas, no worries.

You can clean up any mistakes by going over the area using a clean makeup sponge. Gently dab it onto the areas to ‘erase’ any mistakes.

So this is how to apply bronzer for the most natural-looking skin-kissed glow. Bronzer is one of the most fun makeup products you can put on your face! So don’t shy away from experimenting with it. Apply it the way you apply blush, bring it closer to the undereye area, apply it in layers -whatever! It’s makeup. It’s supposed to be personal and fun.

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