How to Use Bronzer (and why it’s not the same as Contour)

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blouse, earrings, lipstick (shade is Niagra Overlook)

Summer is coming, and if you have fair skin like me and want to kick up a little glow, bronzer will solve your problems. I use self-tanner on my body, and while I’m trying out a self-tanning serum for my face I typically would just use bronzer to add a little glow to my skin.

In this simple tutorial, I’ll show you how to apply bronzer, what the point of it is, and how it differs from a contouring product.

The main difference, as you may have seen, is that contour is intended to sculpt and define the contours of our face. Bronzer, on the other hand, is supposed to add warmth, glow, and perhaps shimmer if you want to look like you’ve been in the sun. Don’t use bronzer in place of contour, and don’t use contour in place of bronzer!

In the tutorial I used Benefit Hoola bronzer, MAC Mineralize blush in Pretty Sweet, Charlotte Tillbury highlighter from the bronze & glow palette in light/medium, and the Kevin Aucoin contour powder in light.

A few fantastic drugstore options would be the Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer, Milani highlighter (though use a VERY light hand, these are pigmented!) and L’Oreal cream blush in Rose Gold! To be honest, it’s hard to find a drugstore contour powder that isn’t too warm or matte, but this looks fairly close to something that could be great!

Curious about the brushes I used? Click here!

In this post:

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Comments (35)

  1. Allie says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    Beautiful look.. What particular brushes did you use for the contour, bronzer, & highlight?

    • Caitlin says
      Posted April 3, 2019

      I would also like to know about the brushes.

    • Maite says
      Posted April 4, 2019

      Yes PLEASE! Tell us what brushes. I have had bad luck with Mac and Tilburry brushes. Too much fall out hairs on my face and other brushes can be too stiff.

    • rhiannon says
      Posted April 4, 2019

      Came here to ask this too! That big poofy brush in particular!

  2. Posted April 3, 2019

    I have loved Hoola forever – however, just a heads up you put the link to the MAC blush instead of the bronzer for your click through link! Also, do you like Burt’s Bees lipsticks? I’ve been wanting to try them but have heard mixed reviews. I really like this colour and am tempted to try it.

    Felicity | http://oliverandmoose.blogspot.com

  3. Posted April 3, 2019

    I’ve actually never owned or used a bronzer before, believe it for not! Thanks for this post. At least now I kinda know what it’s for, haha! 😀

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

  4. Angela says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    This is an important distinction! I used to use bronzer as contour but it would the bronzer colours I used weren’t right for contouring. A good lesson!

    Angela at Blush & Pearls

  5. Ashley says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    Loved this tutorial, so informative! I never made the effort to understand the difference so thanks for this quick video!

  6. Elizabeth M says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    I love your technique of applying the blush THEN the bronzer-I’ve been doing the opposite but I think I’m going to prefer your way! Also, who makes your bronzer brush? I have a big one but it’s not very soft and the bristles are a little stiff, which I don’t like. Yours looks perfect. Thank you!

    • Kate says
      Posted April 3, 2019

      Sonia Kashuk!

  7. Kaitlyn B says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    What brushes do you use for each of these techniques?

    • Kate says
      Posted April 3, 2019

      I love Sonia Kashuk Brushes!

  8. Susan says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    Can you share the brushes!

  9. Sherry says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    This is awesome Kate……thanks for this video, just the type of info I needed for the start of spring/summer.

  10. Posted April 3, 2019
  11. Jessy says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    Im loving bronzing up and not contouring lately 🙂 I love the body shop one!

    dorky-and-weird.blogspot.com

    xoxo <3

  12. Dianne says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    Great information. I’ve always been hesitant to use anything other than blush, even though I have the other products. I feel s little bit more confident to try them. Thanks you.

  13. Marta says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    I only found out what the difference between bronzer and contour a couple years ago when one of my favourite YouTubers talked about it. Now I definitely do both while before I’d only contour and sometimes if I have a more natural look I’ll only use bronzer.

  14. Lindsay says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    OH boy! have I been doing this wrong!!!! Great video! BTW, for me the bronzer link goes to the blush, just wanted to give you a heads up! 😉

  15. Jenna says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    Can you link the brushes you use in this video?

    • Kate says
      Posted April 5, 2019

      Any old brushes cannot be linked but everything else I used is by Sonia Kashuk!

  16. Ginny says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    Have you eliminated the use of a setting or translucent powder in this look?

    • Kate says
      Posted April 5, 2019

      I did not use it in this particular look

  17. Liza B. says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    This was sooooo helpful! Thank you!

  18. Amber says
    Posted April 3, 2019

    I found an awesome drugstore contour… I love it so much!! It’s pixie brand from target called natural contour powder- shape& shadow . Have you tried it?? It’s all I’ve ever used!

  19. Suzy says
    Posted April 4, 2019

    Kate, the BEST drugstore dupe for Kevin A contour powder is NYX high definition blush in taupe. It’s insanely cheap and a perfect shade match! Would love to hear what you think of it.

  20. Kate says
    Posted April 4, 2019

    I used to use bronzer as contour all the time and it would always get all over my cheeks! Will definitely be putting your tips to use! Thanks for sharing, hope you are having a great day.

    -Kate
    https://daysofkate.com/

  21. Britney says
    Posted April 5, 2019

    Thanks for this post! I have been in a rut with makeup. Also, been doing the same all over bronzer for years. I’m excited to start a new contour routine. Headed to Ulta this weekend to update my makeup bag!

  22. Sue says
    Posted April 5, 2019

    Thanks for posting this tutorial, it’s super helpful! I’m also pretty fair-skinned and trying to up my game in the makeup department, *especially* contouring and bronzing. Have any reccs for good dupes for Charlotte Tilbury and Nars?

  23. Kayla says
    Posted April 9, 2019

    I agree with, a lot of people get those two confused. My favorite bronzer are the Nars Laguna Bronzer, Physician formula butter bronzer and Benifits Hoola Bronzer!

    http://www.artistakay.com

  24. Miranda says
    Posted May 2, 2019

    Hi Kate! I’m super pale and new to contouring. I hate that my face looks so flat all the time and all one color! Should super pale people still contour? I’ve only ever used blush.

  25. Jamie Grimes says
    Posted May 2, 2019

    This video was so helpful. I’m considering buying the CHARLOTTE TILBURY Filmstar Bronze & Glow Contour Duo. However, I’m confused is the darker shade a bronzer or contour?

    • Kate says
      Posted May 2, 2019

      I know it is confusing for sure! For me, it’s more of a bronzer-type shade but could also be used as a soft contour.

  26. Erinne says
    Posted May 7, 2019

    Contour
    Blush
    Bronzer
    Highlight

    I don’t know how to express how much I appreciate this post of yours!! I have fair skin and have, for years, struggled with figuring out how to use all the awesome new products and tools that are flung at us season after season. I Love trying new things, and when I come across something I’m not sure how to use or what shade is best, or even if it’s a good product for me at all, I put in a relevant search in Google. Which is nearly a waste of time, given what there is to sift through. Thus… I have had a silly time trying to figure out my fair skin.

    Point being, your post here has been illuminating! I now understand the steps and think I can do it!! I appreciate you!

    Erinne

  27. Erinne says
    Posted May 7, 2019

    Also, What do you think of setting sprays in general? Once again, I’m fair/med skinned and I usually use setting sprays, especially in the summer when my makeup tends to “run,” but wonder if they can make us look more “plastic?” I’d love your thoughts!!

    Erinne