There are countless ways to get your skin to glow. But if you’re looking for a beauty product to get you that enviable “I-just-got-back-from-a-fabulous-beach-vacay” warmth, there’s only one you should be turning to: bronzer.
“Bronzer is a product that is used to create warmth and radiance to the skin, which is similar to an authentic tan created by being in the sun,” Mac Cosmetics senior national artist Michelle Clark tells WWD.
Not to be confused with contour — which Clark says is meant to define and sculpt the face and has a cooler undertone and more matte finish — bronzer is meant to warm the skin and can have shimmer and iridescence to it. Celebrity makeup artist Jamie Dorman agrees, adding that bronzers tend to encompass warm browns and red browns in color and should be placed on skin where the sun would naturally hit.
How you use bronzer is dependent on which type you opt for, but Clark says you’ll generally want to start slow and then build on color until you get the shade of tan you want, so you don’t overdo it. Regardless of what type of bronzer you choose, she says a good rule of thumb is to place product on the high points of the face — the forehead, cheek, and jaw – to create warmth.
How to apply bronzer
There are three main types of bronzer: powder, liquid, and cream. With powder bronzer, Clark says that you can use a variety of brushes to create different depths of bronzing. Something like a powder brush will give you more color, while a fan brush can add subtle warmth to your entire complexion. And you’ll want to work in round swirling motions to create the look of a sun-kissed tan. Powder bronzers also work best with oily skin, as she says that they won’t add extra shine.
Liquid bronzer can be used alone or mixed with other products. When used alone, Clark suggests placing it in dots on the high points of your face like the forehead, cheekbones, bridge of the nose and chin to create a more natural deep tone. She says you can mix it into your foundation to slightly deepen the shade and add radiance.
Cream bronzers are similar to liquid formulas, and you can use either your fingers or a soft bristle brush to buff out warmth all over. For dry or dehydrated skin, you’ll want to stick to either a liquid or cream bronzer, as those will be more hydrating and won’t accentuate dry patches.
How to find the best bronzer for your skin tone
When picking the right shade for your skin tone, Clark suggests going one or two shades darker than your natural skin tone to make it look most natural. “I recommend considering the way a person naturally tans,” Clark says. “People with medium to deeper complexions tan with a warmer more red undertone, so choosing a bronzer that has a bit more of that shade in it will look most natural.” Dorman adds that those with pink undertones should opt for a bronzer with redder undertones, and warm skin tones can opt for ones that are more yellow-toned.
There are so many bronzers out there, and it can be overwhelming to find one that works well for you. To help narrow it down, Clark and Dorman break down their picks of the best bronzers for every skin tone, budget and need. Read on to find your perfect match.
Top Bronzers of 2022
- Best Bronzer for Dark Skin Tones: Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Powder Bronzer in Deep
- Best Cream Bronzer: Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream in Soleil Tan de Chanel
- Best Drugstore Bronzer: Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer Murumuru
- Best Bronzer for Medium to Dark Skin tones: Nars Bronzing Powder In Laguna
- Best Powder Bronzer : Westmore Beauty 3-In-1 Pore Mattifying Bronzer
- Best Clean Bronzer: ILIA Nightlife Bronzing Powder
- Best Bronzer for Fair Skin: Mac Cosmetics Bronzing Powder
- Best Bronzer for Medium to Olive Skin Tones: Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Bronzer
- Best Splurge Bronzer: Guerlain Terracotta Sunkissed Natural Bronzer Powder
- Best Liquid Bronzer: bareMinerals Barepro Glow Bronzer
- Also Consider Bronzer for Dark Skin Tones: Sleek Face Form Bronzer In Daym
- Also Consider Cream Bronzer: Fenty By Rihanna Cheeks Out Freestyle Cream Bronzer
- Also Consider Drugstore Bronzer: Wet N Wild Color Icon Bronzer
- Also Consider Bronzer for Medium to Dark Skin: Mented Cosmetics Bronzer in Yacht Life
- Also Consider Powder Bronzer: Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer
- Also Consider Clean Bronzer: Tower28 Bronzino Illuminating Cream Bronzer
- Also Consider Bronzer for Fair Skin: Urban Decay Beached Bronzer
- Also Consider Bronzer for Medium to Olive Skin: Yves Saint Laurent Les Sahariennes Bronzing Stones
- Also Consider Splurge Bronzer: Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Matte Bronzer
- Also Consider Liquid Bronzer: Clinique Sun-Kissed Face Gelee Complexion Multitasker Bronzer
Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Powder Bronzer in Deep
Best Bronzer for Dark Skin Tones
For deep skin tones, Clark suggests looking for bronzers with a red mahogany shade. She says these will warm up the richest skin tones and create an unbelievably gorgeous bronze. Her pick is Estee Lauder’s Bronze Goddess powder bronzer in Deep. It’s an oil-free powder that keeps skin shine-free, making it ideal for oily skin, and gives you that natural-looking glow.
Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream in Soleil Tan de Chanel
Best Cream Bronzer
Dorman picks Chanel’s Les Beiges Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream in Soleil Tan de Chanel for the best cream bronzer. It has a gel-cream texture that goes on super lightweight and gives you a velvet-matte finish. It contains light-reflecting pigments to give you that natural-looking radiance. She especially loves this for those with light to medium-deep skin tones.
Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer Murumuru
Best Drugstore Bronzer
Some of the best bronzers are also super wallet-friendly. Backed by over 20,000 five-star reviews on Amazon, the Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer Murumuru is smooth as butter, super vibrant and blends so easily into the skin. The cream formula is packed with rich pigment for a very nice glow. It’s also made with murumuru butter, essential fatty acids and pro-vitamins to nourish skin, lock in moisture and give it that shiny finish.
Nars Bronzing Powder In Laguna
Best Bronzer for Medium to Dark Skin tones
For medium to dark skin tones, Dorman says to look for bronzers with warm undertones. Her pick is the beloved Nars Bronzing Powder in Laguna. Beauty lovers know to turn to Nars for their complexion needs, and its bronzing powder delivers one of the best long-lasting sun-kissed glows on the market. The shade Laguna in particular gives you color with a super pretty gold sheen finish.
Westmore Beauty 3-In-1 Pore Mattifying Bronzer
Best Powder Bronzer
Dorman’s pick for the best powder bronzer is Westmore Beauty’s 3-in-1 Pore Mattifying bronzer. “[It’s] a versatile shade that blends super easily,” she says. This powder smooths out the appearance of fine lines and pores. It also has a matte finish so that you don’t look too shiny but still gives you a radiant glow.
ILIA Nightlife Bronzing Powder
Best Clean Bronzer
The ILIA Nightlife Bronzing Powder is talc-, cruelty- and gluten-free. It’s also vegan and made with recyclable packaging, making it one of the best clean bronzers out there. Its creamy powder formula consists of pearl pigments, a natural powder called silica beads and a smooth mineral called matte mica to give you color with a matte finish. It also has jojoba seed oil to hydrate and nourish the skin. It blends in easily and is buildable to give you the warmth and glow you’re looking for.
Mac Cosmetics Bronzing Powder
Best Bronzer for Fair Skin
Clark suggests going one shade deeper than your own shade if you have fair skin. To get that natural-looking glow, she recommends looking for golden tones as opposed to yellow or peachy reds. Her pick is the Mac Cosmetic Bronzing Powder, which is a buildable sheer powder. It has a super smooth application and enhances your skin tone.
Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Bronzer
Best Bronzer for Medium to Olive Skin Tones
Dorman says that those with medium to olive skin should look for bronzers with neutral undertones. Her pick is the Benefit Cosmetics Hoola bronzer. It’s a finely-milled powder formula that blends into the skin seamlessly for natural-looking color. Plus, it comes with a mirror and a brush for easy application.
Guerlain Terracotta Sunkissed Natural Bronzer Powder
Best Splurge Bronzer
The Guerlain Terracotta Sun-kissed Natural bronzer powder is a long-time favorite for beauty lovers. This pressed powder is made with argan oil and naturally-derived ingredients to give you a natural-looking glow while also nourishing the skin. It also has a silky smooth feel and is super lightweight. It’s definitely worth the splurge.
bareMinerals Barepro Glow Bronzer
Best Liquid Bronzer
Dorman’s pick for the best liquid bronzer is bareMinerals’ Barepro Glow bronzer. She likes that it comes in a variety of shades and gives a natural satin finish. It’s free of any glitter and instead contains light-reflecting mineral pearls to give skin a hint of shimmer. It’s also made with bamboo and green lentil extracts to smooth out the appearance of pores and absorb any excess oil, so you won’t look too shiny.
Sleek Face Form Bronzer In Daym
Also Consider Bronzer for Dark Skin Tones
Dorman agrees and says deep skin tones look best in warm-toned browns. Her pick is the Sleek Face Form bronzer in Daym. It’s a pressed powder formula that is buildable and blends in seamlessly. Use this to get that nice golden glow.
Fenty By Rihanna Cheeks Out Freestyle Cream Bronzer
Also Consider Cream Bronzer
Another lightweight cream bronzer, the Fenty By Rihanna Cheeks Out Freestyle cream bronzer just melts into the skin for easy application. It comes in seven buildable shades and undertones suitable for all skin tones. It’s also sweat- and water-resistant, so no need to worry about color fading or streaking. You can expect a sheer finish for a subtle but natural glow.
Wet N Wild Color Icon Bronzer
Also Consider Drugstore Bronzer
One of Dorman’s favorite drugstore picks is the Wet N Wild Color Icon bronzer in Ticket To Brazil. This powder-to-cream bronzer has a gel-infused formula that is super lightweight and long-lasting. The Ticket To Brazil shade is a light neutral to give skin a natural-looking luminosity.
Mented Cosmetics Bronzer in Yacht Life
Also Consider Bronzer for Medium to Dark Skin
The Mented Cosmetics bronzer is a pressed powder that’s super soft and blends in so smoothly into the skin. The shade Yacht Life is a deep bronze with warm undertones that is perfect for those with medium to dark complexions. You get a matte finish and buildable coverage. As an added bonus, this bronzer also has nourishing skin ingredients like vitamin A and E.
Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer
Also Consider Powder Bronzer
A bronzer that gives a nice matte natural glow and smells like Hersey’s Kiss? The Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte bronzer gives you the best of both worlds. Its powder formula is rich and long-wearing, so you don’t have to worry about it fading as you go about your day. It’s also made with 100% real cocoa powder, which gives it that sweet chocolate scent.
Tower28 Bronzino Illuminating Cream Bronzer
Also Consider Clean Bronzer
If you’re looking for a bronzer that gives you a strong glow turn to the Tower28 Bronzino Illuminating cream bronzer. It’s a cream formula with intense color payoff to give you the most illuminating glow. It feels super smooth against skin and is buildable if you really want to pack on the shine. As an added bonus, it’s made with mango butter and green tea extract to soothe skin and is silicone-free.
Urban Decay Beached Bronzer
Also Consider Bronzer for Fair Skin
Dorman likes light bronzers, like Urban Decay’s Beached bronzer, for fair skin tones. This fine powder formula goes on creamy for even application to give you a natural glow. It also contains highlighter-performing pigments, which provide rich color that won’t fade or streak. Use it on your face or on your body for those beachy-tan vibes.
Yves Saint Laurent Les Sahariennes Bronzing Stones
Also Consider Bronzer for Medium to Olive Skin
If you’re looking for color without any excess shimmer or shine, then Yves Saint Laurent’s Les Saharieennes Bronzing Stones should be at the top of your list. This is a super lightweight powder that gives you the ultimate matte finish. It blends in easily so you get that sun-kissed-looking glow while also enhancing your natural radiance. It comes in two shades, perfect for those with medium to olive skin tones.
Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Matte Bronzer
Also Consider Splurge Bronzer
The Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush matte bronzer is another great splurge if you’re looking to treat yourself. It’s made with micro-fine perfecting powders to deliver that color with a matte finish. It’s also made with skin-care ingredients like hyaluronic acid to hydrate skin and keep it looking soft. It goes on super lightweight and feels super smooth on.
Clinique Sun-Kissed Face Gelee Complexion Multitasker Bronzer
Also Consider Liquid Bronzer
The Clinique Sun-Kissed Face Gelee Complexion Multitasker bronzer ticks off a lot of boxes when looking for a good bronzer. Its lightweight liquid gel formula is oil-free and won’t clog pores. It’s also easy to blend to give you that natural-looking glow. But the best part has to be that you can mix it in with your moisturizer or foundation to get that radiance-from-within look that is just so enviable.