Bronzer vs. Contour: What's the Difference?
Do you know the difference between bronzer and contour? All too often, the two are lumped together and thought of as the same thing, with people mistakenly using bronzing products to contour and contour products to bronze. Yes, powders and creams are typically used to practice both makeup techniques, but the truth is, bronzing your skin and contouring your face aren’t the same. Both techniques even necessitate different products. If you’re still tempted to chisel your cheekbones and sculpt your face with a shimmer-packed bronzer, hold that thought—we’re sharing what exactly makes bronzer and contour different. Plus, read ‘til the end to learn how to bronze and contour the right way.
What’s the Difference Between Bronzing and Contouring?
While both bronzing and contouring can be used to add depth to a makeup look, the main factor that distinguishes the two boils down to purpose. The goal of contouring is to help make shadows on your face. Those shadows can be used to fake the appearance of a slimmer face, more prominent cheekbones, a stronger jawline, a smaller nose, fuller lips, and more. Essentially, contouring can help transform the structural appearance of your face in a matter of minutes—no invasive procedures required.
Bronzing, on the other hand, is meant to warm up your complexion and give a sun-kissed look. While contour products can temporarily create the illusion of a more structured complexion, bronzer can make you look as if you’ve spent the day soaking up some rays.
How to Contour
Since contouring and bronzing have different roles in your makeup routine, they each require a slightly different set of steps. Here’s how to use a contour product:
Step 1: Select the right shade. Don’t contour with bronzer. We repeat, don’t contour with bronzer. Remember how we said that contouring creates shadows and bronzing creates warmth? Well, shadows shouldn’t be warm. Instead of relying on your bronzer to serve double-duty, look for a cool-toned powder or cream with a grayish tint. For the best results, stick with a product that’s meant specifically for contouring, like the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Contour Palette or Maybelline FaceStudio Master Contour V-Shape Duo Stick—both of which include shades to highlight with too.
Step 2: Contour key spots. Where you place a contour product on your face is more particular than where you use bronzer. That’s because you want to keep the product to certain spots where seeing shadows would look natural. Using a brush or makeup blender, apply the product of your choosing on your temples, down the sides of your nose, below your cheekbones, along your jawline, and just beneath your bottom lip.
Step 3: Blend out. Besides contouring with the wrong color, the fastest way to mess up contouring is to forget to blend. Overly severe lines are not what you want, so don’t stop until you’ve softened any harsh edges with a clean brush or blender.
Step 4: Highlight highpoints. Dusting highlighter onto the highpoints of your face is the perfect complement to contouring. Apply an illuminating powder or cream down the bridge of your nose, above your cheekbones, around the inner corners of your eyes, and on your cupid’s bow. And of course, blend afterwards.
How to Use Bronzer
Moving onto bronzing, here’s how to use bronzer:
Step 1: Select the right shade. Just as you shouldn’t use bronzer to contour, you won’t want to use a contour product to bronze—it may make your makeup look too heavy. You’ll also want to avoid bronzers that are extremely warm, as they can end up looking orange on your skin. For a shade that will look natural, look for a bronzer with a hint of beige, like the L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Bronze It Bronzer—which comes in three suitable shades.
Step 2: Apply in “3” shapes. Contrary to what you may have heard, bronzer shouldn’t be swept over your entire face. If that were how it worked, you might as well apply a foundation that’s too dark. Instead, use the “3” technique to apply bronzer. Dip a fluffy brush into a powder bronzer, then apply it in a three shape along the side of your face, hitting the sides of your forehead, cheekbones, and jawline. If you’re wondering why those spots, it’s simple. Those are the areas the sun would hit.
Step 3: Don’t forget your neck. Skip applying bronzer to your neck and you risk looking like your face doesn’t match your body. Before you put away your bronzer, apply it down the sides of your neck too.