When I started out on my makeup journey, the first thing that eluded me was eye makeup. It still does, so I keep it very simple. Sometimes, that’s best. Then, the next thing to elude me was bronzer. That still does.
I picked up numerous tips over the years (this one’s the most helpful!) but in reality, I was deluded. The heavily contoured, chiselled look didn’t appeal to me, and I always looked like I’d fallen face first into dirt every time I tried wearing bronzer.
Recently however, I decided to give it another go. I mean, it’s makeup. If I didn’t like it, I’d just clean it and start over right? 🙂 In the process, I not only started to get the hang of wearing bronzer, I taught myself a few very easy tips that I’ll quickly share with you, in the hope it’ll help whoever’s bronzer-challenged like me 🙂
Ask Yourself: Why are you using bronzer?
This is, I feel, the most important question to ask yourself before you begin. Why are you using bronzer? Are you trying to join the face contouring trend? Are you trying to define your features? Or, are you like me, and just want to see how a bit of warmth on your skin can help you look better.
The use of bronzer in makeup started out, from my memory, as a way to add a touch of warmth to your skin, to mimick the healthy sun-kissed glow from the sun, or to enhance a tan. But if you’re a typical Asian (like me!) you’d run screaming from the sun. We want to remain fair and lovely, dammit! LOL! 😀 This was why I didn’t buy into the bronzing trend. I didn’t want to look tanned, I wanted to look whiter than white! 😛
But when I was playing around a month or two back, I noticed that just a touch of warmth on my skin actually made me and my makeup look better. Blush looked prettier, and my face didn’t look as flat (genetics, what can I say?!). I could also just use my bronzer in place of blush, and it looked a touch more natural than when I go for a no-makeup makeup look with base and blush. It was a personal revelation and I also realised that it didn’t look very artificial or brown at all! In fact, I barely noticed it, when done right.
Get the right bronzer brush for you
The tricky thing for me was finding a bronzer brush that didn’t leave me with brown streaks running down the side of my face. A lot of the time, we’re told to get a dense brush, because you need that density and compactness, in order to properly ‘contour’. But I wasn’t out to contour my face, I just wanted a little warmth.
Nars #11 Bronzing Powder Brush
Dense brushes didn’t work for me, and I eventually found that what really worked for me, was loose, fluffy brushes. I like using the Nars #11 Bronzer Brush, because for me, that’s the right shape and density. But as a brush, I’m not crazy about it. It’s started to shed, and while soft, it isn’t as soft as I’d like it to be. I haven’t looked to see if I could get something similar in one of the Japanese brush brands I favour, so if you know of one, please do let me know!
The reason why the Nars #11 brush works for me, is because of the size of the head with its large surface area. I find that it picks up product more easily, distributes it more evenly, and allows for a more natural, diffused effect. Sometimes, I use the Wayne Goss #2 brush which has a smaller head, but is very soft. So, I use it very lightly along the sides of my face. The soft brush head diffuses product better without leaving streaks and looking patchy.
I now swear by the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder brush.
It is all you ever need for a beautifully diffused bronzing powder, that gives just the right amount of warmth to your skin, angles perfectly under the cheekbones, yet fluffy enough to buff and diffuse colour over skin for a very natural look. Look no further! I own 2! 😛
Get the right bronzer for you
If you have a medium to deep skintone, getting a bronzer that suits you isn’t half as hard as when you have a lighter skintone. With light skintones, any colour will show up more strongly and there is always a risk of a bronzer looking too dark or deep on your skin.
I also personally feel that a matte bronzer is a better option than one with shimmer (although if done well, it can give a nice glow to the skin). I only have 3 bronzers at the moment and have no real plans to add to them.
Clockwise from Top Left: Bobbi Brown Elvis Duran bronzing powder, Guerlain Terracotta Joli Teint 00 Clair/Light Blondes, Guerlain Terra Inca (limited edition)
The shattered powder is the Guerlain Terra Inca bronzer that I’ve owned from yonks ago (you can see how it looks in its original, non-shattered glory if you follow the link). Right after I bought it and blogged about it, I dropped it on the floor from not very high, and it promptly shattered. Sigh. But I still use it because it’s so damned pretty 😛 There is shimmer, but very very fine, and the golden powder does give a beautiful glow to the skin. I sometimes pick up the golden bit to use as a warm highlight and I can use it as a blush too. It’s gorgeous – Guerlain makes amazing bronzers and powders.
The other one I own is Bobbi Brown Elvis Duran bronzer. This was a gift that I looked at, reeled in horror at how deep it looked, but which I’ve grown to enjoy using. It’s matte, and the colour is a tad deep, but because the Nars #11 brush diffuses the colour so well, I can wear it quite easily on my light toned skin and you can wear it light, or build it up. It isn’t too orange, which was something I was afraid of. It’s actually wearable!
The final bronzer I’ve added to my collection is the Guerlain Terracotta Joli Teint powder in 00 Clair/Light Blondes. This one’s very light and less of a bronzer than it is a slightly warming powder. Quite imperceptible, but damn, if it isn’t pretty! 😛 I may want to check out another Guerlain matte bronzer to add to my collection, if only because when it comes to bronzers, Guerlain is second to none in terms of quality. But I’ll take my time, because I don’t use them that often to justify buying more! 😛
The right way to use a bronzer is how it works for you
The most common question when bronzers arise is this “What’s the right way to use a bronzer?” I have here some diagrams that can help from this previous post. It was published in 2012 and I’ve only just gotten the hang of it, 5 years later haha! Gosh, I learn at a snail’s pace! 😛
But here’s what I’ve taught myself – the best way to use a bronzer is how it works for YOU!
For me, I use a stylized large 3 method – start at the temples and draw a 3-shape alongside your face, so the first curve goes a little under your cheekbones and the second curve goes along your jawline. It’s a bit like Picture 1 above. Using a large fluffy brush, the effect is fairly diffused, without any harsh lines (I don’t dig the contoured look so I’m of no help there if that’s the sort of tips you’re looking for!)
This is really one of the easiest ways to wear a bronzer, and it’s also less likely that you’d make a mistake, unless you pick a powder that’s too dark for you. This method just lightly enhances the shadows on your face, to give the impression that it’s a little more (I hesitate to use the word) contoured. You’ll find that your features pop a little more too.
After that, I put some blush on my cheeks, and I find that the blush looks a bit better. This is more so when I wear a warmer toned blush like peach or coral, and when I wear a pink blush, it pops a little more. I rather like the effect!
I’ll just show you quickly what I mean in the side by side image below.
Using Bobbi Brown Elvis Duran bronzing powder
On left is without bronzer and on right, I’ve applied some bronzer along the sides of my face. I’ve piled it on so it actually shows up for photos, but in reality, you’d barely notice the contrast. I hope you’ll see what I mean about the blush looking a bit prettier, and more natural? It almost seems like the blush blends into the skin, as opposed to just being a splotch of pink. It also almost seems like the facial contours in the image on your right looks slightly more defined, as opposed to the one on the left.
So, this post isn’t really about teaching you how to wear bronzer. What it tells you is that, like me, you’ll have to figure it out for yourself. Do you want a strongly contoured look? You’d need more precise application, a different brush, maybe even a different bronzer product.
Do you want to just add a touch of warmth? You’ll likely need a certain type of brush and a lighter powder but you won’t really need skills for that – I don’t and I managed it without anyone telling me “Excuse me, I think you’ve got some dirt on your face” 😀
Do you wear bronzer and do you have tips to share? What’s your favourite bronzer product?
I’ve stayed so far away from bronzer that I don’t even know what’s out there anymore LOL! The only brand that I know makes amazing bronzers is Guerlain, because they built their name on it. The Terracotta bronzers are legendary. I may not pick up another, but who knows. Never say never! 😉 So, what’s your favourite bronzer or brush or tip? Share!
23 comments ... Read or JOIN THE DISCUSSION
I have the Bobbi Brown bronzing powder and I don’t use it often. but when I do, I use it with a fluffy Hakuhodo brush and I use it mainly to warm up my skin. I don’t ever contour my face! It’s so 1970s / early 1980s.
Paris B says
The problem with contouring, is that you also need to highlight, or everything looks off. Too many steps for me! haha! Which Hakuhodo brush do you use?
Arfah mohd idris says
The picture with bronzer actually made the center of your face brighter! Wow..i’m not one to wear bronzers..but looks like i’m going to give it a go. But with my head scarf and all i’m wondering if it will be visible enough? Love your posts as always!
Paris B says
With your headscarf, I think it will be noticeable because you won’t have your hair covering the sides of your face 😀 So you might have to be a little more careful to blend it all in better as you’ll have less room for error. But you’re right. I did notice how the centre of the face pops a little more. I’m glad you enjoyed this 🙂
Well, it’s never too late to learn! And you do look good with the bronzer! I used to use bronzers / contouring powders but never quite got the hang of it. My face is as round as a goldfish so I do need to create the illusion of a less fat face. I’m gonna have to revisit these products again. My favourite so far is the Marc Jacobs one that comes with a contour and highlight powder.
Paris B says
Thanks! I figured it was time to actually learn something new but to not hop on that contouring bandwagon. So hard to contour when you don’t have the definition to start with! LOL
I have a few different shades of bronzers and I like the warmer ones in place of blush. I’ll use a big fluffy brush and dust some on my cheeks even on my nose. Like you said, it’s how we wear it… And each facial feature is so different. I really like Dior Aurora. Warms up the face nicely.
Paris B says
Absolutely with you on our faces being different and it’s so important to actually find a shade of bronzer we’re comfortable with. Lucky for us there are so many to choose from these days, unlike before when it was just brown, brown and orange LOL
My favorite bronzer is from Guerlain, terra-cotta four season since my skin shade change depending on summer or winter. Other favorites are NARS laguna and benefit hoola. I love bronzing and contouring my face to give some dimensions. For drugstore, I love the physician formula butter bronzer, smells nice and give a nice glow.
Paris B says
Ooh the one that comes with 4 colours in a pan? I love Guerlain powders – so amazing! Always loved the look of their bronzers too although I never bought most of them. They even stopped selling them here now, due to lack of demand. I’ve heard a lot about Nars Laguna as well and Physicians Formula you say? I’ll give that a go the next time I make an iherb order! 😀
You will not get any tip for me because I’m an amateur…lol, actually I was looking for your tips. Bobbi Brown has amazing bronzers that looks dark and red in the pan, but they are natural and Ritual bronzer from Laura Mercier has a pink hue that gives a beautiful bronze/blushing result. I like the Bobbi Brown bronzer brush and for no makeup makeup I like MAC 137 Long Blending Brush
Paris B says
Haha I hope you found the tips helpful! 🙂 Oh and I didn’t realise that Bobbi Brown has a bronzer brush! I’ll take a look the next time I’m near a counter. Thanks for the suggestions 😀 I like Laura Mercier powders too. Will take a peep!
Wow, this post and the comments that followed have been super helpful! I never quite understood the use of bronzers let alone how to use one! But after reading this post I may just be ready to give it a go! ?
Paris B says
You’re not alone Esther, I always found it so complicated, but have since found out it’s quite easy hehe… I’m glad you found it useful and that it’ll work for you if you decide to give bronzers a go!
Meaghan Rae says
I love that very light one, I want to check that out. I’m super fair and a lot of bronzers look muddy on me. Not so cute. I used to use a Bobbi Brown one as well but ended up giving it to my MIL who is much tanner than I am. Now I’m using the Too Faced milk chocolate one, but I really like that pale one you have, it looks super natural.
Paris B says
I feel you Meaghan! It took me a while to find bronzers light enough, and non-orange enough to suit my skintone. The Guerlain Joli Teint one is quite light so I think it’d work 🙂 It just gives skin a hint of warmth without much colour at all.
Actually I’ve just added bronzer to my beauty routine and I’d say I love it. As you said, it gives my face more dimension while actually making me look healthier; however I’ve discovered that if I don’t apply base before I can get a little too much bronzed, so instead of a healthy glow I look like a spent a week in the Caribbean without sunscreen >.<
I think I need to buy a real one too, because the one I use is a mixture I created with the bronzer and contour from the Sleek palette you gave me, with some other powders.
Paris B says
On your skin tone, I think bronzer would make you look so amazing Efrain! Glad to know you’re learning to use it! I too use it over a base. I feel a base is really necessary to make any colour or makeup look good – it’s a base after all! 😀
I use a warmer shade bronzer (ie Benefit Hoola) to bronze up my skin, and an ashy tone to contour on the shadow underneath my cheek bones (ie The Balm Bahama Mama). I follow the technique taught by Jordan Liberty (a MUA who has worked with ABH, Clinique etc) for bronzing, which is to apply the powder sparingly with a fluffy brush on spots that the sunlight naturally hit to create a healthy sun-kissed look, such as cheek bones, and a little on the nose bridge. Well in summary, for us pale gals a little bit definitely goes a long way!
Paris B says
That’s part of the benefit of being a pale princess – less product, more impact! 😉 Thanks for sharing your tips!
Hi Paris, How about Diorskin Nude Tan Healthy Glow Enhancing Powder? I’ve been using it quite sometimes and I really like it. However, I don’t like the brush come together with it. I used MAC brush instead..
Paris B says
Hmm… that’s a good point Lateefa. I seem to vaguely recall owning one (although I could be mistaken!) and I have heard that the Diorskin bronzing powders are very good. The little kabuki that comes with it is cute right? I have them from various powders, but like you, don’t use them, prefering to use another brush instead. I’m going to have a dig around and see if I have the Dior Nude Tan 😀
Lateefa Chasez says
Hi Paris B,
Goodday. It is nice to get in touch with you..
I can’t wait to see your review on the product.. I’m sure it’s already inside your collection and would love to see it on you..