Bronzer and contour look and act very similar to each other, which has naturally led to a bit of confusion about when and how they should be used. Both are a couple of shades darker than your skin tone, both are applied in key areas of the face with a fluffy makeup brush, and both are available in the same types of formulations. Alas, there are a few ways that they differ. Today, we’re putting the bronzer vs. contour confusion to bed once and for all.
The Difference Between Bronzer and Contour
We’ll just get right to it. The difference between bronzer and contour is that bronzer is intended to bring a sense of warmth and glowiness to your skin—think golden beauty just back from a balmy seaside vacation—while contour is intended to create subtle or dramatic sculpted dimension.
Typically, bronzers are formulated with a subtle sheen and warmer tones to help create instant radiance, whereas contouring products are neutral shades with a matte finish. Both makeup products are often found in powder form, though you can find gels and creams that get the job done, too.
Where to Apply Bronzer vs. Contour
Another key difference between bronzer and contour is where each is applied.
Where and How to Apply Bronzer
As a rule of thumb, bronzers are applied to areas of your face that are most likely to get a little extra attention from the sun. These are typically high points, like your cheekbones, the upper-outer corners of your forehead, and even the tip of your nose. You can even apply a little bit to exposed collarbones to bring warmth and attention.
For powder bronzers, we recommend a fluffy powder or bronzer brush, such as Heavenly Luxe Airbrush Powder & Bronzer Brush #1, which helps create a more diffused, natural finish.
Where and How to Apply Contour
While bronzer is often applied at high points, contour is applied in more concave areas where shadows tend to fall. Think just below your jaw, under your cheekbones, and on either side of your nose, and under your brow arch. The goal is to create a more chiseled effect by faking stronger shadows.
For larger areas, you can use a fluffy powder brush, but for tinier spots (like your nose), you’ll want to use a smaller brush so you can be more precise in your application. The Heavenly Luxe Pointed Precision Complexion Brush #11 is a great option.
Can You Use a Bronzer to Contour (and Vice Versa)?
For the most flattering results, we recommend using bronzers and contours separately. However, if you’re in a pinch then you can often get away with using contour as a bronzer—especially if the contour is a warmer shade that helps create a sense of glowiness.
Depending on the formulation and the results you’re trying to get, you can also use bronzer as a contour. However, if you’re really trying to create a sculpted effect—like super chiseled cheekbones or a nose that looks more narrow—then a traditional matte, neutral contour will serve you better.
Try Our Best Bronzers
Not only will IT Cosmetics bronzers help you look and feel your most beautiful instantly, but they’re formulated with skin-nourishing ingredients that can help improve the appearance of your skin over time. Here are our favorites.
Ombré Radiance Bronzer
For naturally pretty warmth, reach for Ombré Radiance Bronzer. Half the compact features a matte formula while the other has subtle radiance, which gives you ultimate control over how much glow you want to add to your face. Plus, this waterproof formula contains anti-aging ingredients, including hydrolyzed collagen and peptides.
Bye Bye Pores Bronzer
Yep, this revolutionary bronzer makes your pores visibly disappear while imparting a sun-kissed glow. Bye Bye Pores Bronzer is a talc-free, oil-free bronzer that glides over skin like a dream and diffuses imperfections along the way. It also contains skin-loving ingredients such as anti-aging collagen, hyaluronic acid, peptides, and vitamins A, C, and E.
Your Most Beautiful You Anti-Aging Matte Bronzer, Radiance Luminizer & Brightening Blush Palette
We love a good multitasking palette, and that’s exactly what you’ll get with Your Most Beautiful You Anti-Aging Matte Bronzer, Radiance Luminizer & Brightening Blush Palette. In addition to a luminizer and blush, it features a matte bronzer. Like the other products we've already mentioned—and like all products at IT Cosmetics—this powder palette was created to visibly improve your complexion. It's formulated with hydrolyzed collagen, silk, and peptides to instantly diffuse the look of lines and wrinkles while nourishing your skin.
Now that we’re settled on the bronzer vs. contour discussion, learn which foundation you should use. We’ve created a helpful guide that outlines the best foundation for every skin type.