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Bronzer vs Contour: Your Guide to the Perfect Golden Look

A common disagreement in the beauty industry is the bronzer vs contour debate. Although many makeup artists use them interchangeably, they perform different functions. Read on to learn their differences and useful tips for applying bronzer and contour perfectly.

Bronzer vs contour makeup

Makeup has become more inclusive over the years, and at the same time, more products have been created with seemingly similar uses. These products appear in similar shades and formulations, making you believe that they have the same uses or that they are the same, creating confusion.

What Is Contour?

What is contour?

Contour is a makeup product that helps in adding dimension and depth to the face by accentuating the natural shadows on the face. It is used to achieve a sculpted effect by adding increasing the shadows at the high points of your face, such as the cheekbones, the chin, and the nose.

Contour on a girl

If applied correctly, a contour can help you create more defined features such as a narrower nose, a more sculpted jawline, and higher cheekbones. Contour shades are usually a few shades darker than your natural skin tone to perfectly mimic your face’s natural shadows and accentuate your face shape.

Contouring products often give a matte finish with neutral tones since they help to shape and sculpt, rather than highlight. They come in different forms, such as powder, cream, or liquid.

What Is Bronzer?

What is bronzer?

Unlike contour, bronzer is a makeup product that helps to add warmth and glow to your skin. It may be matte, but in most cases, bronzer products have a glittery shimmer to them that adds that subtle sheen and sun kissed look to your skin.

Bronzer is often applied to key areas on the face where the sun naturally hits. Areas like the upper and outer parts of your forehead, your cheeks, and underneath your jawline are most likely to be naturally hit by sunlight, so bronzer is applied to these places.

Bronzer on a girl

Generally, bronzer comes in warmer tones, but your skin tone also matters when choosing a bronzer. There are bronzers in neutral shades, cool-toned bronzers, and bronzers with much warmer undertones. Bronzer shades are also to be a shade lighter than your skin tone. Like contour, bronzer is sold in cream, matte, and powder formulas.

Bronzer vs Contour: What’s the difference?

Before now, you may have used contour and bronzer interchangeably in your makeup routine, and while that is not a crime, it is not the best either.

Knowing the key difference between bronzer and contour application and usage will make all the difference and bring you one step closer to achieving that beautiful golden sun-kissed glow on your skin!

Usage Difference

The main difference between bronzer vs contour is in their use. Contouring is to sculpt the face and add depth by enhancing the natural shadows of the face. The result is a more lifted face, with accentuated features like higher cheekbones, a narrower nose, and a sculpted jawline.

How contour is applied

On the other hand, bronzer is used to add warmth and a sheen to your skin. It usually has a glittery finish to help your skin look sun kissed.


Another key difference between bronzer and contour is their shades and undertones. To achieve the shadow effect, the contour shade usually shades deeper than your normal skin tone. Also, contour products have neutral or even cool-toned shades to further accentuate natural shadows.

Shade of bronzer and contour

Bronzer, however, is a shade or two lighter than your skin tone. This helps to achieve a glowy warmth on your skin. It also has warmer undertones to help you get the perfect skin tone and glow, although there are a few bronzers with neutral and cool undertones.


Because contour enhances shadows and hollows on your face, it usually comes with a matte finish to allow it to blend in better. Bronzers come in glimmery finishes, although matte bronzers exist.


Bronzer Application

Brush for bronzer

It is best to apply contour using a precision brush to perfectly create a chiseled look. Using a precision brush helps the product stay in the shadows.

Contour Application

Brush for contour

For a bronzer, using a fluffy brush is better to distribute the product evenly and create the perfect golden skin tone.

Bronzer Vs Contour: Where to Apply Them

Woman having her makeup professionally done

Contour and bronzer also differ in the locations where they are applied.

Where to Apply Bronzer

Bronzer is used to add warmth and glow to your skin, making it seem like you spent the perfect amount of light in sunlight. It is applied to the high points on your face — the points that get extra attention from the sun.

Bronzer being applied to a woman's face

You should apply bronzer to the following places on your face:

  • top of the forehead along your hairline

  • top of your cheekbones

  • down your nose bridge

  • underneath your jawline

You can also dust a bit across your collarbones and blend some into your neck to avoid a harsh contrast between your neck and your face. It helps to think of bronzer as a warmer version of highlighter.

Where to Apply Contour

Contour on a woman's face

In contrast, you should apply contour to the following areas of the face to create deeper shadows:

  • below your jaw

  • under your brow arch

  • under your cheekbones

  • both sides of your nose

  • the crease of your eyes

Bronzer vs Contour: How Do I Apply Them?

Not only do you need to know where to apply bronzer and contour, but knowing how to apply them makes all the difference.

How to Apply Bronzer

Makeup studio

You should apply bronzer with a soft, fluffy brush that allows for an even distribution of the product. After applying your foundation, apply it to your forehead, top of your cheeks, and other necessary areas and blend it in until the product is absorbed. For areas such as your nose, consider using a smaller brush for more precise application.

Here’s a tip for bronzing: If you use a powder-based foundation, follow up with a powder bronzer; and the same thing goes for a cream or liquid-based foundation — a cream bronzer will work best.

However, there are some other factors to consider when picking a bronzer — including your skin tone, so make sure you go for what’ll blend well on your skin.

You might also want to consider using a matte bronzer or cream bronzer if you’ll be using a highlighter in your makeup routine.

How to Apply Contour

The type of brush you want to use for contouring depends on your face shape, the type of contour product you’ll be using — whether cream formula, liquid, or powder form.

Contour on face

If you’re using a powder formula contour, a makeup brush will work best, while a sponge blender is better to blend cream or liquid contour products.

  • Start by mapping out your face shape.

  • Draw a figure 3 shape on the side of your face.

  • Add dimension to the forehead by outlining it along the hairline.

  • Move down to your cheekbones, then your jawline.

  • After establishing the areas where you’ll be contouring, blend the product into your skin using short, sharp strokes.

  • Continue until all of it is blended on your skin, and your face is more defined.

Can I Use Bronzer as Contour?

Applying bronzer

Although using the appropriate products for their specified use gives the best result, bronzer can actually be used to contour the face. Professionals do it all the time, and that’s why most beginners can’t differentiate between the two makeup products.

To use bronzer as contour, make sure you get a bronzer that is a few shades darker than your skin tone — you can get one as dark as your contour — and has a matte finish. Apply as you would apply your contour.

More Tips to Bronzing and Contouring

  • Use a contour that is two or three shades darker than your skin tone.

  • Your bronzer should be one shade darker than your contour.

  • For a more natural-looking makeup look, skip the highlighter when you use a bronzer.

  • For an even sun-kissed look all over your skin, brush bronzer down the center of your arms and legs, and over your collarbones.

Key Takeaway

The key to bronzing and contouring is finding the best bronzers and contour types that suit your skin tone and skin type. Both of them complement each other and work perfectly well to create a warm, sun-kissed glow and the perfect skin tone.

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