Bronzer vs Contour: What’s the Difference?

Bronzer vs Contour: What’s the Difference?


Khadija B.
October 31, 2021

There’s a beauty product out there for just about anything, but when it comes to bronzing and contouring, not many people know the difference.

Both of them can be used as part of any decent makeup routine to change your appearance for the better, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

What’s the difference between bronzer and contour?

A bronzer is designed to mimic the natural sun-kissed look you’d get, warming up all of the spots that the sun might hit and giving you a natural glow.

Contour is about defining and shaping the face so that it appears structurally different or more enhanced, like making your nose smaller or your face slimmer.

The bronzer vs contour debate has been ongoing for many years, but to know what side you’re on, you need to understand how these two makeup products differ.

We’re here to break down the difference between them, show you how and when to apply them, and assist you in finding your perfect match.

What Is Bronzer?

What Is Bronzer?

Bronzer is a beauty product that can be used to warm up your skin and make it appear darker, more golden, and shimmery.

The three main types of bronzing products are cream-based, liquid, and powder, depending on the overall look you’re going for and the type of skin you’re working with.

Bronzers usually come in warmer tones, as they’re designed to create warmth on the skin, so they won’t work if you’re using them as a contouring product.

Imagine that you’ve spent the day sun baking on a tropical island, but without the risk of sunburn or damage to your skin, and you’ll get an idea of what a good bronzer can do.

Rather than just dusting a bronzer all over your face, you’ll want to apply it in the right spots to get this natural golden look which ends up looking like you’re naturally tanned and slightly shimmery.

Unlike a contouring product though, it’s not as dramatic or precise, so you can spend a little less effort to get amazing results.

How to Apply It

If you’re a total newbie when it comes to bronzer, have no fear.

Follow these simple steps for getting a beautiful golden glow using a powdered bronzer product, and see what make makes this beauty product such a cult favorite.

  1. After applying your base makeup, like foundation or BB cream, prepare for bronzer.
  2. Dust some bronzer onto a large brush and tap it on the side of the palette to remove any excess powder.
  3. Use a large sweeping motion to place bronzer across your forehead right at your hairline and down to your cheekbones.
  4. Collect more powder and tap it off as before, this time focusing on the apples of the cheeks.
  5. Get more bronzer again and sweep it underneath your jawline this time, adding some shade there.
  6. If you want a more obvious bronzed look, add some more powder to the sides and bridge of your nose.
  7. Apply your favorite blush afterward in a shade that complements the bronzer you’re using.

Bronzer also comes in body-friendly forms, allowing you to dust some over your shoulders, chest, arms, and legs if you want a quick sun-kissed look.

Otherwise, you can just smaller amounts of your face to still give the same bronzed effect.

What is Contour?

What is Contour?

Contour is a cosmetic that comes in either cream, powder, or liquid format and is applied to the face in certain areas in an attempt to create natural-looking shadows.

Contouring products usually come in cool tones and earth tones, and they will have a matte finish once applied to the face so they look as natural as possible.

With strategically applied contour in the right places, you can do everything from making your nose narrower to heightening your cheekbones, and even slimming down your face.

While you wouldn’t use a contouring product for a bronzer, both cosmetics are designed to add depth to your face, so they’re similar in that regard.

When contouring first hit the makeup scene, it was about going as dramatic as possible and creating an entirely new illusion on your face.

The modern take on contouring is about complimenting the structure your face already has without trying to alter it, and then using a highlighter or illuminator that will complete the look.

How to Apply It

The skill of contouring is one that takes some practice, and it’s a good idea to have a few trial runs in the mirror at home before wearing it in public.

Follow these steps to perform basic contouring on your face using a powdered product, and then take it further once you’re feeling confident.

  1. Start with your base first, using either a foundation or tinted moisturizer to even out your skin tone.
  2. Suck in your cheekbones and find the natural hollow of them, then dust some of the contour in the same place using an angled brush, with fast sweeping motions. This will make the cheekbones more prominent.
  3. Apply some powder to the top of your forehead where your hairline starts, and blend it in so that it runs on seamlessly. Draw down with sweeping motions and make two lines from the hairline to your temples. This can reduce the size of your forehead if you feel it’s too big.
  4. Dust the contour powder on your jawline from one end to the other. Be sure to blend the powder downwards and into your natural skin tone so it’s not too obvious. This has a slimming effect on the face.

Contouring is done best with a highlighting product as well, as each of them can help the other’s results look even more obvious.

To highlight, focus on areas that would be naturally illuminated by light, like the tip of the nose and just above your cheekbones, and you’ll see how magically they work together.

The Key Differences Between Bronzer and Contour

The Key Differences Between Bronzer and Contour

To get a true feel of how these products differ, we need to look at what their purpose is in the world of makeup.

At its core, bronzer is all about providing warmth to the skin and adding colour to it, whereas contour is about creating shadows and definition.

With a bronzer, you’re usually applying it all over the face, shoulders, and other noticeable areas where the sun might hit you, with some people even using it as a blush.

Contour is very specific in where it’s applied though, so you only want to use it in the right places to create a shadowed look.

Although different, both of these products are about enhancing what you already have but doing it in a way that’s not so obvious.

A bronzer adds a shimmery, bronzed glow to your skin and a contour helps you define the natural shapes and curves of your facial structure, and there are ways to use them together to get an even better result.

Can You Use Them Both?

Can You Use Them Both?

One of the most common misconceptions in the world of beauty is that a contour and a bronzing product can be used interchangeably.

The best way to look at them is in a Venn diagram setup, where they share some similarities but also have their own features.

Both products create depth in the face and they come in either powder, liquid, or cream forms, but that’s about where they end.

Although you might not interchange these products, you can use them together, and with great success.

Provided you understand the role of the contour versus the role of the bronzer, you’ll be able to apply them to different areas of the face, using the bronzer for an all-over glow or where your blush usually goes, and the contour only to define the shadows of the face.

To ensure you’re applying them at the right time, start with a base of foundation or BB cream so that you’re working with a clear canvas.

Apply the contour next, creating the definition where it’s desired, and then apply the bronzer and blush over the top of it. Give each layer of makeup some time to set in before moving on to the next one.

How to Choose the Right Shade and Color

How to Choose the Right Shade and Color

One of the most crucial parts of choosing any makeup is finding one that matches your skin tone.

When it comes to contour and bronzer, this couldn’t be more true, and it’s the step that many people neglect paying attention to when they’re first learning the basics of makeup artistry.

Bronzer is the simpler one to match, so you can opt for a product that is just one or two shades darker than your natural skin tone.

You might also want to think about whether you have cool, neutral, or warm undertones and select a bronzer that most closely matches that.

The goal is to add some warmth to your face without changing the color of your skin completely which can make it look obvious that you’re wearing some sort of product.

Choosing a contour can be a little trickier, and for a more dramatic and professional effect, you might even need to pick two different shades.

The secret here is finding the shade that most closely mimics the natural shadows of your face, rather than doing anything darker.

For most, this will be a few shades darker than their regular skin tone, but try finding one that matches the shadows for the best place to start.

If you plan on wearing both, shop for them together so you can be sure they not only complement your natural skin tone but each other as well.

You’ll want to apply the contour first and then the bronzer, so they need to be able to blend seamlessly with each other and not appear as if you’ve layered on too many different products.

Customizable Beauty For You

Beauty products should allow you to achieve a look that suits your style and facial features, and that’s exactly what bronzer and contour can do.

With some carefully applied bronzer and contouring done in all the right places, you can customize a look that’s uniquely you.

Related Questions

Bronzer and contour are just two of the many beauty products out there that every woman should know about, and they can each help you get different results when you know how to use them right.

To find out more about contouring and bronzing to make sure you’re getting it right, read on for some FAQs that can help you out.

How Dark Should Contour Be?

As a rough guide, you should choose a contour that’s two shades darker than your natural skin tone as you’ll need it to create shadows and definition that are noticeable but natural.

However, it’s best to experiment with a few different shades to make sure you choose the right fit for your skin tone before settling on one.

Is Liquid or Powder Bronzer Better?

Is Liquid or Powder Bronzer Better?

Liquid and powder bronzer can each achieve a different look, with the liquid variety being better for a shiny bronzed look and powder for a matte appearance.

People with oily skin may find a powder bronzer is better for their complexion and those with dry skin will appreciate the liquid format more.

Can You Contour Your Arms?

It is possible to use the same techniques for contouring your face on the rest of your body, including your arms.

To contour your arms, flex your muscles, and then apply a contouring product to the shadows that are present along with the biceps, which will give a more defined look and make them look more toned.


Khadija B.