Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Ultimate Bronzer Post! (Bronzer 101 + A quick run through 25 diff. bronzers + loads of swatches)

Since Summer is approaching, it's time to work on your self bronzing skills and flaunt your luminous golden skin. There are several different types of bronzers and finishes. The typical finishes are matte, satin and shimmery/frosty. Depending on your skin type, you want a bronzer that will best suit you. Matte shades are ideal for all skin types and are the best for all over color and contouring. When applying a bronzer all over, your goal is to add warmth to for face.. and for contouring, your goal is to create shadows (subtract light) to areas of your face. Satin shades can be applied lightly all over for an extra glow and shimmery shades should mostly be applied lightly over the cheeks, as shimmer will draw more light to your face. You don't want to draw light to every area of your face because it can make you appear too shiny, greasy or ashy. Oily skin types should pick a shade with minimal shimmer, as with oily skin, shimmer can make you look more oily. Dry or dull skin can really benefit from using shimmery shades to add lots of glow to your complexion.

Always test a bronzer out on your skin to make sure the undertone of the bronzer will go with your skins undertone. The best place is of course your face or neck. If you find a bronzer looks muddy or ruddy (red) on your skin, you may have chosen a bronzer that doesn't match your skins undertone. Bronzers that don't have any orange tones in them tend to have a rosy or purplish tone to them - it makes sense, purple cancels out orange. If you have natural redness in your face, a bronzer with rosy tones can emphasize your redness. Then there are bronzers with a greenish-olive undertone, green will cancel out any redness and give you a true golden brown color. Many bronzers are in the "in between" so they are suitable for most skintones.

What brush? You can really use any brush for applying bronzer. The denser the brush, the more product your brush will pick up. So if you're using a dense bronzer brush or kabuki, make sure to tap off any excess product before applying it so you won't apply too much. I like using a fluffy powder (not very dense) to apply all over color or a small blush or contouring brush for applying it with a little more precision.

Where to apply? You want to apply bronzer where the sun would naturally hit your face. You can start by applying it lightly to the hollows of your cheeks (hollow area under your cheekbone) and bringing the color up your cheekbone. Then, blend the color up your temples and through your hairline on your forehead. With the residue on your brush, you can then sweep it around your jaw. I also like bringing the brush through my brow bone. So, you're basically applying the bronzer to the frame of your face. You may notice your face looks more sculpted as you created darker shadows where shadows would naturally cast on your face. Make sure everything is blended. You can do so with a powder brush that's free of bronzer so you won't "over-bronze" your skin.
The rest of this post will be swatches and descriptions of the bronzers I own.. Enjoy!
(Click photo to view full size)
From Left to Right: MAC Golden Bronzing Powder, MAC Sculpt Sculpting Powder (PRO), Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Soft Matte Bronzer, Benefit Hoola, MAC Smooth Harmony Beauty Powder, Nars Irresistiblement Bronzer, NYC Sunny, Chanel Soleil Tan De Chanel, Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse Foundation in the shade Caramel (Dark 2) and Bare Escentuals Faux Tan.

All swatches look accurate, except BE Faux Tan looks a little muddy in the swatch because it didn't apply evenly with the moisture I had on my arms.

MAC Golden Bronzing Powder is a sheer, golden brown bronzer with the slightest scatter of shimmer. Because the shimmer is so fine and the powder is sheer, it's not very detectable. This gives a very natural color and can be used all over the face. I would say that it's best suited for light to medium skintones. It may not add enough warmth for tan to deep skintones, as when I'm tan (NC40) I find it to be a little light. It was actually difficult to get a swatch of this, I had to apply it very heavy.

MAC Sculpt Sculpting Powder (PRO) is a natural light brown, matte contouring powder. I originally purchased MAC Blunt as a contouring shade, but it looked too muddy and purple on my face. Sculpt doesn't give any odd undertones once the color hits my face. This is a great shade for those who don't want a shade with any shimmer or any orange/red tones.

Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Soft Matte Bronzer is definitely not matte, so I'm not sure why Estee Lauder has labeled this product matte when it does indeed contain shimmer. Although the shimmer is extremely fine - it's still there. The color is a medium/dark brown with a rosy undertone. I find that this can look muddy if applied heavily, so it works best with a light hand. I mostly use this to contour my cheekbones and it works very well for that.

Benefit Hoola is a soft brown matte powder that is great to add natural warmth to the face or to use as a contour. No orange tones whatsoever. The powder is very finely milled, so the texture is very soft and easy to blend. I think it's a very versatile bronzer and works well for fair, light and medium skintones.

MAC Smooth Harmony is a sheer terracotta with a satin finish. It's probably the most orange toned (beauty powder) bronzer I own, but it's actually one of my favorite products and I use it very often. Many bronzers that are too brown and don't contain any orange tones, give me a muddy-purple cast. This color provides a beautiful bronzed glow. The color is sheer, but very buildable. I like using it lightly all over my face and on my cheeks for added warmth, then applying a coral/peach blush over the apples of my cheeks - gorgeous.

Nars Irresistiblement Bronzer is a matte, reddened terracotta bronze. It's similar to Smooth Harmony, but Irresistiblement has a red tone, whereas Smooth Harmony is more orange. If you don't like orange tones in your bronzer, stay clear of this one (Try Nars Laguna or Casino instead) - but this is another favorite of mine and it looks very flattering on my medium skintone. (Review + Comparison to Smooth Harmony here)

NYC Sunny is a golden brown matte powder that is great for adding all over warmth to the face or to use as a contour. Some compare it to Benefit Hoola, but I find Sunny to be more warm (yellow) than Hoola and I actually like it better than Hoola. (See Review here)

Chanel Soleil Tan De Chanel is a golden bronze cream bronzer. Although it looks almost matte, but it does in fact contain extremely fine shimmer. It's not noticeable though once the color is applied to the face. It has a bit of a fresh, glowy effect that looks beautiful for the summer time. It also lasts ages.

Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse Foundation in the shade Caramel Dark 2 isn't exactly a bronzer, but a mousse foundation for deep skintones. I purchased it to use a bronzer and it works really well. The color is a golden yellow brown and it blends beautifully. I use it as a contour or lightly all over if my foundation is a little light.

Bare Escentuals Faux Tan is probably the darkest bronzer I own, so it's very necessary to use it with a very light hand in order for it to look natural. I find it works best when applied over a powder - it applies much more evenly. I've gone through several of these through the past few years and it has remained a favorite of mine for a warm brown glow. Don't be afraid of the heavy swatch, this color is very lovely and suitable for all skintones. Just make sure to put a tiny amount in the cap of the container, tap your brush in the cap and then tap off any excess product and swirl it into your face.

(Click photo to view full size)
From Left to Right: MAC Refined Golden Bronzer, Korres Monoi Oil Bronzing Powder 01 Sunglow Light, Neutrogena Healthy Skin Blush/Bronzer Duo in Berry Glow, Urban Decay Gilded Baked Bronzer, Cargo Medium, Rimmel Sundance, Smashbox Fusion Soft Lights Dusk, Guerlain Light Sheer Bronzing Powder in Brunette 02, Nars Luster Blush, Lorac Tantalizer Baked Bronzer, MAC Golden Bronze Iridescent Powder, NYX Sand Blush, MAC Light Over Dark Mineralize Blush, MAC Sunny by Nature MSF and Covergirl Trublend Bronzer in Natural Bronze #440.

 MAC Refined Golden Bronzer has been my #1 favorite bronzer ever since I first purchased it a few years ago. It's a golden bronze-brown with golden flecks of shimmer. Even though it contains shimmer, I don't find it overly shimmer since the base is fairly matte. This bronze never looks orange and doesn't have any rosy/red/purple undertones. It blends very easily, never looks muddy and is super pigmented. 

Korres Monoi Oil Bronzing Powder 01 Sunglow Light is a newer one in my collection, so I haven't had time to really play with it yet. It's a light peachy-bronze with a subtle golden sheen. The powder is very soft, and blends very easily. I think it's best suited for lighter skintones, because even with a heavy hand this is very subtle on me. 

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Blush/Bronzer Duo in Berry Glow contains a berry pink blush and golden bronzer. The concept is pretty much like the Nars Orgasm/Laguna duo. The bronzer is a light golden tan with fine yellow-gold shimmer. Very natural (aside from the shimmer) and gives a nice glow.

Urban Decay Gilded Baked Bronzer is a light, bronzed peach filled with very fine multi colored (pink and green) shimmer and has golden yellow veining. When swirled together, the color is a sheer, shimmery light peachy-orange that looks gorgeous on the cheeks.

Cargo Medium is a really great every day bronzer. It's a golden bronze filled with a green-yellow sheen. On the cheeks it gives a really nice bronzed glow. Because it contains a shimmery sheen, I mainly just use it on my cheeks and use a matte shade underneath.

Rimmel Sundance is a copper-bronze with golden shimmer. It's actually very similar to Cargo Medium, but swatched together, Sundance appears a little more orange. The color is natural and is one of my favorite drugstore bronzers. (It smells good too!)

Smashbox Fusion Soft Lights in Dusk is a bronzer that contains five stripes of color (pale ivory/peach, pale pink, bronze, brown and golden bronze - all of which have a slight golden sheen). When the colors are swirled together, it makes a golden peachy tan with a gold sheen.

Guerlain Light Sheer Bronzing Powder in Brunette 02 is a bronzing powder with a mosaic of five warm shades. There are three matte colors, a medium milk chocolate brown, a deep brown & a bronzed brown (terracotta). The other two colors are highlighting shades that contain frost/shimmer. One is a frosted peach and the other has a bronze base with golden shimmer. When all of the shades are smoothed together, the result is a warm bronze terracotta with a slight sheen. If you don't like orange toned bronzers, you may not like this.. but it's a personal love of mine! (See review here)

Nars Luster Blush isn't really a bronzer, but when I purchased it, I thought it was going to be more "golden bronze", as it looks in the pan. But, it's actually more of a "golden apricot". When applied to my face, the color turns a reddish peach with a golden sheen. I'd somewhat compare it to Nars Irresistiblement, but Luster isn't really a shade I can wear ALL over my face. It's a great cheek color, and a favorite among many reviewers.

Lorac Tantalizer Baked Bronzer is a copper-bronze with white veining. It's very frosty/shimmery, so it's best used with a light hand on the cheekbones only.

MAC Golden Bronze Iridescent Powder is a very shimmery golden bronze loose powder. It has a very strong golden yellow sheen and a little goes a very long way. It looks gorgeous when lightly swirled into the cheeks. It looks great on the collar bones as well.

 NYX Sand Blush is a copper bronze with golden shimmer. It's one of my drugstore favorites and looks very glowy and gorgeous on the cheeks.

MAC Light Over Dark, again really isn't a bronzer.. but it's one of those blushes that kind of doubles as a bronzer. Like my beloved MAC So Ceylon MSF, I never have to wear both bronzer and blush with either one. It's a duo baked powder and one side is a frosty white with gold veining and the other side is a frosty copper with a rosy-red undertone and golden shimmer. Swirled together is a reddish bronze with shimmer.

MAC Sunny by Nature Mineralize Skinfinish (MSF) is a dark brown with subtle golden shimmer and golden peach veining. I love this because it's ultra pigmented and smooths on nicely like all baked bronzers/blushes. On the cheeks, it's a true bronze with subtle shimmer. Love this one.

Covergirl Trublend Bronzer in Natural Bronze #440 is a copper bronze with lots of golden shimmer. The amount of shimmer compares to that of MAC's Golden Bronze Iridescent Powder, only Covergirl's powder is a bit more orange-bronze toned. It's actually extremely pretty and I often wear it every summer when I want lots of glow!

What's your favorite bronzer? Share in the comments below!


  1. This post is great, I am gonna print this out. The only bronzer I use is by MAC, the deeper refined one, I like it, however it has tons of shimmer, I don't need my face to look like damn glitter mess. I need to find a new one. This is the perfect cheat sheet.

    xo $ARMIN

  2. Wow that took a lot of effort.. THANK YOU so much for takin the time to do this for all of us.. Much appreciated!

    I loooove my chanel bronze universal.. It gives me the nicest warmth.. At the moment however, I've been using my Dior Sunset bronzer from the new collection and it's amazing!

    Love this post & love the effort you put into it.. Thanks again hun.. xoxo

    It must have taken you ages?
    Thank you for such a great, informative post honey... I have bookmarked it and have set a reminder on my phone to have a proper read again tonight when I'm home! :)

    I will be bronzer shopping on the weekend thanks to your awesome suggestions! :)



    1. I really enjoy to read your blog and will be waiting for your next update.I appreciate all the work you put into this site, helping out others with your fun and creative works.
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  4. That's a very helpfull post, thanks for all the effort you put into it. From what i read and see i want the chanel bronze universel now!

  5. you look gorgeous in that picture very dewy! its a nice collection u have there! i looove summer!!

  6. WOW. So comprehensive! This was an amazing post and it probably took quite some time. Thank you so much for sharing! I love your blog!

  7. Thanks so much for the amazing post! I'm a bit bronzer obsessed as well lol. My favorite matte bronzers are MAC's Matte Bronze and Wet n' Wild's Princess (or princessa?) I also love Guerlain's Teracotta 01 bronzer when I want some shimmer in it.

  8. This post makes me want to buy Benefit's Hoola! Looks so pretty!


  9. You've inspired me to try out some bronzer today! Lets hope I don't mess up and look like an oompa loompa!

  10. fantastic post! really want to try mac refined golden!

  11. MAC Refined Golden Bronzer is the bronzer I'm using at the moment also and it's super pretty. Another one I've always really loved is Laura Mercier's Golden Bronze, It's beautiful!! Thanks for the post and all the swatches!! :)

  12. Love this! I've been really into bronzers lately. I used to only have EL Bronze Goddess soft matte bronzer, which is my HG, but lately I've been picking up more and lemming even more!

    Thanks for this post. Love the swatches!! :)

  13. Great post! I hardly use bronzer because I don't really know how to use it.. but I will def be referring to this when I do! Thanks!

  14. This post is amazing! In every single picture of you, your bronzer/blush just look absolutely stunning.

    I know that many brushes can be used for bronzer but what do you use to apply it on a daily basis?!

    PS - I purchased NARS sheer glow per your shining review and I LOVE it! Thank you!!

  15. Thanks for the effort now i know better

  16. Nice and extensive description of the various shades and the usage.It is as important to get the right colors as to know how and where to use them.

  17. love your blog!


  18. from the time we have had bronzer in the market it is easy to do make up and look stunning easily.I think you have done a great update about the availability and showing the shades that should really be helpful.

  19. I love bronzers, they give the perfect sculpted look. And you are so pretty!:-)

  20. Absolutely phenomenal post! Thank you!

  21. I love to be here. Truly awesome! healthcareguru.net

  22. You are amazing. I can't even explain how helpful u are. I can now do my eye shadow thanks to your tutorials that are perfect, and u have helped me find sculpt Mac Pro after doing days of searching for a taupe contouring powder that isnt Chanel or NYX. And that is just in one day. I never comment.

  23. what's ur top 3? i have hoola now,, tht's good for me,, i'm medium olive nc35-nc40.. i wanna try mac sculpt powder,, will be it good/show up for me? which one would u reccomend for me between hoola and mac sculpt? or should i have the mac sculpting powder in shadester? please help me,,

  24. I am really glad that I have found this post and I thank you for letting us know about this information….This is a big help for sure!!Thanks!
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  25. I'm looking for a reddish-rosy bronzer for light to medium skin. NOT brownish. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thank you.