Learn How-to Apply Bronzer Effortlessly

Do you love the sunkissed glow that a beachy vacation gives you? Bronzer can give that fresh-from-the-beach kind of vibe without the sunny rays. Here’s our guide on how to apply bronzer with ease, which will details where to apply bronzer, how to apply it, what tools work best, and how to deal with different types of formulas!

What does bronzer do? Bronzer is a quick, easy way to add warmth to your natural skin tone and can also be used to define and accentuate certain features by creating more definition by using bronzer to contour. Follow our steps below on how to apply bronzer to get that beautiful, sun-kissed effect!

How-to Apply Bronzer - The Classic 3 Method

When to Apply Bronzer

It is easiest to apply bronzer before blush and highlight, since it tends to be applied in a more diffused manner and in more areas of the face, so it often works as a guide on where to apply your brush with your bronzer.  Think of bronzer as a bit of an outline for how to place your blush and highlighter, which typically are applied after.

You can also apply bronzer after your blush and highlight as a final step if you’re looking to add only a hint of warmth as needed–perhaps the blush color you applied went on cooler-toned than you wanted for your look–or you feel like the foundation you’re wearing is running too light for your skin tone at the moment!

Where to Apply Bronzer

Apply in the shape of a 3.  This is a tried-and-true method where you gently apply and diffuse the bronzer along the outer edge of the forehead (by the hair line), moving downward and then just below and slightly on the cheek bones, which will make cheekbones stand out a bit.  Then, gently diffuse and drag the color down the jaw line.

Think about where the sun would hit.  That’s all bronzer is — adding warmth to your skin without having to go tanning — so it’s all about where you’d naturally get a little more golden and deeper in hue.  That’s why it’s usually the perimeter of the face (forehead/hairline, jaw line, just below the cheekbones but not in the hollow, like a contour).

You can wear bronzer all over the face, too.  You’ll want to use a more diffused application method and a sheerer product, but you can definitely add warmth all over the face — this is especially useful for those who have trouble matching face and neck/shoulders.

How to Apply Bronzer to Contour

Contouring is all about creating depth to your facial features by adding shadows, which is often most visible when you apply a contour product under the hollows of the cheekbones or along the jaw line, as it makes cheekbones appear sharper and the jaw line to be more defined.

You can apply bronzer the same way as you’d apply a contour product by applying more heavily in the hollows of the cheekbones and diffusing gently along the edge (but not blowing it out so much that you lose your definition).  We have how-to contour  your face step-by-step tutorial for those who want to learn more about contouring their face!

What are the Best Brushes for Bronzer?

For subtle color, use a larger, less-dense brush (a brush that feels more airy, feathery, and less heavy against the skin) and apply by holding at the tip of the handle, which will allow for gentler pressure.  This ensures that the color will be applied in a more diffused, natural-looking way.

How-to Apply Bronzer

For heavier color, use a more tapered, denser brush, which will allow you to get more coverage in the areas you want it while still allowing you to diffuse the edges out naturally.

How to Choose a Bronzer

Choose a bronzer with the right undertone so that it complements your skin.  The goal of bronzing is to add the effect of spending a bit of time in the sun; a natural tan without any of the risks of the real sun.  You can find bronzers with yellow, orange, and red undertones and the occasional neutral undertone (but much harder to find–consider looking at contour powders if this is your preference).  If you have warmer undertones, yellow and orange work well, while cooler undertones will want to look for rosier or redder bronzers.

Opt for more pigmented bronzing formulas for deeper skin tones or more defined bronzing/light contouring.  Often, bronzers only come in a few shades, so for deeper skin tones, something pigmented is critical to getting it to show up.   Pigmented formulas are also better for someone who aims to define and do light contouring with a bronzing powder as well.

Opt for sheerer, more buildable coverage formulas for lighter skin tones or for applying all-over.  There are a few brands that have more extensive shade ranges for bronzers, but often, there are just a handful, so once you get the right undertone, it’s really about the depth of the shade–lighter skin tones will need a light shade (often lighter than typical) to keep the warmth looking natural and avoiding dreaded orange-comparisons.  Similarly, when applying all-over, sheerer coverage enables a more seamless, effortless blend and application.

We have more makeup application guides! Need help with powder blushes, liquid blushes, highlighters, and even contouring products? We have you covered.

Bronzers We Recommend


Comments that do not adhere to our comment policy may be removed. Discussion and debate are highly encouraged but we expect community members to participate respectfully. Please keep discussion on-topic, and if you have general feedback, a product review request, an off-topic question, or need technical support, please contact us!

Please help us streamline the comments' section and be more efficient: double-check the post above for more basic information like pricing, availability, and so on to make sure your question wasn't answered already. Comments alerting us to typos or small errors in the post are appreciated (!) but will typically be removed after errors are fixed (unless a response is needed).

We appreciate enthusiasm for new releases but ask readers to please hold questions regarding if/when a review will be posted as we can't commit to or guarantee product reviews. We don't want to set expectations and then disappoint readers as even products that are swatched don't always end up being reviewed due to time constraints and changes in priorities! Thank you for understanding!

Comments on this post are closed.
Deborah S. Avatar

What a great idea for a post. I don’t use bronzer on the daily and usually only apply it in a “C” shade rather than a 3 because I am always fearful it will look weird along my jaw line although, I know it is suppose to help with decreasing the number of chins I have, LOL!! As I have aged and undoubtedly put on weight, I don’t have a prominent jaw line and I do have “jowls” that are a hereditary trait. Everyone on my mother’s side of the family have them. I also think that I haven’t found a good bronzer for my skin tone. I admit, part of that is because I don’t feel comfortable wearing it so this is so helpful. Thank you so much, Christine.

Anne Avatar

Maybe I should try this since I got the Tarte Park Avenue Princess Chisel palette in my BoxyCharm this month. I’ve tried the #3 thing before. I shall have to try it again! I’m one of those bronzer as blush or the 80s hollowed out cheekbones gals! ?

Kitty Avatar

Helpful post. I tend to avoid applying bronzer on the cheek part (the middle part of the “3”) because I’ve got some somewhat noticeable cheek bags and some gray undertones there (from aging). I think if I didn’t have the gray undertones, that applying bronzer there would make sense because it would create a shadow, right? But with the gray undertones, the bronzer seems to work against me. (I can’t use highlight or shimmer blush in that same spot either.) Does my assessment regarding use of bronzer there make sense? I know you could encourage me to just experiment but I’d like your POV based on the theory of shadow/color and using bronzer in general because sometimes I’m just not sure how to treat that cheek-bag area (except to cover it up with matte concealer in a lighter shade than my skin tone).

Christine Avatar

I think you’re on the right track, Kitty! Undertones can play a huge role, and if you feel like you have grayer undertones there, then it could add a muted, dirty, or more shadowy effect to the area than you might want. If you had higher coverage or foundation, then it might not matter, though! If there’s some shadowy tones, then going lighter with your concealer as you mentioned makes more sense! 🙂

We try to approve comments within 24 hours (and reply to them within 72 hours) but can sometimes get behind and appreciate your patience! 🙂 If you have general feedback, product review requests, off-topic questions, or need technical support, please contact us directly. Thank you for your patience!