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How to Apply Bronzer (Without Looking Like a Clown)

Oh bronzer, you get used and abused. Too often, I see women who don't know how to apply bronzer and their skin tone looks like an epic-orange fail. Please let me help. I'll teach you how to apply bronzer one of two beautiful ways, the best brushes for application and how to choose a bronzer for a realistic summer glow—any time of the year.

How To Apply Bronzer

While bronzer can be great for adding color and life to the skin, it's most effective when worn one of two ways. You can use a bronzer to contour, creating definition where there might not be much, or to simply add a sun-kissed glow. I like to use bronzer to contour my face and let the blush give me healthy color. However, dusting bronzer on the high points of your face—where the sun naturally hits—is a fresh, outdoorsy look that is suited to the natural-look types. Here's what you need to remember so you look like J Lo (and not Snooki).

How to Choose Bronzing Products

  • Finish: Choose a matte bronzer. If bronzer is meant to emulate a tan, then avoid the shimmer. After all, who—other than a Twilight vampire—tans with glimmer? A tiny bit of shimmer is okay, but the emphasis is on tiny.
  • Color: Look for a soft cocoa color. When you contour, you are essentially creating shadows, and shadows are never orange. So, if your bronzer looks orange in the pan, then pass on it.
  • Formula: Powder is easiest to control and apply. Cream bronzers can look very natural but often require more blending and precision.
  • Brushes: An angled blush brush will serve you well as it tucks nicely underneath the cheekbones and at the temples. If you're simply dusting bronzer over the high points of your face, a fluffy domed brush works well.

Some of my very favorite, tried-and-true bronzers are:

  • N.Y.C. Smooth Skin Bronzing Face Powder in Sunny
  • Benefit Hoola
  • TheBalm Bahama Mama Bronzer

My brushes of choice:

  • Sephora Angled Blush Brush #49
  • Sephora Pro Airbrush #55
  • Real Techniques Blush Brush

Here's how to apply bronzer when contouring:

How To Apply Bronzer for Contouring

  1. Using an angled brush, sweep bronzer underneath the cheekbones, from the top of the ear toward—but not all the way to—the corner of the mouth. Stop at the outside of the iris of one's eye. Remember to blend into the hair.
  2. Apply bronzer to temples, and then to your hair line, connecting to temples.

Here's how to apply bronzer for a sunkissed look:

How To Apply Bronzer for a Sun Kissed Look

  1. Using a fluffy, domed brush, lightly sweep across high points of the face
  2. Apply to cheeks, forehead and nose with a light hand.

Check out this video for a step-by-step guide you can follow along with:



For more makeup tips and tricks from Ivy, go to Wake Up for Makeup.

Ivy Boyd

I have a Bachelor's degree in Graphic Design, but it's creating works of art on faces that I love most. By day, I am a Senior Education Consultant for Sephora as well as a freelance makeup artist. The rest of the time, I'm creating content for my makeup and beauty blog, Wake Up for Makeup, reading product reviews, watching tutorial videos and reading makeup artist books. I live and breathe this stuff and if you could eat makeup, I'd probably do that too. I also love painting abstracts, running, attending music festivals and acting weird with my husband and our two awesome cats. I'm here to tell you what products are legit, how to better use the ones you have, give you ideas to shake up your routine and guide you through some fun tutorials I know you can dominate.

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