face makeup Bronzer vs. Contour: What's The Difference?

Plus, how to do both.

December 24, 2021
Bronzer Vs Contour

Even if you’re a loyal consumer of beauty related content, or you fashion yourself fairly savvy when it comes to applying makeup, it’s possible that you don't know the difference between bronzer and contour. Perhaps you didn’t even know they’re different at all 一 and you wouldn't be alone. While more time indoors in the past two years offered the opportunity to learn many new skills — even makeup ones — it also ushered in a period of skinimalism, and contouring was seemingly becoming a thing of the past. But it’s a common misconception that bronzer and contour are one and the same while their purpose in makeup looks differs. So ahead, we’re sharing what you need to know about bronzer versus contour, and how to properly master each technique so you can put your best face forward.  

How Bronzer And Contour Products Differ

If you’ve attempted to contour your face, you might have done so using your bronzer. And while this certainly isn’t a makeup crime, you’ll achieve better results when using each product as they’re intended to be used. 

Bronzers can come in various formulas like powder, cream and liquid 一 and is typically warm or neutral in tone. They often have a matte finish, but some bronzers will boast a shimmery or radiant finish to add glow to the skin. 

Products used for contouring on the other hand — typically concealer and highlighter — can come in the same formulations as bronzers, but the key difference is in the shade and finish. They are neutral or cool-toned, and have a matte finish. 

How Bronzing And Contouring Differ 

Now you know how the products are different 一 let’s dive into how the techniques differ. The intention behind bronzer is to add warmth and color to the face. If applied correctly, you’ll look like you spent just the right amount of time in the sun (wearing SPF 30 or more of course). 

Contouring is all about adding dimension to the face by sculpting the features and enhancing your face shape. When one contours correctly, the goal is to make shadows on the face. These shadows can create the appearance of more chiseled cheekbones, a stronger jawline, fuller lips, and more. It’s because contouring is about creating shadows that you’ll often see contour products that appear grayish in tone. 

How To Apply Bronzer vs. How To Contour 

In addition to needing different products, contouring and bronzing call for different application techniques. 

How To Apply Bronzer 

Product placement is key when applying bronzer and contour. When it comes to bronzer, you’ll want to apply it where the sun would naturally hit if you were out on a sunny day. These areas are the hairline, sides of the forehead, tops of the cheeks and bridge of the nose. It’s also a good idea to blend a small amount onto your neck to ensure you don’t have a harsh line of demarcation between your face and neck. 

Once you understand where to place the bronzer, consider which bronzer formula is best for you. If you have oily skin, a powder bronzer like the L’Oréal Paris True Match Bronze It Bronzer is your match. It’s a lightweight powder that adds just a bit of shine to your face without a greasy look. If you have dry skin, opt for a cream or liquid formula like the L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glotion Natural Glow Enhancer in Deep. You can blend it onto your skin in targeted areas using a brush or a makeup sponge

How To Contour 

When it comes to contouring, everyone's face is different and may require slightly different techniques. Generally, contouring the hollows of your cheeks starting at your ears and going no further than your pupils will be flattering. This will give you a more sculpted looking bone structure. You can also contour your jawline to slim it out, and contour the sides of your nose to give it a more slender appearance. 

Like with bronzer, formula selection is important. If you’re oily, try a powder in a cool-toned shade. If you have dry skin or prefer something more natural and easier to manipulate, a cream formula is for you. A concealer like the L’Oréal Paris Infallible Full Wear Concealer Waterproof, Full Coverage in a color that’s a few shades deeper than your skin tone (and neutral or cool-toned) will work well. Because contouring is meant to be more precise than bronzing, it’s best to blend it out with a small cheek brush that will allow you to work in more targeted areas. 

Next: How To Match Makeup To Your Skin Tone As The Seasons Change

Written by: Alyssa Kaplan, Photo Credit: Chaunte Vaughn