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Bronzer vs. Contour: What's the Difference?

Face Makeup

Bronzer vs. Contour: What's the Difference? Bronzer vs. Contour: What's the Difference? Bronzer vs. Contour: What's the Difference?

Be honest for a minute: Do you know the difference between bronzer and contour? Don’t be ashamed if you can’t say yes—you’re not alone. In fact, it’s extremely common for the two to be lumped together and thought of as interchangeable. That’s why you may find that many people use bronzing products to contour and contour products to bronze. However, the two makeup techniques aren’t nearly the same. Despite powders and creams being used to practice both techniques, they’re different—and as such, different products are necessary. That’s right—if you’ve been attempting to turn your bronzer or contour products into multi-taskers, you need to rethink your face makeup application habits. To understand exactly why you should resist the temptation to chisel your cheekbones with bronzer or give yourself sun-kissed skin with a contour powder, you’ll need to learn what makes bronzer and contour different. Read on for the answers to all your bronzer vs. contour questions, including how to bronze and contour the right way.

Bronzer vs. Contour: What's the Difference?

It isn’t totally ridiculous to assume that bronzing and contouring are the same, seeing as they both can be used to add depth to a makeup look. In that sense, it turns out that they can have a similar effect. The main point of difference is the purpose of each technique. When one contours correctly the goal is to make shadows on the face. These shadows are practically magic, as they can be used to give the appearance of a slimmer face, more prominent cheekbones, a stronger jawline, a smaller nose, fuller lips, and more. All of that, with only makeup!  

Moving onto bronzing, the technique is meant to create natural-looking warmth—not shadows. By applying bronzer, you can make your skin look as if you’ve been vacationing on a tropical island, soaking up the sun—even if you’re really a total homebody or in the midst of a harsh winter.

Now, that you know the two techniques are meant to achieve different results—shadows vs. warmth—it should make sense that they require different products. Just think about it, contouring creates shadows, which typically have a greyish, cool-toned hue. Bronzer, on the other hand, has a warm tone. That’s why if you’ve ever contoured with bronzer you may have noticed your skin looked orange rather than defined.  On the other hand, attempting to bronze with a contour product is likely to leave you looking grey and ghostly, with a complexion that’s far from warm. Don’t worry about it though, we’ll cover the right product picks for each technique before this article’s end. Moving right along...

How to Contour

In addition to necessitating different products, contouring and bronzing call for different steps to apply the aforementioned products. Here’s how to use a contour product:

Step 1: Contour Key Spots

Another key difference between contouring and bronzing is that where you apply contour products on your face needs to be more specific than where you use bronzer. Sweeping a contour powder over your entire face won’t make you look slimmer all over, it’ll just look unnatural. You’ll want to keep the product to certain spots where a shadow would be natural. Using a makeup blender, apply a contour powder or cream on your temples, down either side of your nose, below your cheekbones, along your jawline, and in the dip beneath your bottom lip. 

Step 2: Blend, Blend, Blend  

One of the fastest way to mess up contouring is to skip this step. Blending only takes a minute but it makes all the difference in whether you simply have patches of dark makeup on your face or you actually look sculpted. Work your makeup brush or makeup blender over any harsh edges until they look soft and natural.

Step 3: Follow with Highlighter

Think of pairings that you know and love: Peanut butter and jelly, cats and dogs, salt and pepper…contour and highlight. Yep, contouring and highlighting really go together like PB&J! Highlighting the highpoints of your face is the perfect complement to contouring. Apply an illuminating powder, like the L’Oréal Paris True Match™ Lumi Shimmerista Highlighting Powder, down the bridge of your nose, above your cheekbones, around the inner corners of your eyes, and on your cupid’s bow. And don’t forget to blend!

Our Best Contour Products

Not sure what to use to sculpt your face? We have you covered—have your pick from our best contour products.

L’Oréal Paris Infallible Longwear Shaping Foundation Makeup Sticks: Easily define your face with these long-lasting, buildable shaping sticks, which are available in 12 shades.

L’Oréal Paris Infallible Total Cover Concealing and Contour Kit: If finding the right contour shade for your skin tone evades you, mix your perfect contour color with the four shades included in this multi-tasking kit.

L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro-Contour Palette: Prefer a powder contour products over creams? Use the angled brush included with this palette to sweep on contour powder and highlighter at the same time.

L’Oréal Paris Infallible Blend Artist Contour Blender: Banish harsh lines with this makeup blender—meant specifically for blending contour products.

How to Use Bronzer

Like we said, the steps to use bronzer aren’t quite the same as those for using a contour product. Here’s how to use bronzer:

Step 1: Apply Bronzer in “3” Shapes

If you’ve heard that bronzer is a solid replacement for self-tanner, and should be swept over your entire face, we have something to tell you. While bronzer may not need to be quite as strategically placed as a contour product, it isn’t meant to go everywhere. If that were the case, you would just apply foundation that’s too dark. Instead, bronzer should be focused on your forehead, cheekbones, and jawline—the spots the sun would naturally hit. The best way to do this is to use the “3” method, which involves creating “3” shapes on either side of your face. Dip a fluffy brush into a powder bronzer, then apply it in the shape of a “3” (or an “E”) along the side of your face, hitting your temples, cheekbones, and jawline.

Step 2: Don’t Forget your Neck

Don’t commit an amateur makeup mistake—your neck needs to match your face. That means not skipping applying bronzer to your neck. Before you put away your bronzer and brush, apply it to the sides of your neck, too.

Step 3: Add Blush

While the perfect final step after contouring is to highlight, the best way to complete a bronzed makeup look is with blush. Adding a (subtle) pop of color to your cheeks helps complete the natural, flushed effect you’re striving for. Sweep a shade of the L’Oréal Paris Paradise Enchanted Fruit-Scented Blush onto the apples of your cheeks—and you’re done.

Our Best Bronzer

Worried you’ll end up with a bronzer that’s terribly orange? We have a product recommendation to help with that:

L’Oréal Paris True Match™ Lumi Bronze It Bronzer: Achieve a healthy golden glow with this face and body bronzer.

Ready to find out the answers to more of your most pressing beauty questions? We have you covered: If you’re interested in expanding your face makeup knowledge, read What’s the Difference Between BB and CC Cream?