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10 best bronzers for glowy skin 2021
If you’re on the hunt for a great bronzer, these are the hands-down, tried-and-tested products for you to buy.
In today’s makeup world, there are almost too many top-of-the-line products to count. Every day there’s a new popular product receiving rave reviews and kudos from those in the beauty business. So how do you know which ones to spend your money on?
Here at finder, we’ve conducted quality checks on hundreds of products and dozens of bronzers – so we know when we’ve found a class product! Based on our Shopping team’s experience, here are the absolute best bronzers on the market right now.
Benefit Hoola Bronzer
All our Shopping team members unanimously agreed that this is definitely the best bronzer out there. This purely matte product is not just for adding tan to your skin, it’s an excellent powder contour too.
Its formula is not overly pigmented, so you can build your glow and contour slowly. It’s also very blendable so you can easily smooth out any mistakes and blend away any areas if you’ve applied too much product.
Benefit Hoola suits me perfectly, it’s one of my favourite ways to contour and it’s also my preferred eyeshadow base too. The truly remarkable thing about this bronzer is that it suits the vast majority of skin tones despite only coming in one shade. I personally have medium-dark skin and often find myself buying the darkest bronzer shade.
I’ve also seen it look beautiful on many of my much fairer-skinned friends and colleagues. While this product is slightly less flattering on very pale skin, Benefit developed a Hoola Lite version for those with porcelain complexions. On the flipside, very dark-skinned beauties can try Benefit’s liquid variety called Dew the Hoola which adds a bronzey sheen perfect for deep-dark skin.
Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder
Terracotta by Guerlain is a range of bronzing products and the standard bronzing powder certainly stands out. This is a shimmery bronzer rather than a powder you can contour with, but it’s still a multi-purpose product. In fact, it’s one of my favourite eyeshadow shades.
I also really appreciate this bronzers’ old-school-beauty scent that gives the product a more luxurious feel when you apply it.
The formula has shimmer but without making your skin appear too glossy or shiny. I find many shiny bronzers can exaggerate the skin’s imperfections, but this product adds a very light sheen that still allows you to conceal blemishes.
Terracotta is a smooth, almost creamy powder that you apply using a brush – finger applications will yield a patchy result. It has a little more pigment than products like Benefit Hoola but it’s still buildable so you can choose to be lightly bronzed or deeply sun-drenched.
This product comes in 10 shades, and unlike many makeup brands there are shades for both warm tones and cool tones. Most bronzers come in purely warm tones, which leaves those with pink undertones looking rather yellow. However, Guerlain made Terracotta available in both pink and yellow-olive shades for cool complexions.
NB: Some New Zealand stores only stock four of the lighter shades so you may need to jump on the Guerlain online store to access the full range.
MAC Bronzing Powder
MAC Bronzing Powder is a great all-round product. This is one of the first bronzers I ever used and I love how sheer it is. Its translucent formula really allows you to build your desired level of tan.
Sheer products can be a lot friendlier to a broad range of skin tones. Pale beauties apply a little less bronzer whereas darker beauties get their desired shade simply by adding more.
This bronzing powder is designed to provide a natural finish – in other words, you’re not supposed to look like you’re wearing bronzer after using this, which a big tick for me. As someone who doesn’t like to look overly made up, this is a great product to help you achieve the natural “no-makeup” look.
Rather than a broad palette, this product offers four colour selections each with a different level of shimmer. I personally love the matte version because it’s great for contouring, but the shimmery varieties are also lovely.
- Price: $41
- Where to buy: FreshFragrances, M.A.C
We couldn’t have a best bronzers list without a BECCA item in the mix and if there’s one thing BECCA is famous for, it’s products that make you glow.
The Sunlit Bronzer means you can leave your highlighter at home because this formula packs in a lot of shimmer. I am personally not a fan of super-shimmery bronzers but the Sunlit bronzers are simply so pretty. In the pan they’re eye-catching, and they’re even more beautiful once they’re applied – they really make you look totally sun-kissed.
I love the darkest shade, Maui Nights – the slightly reddish tone adds a little fresh-from-the-beach blush to your skin so your bronzey tan looks more natural. I use it on nights when I want to feel extra glam.
Sunlit Bronzer is a powder with a creamy consistency and a medium amount of pigment. It’s buildable, but remember it’s shimmery, so less is more. As with most creamy powders, applying it with a big fluffy brush yields optimal results.
Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow
Makeup-artist-turned-mogul Charlotte Tilbury expertly crafts all her products that go further than most other items on the market. Her Filmstar Bronze & Glow Contour Duo compact is a prime example, using a technology called Light Flex that Tilbury patented herself.
What is particularly interesting to me is that the bronzer in the palette is designed to be a sculpting and contouring bronzer, and yet it is slightly shimmery. It sounds like a contradiction in terms, adding light and shimmer to contour which is designed to create shadows. However, the end result yields a sculpted effect that looks a lot more natural than other bronzer/contours.
The powder’s very subtle glow keeps your entire face (even the contoured areas) looking luminous and fresh. This is a great product for anyone who is new to contouring or who doesn’t like their contour looking too severe.
This contour and highlight duo also makes for a great top-of-the-cheekbone bronzer that is flattering on most light-to-medium skin tones. Likewise, the dark version is flattering on most darker complexions.
I think this product’s only downside is the price tag – it is designed to be a luxury product.
- Price: $111
- Where to buy: Charlotte Tilbury, Fishpond
Rimmel Natural Bronzer
If your budget runs short from luxury makeup, I love the Rimmel Natural Bronzer as a natural and affordable option. Currently in my beauty cupboard, this is a product I have returned to many times over.
Not 100% matte and not overly shimmery, I use it when I don’t want a shiny appearance or the flat-matte-90s look that other bronzers can create. It’s what I choose for the most natural look.
Similar to the other products in this list, its formula has lower pigment. I believe overly pigmented bronzers often look patchy when applied and are harder to correct if you make a mistake.
Rimmel Natural Bronzer has minimal pigment that provides a light wash of colour so you look like you’ve just come back from a week-long tropical holiday. This is my favourite day-to-day look.
As a warning, this product is specifically designed for the natural, less-is-more look. Using too much will make you look orange. If you are seeking a buildable product that you can layer on, there are other products that are more suitable.
- Price: $15.95
- Where to buy: Chemist Warehouse, Countdown, Farmers
Soleil Tan De Chanel
This cult multi-purpose product is the secret to so many famous sculpted faces. This gel-cream has the consistency of a foundation and is designed to work as a bronzing base, but this product does so much more than that.
You can add a little bit to your regular foundation to make it a shade darker, or use it as a contour base and apply foundation over the top for a very subtle sculpt. You can apply it as a contour over your foundation and then set with a contour powder for a stronger colour pay-off. You can use it as a dewy bronzer and blend it over your cheekbones for a soft, sun-kissed look.
But my favourite way to wear this is alone. I love wearing it as a contour or bronzer without foundation. Soleil Tan De Chanel has a light amount of coverage perfect for people like me who are endlessly chasing the “natural look”.
I always bring this gem with me on holiday because I find it does the job of so many other products, making my suitcase instantly lighter. If you love cream products, then you will absolutely adore this one.
- Price: $89
- Where to buy: FreshFragrances, Smith & Caughey’s
Kevyn Aucoin The Celestial Bronzing Veil
Kevyn Aucoin was a makeup artist by trade so he really knew what he was doing when he created his makeup products. The Celestial Bronzing Veil is known for being a close match to the colour of an actual tan. No orange tones in sight.
If you find that many bronzers look unnatural or way too orange on your skin, this is the product to try. Its tones are more brown with a ruddy undertone you might get if you were actually in the sun. Neither completely matte nor entirely glittery, this powder is somewhere in-between offering a gentle radiance that doesn’t look like you’ve applied a highlighter.
The thing that truly sets this bronzer apart from the rest is its colour gradient, with the lighter tone at the top and the darker shade at the bottom. This allows you to create different looks and intensities with one product.
It’s a fantastic feature for people like me who tan deeply in summer but are a lot paler in winter, saving me from having to have separate summer and winter bronzers.
Nude by Nature Mineral Bronzer
Nude by Nature is another top drugstore bronzer option. I like this product for an even and well-blended finish that is not at all patchy.
It’s also great for contouring – it’s mostly matte without being entirely flat, perfect for lightly sculpting the face in a natural-looking way. This bronzer is a little more pigmented than the other options, so go with a light hand.
I really appreciate just how much product you get in one container. I used it daily and the tub lasted me for just under one year.
Those with oily skin should be particularly interested in Nude by Nature. The key ingredient is kaolin which is great at mattefying and absorbing excess oil so you look fresh all day. Moreover, Nude by Nature is an all-natural brand that promises ethical, cruelty-free practices which is another big tick.
- Price: $44.95
- Where to buy: Adore Beauty
Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer
This another cult-favourite product that is loved for its warm brown tones.
Some may wonder how this product gets its sweet chocolatey smell and it chocolatey-brown colour. Well, it’s because this product is actually made with cocoa powder. Pretty cool, huh?
It’s available in three shades: milk chocolate, chocolate and dark chocolate. As a darker girl, I love the dark chocolate colour. This shade is a lot more brown than it is bronze so it’s an absolutely fantastic product for contouring. It’s also one of the few bronzers I’ve seen that works really well on deep, dark skin tones.
User-wise, this is a matte product that blends well, offers a medium amount of pigment and is easy to apply even if you’re new to makeup. However, the key reason I would likely repurchase this is because Too Faced is a joyous brand that is pleasurable and exciting to use. The packaging is premium, the product looks great and given the warm chocolatey smell, it’s so much fun to play with.
Real girl favourites
MAC Bronzing Powder
Sleek Makeup Face Form Contouring Palette
Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer
MAC’s Bronzing Powder blends so well into your skin and has a subtle shimmer to it. – Bianca
I like this palette because it’s really well-suited to brown skin, so cheap and super underrated. – Monisha
I like the Too Faced Chocolate Soleil. I find it’s a really good deep colour and stops any oiliness. – Jessica
Is bronzer and contour the same?
No, it’s not. However, in some instances you can use a bronzer to contour your face.
Whether powder, cream or liquid, bronzers are products that are designed to enhance your skin with a tanned look. These products are very popular in cultures where bronzed, tanned skin is desirable.
Bronzers can be matte and have no shimmer or glitter. They can be lightly radiant with a few illuminating minerals. Or they can be shimmery with glitter that adds a highlight and glow to the skin.
Contour products are designed to add shadows into strategic parts of the face to make areas look smaller, bigger, longer, slimmer – whatever you prefer.
As contour products are designed to imitate natural shadows, many true contour products will have a greyish undertone. These are not the best products to bronze your face with.
Some darker bronzing products with no shimmer can be used to contour in a user-friendly way to add natural-looking shadows to the face. Just make sure you are using a matte product – shimmery products are not effective for contouring.
Where do you apply bronzer on your face?
For a naturally-tanned, sun-kissed look, bronzer should be applied to the areas of the face that the sun would normally hit: the forehead, bridge of the nose and apple of the cheek. If your bronzer has a lot of shimmer in it, use a light touch. When using bronzer to contour, you should apply it to the parts of your face that you want to look less prominent.
How do you contour?
Contour should be applied to the parts of the face that would have a natural shadow. A contour product can exaggerate the depth and size of your natural shadows to help sculpt and change the shape of your facial features.
For example, you could apply it to the hollows of your cheeks to make your face look slimmer and cheekbones higher. Some apply to the top of the forehead to make it look smaller, and adding contour to the sides of your nose can make it look thinner.
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