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Difference Between Bronzer and Contour

People often mistake bronzer and contour, but the two are actually quite different. Yes, both add dimension and color, and bronzer can be used as part of the contouring effect but contouring is all about where you apply color to your face to create a specific shape, and bronzer is meant to warm up your skin in spots that sun would naturally hit. Both can come in liquid, cream or powder form and there are a variety of techniques and tips for each.

But let’s assess what you’re looking for first. Both can add a little extra glamour to your current makeup routine, and ultimately, it depends on how much time and commitment you have.


Bronzer will sunny up a pale face or give you that “vacation glow.” This typically comes in a more orange tone and sometimes with a shimmer. This has been a mainstream makeup step for years.


Contouring can add structure and depth and create a sharper jawline, a narrower-looking nose, or more prominent cheekbones (think Kardashians – who use this method frequently, among other celebrities). This was typically done by pros in the past, but with the art of YouTube videos and palettes with how-to guides, virtually anyone can create a look with this method.

Which To Choose?

If you’re running out the door, or just don’t have the desire to apply multiple colors for a shadow effect, bronzing will be your best bet. It’s quick, easy and can provide you with a radiant, healthy appearance. But if you’re all in, contouring is going to require you to “map out” your face and decide what areas you want to define, and what areas you want to minimize. Contouring was made famous by the late Kevyn Aucoin who was known for painting the faces of some of the most beautiful models and celebrities throughout the decades.

The key to both is blending. While bronzer is a quick and effective step, you’re still going to have to get the right blending brush and have it fade into your foundation or powder so it doesn’t look like you have sunny circles and patches across your face. Contouring requires a whole lot of blending, baby, so get your brush set out – this is going to take a few minutes. Contouring, when done right, can give you killer cheekbones and a jaw-dropping jawline.

So how do you apply each? Glad you asked!

How to Apply Bronzer

The first step is choosing the right color – look for something that is around two shades deeper than your natural skin tone. If you’re opting for a liquid or cream bronzer, you’ll want to invest in a sponge blender. If you prefer powder, a big fluffy brush will do the trick. You’ll want to hit the high points where the sun would naturally touch your face. The easiest way is to start at the apples of your cheeks and blend upward toward your hairline. But there are many techniques for applying bronzer online or on YouTube.

How to Apply Contour

This is all going to depend on the look you are going for and the shape of your face. So, start examining in the mirror and decide what you want to highlight or minimize. The basic gist is, start at your forehead and swipe your contour product along the temples or the hairline, depending on the look you want. Then, sweep the product down to the hollows of your cheekbones to make them look more defined. 

Finally, to contour your jawline, sweep the product just along the edge of your jaw in a forward motion. Once you’re finished contouring, you can either use a sponge blender or a makeup brush (depending on which type of formula you used) to blend your contouring seamlessly into your face. If you want to get really fancy, you can purchase a contouring palette, which has highlighters and lighter shades to really add dimension to the places you did not apply the contour. This is what creates that “pop” that says, “look at me!”


Whichever method you decide, we hope you have enough information to achieve the beauty look you are aiming for.

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