We Shopped for the Very Best Bronzers so You Wouldn't Have to—Here's Our List

Don't misunderstand. We love a sculpted, sun-kissed, bronzed moment 365 days a year, but there's truly no more opportune time than summer to find a new favorite bronzer. Or, if you're like us, multiple. The thing is, the best bronzers on the market have seriously evolved over the years, and no more are the muddy, orange-hued pans we used to smear on our faces circa high school.

These days, we have more options than we know what to do with. Some drugstore bronzers are best suited for our perpetually hungry wallets, some are great for contouring, some are nontoxic, some are shimmery, some are matte, some are creamy, and some are powdery. With limitless possibilities, pinpointing the best bronzer for your unique complexion, skin tone, and makeup aesthetic can suddenly feel like brain surgery. (Okay, maybe not, but you catch our drift.) 

To lend a helping hand, we scoured the internet to find the best bronzers to satisfy even the nitpickiest of bronzer shoppers. Keep scrolling the top 20 that made our "best" list—in every finish, form, and budget bandwidth you could ask for.

The Best Bargain Bronzers

Not only is this one of the best bronzers you can buy to add a dose of glow to your complexion, but it's also designed to gift your body with the same dose of magic. It comes in six different shades strategically suited to different skin undertones, is jumbo-sized to last you the whole season and then some, and features soft, airbrush-effect pearls that yield a flattering velvet-satin finish.

If you're seeking a matte bronzer, we highly recommend this fan-favorite from Milani. It comes in four different hues ranging from Sun Drenched (a deep tan with red undertones) to Sun Light (a light brown). What separates this powder from most other affordable matte bronzers we've tried is the hydration-rich formula. It's infused with luxurious argan oil for anti-aging protection and a blend-friendly consistency so streaks will be a bronzing issue of the past. 

The only thing better than scoring one bronzer for $7 is scoring four. We love this affordable palette because it gives you options regardless of your skin tone or bronzing preferences. Mix and match to customize your ultimate bronze and contour.

The Best Nontoxic Bronzers

Lawless makes some of our favorite makeup products, period. (And not just within the clean-makeup category.) This option offers a lush matte finish that won't make your skin look dry or powdery. 

We haven't stopped talking about Kosas's new versatile bronzer ever since its launch earlier this year. Already a best seller, it drenches skin with skin-plumping nourishment thanks to key ingredients like shea butter and meadowfoam seed oil, which together leave you with a luminous (but not glittery) finish. 

One thing that really makes or breaks a great bronzer is how easily and (and naturally) it blends into the skin. We want to look more bronzed and glowy, but we don't want our application to actually be detectable. Well, this new bronzer from Ilia is one of the absolute best for enhancing your skin's natural beauty without looking muddy or streaky on the skin. I blame it on the stellar panel of skin-boosting ingredients like jojoba seed oil (which hydrates without clogging pores), silica beads (which create a soft, silky application), and matte mica (which makes your skin look radiant sans glitter or sparkle).

The Best Bronzers for Contour

The Balm is such a dark-horse, amazing makeup brand that not enough people know about. And it just so happens to have some of the best bronzer/contour hybrids you can ask for. I'm partial to Bahama Mama, which is a dreamy, rich shade that's fabulous for contour, but the brand's Take Home the Bronze ($18) bronzer comes in three additional shades to gift you with even more contouring, shading, and sun-enhancing options. 

Okay, so this contouring bronzer from Tom Ford is an investment, but it also comes as a twofer thanks to the complementary creamy highlight. It's a celebrity-makeup-artist staple, and the deep, flattering shades are effortless to blend, contour, and sculpt into an undetectable result. 

This pretty little wand is beloved by editors, makeup artists, and celebrities for good reason—it yields the most seamless and easy-to-apply contour and bronzing effect. Simply glide the cushion applicator anywhere you want to shade or bronze, and then use your favorite brush or sponge to blend and diffuse it out for an airbrushed, semi-matte outcome. 

The Best Bronzing Creams

Fenty actually happens to make a number of amazing bronzers. That said, we have to say this creamy bronzing/contouring number is one of the absolute best. The range of shades caters to all skin tones, and the natural-looking tone of each creates a believable, featherlight finish to effortlessly bronze and add face-framing dimension to your complexion. It's also water-resistant and will play nicely with the makeup you've already applied. 

If you have a soft spot for a tidbit of shimmer, you'll go nuts for Tower 28's clean, radiance-enhancing formula. Not only does it bestow a pretty gleam effect, but it's also chock-full of skincare-grade antioxidants from MVP additions like green tea extract and mango butters. 

Hands down, Huda Beauty's Tantour Contour & Bronzer is one of the best cream bronzers of all time. Despite how intense this creamy formula looks, it's one of the most blendable and buildable formulas we've tried and features a unique cream-to-powder consistency, so once you blend, it will wear more durably (like a powder) versus melting off your face. I also highly recommend investing in this handy sculpting-and-shading brush.

Practically goof-proof, this hydrating cream bronzer is a new waterproof option packed with skin-smoothing marine plant extracts. It starts off velvety and malleable so you can easily blend and buff it into your skin, but it dries down matte so you're not left with a running mess post-sweat or -swim. 

The Best Bronzing Sticks

One-part bronzer, one-part contour, and one-part highlighter, this double-ended stick from Uoma Beauty is a game changer for anyone who loves a great multipurpose beauty product. Not only is it a fast and effortless way to add glow, definition, and contour, but the formula is also made with 28% naturally derived ingredients and 30% pure pigments. It has stamina in the no-budge department, and coverage is buildable so you can really customize your result. 

Prefer your bronzing stick to be touched with shimmer? This option from Nudestix is always one of the best bronzers to come to mind for us. And the brand just recently extended its shade range, so now you have even more options to choose from to suit your glow. 

So technically, this bronzer is actually a multipurpose stick that can be used as a concealer, foundation, bronzer, or contour, but the shade range, finish, and payoff are so good we couldn't leave it off our list. Plus, as far as color options go, Juvia's Place has set the bar high. Specifically formulated to feel like skin (and not like you just drew chalk across your complexion), it will last until you want to take it off, and a unique composition of ingredients work in tandem to keep your face amply hydrated but far away from grease city. 

The Best Bronzing Powders

After Nars's cult-loved bronzers in shades like Laguna and Casino amassed a huge cult following, the brand has broadened its bronzing categories to all forms and finishes. You can now choose from more shades and even have your choice between matte and sparkly, powder and liquid. We love this OG format, which comes in four shades and has the prettiest diffused shimmer effect. 

Similar to Nars's holy-grail option above, this illuminating bronzing powder from Hourglass is another one that has been around forever and accumulated a super-devout following. The name doesn't lie—thanks to the mosaic collage of hues, every shade is ultra-flattering, and the subtle swirls of shimmering bronze pigment lend the dreamiest candlelit finish to the complexion. Essentially, dust it around your face, chest, neck, and shoulders, and you'll look like you've been dunked in perfect lighting. 

Anastasia Beverly Hill is known for its best-selling eyebrow products and sought-after eye shadow palettes, but allow me to let you in on a lesser-known secret—the brand also makes a seriously amazing bronzing powder. You have six different shades to choose from, and they're so good that upon discovering this bronzer for the first time at a fellow editor's apartment a couple of years ago, I (perhaps) stole two different hues from her: Rose Wood and Saddle.

Don't let the chocolaty fragrance and adorable packaging fool you. This is one of Sephora's best-selling bronzers, and it's been one of my personal favorites since college. The OG (Chocolate Soleil) is my go-to, but you can also choose from Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate depending on your skin tone or bronzing preferences. It's a great option for anyone on the hunt for a strictly matte bronzer.

Up next: These Bronzers Are $11 and Under—in Case You Haven't Seen the Sun in a Second

Related Stories