3 Celebrity Makeup Artists Just Schooled Me on How to Apply Bronzer

If there is a topic I'm being asked about more and more as the warmer weather arrives, it's how to apply bronzer. It's true, bronzer is one of my favourite beauty products to add warmth to the skin. In fact, I don't just use it in the summer, but I deploy it from my makeup bag year-round.

In my role as a beauty editor, I have tried a lot of bronzers. And trust me, not every bronzer is created equal. From matte to shimmer bronzers, to powder and cream formulations, there are just so many to choose from. Personally, I favour a cream bronzer, which I feel gives me the best blend ability while lending a healthy radiance to the skin. However, if you're particular oily-skinned, you might get on better with a powder bronzer to help reduce shine. It's totally down to individual preference. And, of course, a bronzer for fair skin won't work for those with deeper skin tones, and the best bronzers for dark skin won't work if you have lighter skin.

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(Image credit: @eleanorvousden)

However, no matter what bronzer you decide to wear, application is key. The right application can have people asking you if you've just been away, whereas the typical bronzer mistakes will give the game away. To find out all the top tips on how to apply bronzer, I reached out to three celebrity makeup artists and experts—Bobbi Brown, makeup artist and founder of Jones Road, Marco Antonio, Chanel makeup artist and Jamie Genivieve, makeup artist and founder of Vieve—and asked them to share their all their bronzing tips. It's time to get glowing.

1. Choose the right bronzer shade

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(Image credit: @_jessicaskye)

First things first, you want to ensure that your bronzer shade is the right one for you. "Your bronzer works well when it’s a couple shades darker than your skin tone and matches your cool, warm, or neutral undertone," says makeup artist and Vieve founder, Jamie Genevieve. "When looking at the shade of bronzer always make sure to look at the tone too. Cooler skin looks amazing with a bronzer that leans slightly more pink, but if you were to use anything too warm it can come up quite orange. Vice-versa applies; tan and olive skin can use warmer bronzer shades but if you go too pink it can look grey," says Genevieve.

So, how can you determine your skin's undertone? "If you're not sure, look at the veins on your wrist. If they appear blue or purple, you have cool undertones. If they appear green, you have warm undertones. If they appear blue-green, you have neutral undertones," says Chanel makeup artist and expert, Marco Antonio. "Choose a shade that is one to two shades darker than your natural skin tone: If you have fair skin, choose a light bronze shade. If you have medium skin, opt for a medium bronze shade. If you have dark skin, choose a deep bronze shade," Antonio says.

2. Choose the best bronzer formula for your skin type

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(Image credit: @eleanorvousden)

Once you've got the right tone nailed down, you'll want to work out which formulation will work best for your bronzer application. "Often bronzers are too orange, too shimmery and look artificial on the skin," says Bobbi Brown, makeup artist and founder of Jones Road. So, you want to consider non-shimmery formulas in a powder, cream or liquid consistency for the most natural faux-glow. "If you have oily skin, a powder bronzer may be best, while if you have dry skin, a cream or liquid formula may work better," says Antonio. "Choose a matte or shimmer finish based on your preference: matte finishes provide a natural, subtle look while shimmery finishes provide a more radiant, glowing look."

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3. Use the right bronzer brush

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(Image credit: @_jessicaskye)

Whether you prefer using powder bronzers, or cream or liquid formulations, there is a certain way to apply each to get a seamless effect. "Use a damp sponge if working with a cream bronzer and buff the bronzer into the forehead, cheeks, jaw and a touch across the nose—all the places the sun naturally hits," says Genevieve. "Once you have a soft, blended layer of bronzer, you can use a denser brush to go in with a little more pigment and precision to add dimension to the face. A failsafe technique to bronze is to use sheer layers and slowly build," she says. 

If you're opting for a powder bronzer, a large, fluffy makeup brush is your go-to. "The best way to apply bronzer would be with a large, fluffy brush, says Antonio. "This will help me apply the product evenly and prevent streaks or harsh lines. Start by applying the bronzer to the areas of your face that the sun would naturally hit, such as your forehead, temples, cheekbones." Remember, the bigger and fluffier the brush, the more diffused your bronzer application will be. "Using a small or dense brush can lead to an over-application of bronzer," he says.

Regardless of which formulation you're using blending is key when it comes to bronzer. "Make sure to blend out any harsh lines or edges for a natural-looking finish," says Antonio. However, if you have gone a bit OTT, don't worry. "Going in too heavy too quickly can lead to tide marks and patchiness, but this can be easily avoided by using those sheer layers of product and slowly building the colour," says Genevieve. "Using a brush with your usual setting powder can also soften any edges and help blend further."

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4. Use the right bronzer placement

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(Image credit: @juliesfi)

Thanks to the likes of TikTok, there seems to be a bit of confusion of where to apply bronzer, with some choosing to use bronzer as contour. We're all for standing by that beauty doesn't have rules, however, contouring and bronzing products are very different. "I don't think bronzer application is about correcting or enhancing a face shape," says Brown. "Bronzer is a tint to the skin. It's diffused all over the face, no matter the shape. I don’t use bronzer as a contour."

The warm tones of a bronzer, when used as contour underneath the cheekbones or jawline, can appear unnatural and muddy-looking. Instead, stick to cool-toned contouring products if you want to define and chisel your features, and warm-toned bronzers to add warmth and glow to the skin. Think of the places the sun naturally hits—the cheeks, nose and forehead—this is where you should apply bronzer.

Another top tip is to ensure you bring your bronzer down the next and chest. "If you apply bronzer to your face but not your neck and chest, it can create an unnatural contrast," says Antonio. "Make sure to blend the bronzer down onto your neck and chest for a seamless look."

Now you've got the tips on how to apply bronzer, check out some of our favourite bronzing product ahead.

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Eleanor Vousden
Beauty Editor, Who What Wear UK

Eleanor Vousden is the beauty editor for Who What Wear UK. She was previously deputy editor at Hairdressers Journal, health writer at Woman & Home and junior beauty editor at beauty website Powder. She has also contributed to Wallpaper and Elle Collections with written and styling work.

Working as a beauty journalist since 2015 after graduating in fashion journalism at the London College of Fashion, she has been highly commended at the BSME Talent Awards for her work on Powder and also contributed to the title winning Website of the Year at the PPA Awards.

Eleanor’s journalistic focus is to provide readers with honest and helpful beauty content. Through words, video and live broadcast, she has interviewed several celebrity makeup artists, hairstylists and top dermatologists throughout her career, as well as celebrities such as Sarah Jessica Parker and Scarlett Johansson. She has a particular interest in finding solutions for acne and eczema, which she has experienced firsthand. She has also amassed a large collection of fragrances and can never say no to a new candle.

When she’s not writing or testing the latest beauty product or treatments, she’s on the seafront in her hometown of Brighton and Hove, where she lives with her partner and her miniature dachshund.