how to pick bronzer for your skin tone

Hi Bunnies! Let’s talk about bronzers! If you want a quick, easy, natural looking glow, bronzer can be your best friend. If you pick the right shade and follow a few tips, it can be easy to use bronzer to create a “rush out the door – makeup in five minutes” look. It’s rare that I want to sit and apply makeup for an hour, so this is often my go-to easy makeup look.

How to Pick Bronzer for Your Skin Tone

First things first. A lot of people ask me if bronzer is okay to use during the winter. YES girl! Bronzer is sometimes seen as a summer makeup look, but if you’re feeling pasty and paler than normal during the winter, you should absolutely use bronzer to give you your glow back! But keep in mind – you may need a lighter shade for winter. That dark bronzer you were using over the summer during your vacation in Hawaii is going to look a little crazy on your sun-starved winter skin.

Cruelty Free Bronzers for Pale Skin

Bronzers for light skin tones

Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer Sunkissed and Deep swatches

Bronzer for Medium Skin Tones – Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer Sunkissed and Deep


Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer Swatches

Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer Swatches

Wet N Wild Coloricon Bronzer Swatches

Wet N Wild Coloricon Bronzer and Megaglo Highlighter Swatches (light to medium skin tones)

So that leads us to some tips on how to find the perfect bronzer for your skin tone. Generally you want to go one or two shades darker than your skin.

If you are very pale with pink undertones, you’ll want to find a cool-toned bronzer with less orange and gold in it. Look for neutral or pink undertones.

Best cruelty free bronzers for pale skin with pink undertones: 

Urban Decay Beached Bronzer in Sun Kissed (matte)

Too Faced Soleil Matte Bronzer – Milk Chocolate (matte)

Dr Hauschka Bronzing Powder in 01 Bronze (matte)

Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer in Light

If you’re pale with yellow or olive tones, you’ll be okay with a warmer bronzer, just don’t go too orange, and make sure the pigment is light enough for you.

Best cruelty free bronzers for pale skin with yellow undertones: 

Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer in “Bronzer” or “Light”

BECCA Sunlit Bronzer in Bali Sands

Too Faced Soleil Matte Bronzer in Chocolate (matte)

Wet n Wild Color Icon Bronzer in Palm Beach Ready (shimmer) or Sunset Striptease (matte)

If you have medium skin, you will do well with an earth-tone or copper shade. Just be careful not to go too orange, and make sure the shade is only 1-2 shades darker than your skin.

Best cruelty free bronzers for medium skin tones:

Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer in Sunkissed or Deep

Too Faced Soleil Matte Bronzer – Dark Chocolate (matte)

NYX Matte Bronzer – Medium or Deep Tan (matte)

Wet n Wild Color Icon Bronzer – What Shady Beaches (matte)

Wet n Wild Megaglo Highlighting Powder in Awesome Blossom (technically it’s a highlighter but it works as a shimmery bronzer!)

Women of color with darker skin may find that shades with more red and/or gold are the most flattering. But again, it depends on your undertones. Just remember not to go too dark or your skin could look muddy.

Best cruelty free bronzers for dark skin tones:

BECCA Sunlit Bronzer in Maui Night

Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer in Brazilian Glow or Endless Summer

Anastasia Beverly Hills Powder Bronzer – Mahogany or Cappuccino (matte)

NYX Bright Idea Illuminating Stick in Topaz Tan

Black Up Two Way Cake (technically a powder foundation, but if you can get a darker shade, you can use it as a matte bronzer)

Bareminerals Invisible Bronze Bronzer Powder – Dark to Deep

Colourpop Pressed Bronzer – Bits and Pieces (more reddish brown) or Rodeo Drive (more golden)

What Type of Bronzer is Best?

Bronzers come in pressed powder, loose powder, gel and liquid formulas. I prefer powders as I think they are just easier to use and I can apply them quickly with a fluffy brush. So a lot of it will just be preference. But, if you have very dry skin, you may want to try a liquid bronzer. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, a powder or water-based gel will be best.

Bronzers also come in matte and shimmery shades. Shimmery shades can be beautiful, but if you have textured, oily, lined, or acne-prone skin (or all of the above like me), you might want to go easy on the shimmer. I have noticed that if I apply too much highlighter or shimmery bronzer, it makes my pores look huge and small wrinkles seem to stand out more (especially on the apples of my cheeks and close to my nose).

Can You Contour with Bronzer?

Well, technically, yes you can. But I don’t, and here’s why. For one thing, many bronzers have shimmer, and that attracts the light, so that’s definitely not what you want for a contour (which is supposed to look like a natural shadow). Even if you have a matte bronzer, it may be more warm than you’d want for a contour shade. This of course, completely depends on your skin tone and the shade of bronzer you have. I personally like a very cool-toned brown to use as a contour (I love Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Contour Powder in Light). Sometimes I add that cool light brown contour, and then use a bit of shimmery bronzer right above to warm it up and hide any harsh lines.

How to Apply Bronzer

Okay so once you’ve applied foundation and dusted with setting powder, you’re ready to bronze. If you have great skin, you may even want to skip that step. Take a big fluffy brush (I like Bdellium Tools 962 or 992) and swirl it into your powder bronzer. If you’re using loose powdered bronzer, make sure you tap the brush to get rid of any excess.

Sweep it across all the areas of the face where the light would hit (and naturally give you a tan) – cheeks, chin, a bit on the nose. Use a light hand – you can always add more if you need it. Now add a bit more and blend it into your hairline on your forehead and cheeks. You shouldn’t have any obvious dark spots unless you’ve added too much or used a shade that is too dark. The idea is to warm up your face and give you a glow.

You can also add bronzer to your eyelids in lieu of eyeshadow. You can even use that same big fluffy brush – you’re not going for precision here – just a wash of color. If you’re like me and you have oily lids and hooded eyes, you may want to add an eyeshadow primer first to avoid creasing.

If you’re using a gel or liquid bronzer, you can apply and blend with your fingertips, or blend with a dense makeup brush, Beauty Blender or other makeup sponge.

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