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the ultimate bronzer guide for bronzer vs contour (and more)

table of contents:

the ultimate bronzer guide for bronzer vs contour (and more)

bronzer guide on bronzer vs contour: learn about subtl beauty's bronzer powder

it’s time we tackle the topic of bronzer vs contour. is there a distinction between bronzer makeup and contour? are they applied with different methods? How do you know which to use? while tons of questions about bronzer vs contour are circulating the internet and beautytok, subtl has the answers – per usual – so allow us to put them in a handy bronzer guide for you.

keep reading to find out all the deets on bronzer makeup and bronzer vs contour:

bronzer guide on bronzer vs contour: what’s the history?

bronzer guide on bronzer vs contour: learn about the history of bronzer makeup

as with most things beauty, the ancient egyptians were the first to crush natural minerals and oils to make something similar to bronzer makeup. it wasn’t until the early 20th century, though, that the concept of bronzer really began to take shape, thanks to the influence of hollywood.

coco chanelaka the founder of chanel – is sometimes credited with popularizing the bronzed, sunkissed look as she accidentally tanned on a cruise in the 1920s. regardless, her leftover vacation glow was the talk of the town, causing a shift in the age-old trend of pale skin.

somewhere between the 1970s and today, bronzer makeup became a beauty staple, allowing people to achieve a healthy, radiant look sans sun exposure. since bronzer has grown in popularity, it’s become available in powders, creams, gels, and even airbrushed sprays.

want to learn more about the history of makeup? click here to read our in-depth blog post.

bronzer guide on bronzer vs contour: what’s the difference?

bronzer guide on bronzer vs contour: the similarities and differences between contour and bronzer makeup, such as using bronzer for warmth and contour for sculpting (and more).

if you’ve found yourself wondering what sets bronzer vs contour apart, you’re not alone. in fact, subtl beauties from all over the world ask us the difference between the two 24/7, which is why we created this user-friendly bronzer guide. for the most part, bronzer is used to add warmth and a sun-tanned look to your skin. emily gray, a celebrity mua from nashville, tn, says:

“usually, bronzer is applied where the sun would naturally hit the face. multiple shades fall under bronzer shades, but they tend to have a yellow, olive, golden, or sometimes red undertone." bronzer makeup is typically applied to the high points of your face, like the cheekbones, forehead, nose, and chin, and can sometimes include a dash of shimmer within the formula. 

faintly different than bronzer, contour is a great tool for sculpting and shaping. here’s what emily tells byrdie about contour: "contour can be a liquid, cream, or powder product and is used to sculpt. contour shades mimic shadows occurring on faces and can almost create an illusion of a more sculpted face.” it’s worth noting that contour products tend to come in cooler tones. 

here is a bronzer vs contour cheatsheet:


  • adds warmth
  • comes in warm tones
  • gives a natural glow
  • leaves a sun-kissed effect


  • defines features
  • comes in cool tones
  • creates shadows
  • great for a sculpted look

check out this tutorial from niara on bronzer vs contour:

bronzer guide on bronzer vs contour: how do you choose the right shade?

after learning the deets on bronzer vs contour, you might be wondering how to pick the correct shade for your skin tone. as the home of custom, stackable makeup, we have a beginner-friendly beauty quiz that matches you with the perfect shade for your subtl stak.

click here to take our beauty quiz and find the perfect bronzer makeup for your skin.

bronzer guide on bronzer vs contour: the beauty quiz can help you find your perfect shade of bronzer makeup

if you’re not much of a beauty quiz gal, here’s a bronzer guide to finding your go-to shade

  1. determine your skin tone
  • fair skin: look for a light, honey-colored bronzer, avoiding shades that are too dark or orange.
  • medium skin: try warm, golden, or amber-toned bronzer makeup
  • olive skin: opt for shades with a touch of copper or a deep golden hue.
  • dark skin: select a bronzer with deep, rich shades like terracotta or chocolate, avoiding anything too light.
  1. consider your undertone (take our undertone quiz if you’re unsure)
  • cool undertones: choose bronzers with a hint of pink or a neutral undertone (this will keep you from looking orange).
  • warm undertones: go for bronzers with golden or peachy tones to complement your natural warmth.
  • neutral undertones: most shades will work, but golden or peach tones can add a healthy, natural glow.
  1. finish type
  • matte finish: while matte finishes are perfect for a natural look and oily skin types, they’re also great for subtle contouring.
  • shimmer finish: while top-notch for adding a radiant, glowing effect, remember that shimmer finishes work best for dry to normal skin types.
  1. testing the shade
  • swatch test: apply a small amount of bronzer makeup to your jawline or the back of your hand. it should blend seamlessly without looking too harsh or unnatural.
  • lighting: check the bronzer in natural light to see if it’s the right hue for your skin tone.
  • subtl check: did you know we offer free refunds if your bronzer makeup isn’t a perfect match? 

bronzer guide on bronzer vs contour: what are some techniques and tools?

bronzer guide on bronzer vs contour: techniques to apply your bronzer makeup flawlessly

expert mua, natalie gee, says this about bronzer makeup application: "my general rule for applying bronzer shades that are deeper than your skin tone is to blend everything very well into the skin and blend upwards into the hairline. i love to apply bronzer over the cheekbones, around the hairline, just above the jawline, down the neck, and onto my chest for cohesion.”

"apply bronzer makeup with a fluffy brush to diffuse, and apply that color anywhere the sun would hit you naturally," mua emily gray recommends. "the sun hits the higher points of your face, as those areas are closer to the sun. usually, this is the temples of your forehead, tops of your cheekbones, chin, and nose." this is known as the “3 technique, “which can be seen here:

for a natural, minimalistic look on the go – something subtl beauty is all about – mua natalie mentions: "i’m all about multi-purpose: bronzer makeup is a product I can wear as a blush, an eye shadow, and on my cheekbones – it’s all about creating warmth on the skin." but this may be why the lines between bronzer vs contour are blurred, creating confusion between the two.

remember: bronzer adds warmth, while contour defines shape. 

if you need tools to apply your bronzer makeup, subtl beauty has you covered (yet again):


@subtlbeauty Replying to @❂ udon The subtl brush line up which are all travel friendly and perfect for stocking stuffers! 💃🏻🎅 #subtlbeauty #minimalmakeup #makeupstockingstuffers ♬ A Nonsense Christmas - Sabrina Carpenter


bronzer guide on bronzer vs contour: are there any good application resources?

bronzer guide on bronzer vs contour: check out our blog to find out more about bronzer makeup and contour

have you checked out our bite-sized blog yet? not only do we keep it updated with makeup tutorials, but it’s also filled with articles providing useful travel tips, vacation destination ideas, info on brand formulas, and more. check out these bronzer makeup resources from our blog:

bronzer guide on bronzer vs contour: faq

bronzer guide on bronzer vs contour: the most commonly asked questions about bronzer makeup

what is bronzer used for?

bronzer is used to add warmth and a sun-kissed glow to the skin.

how do i choose the right shade of bronzer for my skin tone?

choose a bronzer one to two shades darker than your natural skin tone, but make sure it complements your undertone. you can find our beginner-friendly undertone quiz here if you’re unsure of what yours is. in addition, we have a beauty quiz to help you decide what to stak.

should i use bronzer if i have fair skin?

yes, you’re not left out of the bronzer makeup game! choose a light bronzer with subtle warmth to avoid looking too orange. don’t be scared to test a few different shades to see what you like.

can bronzer be used as a substitute for contouring?

ah, the bronzer vs contour debacle. bronzer adds warmth while contouring creates shadows to define features; they serve different purposes but can complement each other. while bronzer can work for contouring in a pinch, dedicated contour products often offer better precision.

where should i apply bronzer on my face?

apply bronzer makeup to areas where the sun naturally hits: the cheeks, forehead, nose, jaw, and chin.

what’s the difference between matte and shimmer bronzer?

matte bronzer provides a natural finish, while shimmer bronzer adds a radiant glow (usually with glistening particles).

can bronzer be used all year round, or is it just for summer?

bronzer can be used year-round to add warmth and enhance your features. 

should bronzer be applied before or after foundation?

apply bronzer after foundation to ensure a natural finish.

can bronzer be used on body parts other than the face?

absolutely! bronzer can be used on your neck, shoulders, and décolletage.

bronzer vs contour: what’s the difference?

contouring uses darker shades to create shadows and define features, while bronzer makeup adds warmth and a sun-kissed glow.

have a question to add to our bronzer guide? we’d love to hear them. you can send them via our instagram, or you can leave a comment below for our experts to review. happy staking!




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