Is Bronzer the Same as Contour?

One of the best parts about makeup is how creative you can be with it! From foundations e that come in a variety of coverage levels and finishes to eyeshadows that range from vibrant shimmers to sultry mattes – the list goes on.

Now, even though all this choice is a beauty lover’s dream, so many options can often lead to confusion between products that are seemingly nearly identical – and that’s where bronzer and contour come into the mix.

If you’re currently updating your makeup bag and are interested in incorporating a contour stick or new bronzing palette into your beauty routine, then rest assured that you’re not the only one confused about the main differences between these two types of makeup products.

Below, let’s breakdown the purpose of each one, so you can learn how to properly use each one within both your day and night makeup routine:  

Bronzer: A bronzer is specifically designed to help bring warmth to the face, which is why you are supposed to apply it to all the places in which the sun would naturally hit, such as your forehead and the tip of your nose.

So, if you’re trying to fake your way to a summer tan, the use of a bronzer is the easiest way to make it look as though you’ve just spent the past two weeks sunbathing in Bali. 

Wondering how to use it? It couldn’t be simpler. To get that bronzed glow, grab either a powder or kabuki brush, ensuring to tap any of the excess powder prior to use.

Apply to your forehead, cheeks, and tip of your nose for an instant warm glow. Got somewhere to be? Sweep some of your favorite bronzer (we like this one) across your decolletage and collar bones to complete your look.

Contour: Contouring is a makeup application technique that aims to create structure to your face via the use of shadow. In order to create dimension, contour products (which are available in both cream and powder format) are strategically placed in certain areas of the face to help create definition. 

So, while bronzer is used to help add a natural glow, contour is used to create the illusion of a more structured face and can enhance the appearance of the cheekbones, sharpen the jawline and help to slim and lengthen the nose.

It’s also worth noting that, though not always the case, contour products often tend to be neutral (as opposed to golden and warm undertones used in bronzing products) and are matte in finish, in order to emulate a real shadow.

Just getting started with contour? The Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit is a cult favorite and ideal for beginners.

Can you use bronzer as a contour?

If you don’t want to buy a contouring product (or simply want to shorten the length of your daily makeup routine) then you can absolutely choose to contour with a bronzer.

However, you’re probably going to find that the road to finding the perfect bronzer for use as contour might take a little trial and error.

Generally speaking, when it comes to bronzer, you should always aim to choose a product that has the opposite tone of your skin’s natural undertone, although the ultimate choice should always be based upon your preferences and what makes you feel most confident.

If you would like to use a bronzer as a contour, it’s important to first keep in mind that pretty much all bronzers tend to be warm-toned and full of shimmer, and this is to help create the appearance of a sun-kissed glow.

However, when it comes to contour you’re going to want to create the illusion of shadow, which is why we recommend steering clear of these types of bronzers, and instead opting for one that has a matte finish and no shimmer – the Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Bronzing Powder is perfect. 

What comes first, bronzer or contour?

If you’re on the search for the best technique to create both a sculpted and sunkissed glow, bronzer and contour are going to be your new best friends – but which should you use first?

After you have applied your base and are ready to bring in that depth and dimension, the first product that you’re going to want to reach for is your contour.

If you’re using a powder contour, then we recommend making sure to set your foundation with a little bit of translucent powder (Laura Mercier’s Setting Powder is the stuff of miracles) as this will help to lock in your foundation and prevent any lifting of the formula when you apply the powder contour over the top.

On the flip side, if you’re applying a cream contour, then we recommend holding off with that setting powder until after you have applied the contour, as the cream formula won’t disturb the formula of your foundation, and will seamlessly blend in. 

After you have applied your contour and setting powder, the next step will be to apply your bronzer. Take your favorite brush and gently apply the bronzer to your forehead, cheekbones, and jawline.

If you wanted to, you could also use your bronzer as an eyeshadow for a natural smokey eye – this trick is a lifesaver for mornings when you’ve overslept your alarm! 

What’s the difference between bronzer and highlighter?

While bronzer is intended to add warmth and dimension to the places of your face the sun would naturally hit while tanning or exploring a new city, a highlighter is slightly different, and is intended to create a dewy and radiant glow only in the high points of your face (we’re talking the cheekbones, tip of the nose, and cupid’s bow).

Though these products are often sold separately, there are a variety of beauty products on the market that combine elements of both and are ideal choices for busy lifestyles and no makeup days.

The Milani Baked Highlighter is a staple in the beauty bags of makeup artists and beauty fanatics alike and can be used interchangeably as both a bronzer and highlight for a natural radiance that will look like you aren’t wearing any makeup at all.