We’ve been taught so many lessons on bronzer, it’s tough to keep track. From contouring and “nontouring,” what’s the right way to apply it, and where? Turns out, there are even more ways than we originally thought, and even more tricks on how to master it. Here, top experts weigh in on the tricks they rely on to make every bronzer application a home run.
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Use the Rule of 3
Celebrity makeup artist Ashley Rebecca says that when it comes to bronzer, always remember the number three. “Apply in the shape of a 3 along the forehead, cheekbone and jawline to add contour and warmth to the skin that looks believable and natural.” To make it easy, face one side when looking in the mirror and imagine the number when applying the formula. Then, switch to the other side and “flip” the number to match. “I swear by it!”
Start at the Hairline
While we may think our cheekbones are good starting points for application, celebrity makeup artist Kyriaki Savrani says the hairline is a much better idea for a seamless, well-blended finish. “Using a medium-size brush (this gives you more control), apply bronzer at the hairline (beginning at the temples) and sweep it all around the forehead along your natural hairline,” he explains. “Applying bronzer at the hairline first, then working inward toward the cheekbones will give your contour a blended effect. This is the main differentiator between a natural look and a caked-on one.”
Expand Your Canvas
Giorgio Armani celebrity makeup artist Tim Quinn says he applies bronzer to his clientele’s legs, arms and décolleté to create a sun-kissed glow while providing must-have SPF protection at the same time (depending on the product). “I then use Giorgio Armani Micro-Fil Loose Powder mixed with the Maestro Bronzer as a setting all over—it keeps the bronzer looking more like a subtle golden veil of color.” Jackie Gomez, head of Make Up For Ever’s NYC Academy, agrees, adding that using a golden, pearlized bronzer with a large blush brush on shoulder blades, down the décolleté and down the center of the shin will instantly add a touch of sun and bronzed glow.
Use It Where the Sun Would Shine
While some of us subscribe to the idea that more bronzer is always better, this may not be the case, any may not be delivering the natural look you’re going for. “Bronzer should be used on a need-to-use basis,” Maybelline New York global makeup artist Grace Lee explains. “Dust over the high planes of the face where the sun would naturally hit—like the forehead, nose, cheekbones and chin.” The result: a radiant glow that looks natural, not applied with a brush.
Don’t Settle on the Shade
Julie Hewett, celebrity makeup artist and creator of the eponymous makeup brand, can’t stress this point enough. “The shade of bronzer you use is so important,” she says, explaining that one with no orange undertones and minimal shimmer work best, especially when you know you’re going to be photographed. Another reason why you should stay away from the illuminating options: “A good matte bronzer can double as a staple contouring shade and an illuminator—you can add your own shimmer.”
Work with a Dewy Base
“My technique is always ‘moisturizer first,'” celebrity makeup artist Hector Simancas puts simply. “For liquid bronzer, mix the formula with a bit of your favorite moisturizer, too, and apply them together.” Try applying them both to the back of your hand and mixing them up with your brush or sponge before applying. Whether you’re using liquid, powder or cream bronzer, Simancas says to always mist the look with a setting spray to finish it off.
Darken Up Light Spots for a Fresh-Faced Glow
“Most of us are lighter on our faces than our chests, and some of us are darkest on our foreheads. If you want to even out the face and neck and bring it to a uniform shade, mix a super fine powder bronzer with a creamy face serum and apply to lighter regions,” beauty expert Mickey Williams says, explaining that the look is more of a transparent glow, rather than opaque coverage. “After applying, use a sunscreen powder over it to set, and spot-correct any areas that need it with concealer.”
Contouring can be scary, but not when you have the right steps. “To contour with bronzer, let your bone structure take center stage,” Kelli J. Bartlett, director of artistry for GLAMSQUAD, says. “Focus on adding depth only where it’s needed, showcasing the skin, cheeks, and overall shape of the face.” First, tilt the head to the side you’re working on until your ear almost touches your shoulder. “Using a matte bronzer, place your brush within the natural shadow, underneath the brow bone, blend back toward your ear and down at an angle toward your mouth.”
Focus Only on Key AreasBronzer can be overwhelming, but focus on these areas and you’ll be set. “Sweep it on the cheekbones, bridge of the nose and temple into forehead area, never forgetting to lightly sweep it down your neck as well,” Sarah Lucero, global executive director of creative artistry for Stila says. “Besides using bronzer on those areas, I love to apply it on the eyelids. It gives dimension to the natural shape and contour of the eye bone and can be a quick, easy shadow look on its own.”
Don’t Use It to Look Tan
“I don’t like overusing bronzer,” Lee explains. “If you want to look tanner, go in with a slightly darker foundation tone and make sure it’s blended everywhere—into the ears and neck—so it’s fully blended and more natural-looking.”
Use It as a 5-Second Eye Shadow
For a quick smoky eye, Gomez says to look no further than your go-to bronzer. “I love using a matte bronzer (Make Up For Ever’s Pro Bronze Fusion is my go-to) with a blending brush in the crease of the eye and underneath the bottom lash line for a quick and easy touch of warmth.”
Dust to Undo Your Concealer Blunder
We’ve all tried out a new concealer and realized way too late that the shade was a few too light for our skin tones. But who knew that the answer to camouflaging it was with your bronzer, and not with your makeup wipes? Bartlett says if your your under-eye concealer is too bright, to dust a warm-toned bronzer (or peachy blush) directly under the eye to soften the look without drawing any attention to it.
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