What's the Difference Between Bronzing and Contouring?

Most of us know about the basics of bronzing, but for many years the art of contouring has remained in the realm of the pros.

Now that contouring has become a lot more popular, some makeup wearers have been left with some confusion about the two techniques, and honestly that’s understandable. 

It’s easy to see similarities between bronzing and contouring products, as both are used to strategically create shadow and definition. 

However, since they are actually not the same we thought we’d give you a look into the bronzer vs. contour debate, so you can master both when creating your ideal glowy makeup look.

Watch Megan share her tips on contouring in the video below...

Here’s the 411 on contouring and our favourite contouring products

So, what is contouring? Basically, contouring is the use of makeup to create the illusion of shadows on the skin in order to sculpt, define, and restructure the face.

Your contour product should emulate a natural shadow, so the product should always be completely matte. 

Shadows are also cool-toned, so you need a product with grey or beige undertones. Anything orange or golden can muddy the look and won’t resemble a natural shadow.

If you’re new to contouring then starting with a kit like the Designer Brands Cream Contour Kit – Light Medium is a great introduction. With three clearly labeled cream shades you can contour, highlight and illuminate your face for a perfectly sculpted look. With a buildable, skin like finish you can create either a dramatic or subtle look with this easy to use palette.

The Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit is a huge fan favourite in the beauty world. Not only is the quality incredibly high in this blendable powder formula, but it offers 6 impeccable matte and shimmer shades for you to play with. With incredible colour pay off you can contour, shade and illuminate. Plus, the longevity is outstanding.

A great travel-friendly option that will help define deeper skin tones is the Napoleon Perdis The Ultimate Contour Palette Dark. This cute powder compact comes with a contour, bright blush and glowing highlight, so you can nail a complete look. These sheer powders offer a multidimensional glow that still feels perfectly natural.

How is contour applied?

Where you apply your contour should depend on your face shape. Apply your darker contour shade on areas you want to define. This may be the sides of your nose (to slim it), the hollows of your cheeks (to enhance your cheekbones), or the temples (to narrow the forehead).

You can then team your contour with some highlight to enhance the areas you want to draw attention to.

Highlighter is used to draw the eye to the bridge of the nose, cupid's bow, cheek bones and the inner corners of the eyes.

What's the Difference Between Bronzing and ContouringWhat's the Difference Between Bronzing and Contouring

Okay, so what is bronzing and how can I pick the perfect bronzer?

Essentially, bronzer is used to emulate a sun-kissed glow and enhance a tan - it’s also a great way to make your skin look radiant and healthy.

Bronzing products come in different formulas: gels, creams, powders, and liquids. Some products are used all over the body and not just on the face.

You can also choose a matte bronzer or a shimmery one. A matte bronzer is better if you want a natural finish, whereas shimmer is best for a sun-kissed, radiant finish.

Bronzers tend to be more warm-toned, which is why you shouldn’t use one as contour. A matte bronzer may look like a good contour shade, but it's more likely to warm your skin and not create the cool-toned shadows you want.

The Benefit Hoola Matte Bronzer is the perfect bronzer for those searching for a natural finish. It’s a matte shade that provides an all year round healthy tan and can be used in multiple ways (we love this as an eyeshadow). The best thing about this formula is that it comes in a range of shade suited to different skin tones. Check out the reviews to see why so many people have made it their everyday go-to.

For an effortless look, try the Dr Hauschka Translucent Bronzing Tint. You can blend this skin loving formula in with foundation, use it under makeup or apply like a liquid bronzer to your cheek hollows and forehead. We recommend stippling or blending it in with a sponge. It’s a radiant, sheer formula that looks super natural and luxe.

If you’re looking for a truly radiant formula packed with sheer shimmer try the Napoleon Perdis Patrol Cheek Products. These baked cheek products give you true warmth and glowy goodness for an amped up look. They’re light, silky and instantly diffuse themselves on the skin when applied with a rounded bronzer brush. Ideal for a summer glow up

How do I use bronzer?

Bronzer should be applied to areas where the sun hits your skin the most and where you tan the darkest. These are typically the cheekbones, temples, and the bridge of your nose.

It may be tempting to raid your stash for contour and find an old matte bronzer. However, it’s worth saving that product for bronzing and investing in contour makeup instead.

It’s important to understand the differences between the two techniques. Then you can use bronzing and contouring side by side to create a beautifully sculpted and sun-kissed look.

Want to find out more about bronzers? Check out these guides...

Brand and product inclusions are at the sole discretion of Adore Beauty. We do not seek or accept payment from brands or individuals listed in our guides.

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