The terms 'contouring', 'strobing', 'highlighting', 'bronzing', and 'illuminating' seem to get thrown around so much nowadays that it’s hard to know what's what. Find out more so you can pick your perfect products.
The terms 'contouring', 'strobing', 'highlighting', 'bronzing', and 'illuminating' seem to get thrown around so much nowadays that it’s hard to know what's what. A particular topic that causes a lot of confusion is the difference between highlighter and bronzer application.
Both highlighters and bronzers can contain a lot of shimmer and do promise radiant skin. Knowing the difference between these products and their ideal application methods will help you achieve a glowing complexion without looking overdone or glittery.
What's a bronzer used for?
Bronzers are used to emulate sun-kissed skin. They enhance your real or artificial tan and give you a healthy glow. Bronzers can also be used to darken your skin all over without masking it, so you get a natural-looking faux tan.
There's a huge variety of bronzing formulas on the market, including standard powders, dewy liquids, matte finishes, and bronzers for the whole body.
Matte warmth, or shimmery radiance? Knowing How to Apply Your Bronzer
The traditional way to apply a bronzer is to mimic a natural tan. Colour is typically most visible on your cheekbones, temples, and bridge of your nose. If you want to achieve the sun-kissed look, use a shimmery bronzer such as Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess Powder Bronzer and buff it into the skin, thinking about where the sun would hit. Steer clear of using shimmery bronzers as a contour, however! Shimmer brings features forward as it catches the light, which is the opposite of what a good contour will do.
Alternatively, you can use a matte bronzer such as Bobbi Brown Bronzing Powder, which gives a more natural finish. It may be tempting to use matte bronzers for contour, but the colours are usually too warm and are better for emulating a tan. Some matte bronzers such as Benefit's cult-classic Hoola can work as a contour though, because they lean more yellow or olive. If you need to contour with your bronzer, pick something with less red undertones. Generally though, matte bronzers are useful at warming your skin tone without adding too much shimmer, especially during the day.
It's important to keep in mind that a bronzer will add warmth and depth to the skin. This means you can use it in place of a blush - and to a much lesser extent, a contour. Because a bronzer adds depth, it's not appropriate as a highlight unless it's much lighter than your skintone and you're going for a very warm-toned look.
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What's a highlighter used for?
Highlighter should be applied to emphasise and enhance your best features. A highlighting product is often used alongside contour. This duo can be used to sculpt your face and minimise imperfections.
Highlighter has to be applied carefully and precisely in order to draw attention to certain areas and away from others. Like bronzer, highlighter can contain a lot of shimmer, or you can use a matte formula for a very natural look.
How should I be applying my highlighter?
Highlighter can be applied to many areas, depending on what you want to enhance. A brightening product can be used on the cupid's bow and the centre of the lips to define a perfect pout. Add highlighter to the inner eye corners and brow bone to give the illusion of brighter and wider eyes.
You can use highlighter to sculpt your face, carefully striping down the centre of your nose for a slimmer look. A hint of light on the top of the cheeks creates the illusion of higher cheekbones. Alternatively, add a highlighting product to the apples of cheeks for a fresh and youthful look.
Highlight comes in many forms. You can mix an illuminator such as Inika Light Reflect Creme into your foundation for an all-over glowy finish. Or you can use highlighter in a more traditional powder or cream form, depending on how dewy you want the finish.
It can often seem as if you're applying bronzer and highlighter in the same places, which is a huge part of the confusion. The places where your sun hits your face are mostly the same areas as the ones you want to highlight. However, it’s important to understand the different goals of these products to ensure you're enhancing the areas you want to successfully.
So - a bronzer adds warmth and depth, which means that a bronzer can replace a blush, and if you choose carefully, you can get away with using some matte bronzers as a contour. Unless your skintone is very deep and your shimmery bronzer is very light, chances are you should avoid trying to get your bronzer to fill the place of a highlight, contour and blush!