The 11 Best Bronzers Ever, According to Makeup Artists and Editors

Keep those cheekbones lookin' sharp.

Best Bronzers 2022 | MAC Cosmetics, NARS, Bobbi Brown
(Image credit: Future)

Let’s talk about bronzer. Once upon a time, you'd worry about appearing orange after even the lightest application—but in recent years, the humble bronzer has seen a renaissance. Bronzers are now available in creams, liquids, and powder form, and are easier to apply than ever before. Plus, shades run abound, so you can find the best one for your specific skin tone and the best formula for your skin type. Because there are more options on the market than ever before, I chatted with experts in the beauty industry—celebrity makeup artists, brand founders, beauty content creators, and Marie Claire editors—to find the very best bronzers on the market for 2022. 

If you’re just beginning your bronzer journey, it’s easier to start with your preferred formula and work backwards. Do you have dryer skin or just want a bronzer that looks super seamless? Then a cream bronzer may be the answer. Do you want an all-over glow that sits under your foundation? Try out a liquid bronzer, or an all-over illuminator. Or, if you have oilier skin or want something that will go on with a few swipes, check out a powder bronzer. And, because not all the best beauty products come with a high price tag, check out Marie Claire’s guide to the best drugstore bronzers (which all retail for under $20!). 

Bronzer should warm up the skin without looking unnatural. That means that it shouldn’t make you look too orange or, on the other side of the spectrum, too ashy. It should go on smoothly without patches of color, and the formula shouldn’t break up over the course of your day. Also, depending on if you like your bronzer to have a shimmer, it should look luminous, not overly glittery (unless, of course, that’s the look you’re going for). Especially now that summer is ending and our tans are fading, finding a great bronzer to keep your summer glow going has never been more important.

How To Find the Best Bronzer Formula for Your Skin Type

Equally important to finding the right shade of bronzer is finding the right bronzer formula for your specific skin type. The best cream bronzer in the world may break apart on someone that has an oilier skin type, while a powder bronzer might flake off on someone who has dry skin. 

While no two people’s skin types are the same, celebrity makeup artist Lilly Keys (who has worked with Olivia Rodrigo, Charli XCX, and Emma Chamberlain), broke down some general rules. If you have oily skin, Keys recommends that you “stick to the classic powder bronzer if you have oily skin.” More specifically, she says that “the best choice would be matte powder bronzer, rather than illuminating and shimmery.” 

For those with dry skin, Keys says that you should look for “cream and liquid bronzers.” In terms of applying them, she says to “make sure your skin is well hydrated and moisturized before applying," and to apply sparingly because they “definitely give more of a dewy & balm -like finish.” 

If you’re somewhere in the middle with normal skin, congratulations: you have the “best of both worlds,” says Keys. Feel free to opt for “either a cream or a powder bronzer!” The deciding factor comes down to finish—cream bronzer “provides a more natural looking finish,” she says, noting that a powder bronzer will give you a more “matte” and “velvety” finish. 

How to Find the Right Shade of Bronzer

You want to find a shade that's darker than your actual skin tone, of course, but not too dark. The goal is to create a soft, natural sense of definition, and that looks different for everyone. 

“To pick the perfect shade of bronzer, I recommend picking one shade deeper than your skin tone,” says makeup artist Hailey Hoff, who has worked with Noah Cyrus and Remi Bader. “If you like to be super contoured, I would mix a darker shade with the one shade deeper than your skin tone,” she says over email. Better yet, she says that Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Bronzer (opens in new tab) and NARS' Bronzer Powder in Laguna (opens in new tab) as two of her favorites, both of which appear on the list below. 

Keep in mind that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all bronzer—but many brands have a variety of shades and undertones available. If you’re on the hunt for the best bronzer for dark skin specifically, Marie Claire already has a handy guide. Ahead, shop the best editor and makeup artist-approved bronzers.

Shop The Best Bronzers, According to the Experts

How to Apply Bronzer

Whether you're looking for a sharp contour or some subtle definition, we recommend that you apply your bronzer in an E-shape, starting at the center of your forehead and skimming your hairline until you reach your ear. Once you get there, apply in a line down your cheek, just below your cheekbone, then double back to your ear and continue outlining the outside of your face. 

If you're looking to apply more definition to your jawline, feel free to apply the bronzer down to your chin. If, however, you're like me and have a cleft chin, you can stop once you get to the base of your ear. For a step-by-step visual guide, consult our article about how to apply bronzer.

Meet The Experts

Lilly Keys
Lilly Keys

Lilly Keys is a Los Angeles based makeup artist. A native of Cape Town, Lilly moved to London in 1997 and became influenced by the city's multicultural fashion, music and visual art scenes. She graduated from the London College of Fashion and began pursuing makeup professionally in 2007. Lilly refined her editorial skills while working on runway shows for Gucci, Balenciaga, Antonia Berardi, Topshop, Jaeger and Maison Martin Margiela. Lilly's celebrity clients include Dua Lipa, Anya Taylor Joy, Alessandra Ambrosio, Charli XCX, Kali Uchis, Ella Mai, Melissa Barrera, David Beckham and Joanne Froggatt. Her work has appeared in publications such as HungerEsquireKing KongGraziaVogue ItaliaTeen Vogue and Galore and she has collaborated on major advertising campaigns for Swarovski, Adidas, Converse and Olivia Von Halle.

Matilda On Video

Matilda on Video is an Australian digital content creator sharing flat lay beauty reviews on YouTube and Instagram. Her content puts the focus on the products, like a magazine spread with movement. 

Victor Cembellin
Victor Cembellin

Based in San Francisco, Victor has worked as an Editorial, Runway, Special Effects and Beauty makeup artist for over 25 years. As a Senior National Artist for M.A.C. Cosmetics he has traveled the world working with top runway designers, elite fashion publications and entertainment’s Who’s Who. On his craft, Victor simply states: “Make up has the unique ability to straighten one’s emotional posture”!

Jaleesa Jaikaran
Jaleesa Jaikaran

Jaleesa Jaikaran is a Trinidadian makeup artist based in New York City. She works behind the camera on beauty & fashion campaigns with brands including Kith, Nike, Pyer Moss, Lancome & MAC, to name a few. In front of the camera, Jaleesa creates content driven by beauty education and has collaborated with various brands including Mary Kay, Ulta Beauty, and Pinterest. She hosts The Life of a Makeup Artist podcast, which focuses on rising and defining voices in beauty, breaking into the industry, and why it’s critical to create an inclusive future.

Hailey Hoff
Hailey Hoff

Professional makeup artist Hailey Hoff has been in the beauty industry for 10 years. Along with a celebrity clientele, Hailey also holds experience in working many notable events including The Grammys, Oscars, Golden Globes, Billboard Awards, and more.