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Typically, I go for a pretty natural makeup look. While intense contour has seen its day—and, of course, I could always go for a shimmery highlighter—I have combination skin that requires me to keep my face makeup pretty light. Considering this, one might assume that I'm not a big fan of bronzer, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
While bronzer is essential for anyone pulling off a sharp contour, it's also excellent for those who'd like a more subtle sense of definition around their cheekbones. I find that brushing a bit of bronzer in an E-shape plays a tremendous role in making me look put-together (even when I am not). In college, a friend of mine even remarked, "That made such a big difference!" after I donned just a dusting of my favorite shade. You see, with the right bronzer, a little goes a long way. If you're new to this beauty essential, or if you're just looking to mix up your go-to product, consider this your guide to the best bronzers out there.
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.
How to Find the Right Shade of Bronzer
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. Keep in mind that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all bronzer—but these brands have a variety of shades available.
Full disclosure: This is my everyday bronzer. It comes in four shades, and you can even choose between matte and shimmery finish!
"Illusion d'Été" means "appearance" or, indeed, "illusion" of summer, and this shimmery shade from Sisley is sure to accomplish just that.
I love Elaluz. This sustainable, cruelty-free, Latinx-owned brand is known for its "better-for-you bronzers," which are made with healthy ingredients so you don't have to choose between glam makeup and healthy skin.
We love Milk makeup for its natural, matte look and clean formula that will give your skin a healthy glow.
If you haven't yet experienced It-girl favorite Alamar Cosmetics, here's your chance. Inspired by her Cuban origins, founder Gabriela Trujillo crafted all of Alamar's products to have a warm, tropical glow and to suit all skin tones.
Rare Beauty donates a percentage of their profits to supporting mental health programs, so you can look good and feel great about your purchase.
This delightful brand names and models all of its cruelty-free, inclusive products after baked goods. You can't beat these highly pigmented shades, but don't get mad at us if these items have you spending your next check on chocolate cake.
This is Marie Claire writer Julia Marzovilla's go-to. She says, "This stick formula is so creamy and blendable when you apply it, but it instantly sets down and sticks around all day. Plus, it has a little blender brush on the other side, so it's great for travel."
Fenty Beauty has become just about synonymous with inclusivity, and this bronzer is no different. Select from a variety of shades that has users of all skin tones raving.
This health-conscious option incorporates Vitamins A and E, and comes in a number of glowy shades. For darker skin tones, we highly recommend "Out of Office (opens in new tab)."
This blendable, buildable industry favorite comes with a cushion applicator that'll take your morning routine from high-maintenance to low-stress.
This luxury option looks and feels incredible on the skin, and blends flawlessly with accompanying highlighters and blushes.
This Black-owned brand prides itself not only on its high-quality items, but on selling products that suit dark shades, fair shades, and everything in between.
This vegan, plant-based formula promises to lend you a warm glow while hydrating dry, tired skin.
Nearly everybody I know loves NARS' blushes (opens in new tab), but their bronzer deserves plenty of love, too. Available in four shades (and as a mini!), this longwear option is bound to keep you cute all day long.
Jessica Blackler built her following as a makeup artists on film and TV sets. After becoming a go-to safe space for trans people who wanted to learn more about makeup, she launched her own beauty brand, Jecca Blac, which has quickly become a favorite both in and outside of the LGBTQ community.
Tower 28 is the first ever 100% clean, vegan brand. It does not include any skin irritants, making it ideal for those with sensitive skin.
This dual-tone product has a pink tint to it that's meant to mimic the look of freshly sun-tanned skin. Personally, I love Too Faced's products, and am an especially ardent fan of these multi-tonal facial products.
The multi-tonal warmth in this powder provides a subtle glow that'll make everyone think you got this glow from the beach instead of from your makeup bag.
Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things fashion and beauty. She's also written about politics, gender, and sex for publications like Bustle, HuffPost Personal, and The New York Times. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.
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