The 11 Best Drugstore Bronzers Under $20, According to Makeup Artists and Editors

You'll look you've just returned from Ibiza.

two models wearing bronzer
(Image credit: Monica Schipper / Getty Images)

If you’re on the hunt for the very best bronzer, you're probably already familiar with the struggle. Some bronzers are so sheer that you might as well have put nothing on; others can veer so orange or gray that the finished result looks like you applied bronzer, rather than just stepped off the beaches of Saint-Tropez. Fortunately, as it turns out, some of the best bronzers can actually be found at the drugstore, no tropical vacation or trip to Sephora needed.

Drugstore bronzers have historically gotten a bad rap: They've been pegged as patchy, discolored, and even drying on the skin. And when it comes to cream bronzers from the drugstore, the pickings used to be so slim (or so shimmery) that a traditional powder can feel like your only option. Thankfully, times have changed. A bunch of new (and iconic!) affordable picks are giving the higher-priced bronzers a run for their money—and you don’t have to spend more than $20 to achieve your best bronzer look. Now, you can find a great bronzer for fair skin that won't make you look muddy or orange, or a great bronzer for dark skin that isn't going to look ashy. (If you’re new to bronzer, or are just looking for a refresher, check out Marie Claire’s guide on how to apply bronzer.)

An Overview of The Best Drugstore Bronzers

Deals on the Best Drugstore Bronzers

Maybelline New York Bronzer and Contour Powder, $11 $9 at Amazon

Maybelline New York Bronzer and Contour Powder, $11 $9 at Amazon

This already-affordable powder bronzer from Maybelline New York is available for under $10 right now on Amazon. As one glowing five-star reviewer put it, this pick is "pigmented and easy to work with." 

L'Oreal Paris Makeup True Match Lumi Glotion, $16 $12 at Amazon

L'Oreal Paris Makeup True Match Lumi Glotion, $16 $12 at Amazon

This sheer formula goes great under makeup or mixed into foundation once you get a summer tan—and it's on sale for $12 right now. It's a makeup artist and editor favorite for a reason! 

How We Chose The Best Drugstore Bronzers

There exist lots of bronzers, especially at the drugstore. So,  I turned to experts—makeup artists and top content creators—to break down what they look for in the best drugstore bronzer. (The below also factored into how I, Marie Claire's E-Commerce Editor pulled together my list.)

  • Finish: “I always want my bronzers to not have shimmer,”  says Jenna Kristina, celebrity makeup artist to clients like those known for their glow like Megan Fox and Zoey Deutch.” I like to be able to control where shimmer is applied. I like shimmer in a highlighter and not all over the face, personally.”
  • Undertone: The bronzer vs. contour debate continues to rage on, but here’s the bottom line: Contours generally have a cooler undertone to create the look of shadows, whereas bronzers will have some warmth to them—but not too much so that it looks too orange or red. “Lighter [skin] tones tend to need cooler undertones where darker skin tones tend to need more warmth, otherwise it can look a bit green and not mimic a natural tone depth,” says Kristina. Her favorite pick? “Hands down Maybelline City Bronzer,” Kristina says.  
  • Texture: Three bronzer formulas are most common: cream bronzers, powder bronzers, and liquid bronzers. Each will give you a different finish and look. Liquid bronzers, for instance, are generally more sheer than other options. This brings us to...

Differences Between Cream, Liquid, and Powder Bronzers

Ahead, celebrity makeup artists break down the key differences between three of the most commonly-found bronzer formulas on the market: Cream, liquid, and powder. 

  • Powder: Powder bronzers are the most beginner-friendly option, as they’re often a bit more sheer than cream bronzers. “It’s really easy to just load up a big fluffy brush and dust that bronzer on the face, without overdoing it as powder tends to be more buildable in terms of pigment,” says Nicole Bueno, a makeup artist who has worked with Sophia Roe, Jonelle Monae, and Law Roach. Powder bronzers are also great to keep in your makeup bag because they can be used all over the face, including on your eyelids in lieu of eyeshadow “I just apply it on the perimeters of my face, temples, my ears, eyelids, and nose,” Bueno says.  
  • Cream: Cream bronzers are great if you want a truly seamless finish to your makeup. “Cream bronzers tend to have more coverage, and are more opaque, with a satin-like finish,” says Amber Amos, a makeup artist who has worked with Bebe Rexha and Skai Jackson. Cream bronzers are also great if you’re looking for a contouring product to chisel out your cheekbones, nose, or jawline. (If you're interested in contouring instead, you can read our guide on how to contour your face.)
  • Liquid: “If you are looking for an ultra-glowing bronzer, go for a liquid,” Bueno says. “They usually have shimmer particles that look way more natural than cream or powder counterparts,” she says. To make them look their best, Bueno recommends applying your liquid bronzer with either a brush or a sponge to the high points of the face. If your bronzer is on the glowier side, they can work equally well as a liquid highlighter or illuminator. “They also can be perfect for mixing into your foundations that maybe are now too light as our skin darkens in the spring and summer season or if you spray tan,” she says. 

The Best Drugstore Bronzers

Meet the Experts

Jenna Kristina
Jenna Kristina

LA-based makeup artists, Jenna Kristina is known for amplifying her clients’ natural beauty with a fresh-faced glow and effortless cool. Jenna has been credited with several of Hollywood’s most viral looks over her career. Her celebrity clientele includes It girls, such as Megan Fox, Zoey Deutch, Christian Serratos, Eiza Gonzalez, Lucy Hale, Lily James and more. She has worked with photographers Mathieu Cesar, We are from LA, Adam Franzino, Thomas Prior, Steven Klein, Elias Tahan, Vijat M, Jora Frantzis, Magdalena Wosinska, and many more, while her work has appeared in publications such as Glamour, W Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Vogue Paris, V Magazine, Numero, W, GQ UK, Marie Claire, Madame Figaro, and InStyle.

Jenna is a Brand Ambassador for Maybelline New York, and often collaborates with brands such as ULTA Beauty, Chanel Beauty, Lashify, Buxom, True Botanicals, Dior Beauty and more, for red carpet sponsorships, shoots, branded content and beyond.

Nicole Bueno
Nicole Bueno

Nicole Bueno is a New York-based makeup artist. Influenced by fashion, art, and culture- she has honed her craft by mastering color theory, shade, and light. Bueno’s natural ability to see the beauty in people is the secret to the magic of her work. She also knows details are crucial, therefore she makes sure clients look immaculate from virtually any angle. Her artistry always celebrates everyone who sits in her chair – letting the muse’s facial features and aura guide every stroke of her brush.

Amber Amos
Amber Amos

Celebrity makeup artist Amber Amos began her career assisting on editorial photoshoots for top publications such as Seventeen, Redbook, Essence, Self, and Shape magazine. While assisting top artists in the fashion and beauty industry, Amber developed a love and appreciation for flawless skin and effortless beauty.

Since embarking on her journey as freelance makeup artist, Amber’s work has been featured by countless online publications including Vogue, Teen Vogue, V Magazine, WWD, and GQ, as well as contributing to articles for Allure, Forbes, Bustle, Ebony, and Elite Daily. Amber has worked with the likes of Lil Nas X, Slick Woods, Travis Scott, Law Roach, Daniel Kaluuya, Ryan Jamaal Swain, and Richard Ellis to name a few.