June 29, 2024 7 min read

The main difference between bronzing and contouring is in their uses and undertone. 

Bronzing is used to give the skin a warm, sun kissed glow and to this effect usually has either brown, golden or red undertones. 

Contouring on the other hand is used to sculpt and define the face, with the aim of creating a slimmer appearance. 

Unlike bronzers, contour products have cool or neutral undertones.  

In the world of makeup artistry, there are some steps that seem to be repetitive and you may wonder, what exactly is this technique or this product used for. 

Two of such confusing techniques are bronzing and contouring. 

If you've ever found yourself wondering which to use, you're not alone. Bronzers and contour products look the same and are both applied to similar areas of the face. 

So yes, I understand it can be a bit challenging deciding on which one to use or how to use them. 

Lucky for you, we have the answers to that and in this article, we'll be sharing with you everything you need to know about the art of bronzing and contouring.



Key Takeaways: 

  • Bronzing and contouring are both makeup techniques used to enhance the natural features of the face. 
  • Bronzing is meant to give the skin a warm, radiant glow while contouring adds shadows to the face, creating a more defined look. 
  • Bronzers and contour products are both available in liquid, cream and powder forms. However, some bronzers may have a shimmery finish while contour products are usually matte. 
  • You can layer both contour products and bronzers to achieve a sculpted yet naturally tan look. 




What Is Contouring?


Contouring is a technique used in makeup application to define the structure of the face. Contouring creates symmetry and adds dimension to the face by mimicking shadows that are naturally found on the face like the hollow of the cheekbone and jawline. 

Contour products are also used alongside a highlighter for that extra contrast. 

Because contouring is all about creating shadows, all contour products have matte finishes and have either cool or neutral undertones. They're also available in cream, liquid and powder forms and often packaged in  or stick form. 



What Is Bronzing?


Bronzing is also a makeup technique used to warm up the skin. Bronzing adds that natural wash of colour to areas of the face where the sun naturally falls on such as on the forehead, top of the cheekbones and on the bridge of the nose. Applying bronzer to these parts of your face, if done properly will give off a naturally tan and radiant look.


Bronzers can also be found in liquid, cream or powder forms and can have either matte or shimmery finishes.


Although the matte finishes are more in demand since most people tend to use bronzers to contour. Since bronzers are meant to warm up the skin, it makes sense that they come in yellow, golden, olive and red undertones to match the various skin tones from fair to dark complexions. 



Similarities Between Bronzing And Contouring


Bronzing and contouring have a lot in common and can be used alone or together depending on what look you're going for. Some similarities between them include:


1: Use

Both techniques are used to enhance natural features of the face. Bronzing enhances the face by warming up the high points of your face by drawing in and catching sunlight to give a radiant glow. And contouring enhances the face by using shadows to create symmetry giving the face a more defined and sculpted look. 


2: Product Types

Bronzer and contour products can both be found in powder cream or liquid forms and are also packaged in similar ways. Either as single pressed powders, cream palettes or stick form. 


3: Application

Brushes and beauty blenders or makeup sponges are used for both bronzing and contouring. Both techniques also involve layering products over foundation for a natural seamless finish. 


4: Placement

Both bronzers and contour are applied to the cheekbones and forehead. Bronzers are applied to the apples of the cheeks for a sun kissed glow and contour is applied to the hollow of the cheeks to create shadows and definition. For the forehead, bronzers are applied towards the hairline to add warmth and contour is used to create depth along the temples. 


Difference Between Bronzing And Contouring

Even though bronzers and contour products look almost the same and share a lot of things in common, there are still ways you can tell them apart.



1: Purpose

Bronzing is all about warming up the skin for a radiant finish while contouring is all about defining, shaping and sculpting the face. In essence, the goal of bronzers if applied correctly is to look like you spent the whole summer getting the most gorgeous tan. While the goals with contour is to give the illusion of a stronger jawline, fuller lips and chiselled cheekbones.


2: Product Type

Another difference between bronzer and contour is in their shade and finish. Contour products have cool or neutral tones with matte finishes while bronzers have warmers tones and can either have matte or shimmery finishes.


3: Application

While bronzing and contouring are done on the same parts of the face, there's a slight difference. 

  • Bronzer is applied to the top of the cheekbones while contour is applied under the cheekbones. 
  • Contour is applied to the sides of the nose for a slimming effect while bronzer is applied to the bridge of the nose. 
  • Contour is applied to the forehead to make it look smaller while bronzer is applied usually along the hairline. 
  • Contour is applied to the jawline to give a sharper defined look whereas bronzer is used mostly in the high points of the face and occasionally on the chin. 
  • Contour can be used on the cupid's bow and around the lips for a bigger and better pout while bronzers can be used as an alternative to blush and eyeshadow.



How To Apply Bronzer


Before you apply bronzer, you need to make sure you have a makeup mirror that will accticulate your facial very well.

Then you need to consider your skin tone and what look you're going for. This will determine which product to get and in what finish. Obviously for a more luminous radiant look, you should go for a product with a shimmery finish and a matte finish if you want your makeup to stay matte.


For fair to medium complexion, you'll want to stick to one or two shades darker than your skin tone. This will give you the most natural bronzer up look. You also want to avoid bronzers with red undertones as they can be too overwhelming for your pale skin.


On the other hand, darker skin tones can benefit from bronzers with red undertones as they tend to show up better on people with deeper complexions. However, you might want to avoid bronzers with orange undertones, we want a sun kissed look not sun burnt.


Once you have these things in place, it's time to apply: 

  • For powder products, use a fluffy brush and lightly dust the bronzer on to your cheekbones, making sure to blend upwards and outwards into the hairline. For cream products, use a stippling brush and for liquid products, use a beauty blender or makeup sponges. 
  • Using the same process, apply bronzer to your neck for a uniform glow and don't forget the bridge of the nose 



How To Apply Contour


Start by choosing your contour products, either powder, cream, pallet or stick. Next, you want to get a contour product that is one or two shades darker than your bronzer. In other words, your contour shade should be at least two shades darker than your skin tone.


Before you contour, understand that faces come in different shapes, so contouring may differ slightly based on your facial structure. Also, contour products can be a bit difficult to work with. For example, cool toned contour sometimes gives a greyish look on the skin which is not flattering. If this is something you have experienced, try using a neutral toned bronzer in place of contour.


If you've sorted these things out then you're ready to start contouring:


  • Apply your contour product to the hollows of your cheeks starting from the centre of your ears straight towards your pupils. This method will work on most face shapes. For powder contour, use a small dense brush to blend so the product stays in the exact spot and doesn't spread to other areas. For cream contour, use a beauty blender or a stippling brush. While blending, make sure to blend upwards to give the face a lift. 
  • To make your face appear slimmer, contour your jawline and blend downwards into your neck. 
  • For your nose contour, you want to place two contour lines down the side of your nose, add a lighter shade of concealer between the contour lines to highlight the slimming effect. Then blend gently with a dense eyeshadow brush. Keep in mind that the slimmer you want your nose to appear, the closer your contour lines should be. 
  • For plump, pouty lips, place your contour product in a little half moon pattern just under the centre of your lower lip. Blend out properly, then line your lips and apply lipstick as you normally would. 



Bronzing Vs Contouring: Which Is Better?


Bronzing and contouring are both essential makeup techniques that can give you a more beautiful look when done properly. And like we mentioned earlier, bronzers are for adding warmth to the skin while contour is for creating depth and dimension using shadows. 

You can use either one alone in your makeup routine or you can use both, depending on what you want. 

If a tan, glowy look is what you're going for, then a bronzer will help you achieve just that. But if you want a sculpted face with chiselled cheekbones and a sharp jawline, then you should go for contour. 

No one is actually better than the other but instead of choosing between them, why not later cream or liquid contour for depth and powder bronzer to add that dash of colour and you'll have yourself the perfect facebeat.





If you're looking for something that'll elevate your makeup game, enhance your natural features and boost your complexion, then you should definitely incorporate bronzing and contouring into your makeup routine.


With the right tools and proper application of these products, you can take your makeup game from looking basic to glam in a matter of minutes. And remember, for warmth, use bronzer and for depth, use contour.

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