What is the difference between bronzer and contour?

If you’re a newbie beauty geek or someone just exploring for the perfect makeup look for a special event, you might have come across ‘contour’ and ‘bronzer’ quite a few times. All this while, you must’ve thought that these two are the same. Sad to say, they’re not.

No shame, though! You are not alone. Many people confuse one as the other because they almost have similar effects on the face and application. In fact, some people use contour products to bronze, and some use bronzers to contour. So, it’s not surprising how one may confuse the other.

While it is wise that people multi-task their products like that, you should probably rethink your decisions before doing it, especially before you learn what bronzer and contours really are, what their similarities and differences are, and the specific purpose they serve in terms of makeup.

Below, we will tell you what is the difference between a contour and bronzer, what they’re for, and how to apply them, so you’re perfectly ready for your next makeup session.

What are a bronzer and a contour?

Similarities and differences

So, it’s time to settle the bill. What is the difference between a contour and a bronzer?

To make it easier to explain, bronzer colors your face. A contour defines it.

It’s very easy to confuse both, as they add depth to how the face looks during makeup. However, it’s essential to realize how different they are because you would not want to apply contour products like you would a bronzer in your face, or you’re headed for a disaster by the end of this article.

Purpose and effect

Their main difference eventually boils down to the purpose and the effect they both have on the face. A good contour gives your face depth, dimension, and shadows, so your face looks more defined. A great contour can provide a slimmer face, prominent cheekbones, fuller lips, and a great jawline. Basically, contour creates a temporary illusion of how better your face looks in-depth and dimension only with makeup.

On the other hand, a bronzer is a product and a technique meant to create warmth on the face rather than shadows. A bronzer helps you create a sun-kissed look. However, you’re not looking to add color but warmth, and there’s a difference.

Place of application

Another difference between a bronzer and contour is where you apply the products to your face. In the case of contour, since it generally serves the purpose of defining the face, you would want to put it only on key spots where the shadow would naturally fall. Brushing contour powder over your face is a big no-no unless you want to look like someone bruised your face.

In the case of a bronzer, you would typically want to apply it to parts of the face that are usually hit by the sun. Since the purpose of a bronzer is to create a sun-kissed warmth, it makes no sense to aimlessly apply it all over the face, right?

Prime bronzing spots on the face are usually the cheekbones, temples, and bridge of the nose, as these are the most elevated parts of the face and the ones traditionally exposed to the sun more.

Color and finish

Both also differ in color and finish. As a warming product, a bronzer tends to lean towards the orange, brown, red, yellow finish and can sometimes be shimmery. A contour product can be more dark, earthy, greyish and cool, and has a matte finish to create that defined look on the face.

Some people use bronzers as contours, applying warmth to the face while using them to shape and define the face at the same time. However, you really wouldn’t want to use a contour product as a bronzer.

How to apply a contour

Did you know that contouring originated from the drag community as a way to shape the face with makeup? Applying contour will help enhance the shape of your face, and here we tell you just how to do that.

Prepare your contour

Take a contour product that’s three shades darker than your skin tone but still within your undertone family. Also, decide whether you want to use a cream or powder contour. Depending on your skin condition, you might prefer one over the other. For example, those with dry skin might want to use cream contour rather than powder ones.

Did you know you can use brown matte lipsticks for this too? Just make sure to blend them well and other creamy or liquid contour into your face by either using the warmth on your hands or a damp makeup blender.

People with oily skin may want to use a powder contour with the right kind of brush (specifically angled contour brush) depending on how you want to look.

Decide where to contour

You don’t need to put contour all over your face. The secret to contouring is applying contour products only to key parts of your face to make a natural shadow effect. Depending on the features of your face, you would need to map out areas and key spots where you want the shadowing to appear to make your face more defined.


You do not want awkward dark spots over your face, do you? The secret to a perfect contour finish is by blending the contour properly on your face using a makeup brush or a beauty blender, depending on the type of contour you’ll be using.

How to apply a bronzer

Apply the bronzer

Using an angled makeup brush and a powder bronzer, sweep the bronzer along your cheekbones, temples, and the tip of your nose–areas usually hit by the sun to create a warm look. You would want to tap off excess product on the brush before applying the bronzer to the face so you can control the amount of product at each sweep.

In the case of cream or liquid bronzers, you can use foundation brushes and create a line starting from under the cheekbones, then upward towards the ear. Make sure to apply the cream bronzer carefully by tapping and dabbing at the start to make sure you put just the right amount at a time.

Choose a bronzer that’s one to two shades darker than your skin tone.

Don’t forget to blend.

It is a beauty crime not to blend makeup. After aiming at high points on your face, make sure to sweep the product along your hairline, and then swirl onto the cheekbones, then swirl it back to the edge of the face or towards the ear to blend.

When blending, make sure to do so in circular motions to avoid the appearance of edges and streaks.

Bronze your chin, nose, and neck

Since a bronzer applies warmth to the face, you wouldn’t want an uneven skin color with your neck, do you? Don’t forget to add bronzer on your neck so that your face and neck look evenly colored.

Also, don’t forget to bronze the chin and nose. These parts do not need as much bronzer as the cheek does, so you can just lightly brush them over with the product.