Bronzer is one of the most transformative and versatile makeup products, that despite common belief, can be used to add an instant warmth and glow to any skin tone. A swipe of bronzer can give your face a quick faux “tan” (no matter what the time of year), sculpt your cheeks using contouring techniques, be layered under blush for more depth, and even be used as eyeshadow in a pinch.
But before you get glowing, it’s key to find the best bronzer formula for your skin shade and needs. First, I.D. the right texture for your skin type.
- For oily, acne-prone, combination, or normal skin, powders tend to be best as they keep any excess oil at bay.
- For dry or mature skin, creams may be a better choice since their emollient texture won’t emphasize parched patches or lines.
Then, make sure to choose a shade to match your skin tone to ensure the bronzer is visible without looking overly dark: pick a light tone for fair skin, medium for mid-toned skin, and deep for dark skin (and follow our pro bronzer application tips for best results.)
Below, Good Housekeeping beauty experts share the best bronzers you can buy, including bronzing powders and creams for every skin tone, including drugstore bargains for every type of skin:
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Best Overall Bronzer
Terracotta Original Bronzing Powder Guerlain sephora.com
This Guerlain powder bronzer has been long beloved by both beauty editors and makeup artists. “It’s a classic and for good reason (and definitely a worthy splurge!) — it gives the perfect sunkissed glow without looking fake or orange,” says beauty editor Dori Price. “Plus I love the super subtle, sophisticated shimmer that’s in it. You can only see it when the light hits your skin in the right way.”
Best Value Bronzer
TruBlend Bronzer CoverGirl walmart.com
Get the quality of a high-end bronzer at a drugstore price with this CoverGirl formula. The powder is baked and swirled with multiple tones and subtle iridescence for natural dimension and has cool undertones to ensure a true-to-life look. “It goes on and looks like satin on skin,” GH’s beauty editor says.
Best Bronzing Powder
Hi Definition Perfecting Powder in Bronze Chantecaille nordstrom.com
This luxurious, understated Chantecaille bronzer powder is Good Housekeeping Institute Beauty Lab senior chemist Sabina Wizemann’s Holy Grail for a believable look. “This bronzer and mattifying powder hybrid is so fine that it is almost impossible to overapply,” she says. “It gives a barely-there sunny effect, plus blurs fine lines exceptionally well, unifies skin tone, and lasts all day.” Even more to love: “I like that it feels light on the skin and subdues shine while bringing a healthy-looking tinge to my cheeks without making my skin look dry or cakey.”
Best Cream Bronzer
Butter Bronzer Physicians Formula amazon.com
If you love the softness and natural effect of cream makeup formulas, Wizemann swears by this Physicians Formula bronzer for its light, creamy, shimmery coverage at an affordable price. “It’s infused with three kinds of butters — murumuru, capuacu, and tucuma — so it blends effortlessly and gives skin a velvety finish that is smooth to the touch and not drying, a must for dry skin,” she says. “I like the understated glow it produces, how it adds freshness to the skin, and the relaxing scent makes me think of beach vacations!” It also comes with a small brush, so you can apply it on the go.
Best Bronzer for Contouring
City Bronzer and Contour Powder Maybelline New York amazon.com
This Maybelline bronzer doubles as contouring powder and comes in three shades, from fair to deep. Its matte finish with no visible shimmer makes it great for sculpting cheekbones. “It applies so smooth without any patchiness,” an Amazon reviewer noted.
Best Bronzer for Dark Skin
Coffee & Cocoa Bronzer Palette Beauty Bakerie ulta.com
Created for deep skin tones, this Beauty Bakerie bronzer palette contains shades of rich espresso, bronze, terracotta, and rust that work as highlighter, blush, and even eye shadow. “This is the best palette I’ve seen for dark complexions,” an Ulta reviewer raved. “The colors are simply beautiful.”
Best Bronzer for Medium Skin
Hoola Matte Bronzer Benefit Cosmetics sephora.com
For a great match for medium skin tones, look no further than this cult classic Benefit bronzer. “The original formula is a great shade on my light-medium skin tone and looks so natural because there is no shimmer that can make my skin look oily,” says GH Beauty Lab chemist Danusia Wnek. “One swipe over my face is enough for me, but you can easily build it up for a more intense contour.”
Best Bronzer for Fair Skin
Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer in Inda Sun Fenty Beauty by Rihanna sephora.com
Yes, it’s possible for bronzer to look flattering (and life-like!) on fair skin: Just see this Fenty Beauty formula. “Bronzer can look strange on my extremely pale, freckled skin tone, but this looks much more natural than others I’ve used,” says GH beauty assistant Katie Berohn. “It’s super easy to apply and blends and builds without any harsh lines or unevenness—the most forgiving bronzer that I’ve tried!”
Best Bronzer Blush Duo
Book Of Sun Blush Bronzer Duette Chapter 1 Soft Peach & Golden Sand Smith & Cult amazon.com
This Smith & Cult compact, a favorite of GH Beauty Lab Director Birnur Aral, Ph.D., contains both a bronzer and blush in complementary hues, eliminating any matching guesswork. “I love this duo, which contains a neutral bronzer and a warm, peachy blush,” she says. “I can use this for contouring as well as for an all over sun-touched look by either using the colors separately or blending them.
Best Bronzer for Beginners
Baked Face Powder Laura Mercier nordstrom.com
A forgiving bronzer that’s (almost) foolproof, this Laura Mercier baked powder contains swirls of pink, champagne, and rose pigments to balance out the brown tones, plus a flattering subdued gleam. It’s one of GH’s beauty director’s favorites for giving her skin an enlivening luminosity, and a Nordstrom reviewer agrees: “The color combination just magically brightens and bronzes in all the right places.”
Best Bronzer for Sensitive Skin
Made with just a few ingredients: skin softeners like coconut and jojoba oils and cocoa butter, plus natural pigments, this RMS Beauty cream bronzer feels more like skincare than makeup. “It makes your skin look so healthy and radiant,” a Dermstore reviewer reported.
April Franzino Beauty Director April Franzino is the Beauty Director at Good Housekeeping, part of the Hearst Women’s Lifestyle Beauty Group.
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