Bronzer vs. Contour: What Experts What You to Know

A complete guide on how to use each one.

Contour vs Bronzer

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Picture yourself on a summer vacation: bronzed skin, the sound of waves in the background, a lazy smile across your face, your cheekbones chiseled by the gods. It's a scene out of a romance novel. Sadly beauty products can't provide the entire picture, but they can help you achieve two of the above.

Bronzers and contour products have been used for decades by people looking to give their skin a more luminous and warm appearance while sculpting their facial structure to that of their desires. While they're often used interchangeably, they do achieve different things. Now we don't believe there are any hard rules when it comes to makeup techniques, but it's always a good idea to know the rules before you break them.

So, we tapped two makeup artists to break down what each product is, how to use them correctly, and most importantly, what the differences are so we know exactly what to expect the next time we do our makeup. Their answers, below.

What is bronzer?

Simply put, bronzer gives the skin a warmer, more tan appearance. "The purpose of bronzer is to add warmth or color to the skin, to create a sun-kissed effect," furthers MAKE UP FOR EVER Makeup Artist and Education, Eddie Duyos.

Bronzers come in all types of formulas, such as powders, liquid drops, and creams. (Find the best ones here.) There's no right or wrong when it comes to picking which one to use, it's purely based on personal preference.

What is contour?

J. Brandon Correa, a celebrity makeup artist and YSL Beauté ambassador, explains that contour is created to enhance your morphology — aka your bone structure. He explains that these products are cooler, almost with a grey-ish undertone to create a cast of a shadow. "It's meant to give dimension to the face as well as to adjust symmetry and balance as needed," adds Duyos.

Similar to bronzers, contour products can be found in a variety of formulas, but they're typically found in makeup sticks and creams.

What are the key differences between bronzer and contour?

As explained above, bronzers are warm-toned and contour products are cool-toned. "Bronzers should be warmer and can sometimes have a sheen or shimmer,” says Duyos. “Contour shades are a little more neutral and should look like a natural shadow found in that specific skin tone." 

Correa adds that while he's observed a lot of people contouring with their bronzing products, he feels that contouring this way makes the face lose depth.

What's the best way to use bronzer?

With bronzer, a light touch is all you need. "Bronzing is really kind of meant to mimic where the sun hits you naturally. So, that's why bronzer should be placed on the forehead and on top of the cheekbones — not under them," suggests Correa. Furthermore, Duyos says that application should be soft and diffused without creating any harsh lines or shapes. 

What's the best way to use contour?

"Contouring, opposite to bronzer, is about creating shape, definition, and symmetry," continues Duyos. "Usually, application would be in the hollow or lower points of the face like under the cheekbones, low points of the temple, or under the jawline."

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