Do you ever get the roles of bronzer and a contouring product confused? Join me as I explore the key differences, common mistakes, and essential tips for flawless application, of bronzer and contour makeup – to help you achieve that perfect sun-kissed glow or sculpted look you’re aiming for.

bronzer and contour makeup are not the same thing
The Makeup Refinery contour makeup application

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • The key differences between bronzer and contour makeup.
  • Knowing when to choose bronzer shades or a contour palette or makeup product.
  • Common mistakes and do’s and don’ts for flawless application.


click here to read the transcript!


Episode 35: Show notes

The Makeup Refinery contour makeup application

If you’ve ever found yourself mixing up these two essential products, you’re not alone.

But fear not, I’m here to demystify the differences and help you master the art of using bronzer and contour for that flawless makeup look.

Let’s start by addressing why bronzer and contour are often mixed up.

I often find that they can have a similar appearance at first glance, especially if you’re new to makeup.

The flurries of ever-changing trends and techniques, along with individual application styles and a multitude of products available, can be quite overwhelming, making it easy to confuse the two.

Bronzer Makeup

As a makeup product, a good bronzer will create a fresh, sun-kissed glow on your complexion.

It adds warmth and radiance, mimicking a natural tan and enhancing your skin’s luminosity. From powder to cream to liquid form, bronzer is versatile and offers different finishes, from a subtle glow for everyday looks to intense radiant finish and dramatic effects.

Contour Makeup

On the other hand, we have contour makeup, which involves creating shadows and definition on your face.
The purpose of contouring is to sculpt your face, enhancing or minimizing specific features for a more balanced appearance.

Like bronzers, contour products come in various forms, such as powder, cream, and stick, and when done well, contouring can bring balance and dimension to your face.

Key Differences Between Bronzer and Contour Makeup

Now, let’s address the key differences between bronzer and contour makeup.

Bronzer adds warmth and a healthy glow, while contour creates depth and definition, emphasizing or minimizing specific features.

The placement and shade selection also play a crucial role in distinguishing between the two.

Bronzer is applied where the sun naturally hits the face, whereas contour is applied where shadows naturally occur, such as below the cheekbones and along the jawline.

When to Choose a Bronzer or a Contour Product?

Knowing when to choose a bronzer or a contour product largely depends on the desired makeup look, the occasion, and the face shape.

For a natural, effortless look with a hint of glow, bronzer is your go-to, while contouring is ideal for defining facial features and creating dramatic looks.

When it comes to choosing the right shades for bronzer and contour, it’s important to consider your skin tone and undertones. Using the wrong shade can lead to unnatural results, so always match the shade to your skin tone and undertone before application.

Application Do’s and Dont’s for Bronzer and Contour Makeup

Lastly, don’t forget the do’s and don’ts for flawless application.


  • always prep your skin
  • use the right tools
  • remember that blending is key


  • forget to blend
  • go overboard – less is best!
  • use the wrong shade

Start with a light hand and build gradually, and always match the shade to your skin tone and undertone before application

By following these tips and avoiding common mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to achieving a flawless finish with your bronzer and contour makeup, enhancing your features naturally and beautifully.

For more in-depth information and a handy guide, scroll down to the links and resources section to download the complete PDF guide on Bronzer and Contour.

Let’s banish those makeup mishaps and master the art of bronzer and contour for that perfect, sculpted look!

Click here to listen to this episode!


Episode Transcript

[00:00:00]: Do you often find yourself doing what I like to call makeup minimizing? So you do your face and you unconsciously try to save time by doubling up your products on your face. So you’re trying to minimize, right, by using less products.
Well, I touched on this way back in episode 26 when I mentioned Blush and how it might be aging you, and that incorrect placement or product minimizing, in that case, might be doing your face more harm than good.

Well, we’re going to dive into exactly this topic today as we explore Bronzer and contour makeup. And just in case you had to be reminded that they’re not the same thing.

[00:01:05]: So why do we get Bronzer and contour makeup mixed up?

This confusion can be easily made, and it can happen due to several reasons. First of all, they can often have a similar appearance. At first glance, the Bronzer or Contour products might look alike, especially if you’re new to makeup.
They often come in similar packaging and may also have a similar powder or cream texture, and this can really lead to getting them mixed up.
Sometimes there can be a real lack of clarity in the marketing of products, and you find that companies will use similar language or marketing terms for both bronzer and contour products, and this can really blur the distinction between the two.

Another reason that we can get bronzers and contours mixed up is the world of ever changing trends and techniques. Makeup trends can evolve and techniques for applying our makeup constantly change.

[00:02:11]: So with the rise of various makeup tutorials and influences, different interpretations of using bronzer and contour products, let’s not deny it, but they can further confuse us, right?

Also, individual application styles. Some people might use a bronzer to create contour like effects, or vice versa, and based on personal preferences or limited knowledge of makeup techniques. This is me, by the way. Go and check out that episode 26 I’m talking about. Yep, I’m a card carrying makeup rule breaker. But remember one of my first rules. There are no rules when it comes to makeup, right?

Sometimes the functions of bronzers and contour products can overlap. So while bronzers and contours serve different purposes, complexion warmth versus sculpting and shadowing, there can be some overlap in their functions.

[00:03:05]: Some bronzers might have a slightly cooler undertone suitable for light contouring, blurring the distinction for some users.

And another thing to think about is the complexity involved for beginners.

So if you’re new to makeup, the multitude of products available and the intricacies of their uses can be completely overwhelming. So understanding the nuances between a bronzer and a contour can add another layer of complexity.

So hopefully, this episode will clear all of those things up for you.

Okay, let’s get into it. So I want to ask you this question.

Why is it important to know the difference between a bronzer and a contour makeup product? Well, first of all, because it will help you achieve the look that you’re going for.

[00:03:49]: As you know, each makeup product that you use serves a specific purpose, so knowing the distinction in these two helps you achieve your desired makeup look.

Using a bronzer when you intended to contour, or vice versa, might not give you the results that you’re aiming for.

Highlighting versus sculpting a bronzer will add warmth and a sunkissed glow to your face, while a contour makeup will create shadows that define and sculpt your facial features.

So using them interchangeably will lead to mismatch and sometimes even muddy results, which can affect your overall makeup, finished and not in the best way, flattering your face. So both bronzers and contour products can accentuate and even minimize your facial features. If you understand how and where to apply each product, which can come from knowing your own face or the face that you’re working on, you can effectively enhance and sculpt that face.

Selecting your products. Knowing the difference between these product types will help you when you’re selecting the right shade and product type for your skin tone or someone else’s your makeup routine. For instance, a bronzer that’s too dark might look muddy when it’s used as a contour product, and a contour shade that’s too warm, well, it’s not going to be effective as a contour, is it? Yep, that’s what I’m 100% guilty of.

[00:05:17]: Using a bronzer as a contour product, or vice versa, can lead to all manner of makeup mishaps, looking too orange, or having overly harsh lines on your face.

So if you understand the purpose of the product, you can reduce the chance of these makeup blunders ever happening to you.

I guess the message here really is to know your products. Okay, so what’s a bronzer essentially, a bronzer is a makeup product that mimics the appearance of a sunkissed glow or a tan. Let’s talk about some of the key aspects of a bronzer.

What is its purpose? A bronzer is primarily used to add warmth and radiance to your complexion. It can create a healthy sun-kissed look, especially when applied to strategic areas of your face where the sun naturally hits your face, like the forehead, cheekbones and bridge of the nose.

And it’s worth just mentioning that these days, some of the popular looks doing the rounds really do play on that, across the tops of the cheeks and the nose tip.

[00:06:22]: It’s super popular with the old bronzer these days. Types of bronzers so first we have the powder bronzer. Now this is the most common type, available in various shades and finishes, matte or shimmer. It’s easy to apply and blend and suitable for different skin types. And then you have a cream bronzer.

Now, cream bronzers can offer you a dewy or natural finish, and sometimes they can be more ideal for dry skin types and blend seamlessly because they’re cream. And then you also have a liquid bronzer. One of my favorite liquid bronzers is the Dr Hauschka Liquid Bronzing Tint.

[00:06:59]: Oh, it’s so lovely. And now these are more versatile, and they can also mix in with your foundations or moisturizers for a beautiful all over glow.

Or you can just use them on specific areas for highlighting. Okay, let’s talk application.

So I suggest using a fluffy or a large angled brush. Your bronzer will be lightly applied to the areas where sun naturally hits the face, such as the temples, tops of cheekbones and along the jawline.

[00:07:30]: As we’ve touched on already. Now it’s essential to blend your bronzer well to avoid the harsh lines that can occur. And to achieve that natural look, it’s also important to choose the right shade. So opt for a bronzer that’s only a few shades darker than your natural skin tone, which will ensure a natural looking result.

Now consider your skin’s undertone when you select a bronzer.

For cooler undertones, choose a bronzer with a taupe or slightly grayish hue, while warmer undertones can go for bronzers with a reddish or golden tone to them. Now, what are some of the common uses of a bronzer?
Well, you can use them for enhancing a natural tan or adding warmth to your face during the cooler months of the year when your skin can tend to look paler. You can also use a bronzer to create that sunkissed look without any sun exposure whatsoever, or as part of your makeup routine just for a general, radiant, healthy appearance.

[00:08:31]: And so just recapping a bronzer is really a versatile makeup product.

You can use it for subtle, everyday looks or build it up more for an intense and let’s say more dramatic bronze effect. And honestly, it’s quite an essential product in many makeup routines and gives you a healthy, glowing complexion year round.

Okay, let’s talk about contour. Contour makeup involves using products to create shadows and definition on your face.
So let’s go over the key aspects of contour makeup. So what is a contour product’s purpose? Contouring is about shaping and defining facial features.
By creating the illusion of shadows and depths, it helps to sculpt your face, enhancing or minimizing specific features for a more balanced appearance.

[00:09:23]: The different types of contour products are quite similar to bronzers.

So first we have let’s talk about powder contours, which are popular and can also be really easy to blend. They are applied after your foundation and before a setting powder to help sculpt your face.

Now, a cream based contour can offer a more natural and seamless finish. They are perfect if you have dry skin and can blend well for a sculpted look.

Contour sticks are super convenient because they give you a precise application, and obviously that means that they come in a stick form and allow you targeted placement for blending.

Now, the application obviously follows based on the type that you choose.

So contour products are applied to areas where shadows naturally occur, such as below the cheekbones, along the jawline, the sides of the nose, the temples, and under your jaw as well.

[00:10:20]: Now, choosing the right shade. Opt for a contour shade that is a few shades darker than your natural skin tone, but with cool undertones.

Avoid shades that are too warm, as in red or orange toned, as they might give off that unnatural look. And that is exactly what I have been known to do in years gone by. Now, common uses for a contour product can include enhancing the cheekbones by creating that defined and sculpted bone structure, slimming the face by contouring along the jawline and sides of nose, and you can also shape the outline of your face.

If you have a big forehead that you’re aware of, you can do some cheeky contouring up, through and into your hairline, which can really sculpt and create the illusion of a smaller forehead. It’s really quite effective. And so, just to sum up, contour makeup is also incredibly versatile and can be used for subtle, everyday looks or more dramatic and glam makeup styles. When you use it correctly, contouring can bring balance and dimension to your face and enhance your natural features for a more polished, put together look.

[00:11:29]: It really is a powerful makeup technique that allows you to play with light and shadow to redefine facial structure and features, and can be so effective when done well.

Okay, so what are the key differences between bronzer and contour makeup?

Well, bronzer as we’ve gone over, it gives your skin warmth and a sun-kissed glow to the skin. It can also mimic a natural tan and provide a healthy radiance, whereas contour product create shadows and definition on your face, and they are used to sculpt and shape facial features and enhance your bone structure.

The differences in where you’re going to use them are a bronzer you’re going to apply to areas where the sun naturally hits the face, which tend to be the uppermost facing planes of the face, the forehead, cheekbones, bridge of nose, all for that warm sunkissed look.

Whereas contour products are almost the opposite in placement, aren’t they? It’s going to be applied where the shadows naturally occur, such as below the cheekbones, along the jawline, sides of nose temples, and under the jaw to sculpt and define your features.

So that’s interesting. In a way, the application placement makes them opposites. The shade selection you’re going to look at a bronzer is a few shades darker than your natural skin tone, with warm undertones to mimic a tan or add warmth to your complexion, whereas a contour product will also be a few shades darker than your skin tone, but with cooler undertones to create shadows for sculpting without looking warm.

[00:13:06]: Now, the effects that these products create.

A bronzer adds warmth and a healthy glow, whereas a contour product creates depth and definition, enhancing or minimizing specific features depending on the look that you’re after. The textures a bronzer has the textures of a powder, cream or liquid form and offers you different finishes from matte to shimmer.

Now, contour products, while are still available in powder, cream or even stick forms, give you precise and various finishes, but typically they come in a matte finish for a more natural look. And the other thing to note is that contour products are typically matte because a dewy or shimmer finish is going to reflect light and give the appearance of coming forward, which goes against what you’re trying to achieve by using a contour product, which is recede and go back.

Okay, I hope that wasn’t too confusing. So understanding these differences helps you use each product appropriately to achieve the makeup look that you’re after, whether it’s enhancing warmth and radiance with bronzer or sculpting facial features with contour.

Okay, when to choose a bronzer and when to opt for a contour product how do you know whether to choose a bronzer or a contour product?

Well, knowing when to choose a bronzer or a contour product largely depends on the desired makeup look you’re going for and the effect that you want to achieve.

[00:14:34]: So let’s break it down. You should look for a bronzer when you want to add warmth to skin when you’re looking for a natural, effortless look with just that hint of a glow, and also when you want to emphasize the skin’s luminosity.

Now you should think about using a contour product when you want to define the facial features. If you are trying to create dramatic looks, or if you’re really aiming to correct or reshape the face when choosing these products, you should consider the occasion for everyday makeup or a natural look. A bronzer might be more suitable for special appearances when you’re seeking a more sculpted appearance, maybe contour is the go.

Consider the face shape that you’re going to be working on. Contouring is going to be more effective for reshaping or defining specific face shapes, while bronzer is going to be more versatile for adding warmth universally. And finally, blending techniques, which is really the key and the heart to both of these products.

[00:15:40]: Blending is everything.

A bronzer will generally require less precision in application and blending, while your contouring might just require you to be a bit more specific to create that seamless blend and natural finish.

Ultimately, the choice between a bronzer and a contour product for you depends on your makeup goals for that particular day or occasion. So by experimenting with both products, you’re going to discover what works best for you, for your features and the desired look, or for the person that you’re making up.

Okay, now next we’re going to go through tips for choosing the right shades for a bronzer.

For fair skin, I suggest opting for a light or golden toned bronzer to avoid it looking dark or muddy on the skin.
For medium skin tone, look for warm, caramel toned bronzers to work well to enhance warmth without appearing too orange.
Now, for a darker or deep skin tone, look for rich, deep bronzers that have reddish or chocolate undertones, which are going to complement dark skin beautifully.

[00:16:49]: And on the other hand, for your contour products.
For fair skin, choose cool tone contours that can be slightly darker than the skin tone, which will create natural looking shadows without being too harsh for medium skin.
Taupe or neutral shades will work well for medium skin tones, for a sculpted yet natural appearance, and for deeper and dark skin.
Deeper shades with cool undertones will create striking definition without appearing ashy on the surface of the skin.

Now, what can be some of the common mistakes that you might come across using bronzers and contour products?
Let’s take a look at them and also explore how you can avoid them. The first mistake you might come across is over application, so avoid this by starting with a light amount of product and build gradually. It’s always easier to add more product than remove too much.

Choosing the wrong undertone. Always consider your skin’s undertone before you even begin.

[00:17:54]: Cool undertones suit cooler contours, while warm undertones match golden or warmer bronzers and harsh lines or patchiness. And the big secret? The word that I just mentioned already is blend, blend, blend.
Use a soft brush or a large fluffy brush or makeup sponge to blend thoroughly for a seamless finish. And finally, before we wrap it up, let’s just quickly cover the do’s and don’ts for flawless applications. Do remember to prep your skin.
Always start with a well moisturized and prepped skin before applying a bronzer or a contour product for that perfect application, do remember to use the right tools. Using brushes or sponges designed specifically for bronzer and contour products will give you a precise and much more seamlessly blended finish. And do build gradually.

[00:18:51]: As we’ve talked about already, do start with a small amount of product and layer as needed for a natural and buildable finish. Okay.

Don’ts don’t forget to blend. Just in case I haven’t said that word enough, avoid harsh lines by blending thoroughly and especially along the edges of your bronzer or contour application areas. It should fade out seamlessly.

Now don’t go overboard. Less is often more, and this is one of my favorite things to remember. It’s easier to add more product than remove, so just start with a light hand and you can’t go wrong.

[00:19:28]: And thirdly, don’t use the wrong shade. Using a bronzer or contour shade that’s too light or too dark for your skin tone can lead to unnatural results. So always match the shade to your skin tone and your undertone before application. By following these tips and avoiding common mistakes and sticking to these do’s and don’ts, you’ll be able to work really easily towards achieving a flawless finish with your bronzer and contour makeup and enhancing your features naturally and beautifully. Wow, guys, this episode was massive. This almost became a masterclass on Bronzer versus contour makeup in itself. Oh boy. I think I need to have a sit down.

[00:20:13]: I know we covered a lot, and if you’re just learning and you’d like all of this info in one spot, well, I have some fantastic news for you.

I’ve put this all together into a single PDF guide that is available for you to download and keep for yourself to refer to every day from this day forward. And I’ve popped it online for you at Bronzer-contour-Guide and it’s all yours, my friend.

We covered a lot today, so I just wanted to give you that option to easily download it instead of having to go back and take notes and listen to my horrendous voice over and over again.

So thank you so much for joining me. I hope this has cleared up this seemingly age old bronze/contour debate that I constantly see asked online that you can make better choices about how, when, and why you should be using your bronzer and contour makeup products and ultimately lead to you looking even better and doing more beautiful, cleaner makeup.
So till next time.

I’ll see you then. Okay, bye.


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