I have a bit of a bronzer problem. Bronzer is my go-to category, so I’ve acquired a bit of a collection. Here’s my roundup of tips and favourites.
Bronzer is one of those products that needs the right tools. Most other products can withstand a bit of improvisation, like using those horrendous sponge-tip applicators that come with drug store eyeshadow (they work in a pinch!). Bronzer is not one of those products. Do not use the silly brushes that come with some bronzers, they are completely useless. If you have the right brush, your bronzer will look great even if you don’t have quite the right shade.
Before I jump into sharing my product recommendations, let me start with my two favourite brushes for applying bronzer.
First, I love the Real Techniques Blush Brush ($11 CAD). This brush is great for lighter application, or for better controlling a super pigmented product. Its fluffy, tapered shape allows you to really customize where you place product and how you blend it out. I like dipping each side of the brush into the product, tapping the excess off, and using circular motions across the perimeter of my face and onto my cheeks. Any large powder brush with a tapered shape will work for this method; I prefer shorter bristles for a more controlled feel.
Second, I love a large angled blush brush. I always have luck finding these in the beauty department at Winners, and they are usually under $10 CAD. Though I’ve searched, I’ve never found a comparable brush in any of the most popular brush lines (if you know of one, please let me know in the comments!). Most angled blush brushes are much smaller, or have longer, floppier bristles. This style of brush is perfect for applying bronzer because it’s large and dense (hello, airbrush finish), and the angled shape allows for perfect application along the perimeter of the face. When using this type of brush, I dip into the product, pat into the natural contour of my cheeks, and buff out across the perimeter of my face.
As you can see, applying bronzer adds warmth and dimension to the face. Even though I’m not wearing any other makeup aside from BB cream, brows, and mascara, I look a little healthier in the after.
I reach for many bronzers in my collection, so it’s hard to pick favourites. But I’ve whittled it down to six (and most of them are super affordable).
Actually—one final tip before I jump in. If products marketed as bronzers are too dark or light, or have the wrong undertones for your complexion, take a look at powder foundations from brands that have a wide range of shades. A powder that is one to two shades deeper and slightly warmer than your natural skin tone should work well to give you a similar effect.
Ok, ok! Onto the bronzers.
1. Rimmel London Natural Bronzer, 021 Sun Light ($8 CAD, 14g)
This is my OG bronzer, the longest running product in my entire collection (along with the Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream). When I bought this for a first time probably a decade ago, it was the only matte bronzer I could find in the drug store. This is a waterproof, unscented formula, and though the colour is on the warm side I don’t find it too orange for my light skin. It’s definitely buildable. Use a fluffier brush to add a light wash of colour, and layer in areas where you want a deeper bronze.
The only real con I have about this bronzer is its packaging. The plastic lid cracks easily and subsequently comes loose from the base; don’t leave this product floating in your makeup bag.
1. essence Sun Club Matt Bronzing Powder, 01 Natural (available at Shoppers Drug Mart and Real Canadian Superstores, $5 CAD, 15g)
It appears you can’t easily buy essence anywhere online in Canada. That’s a bummer, since selection at Shoppers Drug Mart varies pretty wildly by location. If you can find this in stores, grab it. I love the large pan, since it’s suited to the tools you’ll use to apply. The colour is just slightly cooler and more brown than the Rimmel London Natural Bronzer, and the powder itself is more buttery in texture. This bronzer has a strong but pleasant tropical scent that goes away once you apply it.
3. NYC Color Wheel Mosaic Face Powder, 724A All Over Bronze Glow ($5 CAD, 9g)
This is an intense matte powder that I decided to try as a bronzer. The colour has a terracotta undertone, so if you’re fair you might not like that. One thing I love about this product is that you can use the whole pan for an overall bronze, but then take a smaller blending brush and customize a shade for your crease if you’re going for a simple, coordinated look. This super pigmented, blendable powder is best applied with a duo fibre or fluffy brush.
4. The Body Shop Bronzing Powder, 03 Medium Matte ($22 CAD, 11g)
This matte bronzer comes in a plastic compact with a mirror. I find the colour representation on their website to be a little wonky—might be worth it to search for additional swatches or choose your shade in stores. The shade 03 Medium Matte gives a subtle bronze effect on my light skin. This powder comes in five shades from light to deep and is the softest amongst all the powders here—it applies evenly even on bare skin. It’s unscented, so if you’re sensitive to fragrance you might like this.
5. Too Faced Soleil Matte Bronzer, Milk Chocolate ($38 CAD, 10g)
This one’s a classic, and perhaps my favourite overall. The colour on this bronzer is absolutely perfect—it’s a neutral brown that doesn’t appear muddy or orangey, and works well with my complexion. It’s cool enough to do double-duty as a contour. This bronzer smells like chocolate so it is heavenly to open the compact and apply.
6. Vasanti Brazilian Bronzer Brightening Mineral Powder ($25 CAD, 8g)
Vasanti is a Canadian-made, women-operated cosmetics brand available at Shoppers Drug Mart/Beauty Boutique and Rexall. This is a new-to-me product, and I don’t think I’d have purchased it had I swatched it in-store. The colour looks like a deep, burnt orange in the pan, and it is pretty intense swatched as well. However, since I ordered it online, I decided to take my chances and try it out—I am really pleased with the colour! I use a light hand with a fluffy brush. It’s completely buildable, so start light and add more product to deepen the look. This bronzer has a subtle, illuminating sheen to it, so it will give you a lovely glow. I will definitely reach for this bronzer on days I decide to self-tan my face.
Bonus: Bronzer Toppers
As you can tell, I’m not into shimmer bronzers. I prefer to apply a matte powder all over, and then use an illuminating bronzer or blush as a topper, just on the cheeks. Two of my favourites are the NYX Ombre Blush in Nude To Me ($13 CAD) and Hourglass Ambient Lighting Bronzer in Luminous Bronze Light ($60 CAD). Using these products instead of blush give a sun-kissed, glowy look to the face—and I love a look that is all bronze and brows.
What are your favourite bronzers or bronzy blushes? Let me know in the comments down below!