Few things have the power to instantly transform your look like a great bronzer. But what classifies a formula as the best bronzer is complicated. There’s the obvious: at its core, a bronzer’s purpose is to add depth and warmth to your skin, says Danessa Myricks, makeup artist and CEO of Danessa Myricks Beauty. But a fantastic one can do so much more—like give the illusion of cheek filler or make it look as if you’re fresh off a trip to Ibiza when you haven’t left your couch since the pandemic began.
Here’s where it gets complicated: despite their ability to wake up your skin, so many formulas tend to skew too orange, too ashy, too glittery, or just overall fake-looking. Once you know exactly what to look for, though, the ability to fake a glow and J.Lo-level cheekbones becomes far more simple. That’s where makeup artists and magazine beauty editors come in. Brush up on your bronzer basics below, and then scroll on for the best bronzers according to them.
How to pick your perfect shade
With bronzer, the goal is for it to look as natural as possible. “When selecting a bronzer, think about what naturally happens when you’re in the sun,” says Myricks. “Let your body give you clues. Identify the deeper tones that surface on your chest, shoulders, and arms, and use that as a gauge.”
A safe place to start is a color two shades deeper than your natural skin tone, then go darker if you want a contrast that’s more intense. Makeup artist Kasey Spickard says fair skin tones will look best with a bronzer that has neutral undertones—i.e., shades that don’t lean too warm or cool. Terra-cotta hues with a slightly reddish undertone beautifully complement tan and olive skin. Meanwhile, bronzers that lean golden work best on deep skin, while formulas with a brick-red base play up deep skin with red and brown undertones.
And if you don’t quite know what undertones you have? Stick with something neutral, says Spickard, which no matter your skin tone will still give you a natural flush.
How to choose the right formula for your skin type
Like all other types of makeup, take your skin type into consideration when choosing a formula. Powders are the least intimidating and easiest to use, especially if you’re a beginner. They work on all skin types but are best for oily skin. “If you have dry or combo skin, make sure you are doing proper physical or chemical exfoliation regularly,” says Spickard. “That way your bronzer and blush won’t catch on dry skin and create a patchy application.”
Myricks personally prefers cream bronzers since they look most natural, are versatile and buildable, and last longest on your skin. If you have dry skin or just love a fresh, dewy look, she recommends tapping her Dew Wet Balm in Hot Water over any shade of bronzer. “It’s super easy to apply and can be worn on bare skin or over powders on any skin tone,” she says.
How to apply bronzer
“As is my philosophy with all makeup, start with less and build from there,” says Spickard. “Tap a large fluffy brush once or twice into the pan to load the brush with product, then make a fish face.” From there you’ll want sweep bronzer in a 3 shape over the perimeter of your face—starting at your temples, down the side of your hair, over the tops of your cheekbones, and along your jawline. Then, using whatever product you have left on your brush, you’ll want to blend along the sides of your nose, the tip of your chin, and your neck.
If you feel like you’ve applied too much, take a clean fluffy brush or your fingers and buff out any areas where it’s too heavy. Myricks adds not to forget to buff it into the top of your ears and your hairline for the most natural finish.
Now that you’ve got all that down, here are the best bronzers makeup artists swear by.
Best Overall: Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Bronzer
This matte, silky powder received nothing but glowing praise from GLAMOUR Beauty Awards judges—a mix of editors, influencers, and makeup artists. In other words: a tough crowd to please. “After months of being stuck indoors, I’m officially as pale as I ever get,” says contributor Erin Parker. “Thankfully, I’ve had this flawless matte bronzer at the ready—it’s seriously undetectable and blends in so naturally. The true matte powder is honestly perfect for faking a tan (and accentuating your bone structure) quickly and effectively. This is the kind of bronzer you’ll always get plenty of use out of, no matter where we’re at in the makeup trend cycle.”
“A matte cream bronzer is a perfect solution for powder lovers who want the ease of use and the matte finish of powder but with the flawless, undetectable finish a cream provides,” says Myricks. She recommends her Power Bronzer, which applies like a cream but dries down matte: “This can also be a great solution for women with more combination or oily skin, as cream-based products last longer throughout the day and help hold back shine.”
You really can’t beat a classic. Hoola is well loved for it’s insanely easy-to-blend texture, totally matte finish, and the fact that it’s cool enough to realistically contour with and also warm enough to make you look vacation-ready. After years of offering a single shade, the brand now has options for a range of skin tones.
Best Bronzer and Contour Duo: Victoria Beckham Beauty Matte Bronzing Brick
While sure, you can use bronzer to shape your face, it’s technically recommended that contouring should be done with a cool-toned powder since you’re emphasizing shadows. This duo from Cheekbone Queen Victoria Beckham includes a cool-tones powder for definition, and a warmer shade to add a sun-kissed effect to your skin. Both powders are insanely fine and seamless, and the packaging is beautiful and luxe.
Best Bronzer for Dry Skin: Saie Sun Melt Natural Cream Bronzer
This yummy bronzer has a balmy texture, making it perfect for skin types on the drier side. The formula even has skincare ingredients like colloidal oatmeal and grapeseed oil to soothe and moisturize skin. Even if you don’t need the extra moisture, you’ll appreciate the dewy but not shiny finish and easy-to-blend texture.
Best Blurring Bronzer: GloWish by Huda Beauty Soft Radiance Bronzing Powder
This silky bronzer has a mix of shimmering and matte powders, so your left with an airbrushed, luminous finish that blurs pores and imperfections. One swipe gives you a natural look, but it can be built up for more warmth if that’s your style.
Best Drugstore Bronzer: Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer Murumuru Butter Bronzer
Butter Bronzer has a cult following for a reason. Despite being a powder, it has an almost buttery cream feel, so it never skips or looks patchy, and it has a nice satin finish. It’s very buildable, so you can make it work if you like a natural or more glam look. Plus, it smells like a tropical vacation.
Best Liquid Bronzer: BareMinerals Bare Pro Glow Bronzer
Liquid bronzers don’t get a ton of love in favor of powder formulas, but they’re the secret to a truly seamless faux glow. “I love the classic BareMinerals bronzers, but my current favorite is the liquid version,” says Spickard. “It’s not too warm or orangey, and I love doing a liquid bronzer on a no-makeup day. I just buff it right onto clean skin. I also like to layer this under powder bronzer to make it last all day.”
Best Clean Bronzer: Tower 28 Beauty Bronzino Illuminating Bronzer
This bronzer is a little intimidating in the pan, but gently buffed onto your skin, it’s truly stunning. It has almost a balmlike texture that leaves a glossy glow and a hint of shimmer. Although it’s incredibly dewy, it’s not sticky or greasy, and it makes you look alive in 2.5 seconds. Since it’s so glowy, it means you can skip highlighter as well.
Best Shimmer Bronzer: Hourglass Cosmetics Ambient Lighting Bronzer
This powder is very neutral, so it never reads orange—making it a great natural bronzer for fair skin. However, the real selling point that makes it worth its $52 price tag is its luminous finish. The bronzer is formulated using what the brand calls photoluminescent technology, which essentially means it reflects light to blur your skin and add a lit-from-within glow. While some powders can look flat, because this one is so finely milled and has light-reflecting particles, it actually makes skin look dewier—but definitely not sparkly.
A stick bronzer makes application a breeze, and Milk really hit it out of the park with this chubby twist-up. Thanks to the bigger size, you can quickly add warmth to your cheeks, nose, and forehead, or use a brush or sponge for more detailed shading. It blends in in seconds but stays put all day. Plus, it’s the perfect neutral tone.
Best Shade Range: Fenty Beauty Sun Stalk’r Bronzer
“My personal favorite bronzer is the Fenty Beauty Sun Stalkr Bronzer in Private Island,” says Spickard. “It goes on so smoothly, never patchy.” It’s also a favorite among GLAMOUR staffers for the inclusive shade range—there are eight that span from very fair to deep—and realistic undertones. No matter what shade you are, you’ll never look orange or ashy.
Sometimes it takes a little mixing and matching to get the perfect shade for you, which is why Spickard loves these duos. He likes to blend the shades together to create a sun-kissed glow that is very natural. The powders are finely milled, so it’s hard to go overboard. The formula is also vegan and cruelty-free.
Best Bronzer for Fair Skin: Maybelline City Bronzer
If you’re fair and like to use a bronzer to add depth, shade Light 001 is the answer to your prayers. There’s not even a hint of orange; it just gives your skin a nice glow and definition. The powder is really buildable, which is ideal for pale skin, and it has a velvet matte finish thanks to the inclusion of whipped cocoa butter.
Best Bronzer for Light Skin: Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer in Milk Chocolate
This bronzer looks beautiful both in the pan and on your skin, and because it’s made with real cocoa powder, it smells incredible as well. This buildable bronzer doesn’t pull orange, and the Milk Chocolate shade is particularly great for light skin. The deeper shades are just as good, and all three can be used to add warmth and definition.
Best Bronzer for Medium Skin: Chanel Soleil Tan De Chanel
This bronzer is on the expensive side, but the hamburger-sized jar will last you a lifetime. While it’s a cream product, it dries down to a powder that doesn’t budge. The beautiful texture buffs right into your skin, and it can be used both to add warmth and sculpt your face. It also looks incredible on your vanity or top shelf.
Best Bronzer for Deep Skin: Mented Cosmetics Bronzer
It’s still frustratingly uncommon to find bronzers that work for dark skin, but Mented is here to change the game. Created by women of color, for women of color, these bronzers are richly pigmented, buildable, and insanely smooth. They’re also enriched with vitamins A and E for skin-care benefits; plus, they’re vegan and cruelty-free.
Best Bronzer for Red and Brown Undertones: Makeup Revolution Splendor Matte Bronzer
Chances are you’ve seen these bronzers praised all over Twitter for being one of the few options that cater to women of color across all skin tones and undertones. The reviews back up the tweets, with users being pleasantly surprised by how richly pigmented and easy to work with they are. And the price can’t be beat.
Great makeup begins with great skincare. Prep your skin with CeraVe Moisturizer ($11; target.com), a lightweight daily moisturizer for normal to dry skin. Follow up with Estee Lauder Illuminating Perfecting Primer, ($38; nordstrom.com), a luminous face primer that hydrates and brightens skin for a dewy finish. The duo will ensure a flawless base that keeps makeup in place all day.
Concealer and Foundation
Beginners can eliminate the risk of caked-on foundation by adding an opaque concealer to their kit. L.A. Girl concealer’s ($3; walmart.com) creaseless formula camouflages imperfections, allowing you to use less foundation. When paired with Makeup Forever’s HD Invisible Cover Foundation ($43; sephora.com) no one will be able to tell where your skin ends and the makeup begins. Bonus: It lasts for 24 hours and comes in 50 shades.
Eyebrow Pomade and Spoolie Brush
Among the most important features on your face: Your eyebrows. Every beginner needs a tool like the dual-sided Anastasia Beverly Hills brush ($18; macys.com) to sculpt perfect arches. The brand’s Dipbrow Pomade ($21; sephora.com) is also a beginner favorite as it’s easy to apply, smudge-proof, and waterproof — so it’s great even for oily skin types.
Eyeliner and Mascara
For a beginner, skip the false lashes and go straight for an all-star mascara and liner combo. Tag-team Kat Von D Tattoo Liner ($20; sephora.com), which gives the illusion of thicker fringe, with a few swipes of Benefit’s They’re Real Lengthening Volumizing Mascara to add dramatic length ($25; sephora.com).
Nude and Red Lipstick
No kit is complete without a super versatile nude and red lip color that can take you from day to night. Try Chanel Rouge Coco Shine ($38; chanel.com) for a hydrating nude and MAC Lipstick ($17; maccosmetics.com) for a universally flattering bold red that stays put for hours.
Brushes and Tools
In order to put apply your makeup properly, you’ll need to use the right tools. The Beautyblender ($20; sephora.com) is perfect for effortlessly blending foundations, blush, and concealer. For precise eye makeup and dusting on powders reach for Sonia Kashuk’s brush set ($40; target.com).
Blush and Highlighter
Add healthy color and a subtle glow to your skin with a classic blush and highlighter. Nars and Becca have both created cult favorites that are must-haves for every kit. Nars Blush in Orgasm, $30; sephora.com. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector, $41; sephora.com.
If you’re experimenting with eyeshadows, this Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Eye Shadow Palette ($42; sephora.com) is perfect for you. It offers a range of everyday nudes, plus a hint of bright colors to play around with.
Q-Tips and Makeup Wipes
Even pros make mistakes — and dabbing a Q-Tip ($3; target.com) into lotion is their secret for instantly erasing errors. And for those nights when you’re too lazy to wash your face, makeup wipes will be your best friend. Try Cleanse by Lauren Napier ($40; net-a-porter.com), which comes with 50 individually packaged wipes you can throw in your travel bag to use on-the-go.
Of course, these are the basics to help get you started. The more you work, you will realize the need for more products, textures, and colours. Some additional items to this list include:
Whether you wear false eyelashes at all/sometimes/always, a good mascara should not flake or smudge in any case. I’ve tested SO many mascaras, at all price points, and I’m ready to share my favourites with you!
The conic shape fiber brush provides lashes with dramatic volume and sculpted length. Opthalmologically tested. Not tested on animals.
Essence What The Fake! Volumizing & Lengthening Mascara $4.99
Enriched with nylon fibers for lashes looking incredibly thicker and longer, giving your lashes that false lash look. The nylon fibers in the formula absorb some of the liquid, making this a thicker formula, great for layering and building up volume.
Essence Bye Bye Panda Eyes! Mascara $4.99
For clean volume and defined lashes – The Bye Bye Panda Eyes! Mascara by Essence is made to last all day without smudging or clumping with their tubular formula. Plus, it’s easy to remove with just warm water.
Essence I Love Extreme Crazy Volume Mascara $4.99
The deep-black, creamy texture covers each individual lash with color and the extra-large plastic brush provides sensational volume. Opthalmologically tested.
Essence The False Lashes Mascara Dramatic Volume Unlimited $4.99
The deep black texture and unique shape of the Essence The False Lashes Mascara Dramatic Volume Unlimited fiber brush ensures dramatic volume and a gorgeous false lash effect. Not tested on animals.
The special braided design of the cap has never been seen before. Enriched with lengthening fibers, this styling mascara provides an 18hr longlasting volume effect and ensures fully extended lashes. The fiber releasing brush has the perfect shape to reach even the smallest lashes!
Covergirl LashBlast Volume Mascara $6.99
Get a blast of lush, volumized lashes! LashBlast’s patented volume-boosting formula and patent-pending brush are designed to max-out each and every lash, leaving you with the ultimate big lash look. Instant volume and fullness. Smudge and wear-proof. Hypoallergenic and suitable for contact lens wearers. “Cruelty Free”.
Rimmel Scandaleyes Volume On Demand Mascara $7.99
Lash-conditioning formula delivers a smooth, clump-free finish every time. Unique brush contains wavy fibre technology, catching, loading and separating every single lash. Sweep through hard-to-reach lashes with the tapered brush shape. Layer it up for bigger, bolder volume anytime with zero clumps. Available in two shades: bold black or natural-looking brown.
Covergirl Exhibitionist Mascara $8.39
With COVERGIRL’s Exhibitionist volumizing mascara, lashes are full and defined after only one coat. Our volumizing mascara formula glides smoothly onto lashes. Get soft lashes with no flaking or smudging. “Cruelty Free”
L’Oreal Voluminous Carbon Black Volume Building Mascara $8.99
L’Oreal’s Voluminous Carbon Black Volume Building Mascara has a unique formula of panthenol and ceramide-R that builds and thickens voluptuous lashes while conditioning them, so they remain supple and healthy. An exceptionally plush brush is designed to glide on just the right amount of mascara without clumping or flaking. Non-irritating, fragrance-free formula is safe for sensitive eyes and contact wearers.
Maybelline Falsies Lash Lift Mascara $10.49
Get an instant lash lift effect from a mascara. Falsies Lash Lift from Maybelline NY delivers dramatic volume and long, lifted lashes. The double curved lifting brush and fiber-infused formula grabs lashes at the root to lift, thicken, and lengthen. No clumps, smears, or flakes, just volume that lasts all day.
Maybelline Total Temptation Mascara $10.49
Build on bold volume to create irresistibly soft, separated, and fluffy lashes coat after coat. Maybelline’s Total Temptation Mascara features a creamy and whipped formula enriched with coconut extract.
Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara $10.99
This mascara unfolds layer upon layer of lashes for a new full-fan effect.
NYX On The Rise Volume Liftscara $11
Delivering quick-charge lift and volume in just a few strokes. Featuring an innovative applicator that¿s part rounded, part hourglass to lift you lashes up to new heights! The “curling” effect results in a far-reaching fringe so that eyes look bigger and lashes look thicker.
L’Oreal Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara $14.77
This is the mascara for voluptuous volume and length, now with even more black pigment. Soft wavy bristle brush holds maximum formula for a dramatic volumizing charge.
MAC Extended Play Gigablack Lash Mascara $20
The breakthrough lightweight waterproof formula creates beautiful defined lashes with a petite brush. This long-wearing mascara lasts up to 16 hours, yet the washable formula removes easily with warm water thanks to an innovative thermal-sensitive technology. The unique slim-type brush reaches and grips even the tiniest hairs with an advanced lifting formula in a saturated blackest black colour. This extreme defining composition enhances length, resulting in gorgeously distinguished, out-to-there lashes.
Glossier Lash Slick Mascara $20
Curls and sculpts as it lengthens, creating a natural “baby extension” effect without clumping. Teeny-tiny fibers coat lashes from root to tip, while flexible film-forming polymers lift and lock each fiber into place.
Fenty Beauty Full Frontal Volume, Lift & Curl Mascara $24
A do-it-all mascara that is designed to expose every lash, featuring an exclusive flat-to-fat brush that instantly volumizes, lifts, lengthens, and curls.
MILK Makeup KUSH High Volume Mascara $24
A high-volume mascara formulated with heart-shaped fibers, conditioning hemp-derived cannabis seed oil, and pure pigments for an intense black finish.
NARS Climax Mascara $24
With its buildable formula and stellar brush, NARS’s Climax Mascara surrounds every lash with a lightweight coating that stays supple and soft to the touch – avoiding that unwanted “crispy” feel.
Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara $25
An intensely black voluptuous volume mascara for the sexiest, defined, multidimensional lashes possible.
Benefit Roller Lash Curling & Lifting Mascara $25
A mascara inspired by hair rollers, this super-curling and lifting mascara gives a sexy, wide-eyed look. Its patent-pending Hook ‘n’ Roll™ brush features tiny custom-designed hooks to catch, lift, and curl even short and straight lashes.
Benefit They’re Real Mascara $25
A lengthening mascara that curls, volumizes, lifts, and separates lashes for an “out-of-here” look.
Lancome Monsieur Big Mascara $25
A long-lasting, voluminous mascara with a black-boosting polymer in its pigment for 12 times more volume and up to 24 hours of wear.
Marc Jacobs Beauty Velvet Noir Major Volume Mascara $27
An ultra-volumizing mascara that delivers instant dimension for epic lashes.
Marc Jacobs Beauty At Lash’d Lengthening And Curling Mascara $27
A long-wear, lengthening, and curling mascara for a highly defined, full-extension lash look.
Hourglass Caution™ Extreme Lash Mascara $29
An all-in-one mascara that delivers a look of endless length, intense volume, and sky-high lift for extreme, dramatic lashes.
Hourglass Unlocked Instant Extensions Mascara $29
You can expect the longest lashes going with this new Hourglass formula. The brush easily gets through every lash, creating a defined, fanned-out appearance that stays put; it’s also a tubing mascara which means it comes off easily with water – no scrubbing needed.
Pat McGrath Labs Dark Star Volumizing Mascara $30
A gravity-defying mascara that delivers instant volume, multidimensional length, and weightless lift in a single stroke.
What are your favourite mascaras? Let me know in the comments below!