How and where to apply bronzer

How and where to apply bronzer

Bronzer (or bronzing powder) is a make-up staple in about 99.36* per cent of women’s make-up kits (these are our top picks), but that doesn’t mean we’re experts in using it. Yet. 

If you have any confusion and really want to nail your make-up look, follow these tips from make-up artist Hayley Dutton.


Are you using bronzer because you think it’s a standard part of a make-up routine, or are you trying to achieve something specific with it?

“I think the most important thing to ask yourself is, ‘how do I want to look?’ You may just want to add a nice warm glow to your face for a fresh, natural healthy look. Or you may be looking to transform into your bronzed goddess alter-ego. Or maybe you want to use your bronzer to transform and crank up what your mumma gave you, adding some definition and shape to your face,” says Hayley.

Plus, knowing how you want to look at the end will determine what technique you use.

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There’s no one-application-fits-all, according to Hayley. So here are the application techniques Hayley recommends for your desired look:

Warm and natural glow

“Pick a light-to-medium shade bronzer and apply this to the areas of the face the sun would naturally hit. So, aim for the top of your forehead, top points of your cheeks and down your décolletage, and tap any excess product softly on the nose, cheeks and chin.”

Bronzed goddess

“If your skin is very light, opt for a medium shade bronzer, and if your skin is medium-to-dark, then opt for deep, golden bronzer. First apply to the areas you would for your warm and natural glow and then go in for a second layer on your cheekbones. Follow this by applying your bronzer in a ‘number 3 shape’ that starts at your cheekbones and goes up through the temples and forehead, back down to the cheekbones for the middle section of the 3 and then down along the outer cheekbone and jawline.”

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More of a visual person? Dust on your bronzer in a shape like this:

Contouring like a pro

“If you’re all about contouring, then bronzer is a great product – just ensure that you choose a bronzer that is more matte instead of one with more of a glow, as this works against the theory of contouring by highlighting rather than receding. Where you apply the product also depends on your face shape.”

“A good starting point is to apply your bronzer on an angle underneath your cheek bone,” says Hayley. If you don’t know exactly where this is or the angle, she suggests grabbing a pencil and positioning the point at the corner of your mouth and the end up to the top of your ear – this is the angle you should follow to make those cheekbones pop.

Once you’ve applied your bronzer under your cheekbones, apply some on the top of your forehead – just around your hairline – as this helps to make the forehead appear small and puts the focus on your eyes.

Next, Hayley says to apply a bit of bronzer just under your jawline. Then, use your bronzer lightly on each side of your collarbone to shape your décolletage.

And if you want to make your nose appear a bit more slender, Hayley’s tip is to apply your bronzer in a line down either side of the bridge and blend (and well!). 

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Some bronzers appear dark and chalky, while others seem to sparkle like a thousand suns – so which do you choose?

Here’s Hayley’s advice: “Matte bronzers don’t have any light-reflecting pigments such as illuminators or shimmers, so this means they are great for adding the warmth and contouring and not making areas stand out. Shimmer bronzers enhance your glow and illuminate skin, and will help to bring out any area you apply them – so use one on your cheekbones to add warmth and highlight and any other area you want to show off.”

Shimmer bronzers:

The Body Shop Baked-To-Last Bronzer
Klara Cosmetics G Glow Bronzer

Matte bronzers:

Nude by Nature Pressed Matte Mineral Bronzer
Paula’s Choice SunKissed Custom Color Bronzer
NYX Cosmetics Matte Bronzer


Juat like with the rest of your make-up, the general rule of thumb is to work your way up: “Keep it light and fresh and build up slowly, rather than going in too fast too quickly,” says Hayley.

She also emphasises the importance of blending: “Never leave any harsh lines, so wherever you decide to apply your bronzer, and regardless of how much, be sure to blend out nicely with your brush for a beautifully natural finish.”

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It’s not as simple as saying there’s one brush you can use, because, as you may have guessed, it depends on what you want to achieve. 

If you’re looking for a natural, and light application, Hayley recommends a fan brush, and if you want something a bit heavier, opt for a medium-sized powder brush or blush brush. And when it comes to contouring, Hayley says: “I like to use a pointed duo fibre brush or a square-shaped brush, as they have a much more accurate application due to their shape – so you can really control where the product is placed.”

bh recommends:

  1. e.l.f. Australia Fan Brush
  2. Yves Saint Laurent Powder Brush
  3. Inika Cosmetics Blush Brush
  4. Real Techniques Expert Face Brush
  5. Artiste Contour Brush


“Too much bronzer in the wrong areas is probably the most common mishap,” says Hayley. 

And what are the worst areas for bronzing? “Definitely, definitely do not use bronzer under your eye area or in between the eyes – you want to really keep these areas light and bright, and bronzer will only close them in.”

*This stat is entirely made up, but it’s probably close to the real number.

Are you a bronzing pro? Do you have any bronzing tips?

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