Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Drugstore Bronzer and Contour

I was having the hardest time finding the right bronzer for my skin tone. I needed something that would look natural and give me a healthy glow. Except I had no idea what color would work for me! Especially since most bronzers seem to be suited for lighter skin tones. But, I tried out a few things from the drugstore, and I’ve found at least a couple bronzers and contours so far that I think would work well for other girls around my color.

But first a few tips on bronzer and contour:

  • When picking an overall bronzer, look for something 2 to 3 shades darker than your skin tone, and warmer than your skin tone. You want something similar to how you would naturally tan.
  • For contours, go with something darker and cooler. You want the color to mimic the look of natural shadows on your face, and shadows don’t tend to be orange!
  • Bronzer should go on the high points of your face, where you would naturally be kissed by the sun. This means cheekbones, temples, your nose, and chin. I tend to use it all over the perimeter of my face as well.
  • Contours should go where you want to emphasize a shadow: under your cheekbones, under your jawline (my fave), the sides of your nose (if you want to slim it down), and the hairline (especially if you have a very high forehead).
  • And super important, always remember to bronze all the exposed parts of your skin to match your face, like your neck and chest. Otherwise you’ll look pretty silly!
  • No perfectly contoured and bronzed look is complete without a good highlighter, but we'll save that for another post.

And there are swatches for all these products at the end of the post. So let's get to it!

-ELF Bronzer in Sun Kissed
This bronzer cost me $1, which is hard to beat--except that it’s basically the same color as my skin, with shimmer. It’s a pretty bronze-gold, and it might work for someone more fair than I am. It could also be a golden, not too subtle, highlighter for darker skin. But I’ve ended up just using it as an eyeshadow; it actually works great as an overall lid color, especially with a natural, bronzed look.

-Milani Baked Bronzer in 05 Soleil
This one is my favorite! It’s a great, warm color a couple shades darker than my skin tone, with gold glitter running through it. The color and glitter add a subtle glow to my skin that automatically makes me look healthy and fresh. The shimmer also acts as a natural highlight. I’m kind of addicted. The packaging gets fingerprints all over it, as you can see in the picture, and is kind of bulky, but it comes with a mirror and a decent brush. If you are around my skin tone, and are not afraid of some glitter, this is the bronzer for you! It costs about $8.

Tip: If you have acne, scars, or large pores, skip the glittery stuff--it will only highlight the things you want to cover.

-NYC Smooth Skin Bronzing Face Powder in Sunny
Lots of beauty gurus rave about this bronzer, and it only costs about $2, so I decided to give it a try. It’s a good color, similar to the Milani one I love so much, so it works as an overall matte bronzer. I don't like it as a contour on my skin, but I know a lot of girls like it for that purpose. My favorite part is the huge mirror that comes with it. Also, the color payoff isn't amazing. But there aren’t many matte bronzers in the drugstore, so this is a good option if it works for your skin tone.

Tip: If you have oily skin, brushes and sponges can transfer oils to your powder products and cause a hard layer to form on the top. If this happens, just scrape off the top layer.

-ELF Contouring Blush & Bronzing Powder in St. Lucia
This is the first drugstore bronzer I bought. I had absolutely no experience with contours, and the $3 price tag made it seem like less of a risk. It might be a good overall bronzer for deeper skin tones, but it’s too warm to be used as a contour, for my taste. And the shimmer from the blush transfers over to the bronzer, which also makes it less than ideal for a contour shade. Overall, the two colors are pretty, and I can still work with them.

-NYX Nude Matte Eye Shadow in NMS10 Underneathe It All
Drugstores don’t have the greatest selection of matte bronzers or contours. I needed a contour that would mimic the color of natural shadows on my face, and since I couldn’t find the right shade in bronzers or face powders, I decided to look elsewhere. Cue this eyeshadow, which is the perfect cool brown several shades darker than my skin. Incidentally, it’s also the perfect natural crease color for me. You may be thinking that this color is too dark, but keep in mind that I have like absolutely no cheekbones! If you have great bone structure already, you don't need to contour so much, and over-contouring will just make you look too gaunt. (P.S. I wonder if the name is a typo. Not sure, but that's the way it's spelled on the package!)

Tip: If you’re having trouble finding the right contour or bronzer color, you can try (1) matte face powders and foundations a few shades darker than your skin, or (2) an eyeshadow that’s the right color. I’m really happy with this color for me, and thinking outside the box can help you find the perfect color for your skin as well.

And finally some swatches. From left to right: ELF SunKissed, Milani Soleil, NYC Sunny, ELF St.Lucia, NYX Underneathe It All


  1. I have medium to tan skin and I also love using the NYX matte brown shadows as contour shades- in the hollows of my cheeks, down the sides of my nose and the eye crease (with the real techniques setting brush). Like you said- it's one of the only cheap alternatives that isn't such a warm brown, but more of a shadow-y grey brown color!

  2. I've been researching the NYC bronzer because the one I am using has WAY to much shimmer, and with the blush and highlight I use this is the last thing I need I like looking glowy but I feel as if it looks like way to much. I also have combination and fair skin. Do you think that this would be a good match for me?

  3. I use the Maybelline Color Tattoo in Tough as Taupe to contour and it works really well. If you're fair, Pixi has a bronzer called Subtly Suntouched that's not orange-y at all and could probably work as a contour. It's a little too light for me so I use it as a bronzer when I want a 'barely there' bronzed look. I received Subtly Suntouched in my Ipsy bag otherwise I would have gone with Pixi's darker bronzer.