Bronzer vs Contour: All You Need to Know

KyraKayKyraKay
Aug. 9
Every makeup pro needs to know the difference between bronzer and contour, especially in a world where a lot of makeup users seem to confuse the two terms. This bronzer vs contour 101 will explain how to use each product, and demonstrate the different effects each product gives.
I have an oval face shape, so the exact techniques I use might need to be customised to suit your face, and your makeup preferences.
The Difference Between Bronzer and Contour
Bronzers are warm-toned cream and powder products that are used on the perimeters of the face and along the cheekbones to create softly defined, warm makeup looks. Contours, on the other hand, are cool-toned cream and powder products that are used in focused areas around the face to create a strongly defined, sculpted makeup look.
The differences extend into how and where you apply each product on the face.
Bronzers are best applied to the chin, the temples, the forehead, and along the cheeks. My best technique is to use a makeup brush to create a guideline from the top of your ear to the apple of your cheek. You can apply the bronzer softly along this line to lift the cheeks and add colour to the face, making you look bright and healthy.

Bronzer Makeup Look

For your visual guide, here is how I create the guideline on my cheek:

Guideline for Bronzer and Contour

You can take this guideline and use it slightly differently to create a contoured look as well. Instead of following this line direcly, like you do with bronzer, you will instead apply contour underneath this line, and not take it onto the apples of the cheeks.
Using contour from the middle of the ear to just behind the apples of the cheeks will simulate a natural shadow, and create a more hollowed out appearance of the cheek. This is great for highlighting your natural facial features and emphasising where the light hits your face, and creates defining shadows.

Contoured Makeup Look

Here, you can see that my cheeks appear more defined, and the contour product creates a shadow effect, a different effect compared to the colourful glow of the bronzer. You can emphasise your contour by applying a shimmery highlighter to the high points of your face.
Products I Used for Bronzer vs Contour
For this demonstration, I used my current favourite drugstore palette, the Revlon Sculpt + Highlight Contour Kit, in Light/Medium. At around AUD$13, this palette is super affordable and accessible at most drugstores, and online.
It has a matte, banana yellow shade for highlighting the undereyes; a light, metallic champagne shade for highlighting the high points of the face; a warm-toned matte brown shade for bronzing; and a cool-toned matte brown shade for contouring.
I recently bought this product based on online reviews, and it is super for fair to light skin tones, and is user-friendly for beginners. I find it best to use with a dense, face brush, as you can start out with a softer hand, and also build up the pigment as you create your look and want more definition.
The powder of the palette is soft and fairly creamy for a drugstore product. It is very, well, powdery, and by that I mean that it creates a lot of fallout, but this can be solved by tapping your brush once or twice before applying it to your face. I recommend this product for beginners, travelling people (great compact size), and all-round makeup lovers.
How you use contour and bronzer will depend on your face shape, and the kind of makeup look or effect you want to achieve. You should experiment with different placements to find out what you love, and how you love to use it!
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