Contouring and Bronzing; They’re Two Different Things?!

The world of contour swept the nation a few years back with the intent of having the illusion of perfect, chiseled cheeks. Videos went viral on Instagram of people using all sorts of objects to carve out their face. Since then, the intense factor of contouring has died down some but it is still very much alive and well.

So now that leads me to the question; what is the difference between contouring and bronzing? Let’s dive into the basics on their differences. 


Bronzing has been around for many, many years and was especially popular in the 90’s. Actually, it wasn’t until I got into makeup that my mother found out bronzer isn’t meant to be used all over your face. 

The purpose of bronzer is quite simple; to bring warmth to the face. This is why most bronzers are warm toned. Bronzer is meant to be applied to the parts of the face where the sun would naturally hit. So, bronzer is typically applied to your forehead and cheeks. Anywhere else would be considered contouring. 


Like I said earlier, people contour with the intent of chiseled cheeks or a more slimmed, defined facial structure. The purpose of contour is just that; mimic the appearance of a different face. 

To correctly contour you would be using shades that are cool toned and almost greyish. The cool tones mimic shadow which is what creates the illusion of a slimmer face. But, cool toned shades are completely unflattering on most skin tones so this is where it gets tricky. 

On the market you will see an arrange of contour palettes, sticks, powders etc. that can be anywhere from super cool toned to super warm and orange. So, there's no doubt it can be extremely difficult to navigate what is right vs. wrong and what you should be using. 

Contour should be applied to the forehead, just underneath the cheek bone, along the jawline and sometimes is applied down the nose. 

What I do as a Professional

I have found the best way is to meet in the middle in between bronzing and contouring and to pick a shade that is more neutral toned. Neutral toned shades look great on an arrange of skin tones without being too warm or cool. My favorite neutral toned palette that I use on both myself and in my kit is the LORAC Pro Contour Palette. 

Pro Tip: Using a bigger shaped brush will apply the bronzer/contour in a larger area having a more natural effect and results in less definition of the cheeks. Using a smaller brush will create a more precise application and result in a more defined cheek. A trick I like to do sometimes is take a bigger brush and apply a lighter contour shade to the cheeks then take a smaller brush and apply a shade darker for a gradient, defined look. 

When Should You do One vs. the Other? 

The choice is totally up to you but I would suggest if you’re going for a super natural look, use bronzer for a softer warmth to the face. If you’re going all out with your makeup I would suggest adding a little contour to play up the cheeks. My technique I mentioned above will work wonders! 

So, are you less confused now? If I could simplify makeup as much as possible to make it super easy for everyone then I would consider my job well done. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask! 



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