OK, we’re just gonna go out there and say it: cream bronzers are up there with the most underrated of all beauty products. Sure, we’re well aware of the power that a good foundation has, there’s no denying that a smattering of blusher will make you look alive and a sheeny highlighter adds the best finishing touch.
But a great cream bronzer just hits different. Sure, powder formulas will do an alright job, but a cream will glide on and take your makeup look up a notch with minimal effort required. Plus, they’re easier to use than their matte bronzer counterparts, so if you’re a bronzer newbie, this guide is the best way to embark on your journey.
The thing about liquid bronzer is that it gives a more natural finish and – speaking from experience – you can’t go that far wrong with it. Mostly because they’re much easier to blend, and they melt into your skin for a truly flawless finish and sun-kissed glow.
Like every makeup product these days, though, there are so many different formulations to choose from, so where do you begin? Right here. We’ve rounded up our favourites in order to help you narrow them down – so no matter what your skin tone or undertones, there’s something here for everyone’s makeup bag. And if you’re not entirely sure whereabouts – or how – cream bronzer should be applied to avoid it looking cakey, we asked makeup artist Jesse Walker for her top tips. Consider this everything you need to know…
The best cream bronzers 2023 at a glance
Best cream bronzer overall: Glossier Solar Paint, £17, Glossier
Best cream bronzer for contouring: Sculpted by Aimee Cream Luxe Bronzer, £17, Sculpted by Aimee
Best buildable cream bronzer: Refy Cream Bronzer, £18, Selfridges
Best affordable cream bronzer: ELF Putty Bronzer, £6, Superdrug
Best cream bronzer for face and body: Charlotte Tilbury Beautiful Skin Sun-Kissed Glow Bronzer, £42, Cult Beauty
What’s the difference between cream and powder bronzer?
“While powder formulas are just that, cream bronzer tends to be more of a whipped liquid formula that leaves a slightly dewier finish on the skin. It’s a great choice for more mature or drier skin-types that find powder products often leave their skin looking dull,” says Jesse.
How to apply cream bronzer
Best applied after foundation and concealer but before applying any powder products, cream bronzer can also be layered on before foundation for extra depth. Jesse recommends using a medium-sized synthetic buffing brush to apply it onto skin. “That’s the easiest way to seamlessly blend it into skin. I like to add a small amount of product onto the brush – you can take some off on the back of your hand if necessary – and then slowly build the colour up, making sure you’re blending it as you go to ensure a smooth, even finish,” she says.
As far as placement goes, it’s best applied where the sun would naturally hit your face. “That’s on your forehead, nose, cheeks and chin, but if you’re looking to warm up your whole face (for example, if your neck and chest are darker due to wearing sunscreen or fake tan) then you can apply it all over before going in with foundation,” explains Jesse. And for the most natural-looking finish, opt for a shade that’s one or two shades darker than your natural skin tone.