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It's definitely bronzer season, so today I thought I'd do a Battle Royale style makeup thing... I'll be talking through the products I've tried recently from each category to choose a winner and then narrow them down to see which is the best bronzer overall!
Cream bronzer is something I've got pretty into as of late. I was always a big fan of the YSL formula, however that was discontinued and it wasn't until this year that I really found a worthy replacement.
First up, let's talk about the Tower 28 Bronzino in West Coast | £19. This only comes in two shades, and this is the lighter, more golden-undertoned option (the other is deeper and redder). I think that probably rules out a lot of people from trying it straight from the jump, because this shade is going to be too deep for most light skin tones and the other shade looks like it's more for medium-to-dark complexions than truly deep skin tones. The texture is pretty unique in my bronzer collection because it's an emollient, very wet-look formula. The base is bronze and it has this golden sheen running through it, though it's very fine and doesn't translate to the skin like glitter; it just looks nice and luminous. You could apply this with your fingers if you wanted to, but I personally tend to take a dense synthetic brush and stipple it on. I do like the look it gives, though I does take a few minutes to set down and lose the tacky finish. I don't find this to be hugely long-wearing, unfortunately. I notice significant fading after around 4 hours of wear. Overall, it's a B- at most and isn't going to proceed to the next round.
Another more recent purchase is the Nudestix Nudies Matte Blush & Bronze in Terracotta Tan | £28 | which actually reminds me of this Nars Matte Multiple I used to wear a lot back in the day. This definitely has a very warm undertone, but on my skin; it's the right side of orange! There are a number of different options in this range, and this shade is aimed towards medium skin colours. I personally don't swipe this directly onto my skin (I just never find this to be the best way to use cream products); I swipe a dense, synthetic brush over its surface and stipple it on. I really like the pigmentation level of this bronzer; it's nothing over-the-top and has a build-able quality to it. At the same time, you can definitely see it on the skin and it adds warmth and dimension. It has quite a matte finish, which makes it very long-wearing on my skin.
The product I credit with properly getting me into cream bronzer is the Fenty Cheeks Out Cream Bronzer in Hunnie Glaze | £28 | full review. This is honestly beautiful; it's matte-look but if you're really, really look closely you can just about see a slight sheen running through it. This isn't noticeable on the skin, it just adds to the overall glow of the product. It's not overly emollient like the Tower 28, nor is it as matte as the Nudestix; it's in that wonderful goldilocks zone. It's very easy to apply (again with my brush method) and very difficult to overapply. The shade is warming but not orange, and looks like a flattering flush of colour on the cheeks. This wears really well on me too, even in the heat.
Next, I have a product that's been gathering dust in my makeup drawer and it took me swatching all of these bronzers together whilst creating this post to realise why... It's the Milk Makeup Matte Bronzer in Blaze | £24. This comes in a meagre two shades and - given I saw Samantha Ravndahl applying the lighter one in her videos - I opted for the deeper shade. I think the issue with this is that it's just too dark on me and too cool-toned. I think they need more shades in-between the two colours they currently offer, as well as going lighter and deeper on both sides. I also want my bronzer to warm up my skin, otherwise it might as well be a contour. This also just isn't as easy to blend out as the other products I've mentioned in this section. Overall, I just don't get the love for this product.
This isn't even much of a contest (besides the Nudestix formula, which I also like a lot); Fenty reigns supreme. It ticks all the boxes in terms of colour, ease of application, how natural it looks on the skin and the longevity it has on me. So, Fenty moves on to the finals!
- MATTE -
I used to use the Becca Sunlit Bronzer in Ipanema Sun | £27 | a LOT. And, I still think it's pretty underrated as far as matte-ish powder bronzers go. It comes in 5 shades which is ok, but I wear Ipanema Sun and that's the second-darkest they offer. I know this product was launched a few years ago when most brands only did one or two bronzer shades, but the expectation has shifted and I think it's time they updated this line with some additional deeper colours. I actually really like this formula; it's a little more pigmented than the other powder products in this post, but I don't dislike that. It's easy to blend and has a slightly luminous finish, so your skin doesn't look flat or too matte. This is a really nice warming tone on me and I love it for a super-bronzed makeup look. The longevity of this one is also really good. Trying it again in 2020; I can see why I really liked this bronzer for a long time, however at the same time I do think there are formulas I prefer now.
Last year, despite kind of regretting it now, I picked up the Benefit Hoola Caramel Bronzer | £27 | full review. I don't know why I decided to give my money to a brand that only released more than a single shade of its bronzer in 2019, after it had been a YouTube staple for years, but I did. Even with the extension, they only have three shades in total now, which is hardly worthy of commendation. It's a nice enough bronzer; the formula isn't hugely creamy, but it applies fine. I do like the colour of this; it's lovely and warm so it makes it looks as though you caught the sun. However, after years of waiting, I'm just not that impressed by it. The Fenty powder bronzer launched soon after and I much prefer that formula.
Nice segway into the Fenty Beauty Sun Stalk'r Instant Warmth Bronzer in Bajan Gyal | £25 | full review. This is a matte bronzer that comes in 8 shades that are roughly equivalent to those in the cream range. I really love how smooth, creamy and easy to blend out this formula is. It's not too pigmented but is noticeable on the skin from the first swipe and can be built up effortlessly. It doesn't grab onto dry patches or take much effort to blend out at all. It's a great option for people who are new to bronzer or just have a busy lifestyle and are looking for products they can apply quickly and go with. I love this shade too; it's not orange but definitely has that warming effect on my skin. It's also really long-wearing. I honestly have nothing negative to say about this bronzer; I think it's fantastic.
Finally, for this category, I have the Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Bronzer in Tan | £39 | full review. This bronzer is modelled after Charlotte's pressed powder, which I've also used, so I had high hopes for it. Luckily, this didn't disappoint and did a great job of replicating that smooth, airbrush-effect of the powder. This is a matte formula but it honestly glides onto the skin. You can't really go overboard when applying it, it doesn't grab onto dry patches and it doesn't wear away patchily throughout the day. I love how it really meshes with my skin in a way I didn't think a powder product could, so it looks like that gorgeous warmth is coming from your skin as opposed to sitting on top of it. I absolutely love this bronzer, overall, and my only negative is that it comes in just four shades, and mine is the second-deepest!
I think what I thought was impossible has happened! After a year of swearing by the Fenty bronzer (which I still love), I think the Charlotte Tilbury has overtaken it slightly for me... The Fenty is still amazing, I still totally recommend it, it's more affordable and it comes in more shades, which are all reasons you might choose it over Charlotte's product. However, for my own personal use; Charlotte Tilbury is heading to the final.
- BAKED -
I only have two products in this category, and my most recent purchase was the Kosas Sun Show Moisturising Baked Bronzer in Medium | £33. This comes in three shades, which isn't great, but the gradient seems fine, as I have the medium tone and it's a nice, but quite pigmented, bronzer colour on me. The thing with this bronzer is that it's not one of those products you can just throw on in a rush and it will look good; you have to be a little more careful with it, which I think would rule it out for some. I tap the excess off my brush before applying it with a light hand (gradually building the colour up) and I really do love the effect it gives; it's very warming and gives a gorgeous bronzed look to the skin. It looks really beautiful and has a long-lasting finish. However, if you try to go in with too much product, it will cling and become difficult to blend out. Do I like it for me? Yes. Would I say out of all the amazing bronzers in this post that you should buy this one? Probably not. Would I repurchase it? No.
My final product is the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Bronzer in Radiant Bronze Light | £49. Hourglass really have a fantastic formula going, but I think they really need to do more to make it wearable for a wider range of skin tones without looking ashy. Their vibe is all about these sheeny setting powders and blending them with colour to make blushers and bronzers, so they do give a gorgeous 'lit from within' look, but they haven't really made much effort to be inclusive with this. This bronzer comes in four shades, and this is the darkest. As you can see; it's not remotely dark! Another negative is that the Hourglass powders are very delicate, so I wouldn't consider this a travel-friendly product. I love the formula in how easy to blend it is, how subtle it looks, that natural warmth it adds and how that slight sheen just makes my skin glow.
The Hourglass has to be my winner because it's easy to apply and looks gorgeous on my skin, however I don't think Hourglass has really caught enough flack for the fact that 99% of their powders will not work for anyone deeper than a medium skin tone.
- MY OVERALL WINNER -
I think due to the limited shade options in the Hourglass bronzer, I'm going to have to knock them out of the process; the formula is lovely, but I just can't crown it my winner! Additionally, I just don't reach for it as much as the two other products in the final. It's pretty close between the cream Fenty bronzer and the Charlotte Tilbury, but I have to hand it to Fenty Cheeks Out. It's really turned me onto cream bronzer, which I find to be so flattering on the skin and it gives exactly the sort of natural sun-kissed look I want. I think it's great value, it comes in a lot of shades and I personally love it and haven't stopped reaching for it since the start of summer!
What's your favourite bronzer and why?