Home Makeup Bronzer Vs Highlighter

Bronzer Vs Highlighter

by Gabbi

Foundation and concealer can often leave the face looking flat or one-dimensional, especially if you need the correct shade match. However, you can bring life back into your complexion through an array of cheek products. 

Bronzers and highlighters are designed to bring warmth, dimension, and structure to your face. They pair well together with other makeup products like foundations. Also, they’re available in a wide range of shades and finishes. 

What is the difference between bronzer and highlighter? Bronzers have an array of brown tones to warm the skin and provide a sunkissed complexion. Highlighters bring out the cheekbones and help reflect light for added dimension. 

These products are common to sweep across the cheeks and other high points of the face like the forehead, brow bone, chin, and nose. You can even apply these products to the neck to ensure you have an even color match for your complexion. 

What else should you know about bronzer and highlighter before adding them into your routine? Finding the correct shade and formula of bronzer or highlighter can create a glowing and sunkissed skin tone.

What Is Bronzer? 

Bronzer warms up and bronzes the skin. However, it’s often confused with contour because they are placed in a similar facial area. The main differences between bronzer and contour are the undertones. 

Contour is cool in tone and used to sculpt your bone structure, while bronzers warm up the skin like a tan. So, bronzer is a standard complexion product to deepen and add warmth to your complexion.

How To Pick The Right Bronzer

It can be challenging to pick the right bronzer because some formulas can look orange on some complexions or gray on others. So, finding bronzer in the right shade, formula, and finish is crucial.   


Nowadays, multiple beauty brands have extensive bronzer shades to match all complexions. However, you’ll notice some bronzers can look too orange on a pale face or too red, gray, or translucent on darker complexions. 

Choose a shade that is complementary to your skin tone. For example, bronzers can be 1-3 shades darker than your complexion to add warmth without looking stark. Also, bronzers are available in multiple warm-toned brown hues.


Bronzers come in multiple formulations like powder, cream, and liquid. Traditional bronzers are powder form and great for normal to oily complexions. Meanwhile, cream and liquid bronzers offer a more natural appearance on the skin. 

Creams and liquids are outstanding for mature or dry skin types. To promote longevity, you can also use a cream/liquid bronzer under a powder bronzer.


Finally, bronzers are available in an array of finishes. The most common finishes are matte and shimmery. Matte or shimmer-free bronzers can work for all skin types and tones. They will add warmth to the skin without highlighting unwanted texture. 

Shimmery bronzers are great if you want to skip highlighter because the glitter within the bronzer will reflect light.

How To Apply Bronzer 

Bronzer can be intimidating to apply because you’ll want to avoid creating a muddy complexion. So, having a good brush and tailoring your application to your face shape is essential.

We’ll go over some tips below, but here’s a visual tutorial from Nina Ubhi on YouTube.

Use The Correct Brush 

What is the best brush for bronzing? A helpful tip for beginners is to invest in an angled cheek brush. This tool will provide a foolproof method to achieve a chiseled appearance. 

Also, medium-sized brushes will allow you to control where you place your bronzer, so it doesn’t look too warm or muddy.

Analyze Your Face Shape 

Bronzer will minimize the appearance of larger facial areas, so you’ll want to apply it according to your face shape. It’s a great product to create balance within your facial structure. 

For example, if you have a small forehead, you’ll want to avoid applying too much bronzer here. Likewise, if you have a strong jaw, you may want to add bronzer to add more shadows. 

Forehead, Cheeks, & Jaw 

The three main areas you can always apply bronzer are the forehead, the cheeks’ hollows, and under the jaw. You can think of applying your bronzer in a 3-shape to hit these three areas. This is where the sun is most likely to tan your skin in real life.

Dab, Avoid Swiping 

Finally, you’ll want to pat or dab your bronzer into place rather than swiping. Swiping on bronzer can move the foundation or concealer underneath and create patchy results. 

What Is Highlighter?

Highlighters are light-reflecting products to bring out your favorite facial features. You can think of a highlighter as a topper to your bronzer and blush. It’s usually a lighter shade than your complexion to create a dewy and hydrated appearance. 

Highlighter is applied where the sun hits the skin at the highest points of your face, like the cheekbones.

How To Pick The Right Highlighter

Highlighters are unique because they’re available in more shades and undertones. You can even shop from unique shades like blue or pink. However, a lighter bone shade or gold hue is the most popular. 


You’ll want to choose a highlighter suitable for your skin tone. For example, darker complexions may suit deep shades of highlighters like gold, while lighter complexions can opt for a paler hue. 

It’s also crucial to consider undertones and choose one that flatters your features. A highlighter can reflect light or provide a color shift with unique shades.


Highlighters are also available in multiple formulations like bronzers. You can choose from a powder, cream, and liquid highlighter. Most highlighters have shimmer and glitter to add dimension to the face. 

Liquids and creams can be layered under a powder highlighter or foundation for an all-over-glow. Powders can work for all complexions because highlighters can be applied sparingly.


We mentioned most highlighters have a shimmer or glitter finish. However, some cream formulas will act as a face gloss so you can achieve a highlighted effect. This will give a glass skin appearance rather than a sparkling shimmer. 

How To Apply Highlighter 

Thankfully, highlighter can be simpler to apply than bronzer. Highlighter is used sparingly on some regions of the face to create dimension. You want to apply areas to smaller facial features to create the illusion that they appear more prominent. 

How you apply highlighter can also depend on your formulation. The top of the cheekbones is the most common area to use a highlighter.

We’ll go over some tips below, but here’s a visual tutorial from Nina Ubhi on YouTube.

Under Foundation 

Cream and liquid foundations can be applied as makeup prep and under foundation. This tip is ideal for dry to normal skin types that want to achieve a dewy complexion. You can also mix these highlighters into a matte foundation formula for added glow. 

Applying foundation over highlighter can create a glow-from-within finish.

High Points Of The Face 

An easy way to apply a highlighter is on the high points of your face, regardless of your highlighter formulation. Popular areas to add highlighter are the cheekbones, brow bone, temples, bridge of the nose, chin, and cupid’s bow. 

You can add a highlighter on areas you want to bring attention to or where the sun naturally hits your face. Also, highlighters are quite pigmented, so a little goes a long way.

Can You Wear Bronzer & Highlighter Together?

Bronzer, highlighter, and blush are the trifecta of cheek products. You can easily pair these products together to add life, warmth, and glow to your skin. However, you can also wear these products separately for a more natural finish. 

You can make your favorite facial feature pop with the correct bronzer and highlighter combination.

How To Wear Bronzer & Highlighter

You can apply bronzer and highlighter together on top of bare skin or foundation. However, you’ll want to pat your products if you wear foundation to avoid moving it and creating a patchy effect. 

Another helpful tip is to work with a light hand because you can always add more products if needed!

Apply Bronzer First 

You’ll want to warm up your complexion before applying a shimmery highlighter. Dab your bronzer into the hollows of your cheek, the top of the forehead, and under the jawline. This will create a sunkissed canvas for your highlighter. 

Applying highlighter first can result in a shimmery mess and create an unflattering appearance. However, bronzer can also have a shimmer, and you can choose to skip out on highlighter.

Dust Highlighter On Top 

Once you’ve achieved your bronzed complexion, you’ll want to add details with highlighting. So, lightly dust a highlighter on the cheekbones, brow bone, cupid’s bow, etc. You can also highlight the inner corners of the eyes for extra pop. 

Another helpful tip is to add a small amount of highlighter wherever the sun hits your facial structure.


Bronzer and highlighter are two cosmetic products that complement each other. 

Bronzer will add warmth and bronze to the skin. It can also minimize the appearance of some facial regions and lightly sculpt your bone structure. 

Highlighter reflects light and is often available in paler shades to offer dimension and shimmer. They can also bring attention to certain features and create the illusion that they appear larger.

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