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Matte Bronzer vs Shimmer Bronzer: Which One Should You Use?

Matte vs Shimmer Bronzer: How to Pick

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Main image – Mariarom/Adobe

When it comes to adding a sun-kissed glow to your complexion, there’s one product which reigns supreme.

As the name suggests, bronzer is the *ultimate* makeup hack to add some summery colour to your face.

But when it comes to picking your perfect bronzer, there’s one big decision to make – whether to opt for a matte or a shimmery finish.

There are benefits to both types, and, in fact, the two can offer significantly different effects to your finished makeup look.

Sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Well, don’t fear. We’ve asked the founder of Laura Kay London and makeup artist Melissa Austin for the inside scoop on matte vs shimmer bronzers to help you find the best choice for you.


Matte Bronzer vs Shimmer Bronzer: Which One Should You Use?

Image -Look!/Adobe


What’s the difference between matte and shimmer bronzer?

As Melissa explains, “The main difference between matte and shimmer bronzer is the finish that you’ll get after applying the product. Matte bronzers have a flat, non-reflective finish, which means they don’t contain any shimmer.

“Shimmer bronzers, on the other hand, contain fine shimmer particles that add a luminous, glowing effect to the skin.”

In other words, the difference is all in the finish. If you look into the pan of your bronzer and can see dimension or sparkles, you’re working with shimmer. If the product is all one colour and dimension, it’s a matte bronzer you’re looking at.


Matte Bronzer vs Shimmer Bronzer: Which One Should You Use?

Image – Yulialisitsa/Adobe


But the difference in finish is more than just an aesthetic one. Matte and shimmer bronzers have widely different uses when it comes to creating a makeup look.

Laura elucidates. “A shimmer bronzer is better for highlighting and lightening up an area of your face to reflect the light – it helps give a dewy natural glow.

“Whereas a matte bronzer is used for coverage and in particular widely used for contouring, as you can use the formula to create the defined sculpted effect you desire.”


What’s shimmer bronzer best for?

A shimmer bronzer is your best friend if you’re looking to add a sun-kissed look with a bit of shine.

“If you’re heading into an event or want a more radiant, glowing look, a shimmer bronzer can add a touch of luminosity to your skin,” Melissa suggests.

Shimmery bronzers are best applied where the sun would naturally light up the face for a naturally summery but subtle sheen.

You don’t need to be too precise with your shimmery bronzer application since they tend to be more lightweight and sheer. You can use a big brush, but good blending is key for a healthy glow.

Melissa continues. “Blending your bronzer thoroughly is the key to achieving a seamless, natural look. If you’re using a shimmer bronzer, keep in mind that the glittery finish can emphasise skin texture, so less is more with this product.”


What does matte bronzer do?

The right shade of matte bronzer is better used to mimic and enhance the natural shadows of the face for a sculpted finish. The best matte bronzers can also help add a more natural, subtle, sun-kissed warmth to the skin.

As Melissa puts it: “If you want a more natural, everyday look, a matte bronzer is a safe choice. It’ll add some warmth without making your face look overly sparkly.”

Matte bronzers are essentially the middle ground in-between a shimmery bronzer and a contouring product. They can help add subtle definition while still adding a suntanned glow to the face – just without any obvious shimmer or glitter.


Matte Bronzer vs Shimmer Bronzer: Which One Should You Use?

Image – Max/Adobe


Ok, but which one is best for me?

Well, that really depends on what you’re looking for from your bronzing products. If you’re looking for an easy way to add some colour and glow to your skin, shimmery bronzers are likely to offer what you want.

But if you prefer a more natural look, plus want your bronzer to help sculpt your face and add some dimension to your makeup, you’ll likely be more satisfied with the finish a matte bronzer provides.


Matte Bronzer vs Shimmer Bronzer: Which One Should You Use?

Image – Viki2013/Adobe


You could always opt for one bronzer in each finish in your makeup bag to ensure you have the right product on hand to suit different makeup styles. Alternatively, a bronzer palette can make sure you always have the perfect shades and right products for every beauty scenario.

Keep in mind too that your skin type will determine the sort of formula you go for within each type too.  Oily skin types may prefer powder bronzers while dry skin gals and guys might find cream formulas that contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid or vitamin e a better option.


Where should I apply each one?

Bronzer placement remains similar whether you opt for a matte or shimmer finish, and whichever one you for you’ll want to use a light hand. Laura instructs: “Dab on the bronzer in three individual places (i.e. dots) starting from the middle of your cheekbone in an outwards motion towards the top of your ear.

“The trick is to apply roughly half a centimetre above the apple of your cheekbone to lift up your features. Once you have applied it in the right place, blend it in with a good-quality makeup brush. The aim is for your makeup to look natural but effective.”

Alongside the hollows of your cheeks, you can also apply bronzer in other areas of the face, like the top of the forehead and bridge of the nose, provided you use a light touch.

“Try to think of bronzer as your ultimate finishing touch – perfect places to apply bronzer are cheekbones, the tip of your nose, jawline, hairline, eyelids, neck, and chest,” Laura says.


Matte Bronzer vs Shimmer Bronzer: Which One Should You Use?

Image – Mariarom/Adobe


The main difference in application between a matte and a shimmer bronzer is the type of brush you use. While shimmer bronzers can be dusted on more roughly with a lighter touch, you want to be a little more precise when it comes to more pigmented matte bronzers.

“I recommend using a large, fluffy brush for a light and even application which can help to achieve that sun-kissed look. If you wanted to use bronzer for contouring, I would instead opt for a denser, more angled brush,” Melissa instructs.

Just remember that one important factor to consider when trying to perfect your bronzer application is the skin prep which comes before.

A thoroughly prepped skin will always help make bronzer application easier, plus, it helps to ensure a more seamless result.

Melissa advises: “Apply moisturiser and primer first to create a smooth base, and you can also add some foundation if you’d like to cover any imperfections on your skin.

“If using a powder bronzer you will also need to set your face with a powder before proceeding with your bronzer application. This will ensure your makeup doesn’t turn muddy.”


Can I use bronzer to contour?

The short answer is yes, you can. The longer answer is, yes – but be aware that a bronzer and a contour aren’t exactly the same thing.

True contour products tend to have a cooler undertone, helping to mimic and enhance the natural definition of the face – for example, adding a deeper shadow underneath your cheekbones for a chiselled look.

If you do wish to use a bronzer to contour, make sure you choose a matte finish, as any shimmer will prevent your bronzer from looking like a natural shadow on the skin.


Matte Bronzer vs Shimmer Bronzer: Which One Should You Use?

Image – Vladimirfloyd/Adobe


Laura says: “A lot of beauty lovers use bronzer to contour. But it depends on your desired results. Bronzer as contour is perfect if you are looking to achieve a natural elevated shape with a warm sun-kissed glow.”

Melissa agrees: “Bronzer can be used for contouring, but it’s essential to know the difference between bronzing and contouring. Bronzing adds a warm undertone and a sun-kissed look to the face, while contouring involves creating shadows to define and sculpt your face.”

And as for how to use a bronzer to contour the face? Well, Melissa has you covered.  “To contour with bronzer, choose a matte shade that’s a few shades darker than your natural skin tone.

“Use it to shade areas like the hollows of your cheeks, the sides of your nose and the jawline to create a more chiselled appearance. Remember to always blend the bronzer well to avoid harsh lines and achieve a natural finish.”


And can I use bronzer and contour together?

You certainly can – although if you prefer a quick and streamlined makeup routine, you may not necessarily need to.

It may help to think of matte bronzer as the middle ground between shimmer bronzer and a contour shade. Shimmer bronzer adds tan and glow, matte bronzer adds warmth and dimension, and contouring product adds shadow and definition.

If you’re contouring, you probably don’t need to add a matte bronzer into the mix, but a shimmery bronzer can help give radiance and glow to a contoured and sculpted complexion.

Whichever of these cheek products you opt for, taking time on application and blending is key to doing away with harsh lines and ensuring a seamless finish that barely looks like makeup at all. This is particularly true if you’re bronzing and contouring at the same time (and if you’re using a contour stick, which can be harder to blend out).

Melissa advises: “Once you’ve applied your bronzer, double-check how your makeup looks in natural light to ensure it is well-blended and has achieved your desired finish.”


The takeaway

Matte and shimmer bronzers are similar, but each has a distinct use when it comes to adding a sun-kissed glow to the skin.

Choosing between a matte and a shimmer bronzer, plus knowing how and where to apply it, can help make sure you achieve the bronzed goddess look of your dreams.



Meet The Experts

Laura Kay is a leading permanent makeup expert and the founder of Laura Kay London. With over 20 years of experience in the cosmetic industry, Laura opened her academy training programme in 2015, teaching her world-class skills to the next generation of permanent makeup artists.


Melissa Austin is a makeup artist and Editor of She is super passionate about all things cosmetic and gets a real thrill out of sharing her personal thoughts, opinions, and knowledge of makeup.




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Freelance Beauty Writer

Annie Walton Doyle is a journalist based in Manchester, UK. For over ten years, she's worked within the beauty industry, writing for publications like Bustle and Hello Giggles about skincare, makeup, fragrance, and more. When not writing, she enjoys knitting, weird books, nature, and mysteries.

Expertise: Makeup, nails
Education: Goldsmiths, University of London

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