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What is a Bronzer Used For?

*Post originally written by Olivia J on The Unknown Beauty Blog. If you read this post elsewhere, it has been stolen.*

It is time for another installment of Ask the Q-Tip.  This one has to do with a 20th century makeup product: The Bronzer.

One of my cult members Jewel asked me the following:

Hi Olivia.

Bronzer is a puzzling makeup item for me. I understand it is supposed to be used to warm up the complexion, correct? So what is your take on where it and how it should be applied. When you apply it do you use a large or a smaller brush? I have seen so many different answers and variations on bronzer.

The first sighting of a bronzer for me was back in the 1980’s.  I remember Ralph Lauren came out with one for his Safari line (fragrance).  It cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $25.  This was an attempt at a “designer” cosmetics line and it eventually failed because people weren’t ready to spend that much money on makeup except for Olivia Sr..  I almost fainted when she showed me her purchase of this weird color tablet of orange/red.  However, my shallow side did like the fancy compact it came in; it was very pretty!  That was the first time, I thought she wasted her money. She must have been duped by the sales assistant.  I was sure of it until she applied it like the SA showed her and I was stunned, Olivia Sr.’s face came alive! 

Bronzer is a puzzling makeup item.  I agree. Olivia Sr. may have looked great with the bronzer, but when I tried the same one back then I might as well have had a bad stomach ailment.  I had no use for a bronzer and didn’t think of using one for a long time until I understood its purpose.

What We Think Bronzer Should Do

  • Fake a Tan
  • Make You Look Thinner
  • Make You Look Healthy
  • Warm Up a Complexion

You could say a bronzer should do all of the above, yet you might say it does none of the above.

Fake a tan.  You know as a teenager, the bronzer concept didn’t work for me because I was tanning naturally.  This was the early 80’s, sunscreen went up to SPF 2.  Today, you fake a tan to get the color you think your skin would be if you did get one naturally.

I hate bronzers for this reason.  For one, my natural tan color is NOWHERE NEAR any of the bronzers I have bought in my lifetime.  Two, faking a tan only on the face looks WEIRD especially when you put your pastey white hands up to your face.  Fake a tan? No, you are disconnecting your complexion color from the rest of your body.

Make you look thinner.  I don’t get it.  Bronzer doesn’t contour.  It is not the color that creates shadow or the illusion of it.  Besides, I see you as a 3D object and in person, you are as thin as the weight on your bones.  Bronzer will not change the way I see that.

Make you look healthy.  This depends on the color of the bronzer.  As I said, the one Olivia Sr. looked so fantastic in, made me look like I was ready to throw up.  Not good!

Warm up a complexion.
  This is pretty close to what I believe the true purpose of a bronzer should be.  But, let’s go further.

Warm Up the Complexion

I really would like to rename the bronzer and call it a shaper or shaping powder.  Why?  The color of it actually breaks up the monotony of the flatness of the foundation.  I am sure you have seen pictures of people who just have this photoshopped flawless finish of foundation on their face.  You see their eyes, two holes for their nose, and an over lined lip with massive contouring and highlighting.

Contouring is to create shadows, to take away some of the light to create a hollow area.  Too much and you will create this gaunt look of death or near death.  Highlighting captures light and also broadens the area for emphasis.

Bronzer is a shaper, it neither creates a shadow or a light; it adds dimension to shape the face.  When applied correctly, it frames all the different areas of the face by bringing them to the center.  The eyes, nose, apples of the cheeks, and lips become the center of attention.

Here is a fashion analogy, you know when you wear a dress, you can wear it with just your underwear and bra and think fine, I look good.  But, wear a body shaper beneath and the right places are lifted and the curves are held in place making you look super hot.  THAT is what bronzer or shaping powder does to the face!!!

How do you find a bronzer that suits you?

Look at your skin tone, then think 2 shades darker on the brown side with a very slight peach tone added.  If you lean on the cool toned side, think of a slight peach/rose undertone.  Bronzer also should be sheer, of course there are ways to use a foundation as a bronzer but we won’t get into that, just makes this post too long.

How should it be applied?  Start with what you are comfortable with, meaning don’t overdo it unless you are walking the Red Carpet or have great lighting following you at all times.  Nothing worse than someone whispering, “oompa loompa” behind your back!  Don’t apply it like face powder all over the face.  That will just give you a darkened powdered face.  Best way to apply bronzer is as a complexion enhancer.

Check out: How to Use Bronzer - 4 Ways to Enhance Your Complexion with Bronzer

Jewel, I hope I have de-puzzled your puzzled mind.  My explanation may not be for the masses.  But to think of a bronzer as a shaping powder really makes the concept of bronzing a bit easier to understand.

If you have any questions on makeup that you think a Q-tip like me can answer, just email me using the Contact Me link.



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