The standard summer aesthetic goes something like this: carefree hair, a complexion that gives the impression that you're mildly sweaty but, like, in a good way, and a tan that's obviously faux because sun damage is ~so~ not cool anymore. Bronzer is an essential part of the equation, you see, but which one you choose relies entirely on personal preference — matte or shimmery? Powder or cream? There are endless varieties, but only a fraction carry the coveted title of the
best bronzers of all time.
Gabrielle Union, queen of the fresh-faced Instagram selfie, announced a pivotal change to her makeup regimen. After seeing someone online "say they only use concealer and bronzer," she was inspired — albeit admittedly skeptical — to go entirely makeup-free save her Fenty Beauty Sun Stalk'r Instant Warmth Bronzer in Caramel Cutie. The result was unprecedentedly glowy. Radiancy like you've never seen, all thanks to a little pop of powder.
So, therein lies the power of a good bronzer. The only tricky part is choosing the right one. 30 fan favorites, both powder and cream, to help you find your perfect
summer glow, ahead. We only include products that have been independently selected by The Zoe Report's editorial team. However, we may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder
recently reformulated Guerlain powder literally invented bronzer as we know it, and luckily, it is still a must-have item for makeup lovers 37 years later. The powder finish is incredibly natural-looking, and has the softest feel on the skin — it’s practically weightless. Westman Atelier Beauty Butter Powder Bronzer
Clean beauty fanatics, this one is for you. Legendary makeup artist Gucci Westman delivers a nourishing terracotta powder that leaves you with an enviable summer glow with just one swipe of your brush.
Gucci Gucci Poudre De Beauté Éclat Soleil Bronzing Powder
Gucci Beauty nailed their formulation with this bronzing powder, which not only has gorgeous packaging, but also delivers a seamless wash of color that is guaranteed to fool those around you into thinking you just got back from a beach vacation.
Ilia Night Light Bronzing Powder
A talc-free powder that delivers a minimalist wash of bronze color? You’ve got all that and more with this buttery soft powder from Ilia Beauty.
Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream
This long-time makeup artist secret has a unique cream-gel texture for an ultra lightweight finish. It’s also non-comedogenic, so if you have oily skin there’s no fear of clogging your pores, and the light reflecting particles help your skin to look its most luminous and dewy.
Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer
Recently, there's been an uptick in makeup with delicious scents (lemony eyeshadow palettes, cocktail-scented blush, etc.). Too Faced is no stranger to the trend, having churned out a Tutti Frutti collection full of sugary products and this cult-classic bronzer made of 100-percent cocoa powder. "Bronzing has never been so delicious," the brand says.
Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Matte Bronzer
Enter: the holy grail of bronzers. Benefit Cosmetics' Hoola Matte Bronzer makes just about every "best of" list known to man. It has more than 2,000 five-star reviews on Sephora and more than 260,000 loves. The formula is highly versatile and blendable, able to be used as a plain old bronzer, a contour, or a brightener.
NARS Bronzer Powder
Superfine milled formulas like this beloved one by NARS is the key to lightness. Nobody wants a product that feels heavy on their face during steamy days. This bronzing powder, available in four shades, has a bit of shimmer to it, too.
bareMinerals All-Over Face Color
According to this bareMinerals favorite, bronzer doesn't have to be kept inside the classic "3" shape (follow the hairline to the underside of your cheekbone, then swing it back around to the jawline — you know the drill). Instead, this dew-inducing powder is designed to be used all over.
Fenty Beauty Sun Stalk'r Instant Warmth Bronzer
Gabrielle Union isn't the only one obsessed with Fenty Beauty's original bronzer (Rihanna's brand has obviously launched the mega-popular Cheeks Out range since). More than 130,000 people have loved this creamy-smooth, long-wear bronzer on Sephora, and it's available in eight shades.
Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Bronzer
Beach days, humidity, rain — none are a match for Tarte's Amazonian Clay Bronzer, which delivers on its promise of waterproofness. The brand has dubbed its ingredients (such as antioxidant-rich vitamins A and E) "Skinvigorating" for the way they nourish while also bronzing your face.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit
A makeup artist favorite, this Anastasia Beverly Hills kit is half highlighter (containing both shimmery and matte finishes) and half contour. When you use your favorite shade up, you can — on the rare occasion that it isn't sold out — order a pan refill online.
Tower 28 Bronzino Illuminating Cream Bronzer
Tower 28 is not a makeup giant like Anastasia Beverly Hills or Fenty Beauty, which makes it even more significant that its Bronzino cream bronzer is constantly sold out. Inspired by ocean sunsets, this sunny little compact gives you a "glowy bronzy sheen, without the shimmer or sparkle."
Kosas The Sun Show Bronzer
A bronzer that also moisturizes with shea butter and meadowfoam oil? Yes, please. The Sun Show is as creamy as a powder could possibly be, non-sparkly, and comes in three simple shades.
Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer
The palms on the package of Physicians Formula's Butter Bronzer isn't just a cute design; it's a preview of what's inside: Murumuru Butter, Cupuacu Butter, and Tucuma Butter, all harvested from the Amazon.
NYX Professional Makeup Matte Bronzer
Ulta reviewers say this $10 product goes on super lightweight and natural-looking. While many drugstore bronzers are bursting with shimmer, this is a sophisticated matte formula that defies its price tag.
Bobbi Brown Bronzing Powder
A balance of red and brown tones ("the colors that exist in a true tan," the brand says), this warm, six-shade, mica-free formula makes faking a beach vacation look easy.
Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow
Charlotte Tilbury's Filmstar duo is like walking around with your own personal lighting crew all day long. Pearl pigments and the brand's own Light Flex Technology team up to capture and reflect sun rays for optimal luminosity.
Tom Ford Beauty Shade & Illuminate
2018 dishing her secrets to a summer glow without leaving home has never been more relevant. In it, she uses this palette, whose light shade is super-sheer and brightening and dark shade helps to subtly sculpt the face. It's available in four intensities. Vogue video of Hailey Baldwin MAC Cosmetics Bronzing Powder
Think of MAC's Bronzing Powder as a temporary tan, a sheer veil that aims to accentuate rather than cover up your natural skin. It's available in Bronze, Golden, Matte Bronze, and Refined Golden tints.
e.l.f. Cosmetics Studio Bronzer
You're not going to find a bronzer better than this e.l.f. Cosmetics quad for $10, much less $3. Available in two shades — Gold and Warm — Studio Bronzer delivers quality glow and shimmer for next to nothing.
Maybelline City Bronzer Bronzer and Contour Powder
And speaking of drugstore finds, this Maybelline bronzer, which doubles as a contour powder, has a common ingredient with Too Faced's Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer. Whipped cocoa powder gives it its coveted velvety finish.
Dior Diorskin Mineral Nude Bronze Powder
Sometimes light, medium, and dark just doesn't cut it. This designer compact's six-shade range is perfect for people with especially fair or dark skin.
RMS Beauty Buriti Bronzer
Finally, one you can apply with your hands. RMS Beauty's Buriti Bronzer is the perfect shade — no orange, pink, or gray — and it's made with buriti oil, a natural source of vitamin A and beta-carotene.
Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess Powder Bronzer
This sleek tortoiseshell compact has long been a staple in Estée Lauder's lineup. Part of an expansive Bronze Goddess collection, which includes a fragrance, a body cream, and several lip products, the Powder Bronzer is natural-looking, shine-controlling, oil-free, and non-acnegenic. It has a slight shimmer to it, but nothing too over-the-top.
Milk Makeup Matte Bronzer
Milk Makeup's cream bronzer, made with moisturizing mango butter and apricot oil, comes in a fuss-free stick ideal for swiping and sculpting. It's matte, blendable, buildable, and perfect for on-the-go bronzing.
Marc Jacobs Beauty O!Mega Bronzer Coconut Perfect Tan
Marc Jacobs loves coconut water so much that he made this coconut-inspired (and scented) bronzer that goes on buttery smooth. It has about 73,000 loves on Sephora and 400-plus five-star reviews that confirm it's worth the money.
La Mer The Bronzing Powder
Talk about a splurge: This $90 bronzer has long been a celebrity staple (used by Jennifer Lopez, the goddess of glow herself). It launched as a limited-edition item years ago — and sold out promptly — but the brand brought it back for another season this May.
NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick
A highlighter on one end and contour stick on the other, this double-duty wand is brush-free, so you can use it for easy, no-mess touchups. It's the perfect backup to keep in your purse on summer days.
It Cosmetics CC+ Radiance Ombre Bronzer
Some days call for a matte glow whereas others call for shimmery, bronzy radiance, and with It Cosmetics' Ombre Bronzer, you can achieve either — or both — with a single product.
(Stay Up To Date)
Become A Style Insider
Join The Zoe Report’s exclusive email list for the latest trends, shopping guides, celebrity style, and more.
This article was originally published on
May 31, 2020