While Bronzers are known for adding warmth, radiance, and a healthy glow to the skin, I used to associate it with, “trying to look tan.” For a very long time, I thought of it as a pointless step for me, since I already have dark skin. However, the more brands that came out with deep shades of bronzer and the more NC/NW 45 and deeper beauty gurus who wore them, my opinion began to change. Now, I see bronzer as the finishing touch that elevates a look, especially a glam look. I still skip this step more than half of the time, but I see the benefit it has in a makeup routine for people of all skin tones.
I’ve tried several popular bronzers, thanks to makeup subscription boxes in the past, and none of them were ever deep enough. I either used them as highlighters or gave them to friends. Eventually, even the ones I kept ended up being decluttered shortly after. The bronzers I’m reviewing today are all the ones I currently own, which were purchased within the past year.
Benefit Hoola Bronzer in Toasted
This is the first bronzer I owned that was deep enough to wear. For years, Benefit stuck to their single original Hoola shade until 2019 when they released three new shades: one lighter called Lite, one darker called Caramel, and the darkest being Toasted. All four are matte.
I bought Toasted at half price during Ulta’s 21 days of beauty last year and during the holidays, when it was on sale again, I bought Caramel. However, Caramel is too close to my skin tone to give a bronzing effect. I tried mixing the two shades together, but that didn’t really work, so I sold it.
I still have and love Toasted. I just use a very light hand, and my squirrel hair brushes, to keep the application on the sheerer side. I can easily overdo it if I’m not careful. Though it leans slightly red, this shade has more of a contouring effect on me because of how much darker it is. Applying a sheer layer helps to prevent this, although sometimes I do use it as a contour on just my forehead and under the cheekbones. If I’m going to contour my jaw and nose, I prefer an actual grey/cool-toned contour powder.
The Toasted bronzer goes on so smoothly, and with the right brush, it can look airbrushed. This bronzer is worth the hype, which is why I included it in my 2019 favorites. I still very much like it, though I’ve been giving my newer bronzers more attention lately.
Photo when I first got the Benefit Bronzer.
Nabla Skin Bronzing in Profile
Profile is a lot lighter than it looks in the compact. As Summer has just ended, in MAC terms, my closest shade match right now is NC47 (would be 48 if that existed). If you’re a little darker than me, I don’t think this shade will work very well, despite it being the darkest bronzer Nabla has available.
This bronzer is in Nabla’s baked gelée formula, which means it’s pressed firmer and is harder to pick up. When I do pack it on, it looks extremely natural as if I spent ages blending, when it’s really just due to being a shade or so darker than my skin tone. Despite being an excellent shade match, I don’t know how often I will use this because of the amount of time I have to spend getting it to show up. I either use a goat hair brush (or at most squirrel-goat mix) which is resilient enough to pick up the product, or a dense synthetic brush.
I can see the shimmer in the pan, but it looks matte on my skin. It’s only after I build it up heavily that I can see a little sheen to it in person.
Photo using the Nabla Bronzer.
Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Matte Bronzer in Deep
The packaging called to me. I couldn’t avoid it! I was also attracted to the fact that the compact is refillable. Not that I will ever run out of the product, but I like having that option. The brand just released a highlighter in a silver compact identical in size and design to the bronzer, so someone could theoretically swap them if they prefer the silver over gold or vice versa. However, unlike the bronzer, the highlighter is glued down. You’d have to be very careful depotting it.
This powder is incredibly smooth. It’s the softest, most finely milled of all the bronzers in my collection. It also seems to be the lightest pressed of the bunch because a ton of product comes onto my brush with just a gentle tap into the pan. Even though it’s nearly as dark as Benefit’s Toasted, I don’t worry as much about overapplying. The powder blends into the skin very well, so I don’t have to be as precise or as light-handed with it. Based on photos, I suspect shade 3 is too light for me, but I haven’t seen or tried it in person to know for certain. Shade 4 works very well for me anyway, so I’m not in a rush to investigate further.
Photo using the Charlotte Tilbury Bronzer.
Kosas The Sun Show Moisturizing Baked Bronzer in Deep
This bronzer has the perfect amount of shimmer as to not be overwhelming and gives the skin a healthy glow. If you know your shade match in the Kosas foundation, they suggest the Light shade of bronzer for foundation matches 1-4, Medium for 5-7.5, and Dark for 8-10.
Most brands use the term “Dark” to refer to a lighter shade of brown and “Deep” to signify the darkest shades. Kosas does the opposite. So, by naming this bronzer “Deep,” but putting “Dark” on the suggestion portion, it makes me wonder whether they had plans to make a darker bronzer suitable for the last four foundation shades but scrapped it.
I have a sample of shade 7.5, and I can get away with using it, but 8.0 is a better match for me during Spring-Summer. As the lightest fit for the Deep bronzer, I should expect this to be very dark on me. However, Deep is almost a perfect match and that makes me question how this could possibly work for all six shades in the 8-10 range. The shade gap between 8 and 10 is so much wider than the others.
That being said, Deep works so well for me. Since buying it, I keep reaching for this Kosas bronzer the most out of all the ones in my collection. There’s just something special about it that I can’t explain. It has the strongest warm/red tone out of all my bronzers, so perhaps that has something to do with it.
I do have to bring up the smell, because I know it can be very off-putting for some people, enough to possibly not want to buy.
It smells like leftover frying oil. I don’t think the smell is too bad in the pan, but for whatever reason, when I actually dip my brush in the powder, it somehow intensifies the smell. Perhaps it disperses the powder into the air and actually gets in my nostrils? I don’t know, but I definitely smell it until I’ve finished blending it into my face. I even have a designated brush for this bronzer alone because the smell lingers in the bristles. I find it tolerable because I’d prefer this over a flowery perfume scent.
Photo using the Kosas Bronzer.
Too Faced Chocolate Gold Soleil Bronzer
Near the beginning of the year, Too Faced had a set that included the Original Chocolate Bar palette I wanted (along with this bronzer and other items) for $25, so I couldn’t pass up on the deal!
The bronzer has the same chocolatey scent that Too Faced is known for, and the packaging is so pretty! The shimmer makes it too light to bronze my skin, but it does make for a decent highlighter, which is why I’ve kept it.
Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer Palette
Physicians Formula is another brand, like Benefit, which left a bad taste in my mouth with how long they took to make bronzers for anyone darker than medium. Even after their initial expansion, the bronzers still weren’t suitable to those much darker than tan, and it took them a while to add another.
I’ve heard that there is a Walmart exclusive shade that’s deeper than Endless Summer, but that it’s more of a contour powder. This palette was on sale for $9, and though the other two shades would obviously not work for me, I thought perhaps I could use one or both as highlighters. Unlike Benefit’s bronzer, which lived up to the hype, this one does not. There is an absurd amount of shimmer. The Kosas bronzer looks like it has the same, if not more shimmer in swatches, but on the skin, the Kosas one blends in and imparts a glowy sheen. The Butter bronzer, though, looks like I put a glittery highlighter on my forehead and under the cheekbone. It’s not a cute look. Now that I’ve tried it, I really don’t understand why the Butter bronzers are so beloved in the beauty community.
Also, Endless Summer is too light for me as a bronzer but still too dark to use as a highlighter. Some positives I can say are that the powder feels soft (it’s not hard-pressed) and it has a pleasant scent. Though I feel like this one was a waste of money, I’m glad I at least had my curiosity satisfied.
I Heart Revolution Tasty Coffee Bronzer
It wasn’t until I was nearly finished working on this blog post that I decided to try out this bronzer in the shade Mocha, the darkest of the four released (only three are available at Ulta). This shade leans more on the yellow side and is the closest match to my skin tone, but I learned that a close match doesn’t guarantee it will be a better bronzer shade.
My body is 50 shades of brown. I don’t have an even complexion, especially on my face. My forehead is darker than my cheeks, so this shade shows up on my cheeks, but it’s difficult to detect on the perimeter of my forehead. I have to pack it on even more than the Nabla bronzer for it to be seen on camera. This might not be an issue if I try it over a fuller coverage foundation, but I’ve been wearing Nars Sheer Glow almost exclusively in 2020.
I find it a little funny that this doesn’t have a coffee smell. I like that it is unscented, I just wasn’t expecting this to be the product without it, considering how many of my bronzers are scented.
Mocha has shimmer that is visible in the pan, but I don’t see it on my skin when I wear this. I don’t even see a sheen either. To my eyes, it looks matte. While I’m glad I decided to try this bronzer, it isn’t in my top four purely because of the shade match. It’s not as smooth as some of my other powders and it doesn’t have enough red to give me a bronzing effect. The fact that it is my same undertone but darker causes a light contouring effect, even without the addition of grey. For only $7 though, I’m still impressed by the quality and would recommend it if the other bronzers I mentioned are too expensive.
Makeup Revolution Splendour Matte Bronzer
I can’t believe it! A range so deep that my closest match is medium. Medium! Unfortunately, I already made my purchase before realizing that this shade would be too neutral to bronze me. It looked red-toned in the photos and videos I saw. Also, I ran into the same issue of it being visible on my cheeks but next to impossible to show on my forehead. Since I’m trying to avoid getting anymore contouring-bronzers, I can’t even say that picking the Medium-Dark or Dark shades would have been better for me.
The texture is smoother than the Coffee bronzer, but also drier and more powdery. It’s the kind of consistency I expect for an “ultra-matte” bronzer. There is no shimmer in this, so the ultra matte description on the front of the unicarton is accurate. However, I’m confused by the contradictory “Glow Splendour” name on the brand’s website. Ulta doesn’t have “Glow” in the name on their site, but I know it’s the same product because it has “Glow” written on the compact. Without shimmer and without being the right tone to give a bronze look, I don’t think glowing is a good description. I’d also like to note that even though I have dry skin, and ultra-matte products are typically not compatible with my skin type, I didn’t have any issues using it.
I debated whether or not to try a darker shade, but I really don’t need another when I already have the Mocha one. If you have a tan complexion or darker and you’re looking for a contouring-bronzing product, I recommend trying this one out. It’s only $12, you get a lot of product, and the packaging is made of a surprisingly sturdy hard plastic! I’ve seen more expensive bronzers with flimsier packaging. *cough* Benefit Hoola.
My first thought when I opened the compact was that it smells like Piña Colada. I checked the product description on Ulta’s site, and they do mention adding a pineapple and coconut scent.
OTHER SWATCH COMPARISONS
Besides the Physicians formula and Too Faced Bronzers, other famous bronzer shades touted as “universal” that are more of highlighters on me are Tarte’s Park Ave Princess and Nars’ Laguna.
Hyped bronzers released this year that are dark brown-skin friendly but I have not purchased are from Nars (Quirimba and Punta Cana) and Gucci (05 dark).
Between Kosas, Charlotte Tilbury, Nabla, and Benefit, my collection feels complete. I use the Kosas for the quickest blend and my overall favorite look, Charlotte Tilbury for the quickest airbrushed look, Benefit for a partly contoured look, and so far I’ve just used the Nabla bronzer in conjunction with my other Nabla face products.
Thankfully, I don’t feel as much of a compulsion to buy bronzers the way I do for blushes, eyeshadows, and highlighters!
10/26/20 Update: For anyone wondering about the Fenty Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer in the shade Mocha Mami, I got a great deal on it from Fenty’s site and can say that it is very similar to my Kosas bronzer. They’re both red-toned. Mocha Mami is just a matte and slightly darker version. You can see the color difference in the swatch, but because an actual face application wouldn’t be so heavy-handed, it looks the same when I use it on my face, just without the sheen.
If you like the shade match from Kosas but can’t stand the smell, this is a great alternative. Plus, the Fenty Bronzer retails for $30 whereas the Kosas bronzer is $34. And the way the Fenty bronzer performs reminds me a bit of Charlotte Tilbury’s bronzer, but just a little harder pressed. Charlotte’s is still the softest powder of the lot.
This concludes my post. Thank you for reading!