Bronzer is the failsafe way to add a hint of sunshine to your complexion, especially when there is a) no sunshine (aka all the time in the UK) or b) because you dutifully wear your daily SPF to protect from damaging UV rays – making finding the best cream bronzer a must-do for your make-up bag.
But why choose a cream bronzer over a powder or liquid?
“What I love about a cream bronzer compared to a powder is that, because of it’s consistency, you can really massage and manipulate it into the skin,” says celebrity make-up artist, Lan Nguyen-Grealis . “This creates the effect of a really natural sun-kissed glow, as if it’s part of your skin rather than something that’s sitting on top.”
“I also think they’re pretty fool-proof, especially if you are a bronzer beginner. It’s far easier to buff away excess cream bronzer than powder. And it’s really easy to build up to the level of bronze you want with a cream, layering it as you go until you’re happy with where it’s at.”
How to choose the best cream bronzer
“These days considering your budget is key,” says Lan. “There are some great, affordable options out there so don’t think that expensive automatically equals better.” And whilst you might not think about shade matching a bronzer as you would a foundation there are enough differentials in shade for that to be a consideration. “Whilst bronzer is thought of as one unified shade there is nuance within in,” says Lan. “For example, fairer skins suit lighter, warmer tones. Medium skin tones can pretty much wear whatever they want but golden tones will look brilliant and darker skins look amazing with the warmer, chocolate toned bronzers.”
It’s also key to consider the type of finish you’re after. “Generally cream bronzers will create a more dewy, luminous finish because they will also create a slight reflection from being creamy. However, you can get matte finishes in a cream texture and are a great addition to your make-up bag not only as a bronzer but to use as a contour too.”
How to apply the best cream bronzer
Sold on the concept of cream bronzer? Here are Lan’s tips for applying it like a dream every time.
- Warm it up. “I like to warm the product up slightly between my fingers before applying it, this ensures that it glides on really well and you can buff it in easily.”
- Choose your tool. “I use fingers and brushes to apply cream bronzers, it just depends how I’m feeling. Fingers are great when you’re working in smaller areas, so if you just want to add some extra bronze to your cheeks, nose or even on the eyes. A brush will cover a larger area quickly. A brush does also sheer the product out more, making it easier to create a super natural effect. I use a dense, soft brush when applying cream blusher -Real Techniques Expert Face Brush, £8.99 is one of my favourites.”
- Placement is key. “Think about where the sun naturally hits your face. That’s where you want your cream bronzer to go - across the top of the forehead, down the nose, across the chin and on the high points of your cheeks.”
- Slow and steady. “Remember, you can always add more so start with a light layer and check how it looks in daylight. Then you can always take it up a notch.”
Find the best cream bronzers
Looking to extend your sunkissed glow beyond summer but want something ultra natural-looking? Rose Inc's Solar Infusion Cream Bronzer is the answer to maintaining a subtle warmth to your complexion as we bid farewell to the summer (sob!). It's buildable, making it easy to add the perfect dusting to your cheeks, temples and forehead (and we'd argue virtually mistake-proof). There are four shades, ranging from Parrot Cay on the lighter end of the spectrum to Capri, the deepest bronze (Rosie HW's fave is Kauai, right in the middle).
Laguna obsessives, listen up! Nars has dropped a creamy version of its cult bronzing powder and, frankly, we're impressed. It's always going to be hard to live up to a classic, but with five sunkissed shades inspired by the iconic Laguna, this adds extra versatility in finding your perfect hue. It's also enriched with monoï de Tahiti oil to give you all the holiday feels (and smells), while the silky texture leaves a gorgeous dewy finish.
This is arguably the most iconic cream bronzer that exists. Make-up artists rave about it. Beauty editors can’t be without it. This is in part because its been around for so long - over a decade - but also because it strikes the perfect balance between offering up enough colour payoff to make it look like you’ve been on holiday whilst also enhancing your natural skin tone. In short: you put this one and your skin looks like the best version of your skin. It is now available in three shades to cater for all skin tones and all bronzing proclivities.
Brilliant for so many reasons, but the standout being it’s unique consistency. On first touch it feels just like putty (hence the name) and is really easy to apply and buff into the skin, but it dries down to a slightly powdery finish, which also gives it great longevity. There are five shades to choose from all of which create a really gorgeously natural sun kissed glow.
Is there a dud Charlotte Tilbury product? We don’t think so, and this newbie cream bronzer might have topped the leaderboard. It has a super silky consistency making it really easy to move around the face - FYI Charlotte also recommends using it on the body too. And it contains very clever resins that make it sweatproof and humidity proof (we tested it in 30-degree Corfu and it stayed put!). There are four shades to choose from ranging from fair to deep.
The rest of the Get The Gloss team loves this cream bronzer too!
With a perfect blend of warming golden tones and a light bronze base, this is a great buy for fairer skins who want to bronze without looking overdone and unnatural. In terms of finish, it sits somewhere between being matte and glossy - creating enough glow without being too shiny but with a hint of matte that doesn’t look flat. If your budget can stretch to the Refy Duo Brush as well, then we’d highly recommend purchasing both as it makes application an absolute dream.
Trinny describes this as ‘holiday in a pot’ and we concur wholeheartedly. It has a super creamy consistency and feels really hydrating on the skin, as if you’re applying a hit of moisturiser and delivers a sheer but natural looking wash of bronze. There are four shades ranging from a light golden hue to a deep mahogany bronze. Our only complaint? We wish it came in a bigger pot!
Not only does this gorgeous buttery bronzer work perfectly on darker skin tones but you get change from a tenner too. It has a balmy consistency that glides over skin really easily and delivers a wash of bronze that isn’t too sheeny but also doesn’t look flat and one-dimensional.
With two shades to choose from this cream bronzer comes in a handy stick applicator making it a great option for travelling. Whilst it is a matte finish, it doesn’t feel drying or cakey. In fact it has a velvety feeling to it. We like to apply the stick directly onto the skin and buff in with a brush but you could also apply a brush to the stick and then to the face. It also doubles up as a great contour for days where you’re more focused on the structure to the face than being sunkissed.
There are 5 shades of bronze (there are also some blusher shades) ranging from a light caramel gold to darker shimmering deep bronze, but they all create a dewy, glowy effect thanks to the volume of light-reflecting particles it contains. At first glance as you will notice a wax-like film across the top of the product that you need to break. If you don’t, you get zero colour payoff. To break it, use the end of a make-up brush or a spatula and rub it all over to ‘ignite’ the product. Then it’s as simple as using your fingers or a brush to dab it wherever you want a bronzed glow to appear.
Whilst you could argue that a stick formulation is easy to use on the go, the fact that this portable compact has a mirror in the lid makes it the ultimate winner in our eyes. And the product inside is amazing too. It has a light, sheer consistency that Rihanna was insistent that it didn’t leave a hint of greasiness on the skin (it doesn’t) and as with all things Fenty, inclusivity has been done correctly with seven shades to choose from.