There’s nothing quite like a sun-kissed glow, but that particular lit-from-within, naturally luminous aesthetic is a touch harder to achieve when it’s not peak summer, not to mention sun damage is a very real issue and it’s important to slather on that SPF no matter the season. Full disclosure, I used to adore baking all day in the sun, but did a full 180 over the past few years, and now refuse to step outside without covering my entire body in sunscreen, plus a wide-brimmed hat for added protection during the summer. Luckily, you can take care of your your skin and still score that golden glow without sun exposure, all thanks to the magic that is a good bronzer.
Truthfully, I’ve been a little scared of bronzers for much of my adult life, considering I grew up in the early aughts era during which slapping a sparkly orange bronzer *all* over was the norm. Thankfully, makeup trends have changed and I’ve learned my lesson about powdering on a full face of glittery, five-shades-too-dark bronzer from forehead to chin, somehow forgetting to apply anything to my ghostly neck while still managing to ruin every white shirt I owned.
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While I do have a few powder bronzers that I use from time to time, I’m become more partial to a cream bronzer, which I’ve found to be far easier to use in order to get that sun-kissed glow, and also less prone to creating those dreaded orange-y streaks. There are always exceptions, but in general, cream bronzers are often more blendable, with a lighter and more natural feel, since the formulas glide right onto your skin. Similarly to cream blush, the texture creates a radiant, dewy appearance that looks and feels more like your actual skin, and is less likely to cake or crease, too.
Cream bronzers are also great multi-taskers; they add warmth and depth, and while a contour should technically be a different shade, bronzer works in a pinch. I’ve always loved using a bronzer on my eyelids, too, especially during the summer, for that “just got back from a day at the beach” vibe. While everyone uses bronzer differently, depending on their skin type, tone and concerns, the key is to first find the right bronzer for your skin tone, and also not to overdo it. For bronzers, the general rule is to apply where the sun would naturally hit your face, so the main spots are your temples, cheekbones, bridge of your nose and a touch around your chin.
Below, see the best cream bronzers that will give you a natural, sun-kissed glow no matter the season.
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The Best Cream Bronzers for a Flawless, Effortlessly Glowy Makeup Look
Tower 28 Bronzino Illuminating Cream Bronzer
If dewy skin is what you’re after, look no further than Tower 28’s illuminating bronzer. It’s sheer and slightly shimmery (but not too glittery!) so it’s particularly ideal for anyone who’s new to cream bronzer. This balm-like bronzer tint melts right into your skin, and it’s also an amazing multi-tasker; it’s one of the options I like to use on my eyelids instead of eyeshadow. The cruelty-free, vegan brand is a great choice for sensitive skin, and comes in five different shades.
Charlotte Tilbury Beautiful Skin Sun-Kissed Glow Cream Bronzer
Celebrity makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury debuted this creamy bronzer in 2022, and it didn’t take long for the glowy formula to become a beauty insider favorite. It’s incredibly easy to use (yes, even for cream bronzer newbies!) and comes in four shades; it’s oh-so blendable so you won’t be left with any streakiness. It has a skin-like finish and also contains hyaluronic acid, for some extra nourishment and hydration.
Jones Road Miracle Balm in Magic Hour
The Jones Road Miracle Balms are great for a no-makeup-makeup look. While these aren’t *technically* bronzers, certain shades (like Magic Hour and Bronze) are incredible to use as cream bronzers. Just warm up the formula in your hands and dab it right onto your face; the hydrating, emollient formula is super blendable and honestly, I just tap it on everywhere for an all-over, lightly bronzed luminosity.
Merit Bronze Balm
I recently tried Merit’s Bronze Balm for the first time, and haven’t looked back since. It’s one o the most foolproof products I’ve ever used, though it’s definitely a sheer bronzer, for those that prefer a more natural, bronzed glow. It’s luminescent and non-cakey; it really does blend right into the skin for an effortless look. It’s definitely on the glowier side, so it’s not for those that want a highly pigmented or more matte bronzer.
Well People Supernatural Stick Bronzer
This multi-use bronzer stick adds warmth and dimension; you can use it to contour and highlight, but it also works perfectly well if you just want to apply the creamy formula everywhere. It’s especially good for dry skin since it’s hydrating, and contains quality skincare ingredients like green tea, jojoba oil and sunflower seed oil.
Milk Makeup Matte Bronzer
If you want a natural, shimmer-free sun-kissed glow, try Milk Makeup’s TikTok-approved, viral matte cream bronzer stick. It’s blendable and easier to work with than many of the other powder options out there, with a pigmented, matte finish.
Saie Sun Melt Bronzer
Saie’s creamy balm bronzer lives up to its name: it really does melt right into your skin. It’s light but buildable, and leaves you with a weightless, natural glow that’s more on the matte than shimmery side, but still totally luminescent.
Elaluz Stick Bronzer with Camu Camu
These bronzer sticks are intended to be applied directly onto your face or body; just glide it wherever you want a healthy glow. It’s filled with vitamin C-rich camu camu, plus antioxidants and meadowfoam seed oil, which helps lock in moisture. Don’t fret if you slapped on a bit too much, as this formula is easy to blend out or simply wipe off, without that dreaded streaky stain.
Refy Cream Bronzer
You can apply Refy’s sheer cream bronzer with a brush or your fingers; it warms up your skin and leaves you with a subtly contoured, velvety finish.
Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream
Chanel’s iconic cream bronzer is almost gel-like; it’s a soft, more matte option, and leaves you with the loveliest glow, though it’s definitely on the pricey side. Keep in mind that this one is definitely easier to apply with a brush than with your finger.
Rare Beauty Warm Wishes Effortless Bronzer Stick
Even if you’re not a diehard beauty fanatic and don’t follow every skincare account, chances are you’ve still seen this bronzer stick somewhere on Instagram or TikTok. Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty has managed to create quite a few viral products that are worth the hype; just scroll through your Instagram feed to see someone using this bronzer stick to create a sculpted, sun-kissed look.
Anastasia Cream Bronzer
This is probably the most matte bronzer on this list; it warms up your complexion and gives natural-looking definition.
LYS Beauty No Limits Cream Bronzer and Cream Contour Stick
This cream formula bronzer is lightweight but packs a ton of pigment, for major payoff in your final makeup look.