The Best Cream Bronzers to Achieve a Luminous and Sun-Kissed Glow

You don’t have to risk sun damage in order to get a fresh-faced, golden glow.

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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. Sun damage, however, is a very real issue and it’s important to slather on that sunscreen no matter the season—and don't forget a hat for added protection, too. 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.

For those of us that came of age in the early aughts era during which slapping a sparkly orange bronzer all over and caking on those layers was the norm, a fear of this particular beauty product is understandable. Thankfully, makeup trends have changed, and lessons have been learned—that is, avoiding powdering on a full face of glittery, five-shades-too-dark bronzer from forehead to chin, somehow forgetting to apply anything to the neck yet still managing to ruin every white shirt. As you may have guessed, I'm speaking from personal experience here.

While I do have a few powder bronzers that I use from time to time, I’m become 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 tend to be 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 in lieu of eyeshadow, 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 or jawline area.

Below, discover the best cream bronzers that will give you a natural, sun-kissed glow no matter the season.

Merit Bronze Balm

Merit’s Bronze Balm is probably my most-used bronzer; it’s a near-foolproof product. Depending on the color, I find it's definitely a more sheer bronzer, for those that prefer a more natural, bronzed glow. It’s luminescent and doesn't look or feel cakey; it really does blend right into the skin. It’s on the glowier side, so it’s not for those that want a highly pigmented or more matte bronzer. You can either apply it directly onto your skin using the stick applicator, or load it onto a brush.


Merit. Merit

Charlotte Tilbury Beautiful Skin Sun-Kissed Glow Cream Bronzer

Celebrity makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury debuted this creamy bronzer a few years ago, 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. I find this particular formula works best with a brush.


Charlotte Tilbury. Charlotte Tilbury

Fenty Beauty Cheeks Out Freestyle Cream Bronzer

Leave it to Rihanna to create the ultimate sheer, non-greasy and natural bronzer, in a seven-shade range


Fenty Beauty. Fenty

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 glittery), and is 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.


Tower 28 Beauty. Tower 28 Beauty.

Jones Road Miracle Balm in Magic Hour

The Jones Road Miracle Balms from makeup icon Bobbi Brown are great for a no-makeup-makeup look. While these aren’t technically bronzers, certain shades (like Magic Hour and Bronze) fit the bill. Just warm up the formula in your hands and dab it right onto your face; the hydrating, emollient formula is blendable and if you're not sure what to do, you can easily just tap it on everywhere for an all-over, lightly bronzed luminosity.


Jones Road. Jones Road.

Well People Supernatural Stick Bronzer

This multi-use bronzer stick adds warmth and dimension; you can use it to contour and highlight. It’s good for dry skin since it’s hydrating, and contains quality skincare ingredients like green tea, jojoba oil and sunflower seed oil.


Well People. Well People.

Milk Makeup Matte Bronzer

If you want a natural, shimmer-free sun-kissed glow, try Milk Makeup’s TikTok-approved (Hailey Bieber's a fan), 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.


Milk Makeup. Milk Makeup.

Saie Sun Melt Natural Cream 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.


Saie. Saie.

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 help to 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.


Elaluz. Elaluz.

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.


Refy Beauty. Refy Beauty.

LYS Beauty No Limits Cream Bronzer Stick

This cream bronzer went viral thanks to its lightweight yet highly pigmented formula. The brand recently debuted two new shades (bringing its bronzer range to a grand total of seven hues), with options for fair skin to deep skin tones. It easily brings dimension and helps to sculpt the face; you can apply it directly onto the skin and then use a dense brush to blend it in.


Lys. Lys

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 (fans include Kendall Jenner, Margot Robbie and Jennifer Garner), though it’s definitely one of the pricier products out there. Keep in mind that this one is much easier to apply with a brush than with your finger.


Chanel. Chanel

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.


Rare Beauty. Rare Beauty

Anastasia Cream Bronzer

This is probably the most matte bronzer on this list; it warms up your complexion and gives natural-looking definition.


Anastasia Beverly Hills. Anastasia Beverly Hills.

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