Bronzing Powders: What Are They and Why Use Them?

A correct application of bronzing powder can highlight skin attributes. We tell you how to use this product and what are its advantages.
Bronzing Powders: What Are They and Why Use Them?

Written by Jonatan Menguez

Last update: 13 March, 2023

A healthy, even, tanned skin is what many people desire when the summer months arrive. To achieve this, people often overexpose to UV rays or sessions in sunbeds, which are associated with harmful effects. Keep reading as we tell you all about bronzing powders which are recommended as a safer option in the field of cosmetics.

This product is able to darken your skin tone. It’s applied on the face, shoulders and chest to achieve a tanning effect. If applied subtly, the finish is very natural. How is it used? What are the most common mistakes during its application? Don’t miss this article! We’ll explain all!

What are bronzing powders?

Bronzing powders are cosmetic products intended to mimic the natural tanning of the skin. Because of this, they’re usually used during the summer months, when exposure to the sun is more frequent, as well as the desire to show off tanned skin. Even so, it’s a product that can be applied at any time of the year.

The use of tanning creams and powders has changed over time. Nowadays, more subtle applications are used to achieve a natural effect and not an exaggerated orange tone.

There are also techniques that work to accentuate or reduce certain facial features. For example, to refine the nose, highlight the cheekbones, or emphasize the contour of the lips.

Therefore, this product has an aesthetic purpose, especially used to achieve that summer tone on the face. The best part? That goal is achieved without the need to use aggressive methods, such as sunbeds.

Bronzing powders.
Bronzing powders give a tanned look without exposing the skin to the sun or tanning beds.

Why use them?

People try to tan their skin in different ways. Sometimes, they end up opting for excessive exposure to the sun and avoid fundamental care such as the use of sunscreen. Other times, the solution is to use tanning beds, which are questioned for their negative impact on skin health.

A study published in the Costa Rican Journal of Public Health points out the direct relationship that these machines have with skin cancer. It also indicates that the risk of melanoma increases by 75% if the people who use them are under 30 years old.

Bronzing powders, on the other hand, carry a lower risk when looking for darker skin. However, this doesn’t mean that their application should be abused. The most important active ingredient in these products is usually dihydroxyacetone or “DHA”, which discolors the skin to a darker shade.

Although it’s considered to be a non-damaging agent for the skin, excess use can cause irritation or allergy. People with sensitive skin should be especially careful not to end up with an allergic reaction with these products.

On the other hand, it’s common to confuse the use of tanning products with sunscreens. However, tanning products have no function as UV protectors.

Bronzing powders: application methods

These powders are primarily intended for the face, but can be applied to the shoulders and chest, as these areas are often uncovered. In this way, it’s possible to have an even tan all over the upper body.

There are many ways to apply them; in principle, a general rule of thumb is to give a basic overall tan. However, by placing them at certain strategic points, it is possible to accentuate or reduce certain features of the face.

Types of brushes

The first thing to keep in mind is that a large brush is needed to apply the powder and distribute it evenly. It’s recommended to use a brush with a conical shape and enough fluffiness to favor the application.

It’s important not to apply to much of the product, as it’s always easier to correct the missing areas by applying a little more.

Choosing the right shade

There are numerous options on the market for all skin types. In general, it should be considered that the objective of the product is to create the sensation of a natural tan and not an artificial glow. Following this premise, it’s recommended to purchase a shade twice as dark as the skin color.

  • Light skin. This type of skin is best suited to powders in apricot or golden tones.
  • Dark skin. In this case, brown powders are suitable.
  • Yellowish skin. For yellowish skins, it’s suggested to try light brown and ochre-toned bronzing powders.
  • Pink skin. The range of browns also favors these skins, although they should be soft.
  • Satin powders. They create a natural effect and conceal wrinkles.
  • Powders with a matte finish. They should not be applied on dry skin, as they increase the effect.

Basic steps to apply bronzing powder

The correct distribution of this product is achieved by forming a kind of “3” on the face. Start at the side of the forehead, above the temples and near the scalp. Then, go down to the cheekbone, forming a curve. The idea is to reach a few centimeters from the nose.

From this point, go back down to the jaw, again drawing a curve. Here, it is advisable to smear a little more product on your finger. When finished, you will have formed the design of an imaginary “3”. Although this is an effective technique for most faces, it works best on long faces.

Common mistakes when using bronzing powders

There are a number of practices to avoid in order to achieve the natural tan you’re looking for when purchasing bronzing powders.

  • Avoid applying all over the face. It’s best to follow the “3” technique, or one of its variants.
  • Beware of excess. Applying too much can generate the opposite effect to the one desired, in addition to creating a very artificial shine.
  • Dry skin. For this type of skin, it’s advisable to avoid powders and opt for other types of bronzers, such as creams.
  • Exaggerated shine. If too much shine is added, the particles create a reflection with the sun’s rays that isn’t at all aesthetic.

How to achieve effects with bronzing powders

In addition to seeking a natural tan, these powders are able to produce different effects on facial features. The aim is to emphasize the depth in certain specific areas, in order to highlight or hide parts of the face. Here are a few examples:

  • To shorten a long face, the product should be placed on the forehead and chin.
  • In the same way, it’s possible to highlight the cheekbones by placing the powder under the bone area. If certain parts are darkened, the other parts are highlighted.
  • To refine the nose, it’s applied on the sides of the nose.
  • If the idea is to deepen the look, the cosmetics are applied in the eye socket, as if they were shadows.
Bronzing powders.
Technique is important when using bronzing powder. Otherwise, it can look unsightly.

Alternative ways to apply bronzing powders

Apart from the “3” technique, other ways of application allow you to generate different effects. For example, for a fine tan, which aims for a more elegant result, bronzing powders should be placed on areas of the face that stand out. That is to say, on the cheekbones, chin, and nose.

On the other hand, a more informal result is obtained with a general application and a matte product. Alternatively, it’s possible to use the “W” technique, which achieves a more uniform application.

This involves making movements forming tiny versions of this letter on the face, going over the forehead, cheekbones, and chin. Then, with light circular strokes, a natural tan is achieved.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • Garone, M., Howard, J., & Fabrikant, J. (2015). A review of common tanning methods. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 8(2), 43–47.
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This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.