Highlighter vs Bronzer: How Beginners Can Spot the Difference

Immersing yourself in makeup is like falling into a rabbit’s hole. When you get to Wonderland you are confused, mesmerized, thrilled, and afraid. Afraid you might not get it right. There are just so many things to know about makeup products. You might have to cram their functions in your head to get by. I mean, there’s a foundation, highlighter, bronzer, blush, concealer, powder, and more.

It could get overwhelming trying to get to know these products and their functions. You are bound to make mistakes. I know I did.

Let’s not even talk about other pigmenting products like BB creams and CC creams and tint moisturizers. That family difference has already been treated before.

One of the confusing aspects of makeup is definitely how to use a highlighter and bronzer. These two are so closely related but yet widely apart. It’s natural to get confused with them. Knowing what comes before what is a skill that amateurs should treasure. Apart from confusing one for the other, there is also knowing which is more important for everyday makeup.

Highlighter and bronzer do help in highlighting the angles of our faces, but they focus on different angles and have different outcomes.

For the newbie makeup lovers who get confused about what these two do, here is a list of differences that sets them apart. Knowing these differences will immensely improve your makeup game.

Highlighter vs Bronzer: The Difference

highlighter vs bronzer

1. The difference is in their name

Bronzers are pigmented makeup products that illuminate parts of the face, especially the areas the sun reflects the most- which are the cheeks. It gives off that sun-kissed look. Furthermore, a bronzer adds depth to the face. The pigmented product gives depth and a warm glow to the cheek area. Also, it is used to make the skin look healthier.

On the other hand, a highlighter is used to glow the dark parts and corners of the face. It has a glow-from-within that brightens your face. High points of your face like your under-eye, cupid’s bow, bridge of your nose, and chin are the best places to highlight to create a glowing look.

2. Bronzer sculpts, Highlighter glows

A bronzer is used to sculpt and define the angles of the face. To create the sun-kissed glow, you need to add the bronzer on the hollow of the cheeks then trace it along the angle of the jawline. Then follow up with the sides of your nose to create a straight dimension. However, a highlighter glows the face. It is a light reflector that bounces light off the skin, illuminating the angles.

To sum this up, a bronzer makes the skin look sun-kissed, a highlighter bounces the sunlight off the face, creaking a glowing effect.

3. The order of application is different

The order in which you apply both products is different. A bronzer comes first under the cheekbones and along with the nose, while the highlighter follows just before you finish with a setting powder.

You place your highlighter at the top of your cheekbones and the bridge of your nose in between the lines you created with the contour or bronzer. Getting the order of use right will help to create the 3D effect on your face.


4. They are influenced by your mood

How you use your highlighter and bronzer is determined by the effect you want to achieve. For instance, if you want a dewy glowing look, you will need a highlighter. If you want a warm look, a bronzer is a perfect finish. The bronzer will highlight your makeup to give your face a natural sun-kissed look.

Highlighters are great for glow-ups. This means you can use them even when wearing little makeup. Applying a little highlighter under your eyes will make your cheekbones pop. And when the sun bounces off your face, it creates a natural glowing look. As I said, it all depends on your mood.

5. Different shades

This is important information for beginners. The shades of your highlighter and bronzer are essential in creating the perfect makeup. A bronzer is usually two shades below your foundation shade. You will be creating a tanning effect, hence the deeper shades. On the other hand, a highlighter is two shades lighter than your foundation.

You need the highlighter shade higher to create the glow. Also, the lighter color, the more it shines on your skin. But you shouldn’t go more than two shades higher. However, to get a perfect finish, you need to apply the highlighter strategically to bring out your soft glow.

Highlighter vs Bronzer FAQs

a highlighter

What is a highlighter?

When you need something to bounce or reflect light on your face, then a highlighter is your product of choice. A highlighter is a light-reflecting makeup product that makes the skin complexion glow effortlessly. You can use it to enhance parts of your face, making it more prominent under natural or artificial light.

The highlighter comes in different forms like cream, powder, and liquid. The form you choose is based on your skin type and the effect you want. It is meant to highlight the corners of your high points, creating a sharp feature. When using a highlighter, you focus on the top of your cheekbones, your cupid’s bow, under eyes, corners of the eyes, chin, and the bridge of your nose.

As I mentioned earlier, the color of your highlighter should be two shades lighter than your foundation shade to create a light effect. Also, make sure to blend lightly to create a uniform effect.

What is a bronzer?

Want to look tanned and warm-colored without actually getting a tan? A bronzer will create that effect for you. A bronzer will give you a bronzed skin and a sun-kissed glow. It’s a product that mimics the sun’s effect on the skin- the tan. The product comes in a creamy or powder form. There are different shades to satisfy your preference.

When it comes to using bronzers, you have to apply on parts of your face the sun hits most. This will ensure you look natural with the bronzer. Your cheeks and along your jawline are the best areas on your face to add a bronzer.

a bronzer

How do I correctly apply highlighter vs bronzer?

Applying makeup correctly is an important rite of passage for beginners. When you know what product to use where and you can apply it correctly, you are no longer an amateur. But if you still get stuck now and then, these quick steps should guide you.

Note: The highlighter and bronzer come after you have applied foundation, concealer, and contour. They are the finishing touches you apply to your face.

Tools: powder, fan, and fluffy brushes.

  • With a powder brush, apply the bronzer first, creating a ‘3’ shape on either side of your face along your temples, cheekbones, and jawline. Be sure to add a fleck of bronzer on your neck too. Your neck area is just as important as your face.
  • What comes next is a blush. Use a fluffy brush to pat your cheeks with blush. A blush adds subtle natural color to your cheeks. The color pops to make you look flushed.
  • Then finally, follow with a highlighter above your cheekbones, under eyes, cupid’s bow, bridge and tip of the nose, and chin. Also, you can add the highlighter to your brow bone, which is beneath the arch of your brow. Lightly add the highlighter on those areas with your flat brush.
  • Blend everything by fluffing and not brushing. Pad the colors together until their edges blend.
  • Finish up with a setting powder. And you have created the perfect look.

Here’s a video to show you the simple steps in applying a bronze and highlighter.

What’s the difference between a blush, bronzer, and highlighter?

natural makeup look

These three are the final products that go on the face in any makeup routine. They are products that accentuate and give dimension to the face. However, you have to keep in mind that they are not the same. A highlighter is used to reflect light on the face, while a bronzer is used to darken the face and give it a tanned looked. And a blush is used to add color or flush to the cheeks.

A highlighter and bronzer can work as a blush, but blush cannot fit as either of them. Blush is a simple pigmented product that brightens up the cheeks, making them look healthy and rosy.

On the other hand, a highlighter and bronzer can contour the face, adding dimensions to it. For instance, you can reshape your nose to look pointed or angular, depending on how you highlight the corners and shadows around it.

What are the similarities between highlighter vs bronzer?

Highlighters and bronzers have similarities, which is why they are often mistaken for each other. Apart from them being pigmented products, they are also used for glamourous makeup. Although, a highlighter can be used to create a natural look without a bronzer.

Also, they have similar forms. This is why they are often mistaken. The packaging is similar and could be mistaken for the other. It’s the labels that identify which is which. And they both come in cream, powder, and liquid form to cater to your skin type.

For a better grasp on the products, below is a table of the features highlighter vs bronzers have and do not have in common.



highlighter vs bronzer

Knowing what makeup product to use on where and applying it correctly is a privilege for beginners. It can be hard spotting differences, especially with closely related products like highlighter and bronzer. They are both pigmented products used for adding color to the face. However, they have different applications and areas of concentration.

When it comes to highlighter vs bronzer, a key point every beginner should remember is – bronzer adds a sunlight effect and highlighter reflects lights. Knowing this would make it easier when applying your makeup.

Explore more of your makeup goals with relevant beauty articles from Africana Fashion.