The 13 Best Bronzer Sticks of 2023 for an Effortlessly Sculpted Glow

One swipe and boom, instant illumination

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Best Bronzer Sticks

Byrdie / Kristin Kempa

Bronzers are a commonplace staple these days, right alongside heavy hitters like concealer, blush, and mascara. While bronzers are a must, actually applying them can be tricky. Enter: Their more convenient and thoroughly modern cousin—the bronzer stick. Just what makes a bronzer stick so ideal? “Bronzer sticks are EASY,” emphasizes Milk Makeup Global Makeup Artist, Sara Wren

Beyond just their on-the-go and travel-friendly format, the stick design has its perks. “The stick format allows for more precise application and often deposits the pigment onto the skin really well so you don’t have to build coverage as much as powder formulas, for example,” says Fenty Beauty Global Makeup Artist Priscilla Ono. “Just one swipe helps you achieve an effortless and sculpted look.”

Byrdie Researched & Approved

Our best overall pick is Fenty Beauty Match Stix Contour Skinstick, which our experts agree is worth every bit of its $28 price tag. The buttery formula, color payoff, shade and tone range, and ease of use make the Match Stix unmatched. If you’re looking for something a little more wallet-friendly, the NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick Contour and Highlighter Stick has an impressive eight shades and is dual-ended (contour/bronzing on one end and a brightening highlighter on the other end)—all for under $12. 

Yet, not all bronzing sticks are created equal—some iterations are designed to produce a light dusting of bronze-toned highlight, while others are intended to leave their mark via a strong dose of pigment with just one swipe. Finding the perfect bronzer stick for you depends on your preferences, price point, and skin tone—but we’ve made it easy to find your ideal match. 

Best Overall

Fenty Beauty Match Stix Matte Contour Skinstick

fenty-beauty-match-stix-matte-contour-skinstick

Sephora

What We Like
  • Beginner friendly

  • Excellent variety of shades

  • Matte finish

What We Don't Like
  • Amount of product is smaller than expected, given the bulky packaging

What makes Match Stix Contour Skinsticks our overall best bronzer stick winner is its incredible shade range, silky smooth formula that blends seamlessly, and how it is honestly foolproof to use—whether you’re a bronzer novice or a professional. This is the bronzing/contour stick Rihanna uses, specifically in shade Truffle, notes Ono, which she says is the perfect contour shade for medium skin tones with neutral undertones. 

“The formula is creamy, but light as air, which is really important so you can be versatile with your application—you want to be able to apply bronzer and contour to the cheeks, forehead, side of nose, jawline, sometimes even your eyes,” she notes. And the formula has a matte finish, a must for Ono, who prefers to keep her bronzer and contour shimmer-free (but can layer highlighter on top, if desired) to prevent looking too shiny. 

Paris-based makeup artist Harold James loves Match Stix, too. “You can create the most natural soft bronzed effect,” he says. “It's long-lasting and ideal for oily skin. If it feels dry I recommend to warm it up on the back of your hands and apply it with a brush.” 

Price at time of publish: $28

Number of Shades: 9 | Size: 0.25 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No 

Best Budget

Wet n Wild MegaGlow Makeup Stick Conceal and Contour

Wet n Wild MegaGlow Makeup Stick Conceal and Contour

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Creamy, blendable formula

  • Buildable

What We Don't Like
  • Few options for darker skin tones

Unsure about bronzer sticks, or questioning whether they’re right for you? Try this beginner-friendly, velvety stick that is easier than easy to swipe on and buff out. What’s extra special about this option is its unique cream-to-powder formula—it starts out as a pigmented cream, which you blend into your cheekbones as it settles into a silky powder. Many reviewers note that topping the formula with a powder bronzer or setting powder will lock in the color and take it to the next level.

Price at time of publish: $4

Number of Shades: 3 | Size: 0.2 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Splurge

Westman Atelier Face Trace Contour Stick

Westman Atelier Face Trace Cream Contour Stick

Sephora

What We Like
  • Boldly pigmented

  • Natural-looking bronze

  • Luxurious packaging

What We Don't Like
  • Too warm for cool tones

Clean beauty can often be considered synonymous with weakly pigmented or inefficient makeup products, however celebrity makeup artist Gucci Westman’s clean luxury cosmetics line, Westman Atelier, is anything but. While yes, the milky formulas are innovative within the world of clean beauty (and packed with skincare ingredients, like jojoba seed oil), the pigments are luxe and high performance. 

Westman’s bronzer sticks are deeply pigmented, meaning that slightest swipe will give you all the matte bronze payoff you’ll need. Feel free to blend outward with a brush or you can try the Gucci-approved method of blending it in with fingers. 

“This is such a beautiful bronzer for a satin finish,” says James. “The texture is easy to blend for a seamless result,” he adds. “Highly recommend for dry skin.”

Price at time of publish: $48

Number of Shades: 3 | Size: 0.21 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes 

Best Drugstore

NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick

NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick Contour and Highlighter Stick

Amazon

What We Like
  • Long lasting

  • Great variety of shades

  • Easy to blend

  • Accessible price point

What We Don't Like
  • Easily breakable packaging

And the winner for the most shade ranges goes to…drumroll…NYX Professional Makeup Wonder Stick Contour and Highlighter Stick. Eight glorious shades aside, this stick is actually a two-for-one deal: It offers contour/bronzing on one end and a brightening highlighter on the other. The double-ended bronzing and highlighter stick is incredibly impressive, especially with its less than $12 price tag. Fans really can’t seem to get enough of this buttery soft, easy-to-use, and flattering formula. 

Price at time of publish: $11

Number of Shades: 8 | Size: 0.28 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Pigmented

LYS Beauty No Limits Cream Bronzer and Contour Stick

Contour Stick LYS

LYS Beauty

What We Like
  • Richly pigmented 

  • Creamy formula

  • Great deep shade options

  • Little goes a long way

What We Don't Like
  • Not enough cool tone shades

LYS Beauty’s bronzer stick glides on like butter, thanks to its hydrating formulation filled with rosehip oil and green tea extract. It also offers beautiful shade options for darker skin tones—a too frequently overlooked category by many other bronzer sticks. Plus, LYS is the first Black-owned makeup brand to get the Sephora Clean seal of approval.

Price at time of publish: $19

Number of Shades: 5 | Size: 0.25 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes 

Best for Fair Skin

NudeStix Nudies Bronzer Stick

NudeStix Nudies Bronzer Stick

Sephora

What We Like
  • Long-wearing

  • Unique shades

  • Incredibly creamy formula

What We Don't Like
  • Not enough shades for darker skin

Most of the bronzers on this list strive to mirror that natural, just-back-from-a-long-weekend-at-the-beach glow, but NudeStix’s shades step into a category all of their own. Each shade of this blush-bronzer hybrid offers a slightly flushed tint, for a sun-burnt and sun-bronzed look (sans the sun exposure). 

What’s more, this multi-use formula is milky smooth—perhaps too creamy for combination and oily-prone skin though—so you can apply with abandon, from your eyelids to cheeks to lips.  

Price at time of publish: $34

Number of Shades: 5 | Size: 0.25 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No 

Best for Dark Skin

UOMA Beauty Double Take Contour Stick

Uoma Beauty Double Take Contour Stick

Ulta

What We Like
  • Fantastic shade range

  • Two-in-one product

  • Soft, matte finish

  • Easy to blend

  • Very pigmented

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

Uoma Beauty, the inclusive makeup brand founded by Nigerian-born beauty exec Sharon Chuter, is part of the (much-needed) beauty revolution to prioritize diversity and inclusivity. The brand is a leader in ensuring all skin tones are represented, and their bronzer stick is no exception, as evidenced by its wide range of color tones. 

This dual-ended stick not only features a matte bronzer, but also an illuminating highlighter for a one-and-done deal. You’ll find the formula is melt-into-skin creamy and easy to blend—but it might have more longevity if you set the bronzer with a powdered bronzer or setting powder overtop. 

Price at time of publish: $40

Number of Shades: 6 | Size: 0.38 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Contouring

Makeup by Mario Softsculpt Shaping Stick

4.7
makeup-by-mario-softsculpt-shaping-stick

Kohl's

What We Like
  • Easy to blend

  • Built-in angled buffing brush

  • Long-lasting formula

What We Don't Like
  • So good it’s usually sold out

Who better to take contour advice than from the man who popularized modern contouring himself? Master makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic has made intimidating makeup categories, like contour, easy and accessible with his eponymous line, including this bestselling SoftSculpt Shaping Stick. 

The bronzer/contour stick features a matte-finish cream formula along with a built-in buffing brush to sculpt your cheekbones on-the-go. His natural-looking contour-meets-bronzer is so good that most shades are currently sold out—so catch it if you can.

Price at time of publish: $30

Number of Shades: 6 | Size: 0.37 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No 

Best for Beginners

Merit Bronze Balm Sculpting Bronzer

Merit Bronze Balm Sculpting Bronzer

Sephora

What We Like
  • Hydrating formula

  • Sheer-yet-buildable

  • Creamy and blendable

  • Safe for acne-prone skin

What We Don't Like
  • Excess product needed for noticeable color

Some products claim to be beginner-friendly, but Merit’s Bronze Balm actually walks the walk. The sheer pigment is especially great for newbies to camouflage any application slips, yet the color is easily buildable for customizable color. 

To boot, all the products are formulated in partnership with celebrity esthetician Biba de Sousa and are specifically designed to be safe and non-irritating for acne-prone skin.

Price at time of publish: $30

Number of Shades: 5 | Size: 0.44 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes 

Best Kit

Jouer Cosmetics Bloom, Bronze & Glow Bronzer + Highlighter Duo

Jouer Cosmetics Bloom, Bronze & Glow Bronzer + Highlighter Duo

Thirteen Lune

What We Like
  • Glowy, radiant finish

  • Two-in-one design

  • Glides on easily 

What We Don't Like
  • Not suitable for all skin tones

A back-from-the-beach bronze and airbrushed glow? Yes, please, and this dual-ended bronzing kit is a vacation in a stick so you can fake it till you make it (to the actual beach). 

The subtle, creamy bronze gives off the slightest natural glow, while the shimmering highlighter solidifies the back-from-holiday ruse. The formula also features super-hydrators squalane and rosehip oil for a moisturizing and nourishing experience that all skin types, but especially those with dry skin, will enjoy. 

Price at time of publish: $32

Number of Shades: 2 | Size: 0.29 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for a Natural Glow

Rare Beauty Warm Wishes Effortless Bronzer Stick

Rare Beauty Warm Wishes Effortless Bronzer Stick

Sephora

What We Like
  • Applies effortlessly onto skin

  • Blendable formula

  • Pigmented

  • Doesn’t crease

What We Don't Like
  • Too warm for cool-toned skin

The brainchild of Selena Gomez, Rare Beauty is beloved for their hyper-pigmented range of products. After all, the brand’s Liquid Blush has been going viral for its very vivid color—the tiniest dot will do ya—and their bronzer stick works exactly the same way. A quick flick of the wrist across your cheek will deliver a skin-like finish with mega color payoff. 

“The Warm Wishes Effortless Bronzer Stick will give you a natural-looking glow,” says James. “It has a liquid-like consistency that looks totally organic,” he adds. “It won’t cake or crease.”

Price at time of publish: $23

Number of Shades: 5 | Size: 0.25 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No 

Best for Dry Skin

Em Cosmetics So Soft Multi Faceplay Bronze + Sculpt

 Em Cosmetics So Soft Multi Faceplay Bronze + Sculpt

 Em Cosmetics

What We Like
  • Great options for darker skin tones

  • Enriched with skincare ingredients

  • Hydrating

  • Bold pigmentation

What We Don't Like
  • Too dark for fair skin tones

Michelle Phan, the early beauty YouTuber, created EM Cosmetics with the mission of making pretty and everyday beauty fun and approachable. Her silky smooth Bronze + Sculpt stick, which oozes with squalane and vitamin E, is a perfect example of the brand’s ethos—the development of makeup that is hydrating and pigmented, but also comfortable to wear and easy to apply. Designed for customizable pigmentation, simply dab the stick across your cheekbones and buff out with fingers for a subtle look or swipe right onto the skin for a stronger look.

Price at time of publish: $30

Number of Shades: 4 | Size: 0.25 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No 

Best On-the-Go

Milk Makeup Matte Bronzer

Milk Makeup Matte Cream Bronzer Stick

Sephora

What We Like
  • Foolproof application

  • Beginner-friendly

  • Buildable coverage

What We Don't Like
  • Only comes in two shades

“I love Milk Makeup Matte Bronzer sticks cause they are so creamy and easy for a beginner or a makeup pro,” says Wren. The makeup artist notes that the lightly-pigmented bronzer stick blends well with other makeup textures as well as a range of skin types for a foolproof experience. 

The formula is especially blendable courtesy of its star hydrators. “Mango butter and apricot oil help the stick glide on and give a nourished and glowing finish,” adds Wren.

While the two tints are designed to be widely universal, some lighter or darker skin tones may have trouble finding or building their perfect match.

Price at time of publish: $22

Number of Shades: 2 | Size: 0.19 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Final Verdict

Our top pick is Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty Match Stix Contour Skinstick, which provides unparalleled pigmentation, blendability, and shade range. We also love Westman Atelier Face Trace Contour Stick, which is a fantastic splurge, enhanced with skincare ingredients for a beautiful and natural-looking experience. For beginners, Merit Bronze Balm is as sheer as they come, providing foolproof coverage—but is also buildable for more noticeable, glowy coverage. Bottom line: Bronzer sticks are a fantastic option for anyone—beginner or professional; fair or darker skin tones; minimalist or maximalist. The trick is zeroing in on your needs and preferences first, because no matter what you’re looking for, there’s a perfect bronzing stick for you, you just have to find your ideal match.

Meet the Expert

  • Harold James is a Paris-based editorial and celebrity makeup artist and is represented by The Wall Group. 
  • Priscilla Ono is a 17-year makeup artist veteran and is Fenty Beauty’s global makeup artist. 
  • Sara Wren is a Philadelphia-based makeup artist and is Milk Makeup’s global makeup artist. 

What to Look for in a Bronzer Stick 

Formula

One quick look at a bronzer stick’s formula and you’ll immediately understand how it will perform. 

Is it sheer or densely pigmented? A lightly colored, nearly transparent option might be best for a subtle look, or a bronzing beginner, but a richly colored cocoa will give you more bang for your buck to ensure a bold color payoff. 

Swatch a bit of bronzer onto the back of your hand. Does it feel buttery soft or is the matte formula drying? Ono recommends using a creamy formula, as it will apply onto skin far easier, allowing you to buff with fingers, a makeup sponge, or traditional brush. Despite its drying reputation, a matte bronzer stick is more likely to have staying power and is ideal for oily skin types. 

Take a look at the ingredients list. Is it infused with moisturizing ingredients? Many formulas on this list, including the options from Westman Atelier, Rare Beauty, and EM Cosmetics, tapped skincare-quality ingredients for their formulas. Hydrating squalane, berryflux vita and jojoba seed oil help the bronzer melt into the skin easily, while also offering a natural, skin-like look. 

Applicator 

The beauty of a bronzer stick is the inherent ease of use. If you’re a makeup minimalist, the bronzer stick could be used on the forehead, eyelids, cheekbones, jawline, and even lips—and all applied via your fingertips to blend. 

Of course, bronzing sticks allow for customization, too. The formulas play nicely with sponges, brushes, or any other blending tool. And, as James notes, they don’t make more travel-friendly than this. Whether that means tossing it into your bag for a midday touch-up or full-on traveling, they require next to nothing to set it and forget it. 

Shade Range

A bronzing stick should emulate your perfect, vacation tan (without the sun damage). “Try two shades deeper than your natural skin tone for the most effortlessly bronzed look,” says Wren, while noting that this requires a thoughtful and curated range of shades.

FAQ
  • How do you use a bronzer stick?

    “I always recommend the classic “W” application for that almost sunburned, vacation skin,” suggests Wren. “Imagine the W shape going across one cheek, nose, and then the other cheek,” she says. “This is the easiest way to create a natural warm glow to the skin.” To blend, James recommends sweeping in circular motions to avoid any harsh lines.

  • Which is better: a contour stick or a bronzer stick?

    Contour and bronzer can often be used interchangeably—but they accomplish two separate things. Bronzer is “great for adding color and warmth to the complexion,” explains James, while contour creates dimension and shadows on the face. Bronzers tend to have warmer, shimmery tones, yet contour is almost exclusively offered in muted tones and matte finishes.

    That said, contour sticks can very often make a fantastic bronzer, which is why many products on this list are labeled as contour sticks.  

  • How do I find my right shade?

    “When it comes to choosing the right bronzer your skin tone definitely matters,” explains James. “It's important not to go too dark when selecting your bronzer,” he says. 

    “Ideally it should be two shades darker than your skin tone and with the same undertone for a natural look.” Here are a few tips for uncovering your undertone and then selecting a bronzer color based on your complexion. 

    Undertone

    “Take into consideration your undertone—this could be cool, warm, or neutral,” says Ono. “To figure out your undertone, look at your veins on your arm: if they are blueish, you have a cool undertone; if they are more green, you’re warmer; and if you can’t really determine which shade you are, you’re more likely a neutral undertone,” she says. 

    • Cool Undertones: Warm peach hues or soft browns work best with this skin tone, says Ono.
    • Warm Undertones: Ono says that golden-brown colors are a fab match for those with warm undertones.
    • Neutral Undertones: According to Ono, more neutral tones should opt for a color that is a true brown-base.

    Skintone

    • Deeper Skin Tones: “Look for chocolate or espresso shades with warm or blue undertones,” recommends James. 
    • Medium or Olive Tones: Most shades will work well with these complexions, says James. “Copper and earthy tone will compliment your natural tan.” 
    • Fair or Light Skin Tones: “Opt for lighter hues of rose or peach, and consider beige taupe and pink rather than orange and red tones,” notes James, who suggests imagining how your skin reacts in the sun, then mimic similar results with your bronzer. 

Why Trust Byrdie?

Byrdie contributor Kristin Limoges is a seasoned beauty writer specializing in skincare, haircare, and makeup basics. For this article, she interviewed three global makeup artists for their list of best bronzer sticks. We also asked the artists what to look for in a great bronzing stick, how to apply bronzer, and tips for finding your perfect complexion match. We compiled their expertise and weighed our top picks against theirs to ensure our recommendations are expert-approved. Kristin has also personally tested several of the products on this list, including Fenty, Westman Atelier, and Milk Makeup.

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