In my opinion, bronzer is a make-it-or-break-it step in one’s makeup routine. Choose the wrong shade or end up with a patchy formula, and your complexion could quickly appear uneven, discolored, and my personal makeup nightmare: orange. But choose a fitting shade with a smooth, blendable formula and revel in your bronzed, defined, and glowing skin.
Over the years, I’ve experimented with tons of bronzers, and I’ve found that cream formulas often lend themselves to creating the most authentic-looking results, thus making them an absolute staple in my makeup routine. But just like with all product categories, they’re nuanced—meaning they differ in formula, finish, shade, and more. So, I’ve put upwards of twenty cream bronzers to the test and evaluated them based on the formula, application, wear, shade range, and packaging. Ahead, I’m sharing the ones that are worth your money.
NARS Laguna Bronzing Cream
A little bit goes a long way
Easy to blend
Shade range features varying depths and undertones
Some might find the fragrance to be a bit strong
Considering how many excellent options currently exist in the cream bronzer category, it was admittedly tricky to pick a number one favorite—but this one deserves the title. It features a creamy, mousse-like texture that's extremely pigmented and blendable, meaning that a little bit goes a very long way. I personally adore how pigmented it is because I don’t have to continuously dip back into the pot to get the color payoff I desire, but be warned that figuring out how much to apply could take some getting used to. It blends into the skin effortlessly with both a buffing brush and a sponge, and I really appreciate that it’s never patchy and it doesn’t lift my foundation, regardless of which one I’m wearing underneath. It also sets down to a matte finish, but it’s not so matte that it looks dry or cakey; rather, it appears really blurred and skin-like. Once applied, it lasts all day long with no visible signs of fading.
While five shades aren’t groundbreaking, the range is really impressive. There’s an even distribution across depths, and the lineup has options with cool-ish, neutral, warm, and red undertones—which is really hard to find among its competitors.
The one thing that would make this cream bronzer absolutely perfect is if it was fragrance-free. While I’m not personally bothered by the coconut scent, I can absolutely see how some people might find it overpowering. However, it fades quickly after you apply it, and considering how many excellent attributes this bronzer has, I still cannot recommend it enough.
Price at time of publish: $38
Shades: 5 | Finish: Matte | Size: 19 grams | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Overall Runner-Up
Saie Sun Melt
Natural, luminous finish
Shade range leans pretty warm
It was love at first application for me and this formula. First, I adored how easy it was to fit my brush into the large pot of product. But once I began to blend it into my skin, I knew that it would become a staple for me. The creamy formula is lightweight and easy to diffuse on the face for a natural look, but it can also be built up to offer more color payoff. Though the brand markets it as a dewy product, I don’t find it to be overly dewy or greasy on my oily skin; rather, it sets down to a subtle radiant finish. It’s perfect for everyday makeup looks where I want a toned-down bronze, but I can also make it work for more glam looks too. And I’d be remiss not to speak to the value—while $32 isn’t cheap, you get a ton of product in the container, meaning it will last you a very long time.
While the darkest shade in the range does lean pretty cool, I wish the brand would come out with some cooler tones for light and medium skin tones. I have a neutral undertone, and I can make the two lighter shades work for me, but I could see them leaning too warm or peachy on some complexions. But if you can find a shade that flatters your skin tone and you want an everyday cream bronzer that provides a sun-kissed effect, I highly recommend checking it out.
Price at time of publish: $32
Shades: 6 | Finish: Natural luminous | Size: 28 grams | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Chanel Les Beige Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream
Lightweight, blendable formula
Limited shade range
Shades lean warm
This pick is slightly controversial. It was one of the first cream bronzers on the market, and it became popularized within the YouTube beauty community many years ago, but people have long taken issue with the limited shade range and questioned whether it’s a worthwhile purchase given its hefty price tag. There’s no denying how luxe it is—the swirled cream product is aesthetically pleasing, it features the same subtle fragrance that other Chanel makeup does, and the big jar it comes in looks chic on any vanity. And while there’s much to be desired in terms of the shade range—there are only three colors, and they all run quite warm—the performance of this cream bronzer is impressive.
The formula has a dense, mousse-like texture that feels really comfortable and lightweight on the skin, and it blends out smoothly before setting down to a natural matte finish. It wears really well and layers nicely on top of every foundation I’ve tried it with, making it a reliable option. If you enjoy luxury makeup and you can find a shade that works for you, I think you’ll really enjoy the formula.
Price at time of publish: $50
Shades: 3 | Finish: Natural | Size: 28 grams | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
e.l.f. Cosmetics Putty Bronzer
Diverse shade range
Takes real building up to get even color payoff
Small pot makes dipping in a bronzer brush tricky
Finding a great cream bronzer at the drugstore can be challenging enough, but finding one with an impressive shade range had been almost impossible until this one launched. It comes in seven shades that range from fair to dark and vary in undertones. It has a unique, putty-like texture that feels like a cream-to-powder formula, making it suitable for different skin types. We love that the lightweight formula is easy to blend, though it does take some building up to achieve smooth, even pigmentation. It can also be tricky to dip a bronzer brush into the small pot of product, so we recommend starting off by applying it with a dense face brush and then blending out with a larger brush or makeup sponge. If you’re looking for an affordable cream bronzer that comes in a diverse shade range and feels light and comfortable on the skin, we recommend this one.
Price at time of publish: $7
Shades: 7 | Finish: Natural | Size: 10 grams | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Em Cosmetics So Soft Multi Faceplay Bronze + Sculpt
Extremely creamy formula
Shades have unique undertones
Shade range is a bit limited
This bronzer formula blew me away when I first tried it, and it’s remained in my top drawer since its release more than a year ago. It’s, without a doubt, the creamiest formula I’ve tried to date, yet somehow it’s not sticky, heavy, greasy, or overly emollient. It’s highly pigmented, and a little bit goes a long way, but it’s super easy to blend out, and it dries down to a skin-like matte finish. It layers beautifully over luminous and matte foundations, and once it sets, it wears for upwards of ten hours. The formulation feels incredibly high-quality, and I love that I can use it to give my skin delicate color or build it up for some serious definition.
I’m not alone in my love for this product—Commerce Writer Caitlyn Martyn adores it too. “This is probably my favorite bronzer of all time,” she says. “The shade Summer is the perfect pop of color to add dimension and life back to my cheeks after foundation, and the creamy formula is easy to manipulate. I’ve applied it with a sponge, a brush, and even my bare hands, and I’ve never been disappointed.”
While I would love to see the brand extend the shade range, I will say that the four existing shades work across a very wide variety of skin tones. They also have unique undertones—two of them lean warm and add a true bronze color to the skin, while the others are cooler in tone and can also be used to sculpt and contour the face.
Price at time of publish: $30
Shades: 4 | Finish: Natural matte | Size: 8 grams | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Deep Skin Tones
LYS Beauty No Limits Cream Bronzer and Contour Stick
Great shade range
Creamy, blendable formula
Luminous finish on the skin
Packaging and shape of stick make application a bit tricky
Remains slightly tacky on the skin
It’s no secret that the beauty industry has long underserved people with deep and dark skin tones when it comes to shade inclusivity. While a lot of positive progress has been made, the bronzer category has been pretty slow to change. But this formula from LYS beauty features five shades that range from light to dark—and the deep and dark shades are truly rich in color and pigmentation. The darker shades are also pretty neutral, which means they can work for a range of different skin tones.
As for the formula, it’s incredibly creamy and glowy. It blends out nicely and provides a gorgeous luminosity to the skin, but it does remain a bit tacky as you wear it throughout the day. My one significant point of contention with this product is the packaging—it takes away from a pleasant user experience. It features a triangular shape—as with most other products from the brand—but it’s really hard to put the cap back on without nicking the product and making a bit of a mess. But if you can look past the packaging and you like a dewy bronzer, then I absolutely recommend this one. It’s also relatively affordable compared to most options in the category, which earns it bonus points in my book.
Price at time of publish: $19
Shades: 5 | Finish: Luminous | Size: 7 grams | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Oily Skin
Charlotte Tilbury Beautiful Skin Sun-Kissed Glow Cream Bronzer
Creamy, blendable texture
Natural-looking, matte finish
Shades could use more neutral undertones
There are many mixed reviews on this bronzer online, but it’s one of my personal favorites. The texture is unique in the sense that it has a creamy, silicone-like consistency that has a slightly powdery feel to it. This unique texture lends really well to my oily skin because it doesn’t contribute to excess oil, but it’s not so matte that it looks chalky. I’ve found that blending it out with a synthetic buffing brush creates an even, airbrushed finish. It has a great level of pigmentation in the sense that it doesn’t require you to apply layer upon layer to get a color payoff, but it’s not so pigmented that you need to be super careful with it. Once blended out, it provides a really pretty bronzed appearance that lasts all day. I also appreciate that although it’s an expensive product, it comes with a lot which helps you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.
My one con about it (which I know I share with many online reviewers) is that the shades are pretty unique, but not in an ideal way. Some of them have odd undertones that look muddy on the skin, while others lean slightly orange. Personally, I use the lightest shade on my light, neutral skin, and I find that it looks flattering on me. I think the trick is to go in with a light hand and build up the color slowly.
Overall, if you have oily skin, but you’re in the market for a creamy bronzer, I think this one is absolutely worth giving a shot.
Price at time of publish: $56
Shades: 4 | Finish: Natural matte | Size: 21 grams | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Dry Skin
Tower 28 Sculptino Soft Matte Cream Contour + Bronzer
Creamy, blendable texture
Packed with moisturizing ingredients
Shade range is somewhat limited
Doesn’t fully set down
Tower 28 knows a thing or two about creating dewy cheek products that help achieve the illusion of naturally radiant, healthy-looking skin—and this new product from them is no different. The formula is packed with mango seed butter and castor seed oil to help moisturize the skin, and the creamy, luminous finish provides the complexion with a glowing, sculpted look. Though the formula is emollient and hydrating, making it incredible for those with dry skin, it’s not overly greasy or heavy, so we think it would be fitting for a range of skin types. It’s quite easy to blend into the skin with a brush or sponge, and while it doesn’t fully set down, meaning it’s just a bit tacky, it feels weightless and comfortable as you wear it throughout the day.
As for the shades, the existing four are great for bronzing and sculpting. They were created with natural contouring in mind, but if you tend to find that bronzers lean too orange for you, this sculpting formula might just have the undertones you’ve been looking for. “I've been trying a soft sculpting technique for a more natural looking contour to give glow, and this is the perfect product for the job,” says Jill Di Donato, Senior Commerce Editor. “If you're looking for more intense sculpting, you'll have to layer up—which is totally doable since the product is buildable.”
I love that the four shades range from fair to dark, but there seems to be a gap in the middle for medium and tan skin tones, so I would love to see the brand extend the range.
Price at time of publish: $20
Shades: 4 | Finish: Luminous | Size: 4.5 grams | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Sculpting
Makeup by Mario Softsculpt Shaping Stick
Inclusive shade range with excellent undertones for sculpting
Matte, blendable formula
Packaging is clunky and not the most functional
It’s no secret why this product is so popular—it’s fantastic. If you’re looking to contour while maintaining a naturally sculpted look with a hint of bronze, you’ve met your match with this shaping stick from Makeup By Mario. The shades range from fair to deep, and each one has cool-leaning undertones that help to create shadows without looking gray or sickly on the skin. The formula is creamy and easy to blend, and it creates a matte finish that doesn’t appear flat or dry. Though I appreciate that the product is in stick form, which makes contouring easy, the packaging is a drawback. Not only is it large and a bit cumbersome, but the product doesn’t seem to be fully secure inside the tube, which leads to a lack of stability when applying it, not to mention a bit of a messy container. However, if you’re not a stickler about packaging and you’re in the market for a natural-looking, cream-contouring product, I can’t recommend this one enough.
Price at time of publish: $30
Shades: 6 | Finish: Matte | Size: 10.5 grams | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Merit Bronze Balm Sculpting Bronzer
Can be used on bare skin or layered on top of foundation
Nice shade range
Shape of stick makes application easy
Not super long-wearing
Could be slightly too emollient for people with oily skin
Looking for a bronzer to help you achieve a no makeup, makeup aesthetic? This is one for you. The sheer (but buildable) formula glides onto the skin like butter and can be easily diffused out with a brush or sponge to provide a veil of bronze color with a dewy finish. The emollient formula could contribute to excess oil if you have oily skin, so we recommend setting it in place with a light layer of powder or setting spray if you tend to get greasy throughout the day. Because it’s not completely opaque, it looks gorgeous on bare skin or layered on top of foundation. The dome shape of the stick makes it easy to reach all areas of the face, and the packaging is undeniably chic—like the rest of Merit’s offerings. While it’s not the most long-wearing formula—which is common for dewy products—it will wear well for about four to five hours before fading. If you’re in search of a quick, natural-looking bronzer with a luminous finish, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Price at time of publish: $30
Shades: 5 | Finish: Luminous | Size: 12 grams | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Beginners
Rare Beauty Warm Wishes Effortless Bronzer Stick
Natural, matte finish
Shape of stick makes reaching contours of the face easy
Colors lean pretty warm in tone
Let’s be honest—if you’ve never used cream cheek products, the thought of doing so can feel intimidating. That’s why if you’re a newbie, we recommend starting off with creams that strike a nice balance between being soft and blendable but not overly emollient or greasy. This one fits the bill perfectly. It has a creamy texture with a bit of a powdery feel to it, it’s incredibly easy to blend out, and it layers really nicely on top of foundations with all different finishes. Plus, the fact that it’s in stick form makes application fast and easy. Once you’ve blended it in, it provides a natural, matte finish, and it lasts beautifully all day and night without fading.
It’s great that the five existing shades range in terms of depth, but they do lean pretty warm, so I would love to see the brand expand the range to include more variety in undertones.
Price at time of publish: $26
Shades: 5 | Finish: Matte | Size: 7 grams | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
My best overall pick is the Nars Laguna Bronzing Cream because it’s richly pigmented, easy to blend, long-wearing, and comes in an excellent range of shades. But if you’re looking for a more natural-looking, luminous option, I recommend the Saie Sun Melt Natural Cream Bronzer Or the Merit Bronze Balm Sheer Sculpting Bronzer.
How I Tested
In order to recommend the best cream bronzers to you, I tested more than twenty over the course of several months while also conducting extensive research and consulting with Byrdie editors to get their thoughts on various formulas. I evaluated each product based on formula, application, wear, shade range, and packaging, and those that ranked highest appear on this list.
Other Options I Tested
Rose Inc Solar Infusion Moisturizing Cream Bronzer
Although the brand markets it as a moisturizing bronzer, I found this formula to be quite dry and difficult to blend out.
Sol Body Sol Face & Body Bronzing Balm
I really liked the thin, creamy texture of this affordable bronzer, but I found that multiple shades looked orange against my fair to light skin tone.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Cream Bronzer
I really value that this matte cream bronzer comes in so many shades, but the lighter shades are extremely orange in a tone which makes it tricky for those with fair and light skin tones to find a color that’s right for them.
What to Look for in a Cream Bronzer
One of the major keys to making your bronzer look seamless is choosing the right shade. That’s why it’s really important to us that bronzers come in a range of shades that encompass a wide variety of skin tones. If you tend to find that bronzers appear too warm or orange on your skin tone, we recommend trying the Makeup By Mario SoftSculpt Shaping Stick, as the shades lean neutral and cool in tone.
Just because a bronzer has a cream formula doesn’t mean that it will be super emollient or dewy, though those options absolutely exist. If you have oily skin or you prefer a more matte finish, we recommend the Nars Laguna Bronzing Cream. If you have dry skin or you prefer a dewy option, you’ll love the Merit Bronze Balm Sheer Sculpting Bronzer.
Is cream bronzer the same thing as cream contour?
Though they appear similar and can have the same formulas, cream bronzers, and cream contours are different—and the difference lies in the colors. While bronzers are meant to add a warm bronze look to the complexion—like an after-sun glow—contours are meant to shape and define the facial features. Bronzers tend to be neutral or warm in tone, while contours are neutral to cool. But remember that there are no rules when it comes to makeup, so if you want to use a product that’s marketed as a contour for your bronzer or vice versa, that’s totally fine too.
How do you apply cream bronzer?
The best way to ensure a seamless cream bronzer application is by applying it on top of an unset base, meaning that you should save setting powder application for after bronzer. This is because sometimes, when you apply creamy products on top of powder, it can cause patching or pilling. So, using your brush or sponge of choice, slowly build up and blend your cream bronzer in the areas you want to warm up. You can leave the bronzer as is or lock it in place with a setting powder or setting spray if you want to extend the wear.
Why Trust Byrdie
Alyssa Kaplan is an experienced writer in the beauty industry and product tester specializing in cosmetics. She received a bachelor’s degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology, where she studied marketing and product development in the cosmetics industry as well as fashion business marketing. Alyssa has been a commerce writer at Byrdie since 2022, where she covers all things beauty.