The best cream bronzers for a sunkissed glow on every skin tone

Our beauty editor selects the best cream bronzers for easy blending and natural radiance

Collage of three of the best cream bronzers by Glossier, Chanel and Iconic London
(Image credit: Future)

The best cream bronzers have much to offer besides mimicking sun-kissed skin – although that is very much top of the to-do list. Due to their easily blended nature and hydrating finish, non-powder-based bronzing products can moonlight as dewy highlighters, sheer skin tints, and for the very brave (and very adept at applying makeup) contouring creams. 

As with any makeup, the best bronzer for you depends on your skin type, tone, skill level, and what look you want to achieve. That's where cream bronzers' superior versatility puts them leagues ahead. "Cream bronzer is far easier to blend into the skin, gliding on and leaving no dry patchy areas," agrees Chanel Makeup Artist Zoë Taylor (opens in new tab). "I like that there are so many ways to apply a cream bronzer, you could try mixing it into your moisturizer for an all over tan or as a contour or as a blush. Skin looks truly fresh when using a cream texture bronzer."

And who doesn't want that? Glowing, fresh skin at the glide of a fingertip. After trying and testing an oceans-worth of these radiant liquid formulas, I've made my choices. These are the best cream bronzers to suit every skin, in a variety of finishes – plus expert makeup artists answer your cream bronzer FAQs. 

How w&h tested these cream bronzers

A selection of the best cream bronzers that fiona tested for this guide

A selection of cream bronzers that Fiona tested for this guide

(Image credit: Fiona McKim)

We tried dozens of products for this best cream bronzer guide, learning how to apply bronzer in every texture from watery liquids, gels, thick creams, and swipe-on sticks. Ease of application is crucial with cream bronzer, so we paid close attention to how well each formula blended, as well as how easy it was to control. We assessed the bronzers on their opacity and also finish, which can range from sheer to pigmented, matte to shimmer. We wore each one on our skin for at least a day, often several to check how well they lasted, if they settled into lines and pores and if the color stayed true-to-tone throughout a full day's wear.

The best cream bronzers, chosen by our beauty editor

NARS Laguna Bronzing Cream

(Image credit: NARS)

1. NARS Laguna Bronzing Cream

Best cream bronzer overall

Specifications

RRP: $38/ £32.50
Shades : 5
Texture : Cream-to-powder

Reasons to buy

+
Skin-like shades for all 
+
Beautiful texture 
+
Hydrating ingredients 
+
Light, portable packaging

Reasons to avoid

-
None, we love this

NARS excels at many things (the kohl liners are pretty unbeatable) but color cosmetics for the skin – blush, bronzer, highlighter – are this brand's strongest suit. This range of five cream bronzers is inspired by NARS' hugely popular powder, Laguna, and takes the non-sparkly, natural finish of said iconic bronzer to the next level. 

On testing, I was immediately taken with the useful, lightweight pot that would easily slip inside a gym bag, beach bag, or even a festival bumbag if that's what summer '22 has in store for you. The texture is a velvety cream that's easy to control with fingers or a brush and spreads beautifully onto the skin, with a blurring finish. It sets into something more powdery, so you do need to get your blending done quickly, but that's a good thing because it really stays where you put it. The shade range offers something for all skin tones, and the inclusion of monoï de Tahiti oil ensures a hydrated finish. Gorgeous stuff. 

Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream

(Image credit: Chanel)

2. Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream

Best luxury cream bronzer

Specifications

RRP: $50 / £43
Shades: 3
Texture: Cream-gel

Reasons to buy

+
Beautifully luxurious 
+
Very natural-looking
+
Soft-focus finish 
+
Lasts well 

Reasons to avoid

-
Huge, so not particularly portable 

To see this bronzer is to adore it. It's an absolutely enormous luxury pot of whipped-up, lightly glossy Chanel makeup – what's not to love? Happily, once you're over the first flush of lust there is a lot to sustain a happy, healthy relationship with this big guy because he performs extremely well too (no laughing at the back, please) 

This was the most natural-looking product of all the cream bronzers I tested. That's due to the pigment being just the right amount of sheer, making the three shades extremely versatile and adaptable. It blended silkily, blurred over the annoying pores around my nose, set to a radiant but not sparkly finish then lasted from 7 am to an end-of-the-day check in the office loos. "Chanel Les Beiges Bronzing Cream is the best, I find that once it’s on it is on, it doesn’t seem to move too much," agrees Taylor, who recommends applying it with "a big fluffy brush."

W7 Bronze Chic Universal Bronzing Balm

(Image credit: W7)

3. W7 Bronze Chic Universal Bronzing Balm

Best budget cream bronzer

Specifications

RRP: $6.95 / £5.95
Shades: 1
Texture: Solid cream

Reasons to buy

+
Easily blendable
+
Excellent value 
+
Sets nicely 

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs more shades

If you're looking for the best cream bronzer because you've never tried one and don't really know where to start, then this bargain beauty from W7 would be a smart choice. For one thing, it's significantly cheaper than everything else on this list, so you won't be dropping big bucks on an unknown quantity. But that aside it really is a great product too. 

The texture is fairly solid and slightly sheeny – it reminded me of a less-oily cleansing balm, before you break the surface and start melting it in. It blended nicely, moved over my skin with ease then set as well as anything else here. It gave my skin a glow and smooth texture that, impressively, didn't crease up through a whole day's wear. The single shade range could use bumping up though, I'm not convinced one 'universal' shade ever really works with bronzer. This was definitely on the warm side for my fair Celtic skin and wouldn't do much for tones at the deeper end of the spectrum either.  

RARE BEAUTY WARM WISHES EFFORTLESS BRONZER

(Image credit: Rare Beauty)

4. RARE BEAUTY WARM WISHES EFFORTLESS BRONZER

Best cream bronzer for on-the-go

Specifications

RRP: $23 / £22
Shades: 5
Texture: Solid balm

Reasons to buy

+
Easy to apply 
+
Very highly pigmented
+
Portable
+
Excellent shades and undertones

Reasons to avoid

-
It's easy to go OTT 

Rare beauty is a very aptly named brand because celebrity beauty collections this good are one in a million (Actor and Disney alumnus Selena Gomez is behind this one) As well as creating one of the best cream blush formulas of recent years, Rare has also knocked it out the park with this classy stick bronzer. 

Anything in a crayon gets my attention for sheer lack of faff. It's easy to pack, store, apply, and blend with fingers. Far more products should come in stick form in my opinion. That aside, the shades here are really very good, with a unique mix of cool and yellow-green undertones along with the usual warm ones. This serves olive and medium to deep skins particularly well, which is great to see. The pigment packs a real punch, I was surprised by how opaque the first stroke I drew on was, but does blend away nicely so as long as you apply it little by little. I loved the dewy finish too, very flattering on non-Selena Gomez-aged skin. 

Glossier Solar Paint

(Image credit: Glossier)

5. Glossier Solar Paint

Best cream bronzer and highlighter

Specifications

RRP: $22/£17
Shades: 4
Texture: Loose cream

Reasons to buy

+
Extremely versatile for many areas
+
Reflective finish 
+
Handy doe foot applicator 

Reasons to avoid

-
Very glowy, so won't suit all-over application

It's a little surprising that the most glam, reflective formula in this best cream bronzer guide is made by Glossier. This brand made its name on hyper-natural products, like the best tinted moisturizer that's basically a suggestion of pigment or the long lasting perfume designed to smell pretty much like... you. 

This is a different beast altogether. As soon as I unscrewed the incredibly useful doe foot applicator and dotted the cream onto my cheeks I could see it was glossy and glow-inducing. This is not a bad thing. The radiance this formula offers isn't sparkly, just a nice gleaming highlight. For that reason, you probably wouldn't want to use it all over the face, but you almost certainly should do what I did and pop it on your cheekbones, brow bones, and collarbones (all the bones) Plus, I tried it on top of eye primer as a cream shadow and it worked beautifully there too. That aside this lasts well without creasing. The pigment can be quite full-on but given its purpose as a targeted bronze-highlight combo rather than an all-over tint that's forgivable. 

Iconic London

(Image credit: Iconic London)

6. Iconic London Sheer Bronze

Best liquid bronzer

Specifications

RRP: $27 / £21
Shades: 6
Texture: Loose liquid

Reasons to buy

+
Very sheer 
+
Plenty of shades
+
Can be used all over 
+
Easy to mix with other products 

Reasons to avoid

-
Quite runny, so trickier to control

Calling this one of the best cream bronzers is actually a bit of a misnomer because the texture is loose and slightly watery. It's definitely closer to one of the best lightweight foundations than the sturdier creams on this list such as NARS and Chanel. But, so long as you don't accidentally squeeze far too much out as I did on my first try, that is actually where the strength of this product lies. 

That weightless feel and runny texture makes this a brilliant option to either spread all over your face as a bronzing tint or mix with other products like foundation or even skincare, to concoct a glow-boosting blend. I loved the unusually large choice of shades and sheer pigment that gave my skin a sunkissed hint of bronze without looking or feeling heavy. It does have a whisper of shimmer about it, which catches the light beautifully, but isn't overtly disco-like or glittery. 

Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Contour Wand

(Image credit: Charlotte Tilbury)

7. Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Contour Wand

The best cream bronzer for facial sculpting

Specifications

RRP: $40 / £29
Shades: 2
Texture : Liquid-to-powder

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent applicator for control
+
Natural matte finish 
+
Dries in and lasts well
+
Sits over other products well

Reasons to avoid

-
If you're not into contouring 

Glam, sexy and fun makeup looks are what the Charlotte Tilbury brand is all about, oh and irresistible product names like this one. This may not be a traditional cream bronzer per say, it actually aims to perform a different function. But as excellent, darker-than-your-tone, non-powder makeup I reckon it still deserves a shout-out. 

This (and I promise I'm not saying this just because it's called a contour wand) really is the best cream bronzer for facial sculpting. Learning how to contour makeup for a natural look is no joke, but it'll never be easier than with this. The twist-open sponge-tipped applicator is clever, the formula is loose but eminently blendable and it dries totally matte to achieve convincing definition and shadows. Despite looking scarily dark at first, I found it blended away well, worked nicely over foundation and concealer, and stayed where I put it. While this is at the pricier end of this list, you really only need the tiniest bit of product each time so it represents decent value. 

Chantecaille Radiance Gel Bronzer

(Image credit: Chantecaille)

8. Chantecaille Radiance Gel Bronzer

The best cream bronzer for skincare benefits

Specifications

RRP: $46 / £38
Shades: 1
Texture: Gel-cream

Reasons to buy

+
Sheer and blendable 
+
Glowing finish that's great for dry skin
+
Lovely fragrance  
+
Hydrating and nourishing

Reasons to avoid

-
Only one shade 

I'd say there is a huge crossover between those seeking the best cream bronzer and those with dry skin. Almost all non-powder formulas lend themselves to dehydrated skin types, but this luxurious pick would make a particularly good choice as it is packed with hydrating skincare ingredients. 

As well as warm, glowing pigment (in one shade only, albeit a fairly versatile sheer one) this contains nourishing squalane, rosa damascena flower oil, and various other skin-loving botanicals. Despite all these moisturizing properties, I found the texture to be quite refreshing, which was as welcome on my combination skin as it would be on drier types. It also smells great - very French and luxurious - which must be the fancy rose oil. Plus it gave my cheeks a healthy dewiness that helped me mimic both the bronzed glow of one just back from a weekend away, but also the fresh-faced 'I've had a lot of sleep and taken some coastal walks' energy. 

Cream bronzer FAQs, answered by the experts

What do you use cream bronzer for?

"Cream bronzers give the skin a dewy, radiant finish," explains Charlotte Tilbury star makeup artist, Sofia Tilbury (opens in new tab), "I choose them to create a fresh, natural-looking, beachy-bronzed look, whereas, with powder formulas, the effect is a smoother, soft-focused, sun-kissed contour." 

As well as the finished look, skin type is another consideration. "The magic of cream bronzer is that it suits all skin textures, it can be applied over a full coverage foundation and still look as flawless if it is over just a moisturizer," explains Taylor, and Tilbury agrees, "Cream bronzers are great for all skin types because of the dewy, skin-like finish they create, but they’re particularly great for drier complexions. If your skin is oily, I recommend setting cream bronzer with a light layer of powder bronzer for a long-lasting finish."

What color of bronzer I should use?

"I would always opt for a couple of tones darker than your natural skin tone," explains Rachel Hardie (opens in new tab) NARS Lead Artist. "If you are fair, I would always work towards a golden with a hint of green-based bronzer to give you a natural sunkissed look. With olive tones, a warmer base cancels any sallowness. To complement deeper skin tones, a rich pigment, without too much red, works best."

How to apply cream bronzer

"With cream bronzer, I always like to use a brush that has densely packed bristles to pick up the right amount of product and smooth fibers that fan across the skin for a seamless blend," explains Tilbury.

"After applying your foundation, tap your brush into the product and then lightly tap and press onto the skin – focusing on areas where the sun naturally hits, such as the cheekbones, forehead, nose, and jawline," she continues. "You can build up in layers to get the perfect sun-kissed finish, and glide over the shoulders, collarbones, and limbs too."

If you want to use cream bronzer to lightly contour and define your face, Taylor recommends you, "start with the neck to add a little definition around the jaw, then onto cheekbones and into the hair line around the temples. This adds warmth without looking obvious, plus it very subtly changes the structure of the face."

Fiona McKim
Fiona McKim

 As woman&home's Beauty Channel Editor, Fiona Mckim has tried more products than she’s had hot dinners and nothing makes her happier than raving about brilliant finds on womanandhome.com or her instagram grid (@fionamckim if you like hair experiments and cute shih-tzus). Fiona joined woman&home as Assistant Beauty Editor in 2013 under industry legend Jo GB, who taught her everything she needed to know (learn about ingredients and employ extreme cynicism). She has since covered every corner of the industry, from interviewing dermatologists and celebrities to reporting backstage at Fashion Week and judging the w&h Beauty Awards.