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Best bronzers 2018: we test the best bronzers for contouring and sun-kissed skin

A sun-kissed glow, sculpted cheekbones, a defined nose, fuller cleavage (yes, really) – this item should always be in your 'fake it till you make it' toolkit.

But the line between fake and natural is fine, so it can be hard to strike a balance.

That's the difference between cakey and fine-milled mineral powders, or tacky orange hues versus a subtle, sun-kissed hint.

New-generation formulas promise to deliver on the natural part, but there's a lot to choose from – creams, contour sticks, duo palettes and powders – and some perform better than others.

What you want is hard-working, long-lasting and multitasking products.

We put both luxury and budget beauty brands to the test in order to bring you the best bronzers money can buy:

Star buys

There's a reason makeup artists and celebrities like Millie Mackintosh (she uses Laguna) swear by this bronzer.

The powder is finely-milled to stop cakiness and lightly pigmented, so you can build on it to create the an all-over glow or subtle facial contours.

Both 'Casino' and 'Laguna' are super matte with no sparkly undertones, so you can get a really natural-looking finish.

  • NARS Bronzing Powder, £30 from Feel Unique – buy here

The UKs best-selling bronzer, Hoola has a matte brown hue that works for a wide range of skin tones but those with very pale tones should use Hoola Lite instead.

Don't let the cardboard box put you off. It may not be as streamlined as NARS' offering but its actually protective and prevents the compact cracking when you hit the pan (my Hoola lasts me a year at a time although heavier use may see 6 months).

It also comes neatly boxed with a flat brush which you can angle to contour or dust – perfect for taking out and about with you. At home though, we suggest using Benefit's better quality blusher bamboo brush.

FYI: personalised Hoola (the perfect Christmas gift) is coming your way in just 3 weeks: for an extra £2.50 you can get a name printed onto your bronzer by Benefit. Obsessed.

  • Benefit Hoola bronzing powder, £24.50 from Look Fantastic – buy here

Best bronzer for shades

Too Faced wins for the prettiest compact and the most intoxicating smell – yes, it really does smell like chocolate.

As for the bronzer, it's super matte for a natural look but the powder is not too tightly packed, so a little goes a long way.

Still, you don't need to worry about building colour because this baby comes in five different shades: light, milk, dark, diffused with shimmer or halved with a highlighter.

If you're on a budget, new beauty brand on the block Winky Lux has just launched its UK website and does a range of delicious coffee-scented bronzers for only £15.20.

  • Too Faced Chocolate Bronzer, £25 from ASOS – buy here

Best bronzer for contouring

 

The award-winning Film Star bronze & Glow comes in a long compact with a decently sized mirror – great for doing your makeup on the morning commute.

In the worlds of Charlotte Tilbury, to use this product you suck in your cheeks and "follow the hollow" with your sculpt shade, then buff your  jaw line to create contours. Then, sweep the highlighter along your 'C section' (from next to your eye and down the cheekbone).

It may be expensive but once you see this in product in action, you realise just how Hollywood-worthy it really is – if you don't believe us, take it from the makeup artist's celebrity client list: Nicole Kidman, Kim Kardashian, Kate Moss to name but a few.

FYI: If £50 feels like a stretch, wait for Look Fantastic and Feel Unique's Black Friday sales to knock at least a tenner off.

  • Film star Bronze & Glow, £49 from Charlotte Tilbury – buy here

Best body bronzer

We can't believe how reasonable St Tropez's sculpting powder is; normal bronzers contain 9g but because this one is for the whole body, it's 26g.

If you're savvy and use this product on your face only, it could last forever (you should never keep a powdered product for more than four years however because it will go off and if you have had any skin infections or acne flare ups in that time, ditch it asap!)

This sleek compact comes with a tri-wheel compartmented with a graduation of colours – use all three for all-over bronzing or get busy with different brushes to define and sculpt your cheekbones, decolletage, collarbones and even your shins to slim your legs (yes, this is a thing).

  • St Tropez 3 in 1 Sculpting Powder, £15 from Feel Unique – buy here

Best liquid bronzer

What's good about this bronzer? The clue is in the name: if its dewy skin you're after, a cream product is the way to go.

New-generation powders are finely milled so they don't look cakey, but nothing beats the fresh glow of Dew the Hoola.

Packaged in a playful bamboo pot with a handy pump dispenser, this liquid formula is highly pigmented so a lot goes a long way.

It's versatile too: blend into cheekbones with fingers or mix with foundation or moisturiser to create an all-over tan.

  • Benefit Dew the Hoola bronzer, £24.50 from Look Fantastic – buy here

Best bronzers under £10

Consider Délice de Poudre the Hoola of the high street – it's considered one of the best bronzers out there but costs less than a tenner.

Packaged in a flat cardboard compact designed to look like chocolate, it has the faint smell of it too – but nothing like the Too Faced range.

Choose from two matte bronzers or the duo contouring kit complete with an illuminating highlighter.

  • Bourjois Délice De Poudre Bronzer, £7.99 from Feel Unique – buy here

Another drugstore wonder, Max Factor's crème bronzer is marbled with multi-tonal shades to create a streak-free colour for your cheekbones.

Made from baked minerals diffused with a illuminating particles, this product creates radiance rather than sparkle.

It comes in two shades, light gold and bronze, but you can always build upon it to achieve the desired colour.

  • Max Factor Crème Bronzer, £9.99 from Feel Unique – buy here

Best budget bronzer

MUA is a cruelty-free beauty brand that sells makeup at seriously good prices – it's not like your typical budget beauty ranges though, the company is up to date with the latest trends and constantly innovating.

If you're pinching the pennies, its bronzing powder is a life saver.

At only £2.50 we suggest you buy both the matt and a bronzed version to create different looks for both day and night.

  • MUA bronzing powder, £2.50 from Superdrug – buy here

Looking for the best mascara to buy? You don't have spend as much as you think – find out more.

And, these are the best foundations for oily, dry and sensitive skin.

In other beauty news, we may have found the answer to banishing dry feet for good.

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