Note: Click here to view all the bronzers in the shop.
How We Chose These Products
This is how products were selected and ranked. Sources, swatches, and videos are linked at the end of this article.
First of all, we gathered all options that are widely available in drugstores and priced under the $20 mark. The brands below are either available at Ulta, Target, Walmart, Amazon, as well as other local drugstores across the US, Canada, and the UK. All products are also cruelty-free.
The quality of the bronzer was the main criteria. We looked for bronzers that are smooth, buttery, and easy to blend with minimal kickback. Bonus points for products that have a good quality-to-price ratio.
Variety and inclusivity
First, we looked for inclusive shade ranges, which is currently less common for drugstore products, but luckily brands are starting to expanding their shades and cater to more skin tones. Second, we looked for a variety of finishes to cover every personal preference. We included both matte and luminous bronzers. Most products mentioned are also vegan.
We calculated the price per once for each product. The average price for 1 oz of product was $25.42. At only $9.60 per ounce, the best deal is Essence by a landslide. Unfortunately this product is only available in 2 shades for light skin.
Here are all the products ranked by price, from least expensive to most expensive (per ounce).
- Essence Sun Club Matt Bronzer ($9.60/oz)
- ELF Primer Infused Bronzer ($17.14/oz)
- Makeup Revolution Splendor Matte Bronzer ($22.22/oz)
- Milani Silky Matte Bronzer ($29.39/oz)
- NYX Matte Bronzer ($30.30/oz)
- CoverGirl TruBlend High Pigment Bronzer ($33.30/oz)
- Milani Baked Bronzer ($35.96/oz)
Bronzing vs. Contouring
Most of the products in this article are matte, with the exception of CoverGirl and Milani's Baked Bronzer. Matte bronzers can also be used for contouring as long as you're choosing a shade that mimics your natural shadow. Typically, these shades will be more cool-toned and less orangey. Since there's a wide selection of shades, most skin tones should be able to find a contour shade in the selection of matte bronzers below.
1. Milani Silky Matte Bronzing Powder
A buttery soft bronzer that's described as a great dupe for Fenty's Sun Stalk'r Instant Warmth Bronzer. It's a matte and has the softest formula of all the products mentioned, with no kickback. It's easy to blend and not at all powdery.
It's available in 3 shades. Sun Light is described as a light brown and is ideal for light to light-medium skin tones. It has a neutral undertone and should work with both cool and warm undertones. Sun Kissed is a medium cool brown, and Sun Tan is a medium warm brown. Both are ideal for (you guessed it) medium skin tones.
Although there are 3 shades, those with fair or deep skin tones might not find a good match for them.
|Best For||A high-end experience|
|Shade Range||3 Shades|
|Price per Ounce||$29.39|
|Price||$9.99 for 0.34oz|
2. Makeup Revolution Splendor Matte Bronzer
This bronzer first stands out because it comes in 6 shades, some of which work for those with darker skin. No other drugstore bronzer compares in terms of shade range, and this one definitely offers the darkest shade. It also offers a huge amount of product, especially for the price.
The product itself is easy to blend, and has a matte finish. It has a coconut-pineapple summery scent, much like the Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer.
This is the darkest drugstore bronzer currently available. It comes in 6 shades, from lightest to deepest:
- Medium Dark
- Deep Dark
The Light shade is neutral and works best for those with (you guessed it) lighter skin tones. The Medium and Dark shades are more neutral to warm, while Medium-Dark and Deep have a cooler tone. Some might find that the deeper shades have a purple undertones, though this will depend on individual undertones.
|Best For||Darker skin|
|Shade Range||6 Shades|
|Price per Ounce||$22.22|
|Price||$12 for 0.54oz|
3. ELF Primer Infused Bronzer
Because it's "primer infused", this bronzer is smooth and blendable but also long-lasting. At only $6 and available in most drugstores across the US and Canada, this is a great product to go for. The finish is matte, and all the shades have neutral to cooler undertones.
This bronzer comes in 3 shades from light to medium. Constantly Bronzed is the darkest shade, and it's ideal for those with a medium skin tone and neutral to red undertones.
Perpetually Tan is the middle shade and it works well with those with light-medium skin tones and cooler undertones. Forever Sunkissed is the lightest shade, and it works best for those with a light skin tone and neutral to cool undertones.
e.l.f. Primer-Infused Bronzer
|Best For||Easy to find and great for the price|
|Shade Range||3 Shades|
|Price per Ounce||$17.14|
|Price||$6 for 0.35oz|
4. Essence Sun Club Matt Bronzing Powder
This bronzer comes in a huge pan and you get almost twice the product you're getting with other drugstore bronzers. It has a coconut scent much like the Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer (not cruelty-free). It's easy to blend, buildable, and has a soft texture. The finish is matte.
This bronzer only comes in 2 shades. The lighter shade is called "Blondes: Lighter Skin 01" and the darkest shade is called "Brunettes: Darker Skin 02". These shades will only work for those with light to light-medium skin tones, and they currently have no shades for deeper skin.
|Best For||Best quality for the price|
|Shade Range||2 Shades|
|Price per Ounce||$9.60|
|Price||$4.99 for 0.52oz|
5. Milani Baked Bronzer
If you want a bronzer that's on the glowy side, this might be the perfect option. This bronzer has a luminous finish and golden reflects, and will give you a glowing tan.
It's available in 3 shades (Dolce, Glow, and Soleil). Dolce is a light warm shade with golden reflects, ideal for those with warm undertones. Glow is a cooler tone with golden reflects and it's ideal for light skin with cool undertones. Finally, Soleil is ideal for those with medium skin and red or cool undertones. It also contains golden reflects.
Though there are 3 shades, there's very little variation between the two lighter shades, as they vary in tone but not in depth. The darkest shade works with medium tones, and there are no option for either fair or deep skin.
|Best For||Glowy and Golden|
|Shade Range||3 Shades|
|Price per Ounce||$35.96|
|Price||$8.99 for 0.25oz|
6. NYX Matte Bronzer
A great all-around bronzer that can easily be found in drugstores. Though it's not as smooth as the top bronzers on this list, it's easy to blend and comes in multiple shades so it might be easier to find a perfect match.
There are only 3 shades listed on Ulta, but NYX's website offers a total of 5. Based on the swatches provided by NYX, the shades are roughly similar in depth although not in tone. There are no shades for fair or dark complexions, though there's a good range to choose from if you're light-medium.
NYX Matte Bronzer
|Best For||Many shades for light-medium skin|
|Shade Range||5 Shades|
|Price per Ounce||$30.30|
|Price||$10 for 0.33oz|
7. CoverGirl TruBlend So Flushed High Pigment Bronzer
This bronzer is part of CoverGirl's So Flushed blush collection, which is ultra-pigmented. The bronzer is also highly pigmented and gives a luminous, glowy finish.
This bronzer only comes in one shade which is best suited for lighter skin.
|Best For||A widely available cruelty-free option|
|Shade Range||1 Shade|
|Price per Ounce||$33.30|
|Price||$10.99 for 0.33oz|
The best overall bronzer considering price and performance is Milani's Silky Matte Bronzer. At $9.99 a pop, it's a good price for a bronzer that applies smoothly and compares to a higher-end product.
However, Milani's bronzer falls short when it comes to the shade range. For a bronzer offering an extended shade range, we suggest Makeup Revolution's Splendor Matte Bronzer. It suits deeper tones, is easy to blend, and you get almost twice the product compared to the average pan size.
Elf and Essence also offer great overall bronzers at affordable prices.
References and swatches:
- NYX Matte Bronzer Swatches (Amazon).
- Let's talk about these Makeup Revolution Bronzers (Nyma Tang).
- Milani Baked Bronzer Swatches (Instagram).
- 10 Drugstore bronzers that beat high-end (Juicyjas).
- Are these Essence bronzers brown-skinned friendly? (Jhazzmin Rose)
- Elf Cosmetics Primer Infused Bronzer: Not Yellow Undertone Friendly (Thats Just Karin).
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