Bougie vs. Broke Bronzers: Review of Benefit Hoola and Physicians Formula Bronzers

Bronzer used to scare me. I found it unnatural and unnecessary; a one-way ticket to Oompa Loompa Land. Bronzer was for more dramatic, 90210 types, not me. Well, I wrong. This staying in the house all the time (thanks COVID-19 quarantine!) has me pale AF. Bronzer provides a nice flush of color that makes it look like I’ve gone somewhere. Like vacation. Or the park.

In Bougie vs. Broke, I compare two similar products at different price points. In this edition, the Benefit Hoola Bronzer is the bougie bronzer, Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer the broke.

Let’s start with a quick swatch test so you can see what we’re working with. On the right is the Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer swatch and on the left is a swatch of the Benefit Hoola Bronzer. They look similar. Read on to see how they differ.

What Is Bronzer?

physicians formula butter bronzer swatch vs benefit hoola bronzer swatch
Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer swatch & Benefit Hoola Bronzer swatch

Bronzer mimics a sun-kissed glow. It can be in powder, cream, or liquid form. They can be in warm, cool, or neutral tones. Bronzers will look better when they match the wearer’s skin tone. (Not sure what your skin tone is? Here’s a helpful guide.)

Warm Undertone Bronzer Colors

  • Golden Brown Colors

Cool Undertone Colors

  • Peach
  • Beige
  • Bronze
  • Soft Brown

Neutral Undertone Colors

  • Natural brown-based hues—neither yellow, golden, pink, or peach

What’s the Difference Between Bronzer and Contour?

Both bronzer and contour are used to apply depth to a makeup look. And the products can look similar in tone, packaging, and form (both can be powder, cream, or liquid). But they aren’t the same thing. They don’t have the same purpose.

Contour is used to create shadows on the face. And these shadows can change/tweak appearance. Contour can provide the illusion of more prominent cheekbones, a stronger jawline, a smaller nose, fuller lips, a slimmer face, and more. Bronzer is used to provide natural-looking warmth, not shadows.

Though I have used bronzer to contour, it’s not the best practice. The shades of these products are just too different. Shadows are typically gray and cool-toned. So if I bronze with contour, I look washed out. A tan or glow is a warmer tone. If I contour with bronzer, I look orange. None of that is cute.

physicians formula butter bronzer swatch on one cheek, benefit hoola bronzer swatch on the other cheek

Where Do I Apply Bronzer?

Remember how I thought bronzer was for 90210 types? That’s cuz I thought it was supposed to go everywhere. And it’s not. If it were meant to go everywhere, we could just apply darker foundation. Bronzer should be focused on areas the sun would hit naturally. Mainly, the forehead, cheekbones, and jawline. Applying bronzer in an “E” or “3” shape on the sides of the face will ensure these areas are hit.

Don’t forget the sides of the neck. The face and neck need to match. And blush is important. Adding a pop of color to cheeks helps complete the natural, flushed effect.

Bougie vs. Broke

While testing these products, I noted the ease of application, blendability, pigmentation, texture, longevity, and the verity of product claims. My face was entirely covered in Benefit Hoola bronzer one day, Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer the next. Some days I went half and half to test both products at once.

Benefit Hoola Bronzer Review

Benefit hoola bronzer

Benefit Hoola Bronzer has recently expanded from one shade into four. The company claims, “all shades feature the same soft, blendable formula and matte finish that made original Hoola a cult-favorite. With shades to flatter all complexions, it’s perfect for getting a natural-looking tan all year long. Comes complete with a built-in mirror and powder brush, so you can seamlessly sweep on some sunshine!”

The Benefit bronzer looks unassuming, but don’t let that fool you. The first swipe of color was faint; but so easily buildable. I liked the subtlety. It was harder to mess up the application or look garish. Hoola bronzer looks very natural. The matte formula truly does mimic a sun-kissed glow, sans glitter.

The real star was the blendability of the formula. It can quickly be laid on cheeks, forehead, and jawline; then easily blended. This product is also a great choice for a no-maintenance eye look. I could easily blend it on my face and also my eyelid crease. This led to an effortless monochromatic look that took all of five minutes to apply. And it lasted all day, through naps, hormonal sweats, and grubby toddlers grabbing at my face. The formula did not get patchy, fade, or smudge.

Benefit hoola bronzer on face

Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer Review

physicians formula butter bronzer swatch
Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer swatch is so creamy on the arm
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Physicians Formula is very proud of the active ingredients in their product. They’ve put the tongue twister “murumuru” right in the name. It touts murumuru butter, cupuacu butter, and tucuma butter as ingredients that make their Butter Bronzer…buttery. The company states:

Ultra-luxurious bronzer, infused with Murumuru Butter, delivers a radiant Brazilian goddess glow! Incredibly creamy and soft texture combines the best features of a powder and cream bronzer, to deliver a lit-from-within tropical glow unlike any other. Packed with essential fatty acids and pro-vitamins that soften, condition, and moisturize skin, leaving it silky soft. Ultra-rich bronzer formula instantly melts into skin, sealing-in moisture to deliver instant and lasting hydration. Features ultra-refined pearl and soft-focus pigments that smooth skin texture, brighten skin tone and, deliver a gorgeous bronze finish.

The Butter Bronzer shows up easily. One swipe of the brush and I can see it. The bronzer blends and builds easily. I can feel its unique texture when I swipe it on my arm, but not so much on my face. And that texture does blend well. However, if you have a super oily complexion, I’m not sure the buttery texture would work for you.

This bronzer lasts all day without fading or smudging. It also boasts a lot of pigment, a little bit goes a long way.  And, side note, the Butter Bronzer smells amazing. I bought the little Butter Bronzer set that came out last summer just so I could get my hands on the perfume.

But the claims of moisture and lasting hydration? I ain’t buying it. My skin feels no more moisturized, with the bronzer on or upon removal, than normal.

physicians formula butter bronzer swatch on face

And The Winner Is…

This was a stiff competition. But Benefit Hoola Bronzer wins by a nose. Or a cheekbone. Whatever. And my Facebook friends and Instagram followers agree. When I posted a picture of myself wearing both products, 100% of respondents said they liked Benefit Hoola bronzer side best.

Both bronzing products have long-lasting, blendable, and buildable formulas. However, I think the Hoola bronzer is more universally flattering. It is more easily blendable and buildable than the Physicians Formula Murumura Butter Bronzer. The more subtle pigment makes it goof-proof. And it can double as an eye shadow.

While the Physician Formula bronzer is slightly more creamy, I don’t think it is ideal for all skin types. And its claim to moisturize skin irritates me. It’s also a bit expensive for a drug store product. The higher price of the Benefit bronzer is worth the product performance and ease.

benefit hoola bronzer wins

What are some of your favorite bronzers? Do you agree with my winner pick? What’s your summer makeup look? Let me know in the comments!

Happy bronzing!


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Megan writes everything on Ish Mom. She possesses a bachelor's degree in psychology, a flair for theatrics, and a whole lotta nerve. She lives in the Midwest (and loves it) with her wonderful husband and three young boys.

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