Blush isn't the only makeup product that gives your complexion an instant pick-me-up. A sweep of bronzer on the high points of your face creates subtle definition (hello, cheekbones) while also adding a beautiful, allover warmth that will trick people into thinking you just got back from vacation — minus the sun damage.
However, much like foundation and concealer, bronzer can go catastrophically wrong if you don't find the right shade for your skin tone. As a general rule, you want to steer clear of any bronzers that look too orange or gray, as these tones can make you look unnaturally tan or washed out. (It's always a good idea to check out how the color looks in natural light to ensure it's a spot-on match.)
Since we know how confusing it can be to determine your exact skin tone and its undertones, we tapped makeup artists who bronze faces on the daily to share their knowledge on this beloved beauty staple. Ahead, check out their expert picks, plus the tried-and-true methods they use to find the perfect shade for every client.
Fair Skin Tones
People who have very fair skin tend to shy away from bronzer, as it can be tricky to find a shade that won't come across too orange or too muddy. However, just a couple of simple guidelines will get you glowing, no matter how pale your complexion is. Makeup artist Elisa Flowers recommends looking for one just a shade or two darker than your natural skin tone and always, always using a light hand when applying. Additionally, she suggests trying on the color before buying — preferably in natural light — to ensure it doesn't look unnaturally stark.
Dior Diorskin Mineral Nude Bronze Healthy Glow Bronzing Powder
Flowers cites one of her favorite bronzers for fair-skinned people as this beaut by Dior. Diorskin Mineral Nude Bronze Healthy Glow Bronzing Powder comes in six shades, including this one (001 Soft Sunrise), which is the lightest shade of the bunch. "This glowy, mineral bronzer is so pretty on fair and very light skin," she says, explaining that it's especially ideal for those who have rosy tones in their complexion. "Simply buff it lightly across the forehead, cheeks, and along the jawline to softly warm up the skin," she adds.
Chanel Les Beiges Healthy Glow Luminous Colour
New York City-based makeup artist Ingeborg recommends this bronzer from Chanel's Les Beiges line, which offers amazing options for people with extremely fair, near-translucent skin. "It's so, so subtle, but instantly makes your skin look so healthy-looking," she says. Flowers is a fan, too, saying it illuminates skin and helps to set makeup.
Maybelline New York City Bronzer
Maybelline's City Bronzer in its lightest shade, 100, barely looks like a bronzer — but sometimes that's exactly what fair skin needs to get that subtle hint of warmth and dimension. Made with cocoa butter, it blends in beautifully, so it never reads as "I'm wearing bronzer" but rather "I just naturally glow."
Light to Medium Skin Tones
Those with light and medium complexions can also benefit from choosing shades one or two decimals darker than their natural skin color. You also want to look for options that aren't overly cool or warm, but instead neutral in order to get the most natural-looking glow possible. "Be sure to avoid bronzers that appear overly orange or red-toned in the pan, as it will only come across more intense when you apply it to the skin," says Flowers.
Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer
Yes, this 2018 Best of Beauty-winning matte bronzer smells like chocolate, and yes, it also comes in the perfect shades to achieve a sun-kissed glow all year round. But it's not just light to medium skin tones than can enjoy Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Bronzer. Infused with cocoa powder and bronzing pigments, this matte bronzer comes in three shades: Milk Chocolate Soleil (light matte bronze), Chocolate Soleil (medium matte bronze), and Dark Chocolate Soleil (deep tan) to fit many skin tones.
Kristofer Buckle Exposure Matte Warming Powder
Kristofer Buckle's Warming Powder is one of the most natural-looking bronzers we've ever tried (and hit pan on). While there are only two shades — light and deep — neither look overwhelming on the skin, going on incredibly light. And both can be built up to create a beautiful warmth that's neither orange nor muddy.
Hard Candy Just Glow! Bronzer
Just warm enough without overflowing into that too-orange zone, Hard Candy's Just Glow! Bronzer is ideal for those with light-to-medium skin tones, especially when you want a hint of shimmer. The creaminess of the formula keeps this bronzer from going overboard with sparkle, but the radiance it imparts allows it to serve as a bronzer-highlighter hybrid.
Tan Skin Tones
People with olive-toned skin can get away with wearing most bronzer shades as long as you don't stray too far from your natural skin color. But unlike with lighter skin tones, Flowers says to look for terracotta hues that have a hint of red to them, as they look beautiful on tan complexions.
Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow
For those with medium-to-tan skin tones, Ingeborg highly recommends giving Charlotte Tilbury's fan-favorite Filmstar Bronze & Glow a go. "Not only is it a beautiful bronzer, but it's a great contour and highlight, too," she says, adding that it's not overly orangey and it blends easily, so you don't have to worry about awkward streaks or patchy areas. "It's so stunning."
Make Up For Ever Pro Bronze Fusion Bronzer
Make Up For Ever's Pro Bronze Fusion is an innovative, waterproof, gel-to- powder formula that comes in six shades and two different finishes: matte and iridescent. Flowers says, "I recommend 30M Natural Matte Sienna on olive or golden skin tones, as it just gives the healthiest-looking glow to the skin without being too overpowering." She also says to be careful not to apply too much, as a little goes a long way with this one.
Bite Beauty Changemaker Flexible Coverage Pressed Powder
Just because something isn't called a bronzer doesn't mean it can't serve as one — and Bite's Changemaker Flexible Coverage Pressed Powder does exactly that for tan skin tones. Just like Flowers recommends, the deeper shades in this range lean a little terracotta without straying too far from natural skin tones. The volcanic formula blends beautifully, so the warmth it provides will look like it comes from within, not from on top.
Dark Skin Tones
It can be especially tricky (and unfairly so) for those with dark and deep complexions to find a suitable bronzer, as there are fewer options on the market that cater to them. That being said, there are some brands getting it right. Ultimately, your best bet is to look for ranges that offer deep shades that will not only show up but add a gorgeous glow to the skin, like the ones ahead. And remember: nothing beats trying them on to see how they look in natural light.
Guerlain Terracota Bronzing Powder
One of Flowers's must-haves for dark skin tones is the classic Guerlain Terracota Bronzing Powder in the shade 09 Intense. "It has a silky feel, is super buildable, and is great for deep, golden skin tones," she explains, noting that it's also moisturizing and extremely pigmented.
Becca Sunlit Bronzer
Flowers suggests this bronzer from Becca for those looking for some subtle sheen in addition to warmth. "Ipanema Sun is perfect for warm, golden undertones, and Maui Nights works great for those with reddish or sienna tones," she explains. "Sweep it across the highest points of the face to create a gorgeous glow and a touch of color."
Bobbi Brown Bronzer
"For a little more of a rosy, caramel shade, try Bobbi Brown's Bronzer in Deep," says Flowers. "It's a soft, matte formula with buildable coverage and a perfect balance of color between red and brown." If you're looking for more bronzers for dark skin tones, we've got you covered in our extensive review of several options.
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