Makeup Artists Reveal How To Make Bronzer Look Natural When Your Skin Hasn’t Seen the Sun in 4 Months
Now that we're getting sunshine on a semi-regular basis, my face is begging for a tan. And because I’ve yet to master the art of self-tanning—and I’m definitely not risking the sun damage by doing it the ol’ fashioned way—I’m counting on my bronzer to do the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to faking a summer glow. But when you’ve been deprived of sunshine for this long, your bronzer can go from sun-kissed to oompa loompa in a flash if you’re not careful. To learn how to make bronzer look as natural as possible and achieve that "fresh from the beach" look without having to go to the actual beach, I tapped pro makeup artists for their expert tips—and even rounded up their bronzer recs for easy shopping.
Start with an exfoliated, moisturized face
“You want to look like it's coming from within, not like you've put something on your face,” starts Yacine Diallo, a Parisian makeup artist who’s touched the faces of Ashley Graham, Sadie Sink, and Hailey Bieber. And she’s so right—I want to radiate a bronzed, post-Tulum glow, which means a patchy application just sits on top of my skin simply won’t do. “Well-exfoliated and moisturized skin is a good start for a seamless application,” she continues. A smooth and hydrated base helps keep your bronzer from clinging to dry patches and texture (which are totally normal, BTW) to give you that imperceptibly bronzed finish.
Use a light hand
To avoid going overboard—which can happen if your natural complexion is particularly starved for sunshine—Diallo recommends a light-handed bronzer application. “Gradually building the intensity is good advice too,” she says. “It's always easier to add product than to remove it.” Slowly building up your bronze will keep you from applying too much right out of the gate then frantically trying to blend it away before giving up entirely, and yes I’m speaking from personal experience.
Contrary to what TikTok trends would have us believe, there isn’t one holy grail bronzer that’ll work flawlessly for everyone. So achieving the most natural bronzer application will largely depend on the texture of the formula and how it agrees with your skin type. “You have to always keep your skin type in mind when choosing the right bronzer formula,” says Miami-based makeup artist Carolina Banegas. “If you have dry skin, I would skip the heavy powder and opt for an emollient cream bronzer formula. If you are on the oilier side but want to experiment with creams you can look for a cream formula that dries down into a more cloud-like, matte finish.” We’ll get into her recommendations later.
Apply where the sun would hit naturally
There aren’t any hard and fast rules when it comes to bronzer placement (or with makeup in general, as a reminder), so Diallo recommends applying a light dusting of bronzer all over the face, “but keep in mind that you want to sculpt and contour your face with a hint of color and give it a sunkissed glow, not necessarily ‘look tan,’" she says. She adds that applying bronzer to the places where the sun would naturally hit your face, like your forehead, is a great place to start, then you can gradually work your way down to the temples, cheeksm and chin. “You can put a little on the bridge of the nose too.” Banegas agrees, saying that applying bronzer in a number "3" motion on the sides of the face that starts slightly above your temples and moves to your cheekbones and your jawline is a great way to hit all the right spots. Be sure to use a big fluffy brush, which will diffuse the product and help you avoid streaks.
Don’t forget your neck, chin—and ears!
The jawline streak of doom will take the wind out of your naturally bronzed sails, so Diallo says you should bring your bronzer down your neck (and then some) for the most seamless, natural finish. “I like to add a little bit under the chin, because it's an area that usually doesn't get much sun exposure and tends to be lighter compared to the rest of your face,” she adds. “Then, with what's left on your brush, put a little bit on your ears to make sure you have an even, bronzy glow.”
9 MUA-approved bronzers that give you a naturally bronzed look with zero effort
Originally $36, now $29
“I love the cream-to-powder texture and the silky smooth, soft focus finish it has on the skin,” says Diallo of the Rose Inc. Solar Infusion Bronzer. “It has a very fail-proof application.” The smoothing formula blurs the look of pores and texture with ease—and even contains skin-care quality ingredients, like squalane for lightweight hydration, and vitamins C and E for an antioxidant boost.
Banegas says a bronzer that goes on sheer and can be built up is key to achieving a natural look, and the Jones Road bronzer is exactly that. It’s one of the silkiest, most finely milled powders I’ve tried, giving you a naturally bronzed look that’s impossible to mess up. It comes in seven cool and warm-toned shades and is designed to work across a range of skin tones and types (the “dusty rose” shade is perfect for fair skin, according to another W+G writer) so you’re bound to find the perfect shade match. Plus, it has over 800 reviews and a 5-star rating.
Diallo swears by Tower 28’s Bronzino for its balmy texture and subtle shimmer that gives skin a radiant, summer-ready glow. Like all of Tower 28’s products, Bronzino was developed with sensitive skin in mind and contains gentle, skin-nourishing ingredients like mango butter (for that buttery, blendable texture) and green tea (for its skin-soothing, antioxidant properties). It’s got a slightly shimmery finish, so doubles as a highlighter and can be swiped onto lids for a bronze sheen.
“It’s a classic that has been reformulated recently and also now comes in deeper shades,” says Diallo of Chanel’s best-selling bronzer. The unique, cream-gel formula glides onto skin with minimal effort (without clogging pores or causing breakouts) giving you a natural, bronzed radiance without any detectable shimmer. One thing to note though, the updated formula does contain coconut oil, so steer clear of this one if you’re sensitive to the ingredient.
Originally $35, now $28
An oldie but a goodie, there’s a reason why MUAs like Yacine keep coming back to the Benefit Hoola Bronzer. The matte formula is pigmented but not overwhelmingly so, and has a super soft texture that blends out with zero issues. And it now comes in four versatile shades so everyone can get in on its highly-coveted formula. What’s more, the shades have a slightly more neutral tone, so they could double as a contour in your makeup bag.
Originally $30, now $24
For a fail-proof bronzer that can also be used as a contour, Banegas says Makeup by Mario’s SoftSculpt Skin Enhancer is a must-have in her kit. “I love a good cream bronzer that blends seamlessly into the skin and looks natural and sunkissed,” she says. And the Skin Enhancer does all three flawlessly. The lightweight balm blends out like a dream—which means no more harsh lines—giving you a super sheer wash of bronze for a gorgeous, filtered finish. Apply it just where you would normally put bronzer or diffuse it across the entire face for a post vacation-look.
Originally $32, now $26
For a stunningly sheer, bronzed look with impeccable ingredients to match, you’ll love the Saie Sun Melt. The moisturizing balm bronzer contains derm-beloved skin-soothers like colloidal oatmeal and grapeseed oil to soothe, moisturize and protect skin—and give the bronzer its hydrating, glowy finish that’s perfect for folks with drier skin. It’s incredibly blendable—which makeup artists say is a prerequisite for achieving the most natural look—and can be diffused with your fingers, or the brand’s Buffing Bronzer Brush for a finish that can only be described as *chefs kiss*.
For a creamy bronzer formula that those with oily and combination skin types can rally behind, Banegas recommends the Em Cosmetics Bronze + Sculpt Stick. The weightless, mousse-like texture couldn’t be easier to apply, and blends out in a flash with fingers, a brush, or a sponge. The best part, though, is the fact that it can be seamlessly layered for a buildable bronze, without ever feeling tacky or heavy. Instead, it sets to a cloud-like finish that’s hydrating (thanks to the squalane infused formula) and looks virtually undetectable on the skin.
Diallo also loves Make Beauty’s Skin Mimetic Microsuede Bronzer for a naturally sun-kissed look. “It’s a buildable matte bronzer powder with a super natural, lightweight finish,” she explains. The ultra-fine, featherlight powder is infused with hyaluronic acid for added hydration, and nourishing ceramides, which means you won’t get that dry, powdery look. What you will get, however, is a super natural, skin-like finish (hence “Skin Mimetic”) that can easily be built up for more impact.
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