Bronzer 101 for Every Skin Tone

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Bronzer can be a girl’s best friend. Use it correctly and you can get that gorgeous glow Jennifer Lopez seems to have patented. Use it incorrectly though and you can be a stand-in for “Jersey Shore” minus the $30K per show paycheck.

So if you’ve ever struggled with how to use bronzer, what shades to use for your complexion (we’ll go from fair to deep here), and why one would use it in the first place, you’ve come to the right place.

So do you need bronzer?

No one needs bronzer, but if you want to warm up the skin, look like you’ve had a little vacay with a look that you can wash away, contour the skin, or get a great sun-kissed look, then bronzer is definitely the way to go.

For the most natural look, sweep some a fluffy brush into your bronzer and trace an “E” along your temples, to your cheekbones, and to your jawline (this is a trick I picked up while working at Estee Lauder). If you want something a bit more prominent, you can go over the area with a second dusting. Don’t get too crazy—the idea is to look as if the sun gently kissed you; not tongue kissed you and got you pregnant.

To use it to contour, use a shade of bronzer about 2-3 shades darker than your skin tone. Matte finishes work best for contouring since shimmer can take away the spotlight. You can use an angled brush to contour along the temples, the hollows of the cheeks, or even the bridge of the nose. For more tips on contouring, check out Contouring Courtesy of Allure Magazine and/or Ask Danielle: How to Contour Very Deep, Dark Skin.

For darker skin tones, it’s tough finding a bronzer that’s darker than your skin, but you can still benefit from using bronzer. You can use it to highlight your cheekbones or for a really pretty look, apply it your cheeks then apply a bright peach, pink, or red blush over it for a gorgeous look that will have you doing overtime in front of the mirror.

For more fair skin tones, don’t feel the pressure of using bronzer just because everyone else is doing it. Go with it if it’s a look you love, not because everyone else tells you that your skin needs color. Fair skin tones look great with sheer icy pink or gold illuminators as bronzer alternatives.

P.S. Bronzers look awesome when paired with bright colors (um, do you how hot Hilary Rhoda looks in that Estee Lauder ad with the bronzed skin and turquoise shadow and Nia Long with the bronzy skin and purple shadow?). Use as appropriate (Monday morning board meetings need not apply).

So what bronzers should you look at for your skin tone? Pick a celeb whose skin tones mostly matches your own and check out the products I’ve suggested. You don’t have to use the exact brand, but get familiar with the bronzer colors that look best for your skin tone.

Try: Benefit Hoola, NARS Laguna, Bobbi Brown Bronzing Powder in Light or Medium, Korres Monoi Oil Bronzing Powder in Sunglow Light. Or luminizers like Benefit High Beam, Benefit Dandelion, NARS The Multiple in Luxor

Try: Dior Bronze Matte Sunshine SPF 20 in Honey Matte, Guerlain Terracotta Light Sheer Bronzing Powder in Brunette 02, tarte Bronze to Go, Bare Escentuals All Over Face Color in Warmth, Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder in #03. Or luminizers like NARS The Multiple in South Beach, NARS The Multiple in Lamu, Benefit Moon Beam

Try: Bare Escentuals All Over Face Color in Warmth, Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder in #04, NARS Casino, Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer, Covergril Queen Collection Bronzer in Brown Bronze, Yves Saint Laurent Bronzing Powder in #3 Golden Sand

Try: Covergirl Queen Collection Bronzer in Brown Bronze, NARS Bronzer in Casino and Irrésistiblement, Bare Escentuals All Over Face Color in Warmth, Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder in Terracotta 4, Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzing Powder, Yves Saint Laurent Bronzing Powder in #3 Golden Sand

Try: Covergirl Queen Collection Bronzer in Brown Bronze, NARS Bronzer in Casino and Irrésistiblement, Bare Escentuals All Over Face Color in Warmth, Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder in Terracotta #5, Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzing Powder, Too Faced Caribbean In A Compact – Sun Bunny

Try: Queen Collection Bronzer in Brown Bronze, Laura Mercier Bronzing Duo in Bronzing, Too Faced Caribbean In A Compact – Sun Bunny, NARS Bronzer in Casino, LORAC Bronzer in Warm Glow, Iman Sheer Finish Bronzer in After Glow

Try: Queen Collection Bronzer in Brown Bronze, Laura Mercier Bronzing Duo in Bronzing, MAC Refined Deeper Golden Bronzer, LORAC Blush/Bronzer Duo in Hot Flash, NARS Bronzer in Casino, Iman Sheer Finish Bronzer in After Glow

Try: (use your bronzer as a highlighter or wear it on the cheeks with a bright blush color over it) Queen Collection Bronzer in Ebony Bronze, Queen Collection Bronzer in Brown Bronze, LORAC Bronzer in Warm Glow, Too Faced Caribbean In A Compact – Sun Bunny, Iman Sheer Finish Bronzer in After Glow

Try: (use bronzer more as a highlighter or you can layer it with a bright blush color on your cheeks) Queen Collection Bronzer in Ebony Bronze, LORAC Bronzer in Warm Glow, Too Faced Caribbean In A Compact – Sun Bunny, Iman Sheer Finish Bronzer in After Glow

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About Danielle

A former finance girl, Danielle is a New York City based freelance writer and fashion and beauty expert. She's a Hofstra University and Fashion Institute of Technology grad with an obsession with fashion and beauty which she loves to tell you all about every weekday on her award-winning blog. Think of her as your style and beauty entourage all wrapped up into one bubbly brown package. Danielle's work and expertise can be found in print and across the web in Cosmopolitan for Latinas, Allure.com, and more! She's also appeared as an on-air style and beauty expert on The Real, CBS New York's "The Couch" and WPIX11's Savvy Shopper segment.
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18 Responses to Bronzer 101 for Every Skin Tone

  1. Danielle says:

    New blog post: Bronzer 101 for Every Skin Tone: http://bit.ly/gBLW5k

  2. RT @StyleNBeautyDoc: New blog post: Bronzer 101 for Every Skin Tone: http://bit.ly/gBLW5k

  3. RT @StyleNBeautyDoc: New blog post: Bronzer 101 for Every Skin Tone: http://bit.ly/gBLW5k

  4. loveletters says:

    Danielle! thanks for this post! it answers EVERY question i had about bronzers and dark skin. Also, seeing what works on lighter skin tones helps me to understand what a bronzer is supposed to do for the skin. A+! xo…

  5. dionne white says:

    RT @stylenbeautydoc: Bronzer 101 for Every Skin Tone http://bit.ly/en0aKl

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  16. Erica says:

    Hi :)

    I know that this is a pretty old post, but I’d love to be able to see the corresponding photos to the bronzer selections.

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