There really is no "too pale" or "too dark" for bronzer, but you'd be forgiven for thinking that. Often, bronzer is relegated to the makeup products you have to know how to apply—so you're stuck thinking, "How do I contour again? Where exactly does the sun hit me, theoretically, if I were to ever go outside?" And then there's the color issue: No one wants to be left looking too orange. Or worse: looking the same as usual because your bronzer is too muted to show up, and now you've wasted your time. No fun whatsoever.
But! There's another approach, one very lovingly dictated to us by makeup artist Ingeborg and then demonstrated on five separate ladies with five very different complexions. The simple way to think about it is thusly: Stop worrying about high points and realistic contouring, because if you lightly dust the right shade all over, you'll look like you've just come back from the most satisfying vacation anyone's ever taken since Kate Winslet borrowed Cameron Diaz's mansion and met Jack Black in The Holiday. It's so simple, too! Now all you've got to worry about is which color to pick. So, walk with us, from light to dark:
Tarte Amazonian Clay Matte Waterproof Bronzer in Park Avenue Princess: A light, rosy face dictates a light, rosy bronzer. When the goal is realistic color, think about how your skin reacts to the sun. "This one looks more natural on fair skin because if you're out in the sun for long, you're going to get pinker rather than more olive," Ingeborg said.
Dr. Hauschka Translucent Bronzing Tint: Working with a liquid tint might seem vaguely terrifying if you're not a paid professional, but that's where your moisturizer comes in. "This one is very easy for someone who doesn't know how to apply bronzer with a brush or tends to go too heavy and get streaks," explains Ingeborg. "If you add a bit of moisturizer to thin it out, you can apply it with your fingertips for an all-over glow." And because you can control how much you use, it works from light skin to medium seamlessly.
Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder in 00: When in doubt, go Guerlain Terracotta. It comes in eight shades, and even the lightest 00 is an easy way to look instantly healthier. "This one is more apricot, so it takes all the blue and grey tones of the skin almost like a color corrector, which is why it’s so universally flattering," Ingeborg said. The lighter shades go on subtle, but the darker shades become a little more difficult to apply. But obviously not too difficult—it's still the brand's no. 1 best seller.
Vapour Organic Beauty Solar Translucent Bronzer in Simmer: Bronzer sticks and multiples are the exceptions that prove the "creams are easier to apply" rule. It's probably best that you don't rub the product directly on the face without warming it up on your fingers first—that'll prevent streaking. Ingeborg actually used a foundation brush to apply the Vapour onto Gia for a little more definition. "But you don't really have to worry about this one," she says. "It's super sheer and buildable, so very easy to control with a brush."
Diorskin Nude Shimmer Instant Illuminating Powder in 002: Ingeborg had never worked with this particular shade, and upon first brush of the stuff, she declared it the chicest thing she'd ever seen. "This beige is super flawless," she said, if you're looking for that effortless, rich girl skin (and now that rich-girl hair is a thing, why not?). It's got apricot, traditional bronze, and a rosier shades of brown to match and warm up olive skin tones without going orangey or fake—think of it as a multi-tasker product for anyone who wants a base powder, color, and mica particles in one. Instant Lauren Hutton face.
Nars Bronzing Powder in Casino: "I went for Casino instead of Laguna because with skin like Bruna's, while light, it helped bring out her exotic-ness," Ingebord explained. It's in part thanks to the reddish undertones. Are you sensing a pattern yet? When looking for a realistic color, no matter your skin tone, warmer is the answer.
RMS Beauty Buriti Bronzer: "This is actually a bronzer that looks good on pretty much anyone, from very fair to super dark because you can blend it out on pale girls, but also let it transform darker, olive tones into something more rosy," Ingeborg explains. It's also got a hint of shimmer, so people with darker skin tones, like Brittany, won't look dulled out or matte. Gleaming, though—not glistening.
Bobbi Brown Bronzing Powder in Deep: a standby if ever there was one. Perhaps the most perfect shade for skin on the cusp of dark, but not quite deep, to sport a tan sans sun exposure. Lightly dust everywhere from forehead to décolletage.
CoverGirl Queen Collection Natural Hue Minerals Bronzer in Ebony Bronze: When darker skin tones take on bluer undertones, steer away from redder bronzers. "I never want to change anyone's skin tone that drastically," Ingeborg said. But with red undertones, like with Kimberlynn, a bit of rich, dark bronzer can liven up the face. "I applied this powder with my fingertips—sometimes I find that makes powder look a bit more natural."
Nars The Multiple in South Beach: "She was already nice, beautiful, and sunny and dark in certain spots on her face," Ingeborg said of Kimberlynn. "So I went for the highlight approach just to give some dew. I put it in a triangle from her eyebrow to her cheekbone, around her outer eye for a bit of a contour. It's super sheer. Finish it off with a touch on the bridge of the nose, cheekbones, Cupid’s bow, and eyelids, just to tie it all together. You can't go wrong."
Jemma Baines, Gia Tang, Bruna De Bortoli, Brittany Depriest, Kimberlynn Parris (One Management) photographed by Tom Newton. Makeup by Ingeborg. For more makeup slideshows, click here.
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