Photo: Getty Images
Done right, bronzer is awesome. It can make you look healthy and sun-kissed—like you just spent a week somewhere warm and exotic a la Tulum or St. Tropez. But when it’s done wrong, it can go very, very wrong. The words ‘muddy,’ ‘streaky’ and ‘Paris Hilton circa 2004’ come to mind. We’ll take a wild guess that the latter is not the look you’re going for this summer. Here, learn what mistakes might be giving away your glow—and exactly how to fix them.
MISTAKE #1: YOU’RE CHOOSING THE WRONG SHADE
Although some bronzers may be touted as a one-size-fits-all, that’s usually not the case. After all, one woman's "fresh-from-the-beach bronze" could easily be another's Oompa Loompa orange. The general rule of thumb is to pick a shade only slightly darker than your skin tone, so one or two shades max, but here’s a more detailed breakdown:
If you’re fair: It’s important that the bronzer is sheer, blends well, and doesn’t have too much brown or yellow pigment. A warm beige or a pale, rosy bronze is ideal. If your skin is so fair that bronzer is simply not going to happen, a liquid luminizer with a golden hue will instantly warm up your complexion.
If you’re medium or olive-toned: With this skin tone, you can start to step up the bronzer game and still look natural. Try a golden-based bronzer with minimal shimmer and formulas that allow you to build up the color.
If you have a dark complexion: There's a misconception that women with darker skin tones can’t use or don’t need bronzer. The key is to avoid taupe- or neutral-toned bronzers, which can wind up looking grey and unnatural. Opt for warm golden browns and reddish bronzes to enhance the skin's glow.
MISTAKE #2: YOU’RE APPLYING IN THE WRONG LIGHT
If you’re applying bronzer in dim lighting, take a step outside and you may realize how horrible it looks. All of a sudden that formula packed with deceptively chunky glitter, can have you looking like a pageant queen gone wrong. We recommend applying bronzer in natural light, near a window. If that’s not possible, go for the brightest indoor lighting you can find. And don’t use a compact mirror or you might suffer from floating-head syndrome and not notice your face turning a different colour than the rest of you.
MISTAKE #3: YOU’RE USING A POWDER BRONZER
Don't get us wrong—all bronzers hold a special place in our hearts (and our beauty arsenals)—but in the dead of summer when the temps are scorching, powder bronzers (which most bronzers are) tend to cake onto your skin and can turn into a muddy mess. At the height of a heat wave, opt instead for liquid or gel-based formulations, which look a lot more natural and won’t melt away throughout the day. Then, you can switch back to your favourite powder formulation. Alternatively, you can mix them to together to create a custom glow!
MISTAKE #4: YOU’RE APPLYING BRONZER ALL OVER YOUR FACE
You should only apply bronzer where sun would naturally hit your face—the apples of the cheeks, the bridge of the nose, and around the hairline—otherwise you risk ending up with “bronzer mask”. Be sure to buff it into your skin with a clean, fluffy brush so that it doesn’t look streaky.
MISTAKE #5: YOU’RE USING THE BRUSH THAT CAME WITH THE BRONZER
Speaking of brushes, if you’re using the wrong one to apply bronzer—like one that’s thick and dense—you can totally sabotage your glow game. Stiff brushes tend to grab a lot of product from the pan—and then you waste precious time trying to blend it smoothly. The ideal brush for applying bronzer is one that’s fluffy and super-soft, like this one.
MISTAKE #6: YOU’RE APPLYING BRONZER RIGHT AFTER YOUR FOUNDATION
Who has time to spare on a weekday morning? (No one, that’s who.) Still, it’s worth waiting a few minutes after applying your complexion products—think foundation, tinted moisturizer, and (duh!) SPF—before brushing on bronzer. When powder bronzers are applied on damp skin, you can get a streaky, uneven result. But if you’re impatient (or have your A.M. routine down to an art), you can speed up the process by dusting on a touch of translucent powder before applying bronzer.
MISTAKE #7: YOU’RE OVERDOSING ON GLITTER
Many bronzers tend to have some shimmer in them and you want to glow in the sunlight, not blind anyone who looks your way. Stick to matte formulations, especially during the day.
For glimmer girls who like to sparkle after dark, use that shimmery bronzer sparingly, as if it’s a precious gem.