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If you’re dreaming of the tropical sand and surf, fake it till you make it there. A bit of bronzer is your express route to the next best thing: a sun-kissed beauty vibe. The instant touch of warmth makes any skin tone look healthy and happy (without the health risks of baking for real). Here’s how to get a tawny summer glow that says “jet-setting life of leisure,” with no fear of muddy mistakes.

1. Pick the right texture.
Bronzers come both shimmery and matte, so go for whichever meets your needs best. If your skin is looking dull, a lustrous option adds radiance and is ideal if you plan to use the bronzer a little more sparingly—in the same way you’d apply a targeted highlighter. (Try Pur Mineral Glow Bronzer.) If you want to sweep it on more liberally (e.g. more like a contouring product or deeper face powder), go for a bronzer with a matte finish, like Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Matte Bronzer. Matte is also a great option if your skin type leans toward being oily. You can always add a hint of shine later with a bronzy lip gloss or eyeshadow.

2. Choose a suitable shade.
To avert a muddy or “dirty” effect, your colour selection is the make-or-break factor. It’s key to check the bronzer doesn’t skew overly red or orange against your particular skin tone, so apply the product tester and then judge outside in natural light. Also, don’t go too dark; as a general rule, pick a bronzer one to two shades deeper than your usual complexion. For a foolproof option, try sheer yet buildable options like Lise Watier Havana Bronzing Powder.

3. Apply it in “3”s.
Instead of applying bronzer every which way across your face, imagine the shape of the number 3 on either side of your face (with the long curved side against your hairline), and let that guide where you place the product. Moving from your forehead, follow along the hairline, dip inward to the cheekbone and then take it out and down to the jawline. Blend a tiny bit of bronzer down your neck, your nape and along your collarbone, so you don’t get a harsh line at your chin.

4. Choose your tools wisely.
If you’re using a powder formula, opt for a fluffy, medium-size brush to blend it lightly and perfectly into your skin. If you prefer a cream formula, such as RMS Beauty Buriti Bronzer, you can just swipe it on with your fingertips and the warmth will melt it down for a natural-looking sheen.

5. Add a rosy flush.
When it comes to bronzer and blush, you don’t have to choose one or the other–double up for a pop of healthy colour against your tan. Apply bronzer first, then lightly dab on a coral cream blush (such as Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Cream Blush in Nectar) or sweep on a soft pink powder like Benefit Cosmetics Dallas. Smile in the mirror and apply the blush to the apples of your cheeks, moving in a circular motion. Avoid blending the blush too far back into your bronzer for a natural flush.