Summer Guide To My Bronzer Favorites

July 13, 2010
Perhaps it is the California girl in me that is obsessed with bronzers, but I’ve always been one who prefers to be tan rather than fair. Right now I am a Chanel Teint Innocence Shell (equivalent to what’s in between MAC NC30 and NC35, neither is an exact match for me), hardly “tan” but luckily I have bronzers to help me feel not-so-pale since I have little patience for tanning in the sun.

There are so many different effects one can achieve with bronzers. One’s skintone and skintype will also affect one’s preference for formula and finish. A bit of information about my skin & personal bronzer preferences: I have normal skin with olive tones. I get a bit oily in the T-zone only when it’s really humid. I prefer something that gives noticeable tanned look. My top 3 requirements for bronzer:
  1. Don’t turn orangey as my skin
  2. Don’t make me look dirty/muddy
  3. Too much shimmer = copper bronze statue

Powder Bronzers:

Edward Bess Ultra Luminous Bronzer – Daydream $48 This is my favorite bronzer ever! Not being able to see this in person, I purchased it based on the recommendations of Leslie (see her guest review on the EB line here). Her description was right on. It’s neither shimmery nor matte but somewhere in between. It’s a goof-proof bronzer that I can never go wrong with and makes the skin glow. I like it alone or layered over a luminizer like NARS Multiples or Edward Bess’s All Over Seduction. I recently bought the other bronzer shade shade from EB, Desert Sun, and will be reviewing it soon.

Bobbi Brown Illuminating Bronzing Powder – Bali Brown $33 Part of her Illuminating Bronzer formula, I don’t find this one all that “illuminating” even though there are sparkles in this one. For some reason it applies more matte and I find the sparkle/shimmers don’t show up on my skin. This one is more pigmented so I have to apply it with a light hand in layers or else I get an intense brown streak across my face. I would say this gives a more earthy-brown look rather than illuminating glow.

NARS Bronzing Powder – Laguna & Irresistiblement $32 NARS Laguna has achieved cult status as the most well-known and popular bronzer. It was one of my first bronzers and I used it every single day while I was in college because I found it so versatile. It worked well alone and when layered with other blushes. Irresistiblement is the newest powder bronzer from NARS. It looks rather orange in the compact and when I saw it I immediately wrote it off. However, I saw it featured on Em from Too Much Blush and it looked so good on her pale skin I had to try it. See her review here. See it on her lovely face here. She’s done a few looks with it and her review is extremely helpful. I highly recommend searching through her archives for inspiration on how to use this. I tried this at Nordstrom and fell in love.

MAC Bronzing Powder – Golden & Bronze $22 I find these to be the most natural and sheer bronzing powders. Golden is very subtle on me because it’s close to my natural skintone (when applied) so I like to use it as a contouring powder or over powder blushes to add a bit of warmth. I’ve hit pan on this one twice. Bronze is similar just a few shades darker and warmer. These give a soft bronzed glow. I like the simple mirrored compact. If you find these too sheer, try MAC’s Refined Golden instead.

Armani Sheer Bronzer #1 & #5 $49 #1 is the most brown-based bronzer I have. Looks like it would be too brown in the compact but goes on a nice tanned bronze. I would call #5 my most glowy bronzer. It on the shimmery side but doesn’t apply frosty. It’s a warm golden bronze that makes the skin glow. Darker skinned girls will find this less dramatic and more glowy than bronzey.

Cream Bronzers:

Chanel Soleil de Tan Bronzing Makeup Base $48 This replaced the Bronze Universel de Chanel Sun Illuminator. Comes in the same tub and compact. Looks virtually identical to the original. I believe it was simply reformulated and given a new name. My favorite cream bronzer for a natural contour. The tub is huge and lasts forever. This is my second tub. Looks brown but blends out naturally.

Armani Fluid Sheer #11 $59 This is more of a peachy bronze shade. I like Fluid Sheer #3 as well but find it extremely sheer. The Fluid Sheer #11 is one of the shades that shows up better. It has enough color on me to wear alone as a blush. I apply this over powder and foundation with a foundation brush and it doesn’t cake or get greasy.

NARS Multiple – South Beach $38 Another pretty peachy-bronze shimmer. More shimmery than the Armani. I like this with a powder bronzer (like MAC Golden or Bronze) layered on top. Love how this can be used on eyes, lips and cheeks. The challenge for me with this is making it last. It’s so emollient I find it hard to make last throughout the day. Still, the color is so pretty, the non-existent lasting power won’t stop me from wearing it.

MAC To the Beach Cream Bronzer – Weekend $25 I didn’t think I would like this because it looked so reddish in the container, but it works well as a subtle bronzer with warmth. Fair skinned girls will probably find this too red. If I were slightly paler this would turn orangey on me.

Discontinued Loves:

  • Chanel Irreelle Soleil Silky Bronzing Powder in Sierra 22 This was the best bronzer Chanel made. Then they discontinued the formula and came out with something I feel is chalky which just sits on the skin instead of blending in with it.
  • MAC Mineralize Skinfinish – So Ceylon, Sunny by Nature, Global Glow I find these can be a bit intense so I like these with a skunk brush.
  • Shu Uemura Loose Powder in Luster Bronze I don’t remember which year this came out, I think back in the summer of 2005? I got this at Bergdorf Goodman when I was in New York summers ago. I use it only for special occasions because I love the color so much I’m afraid to use this up.


I like brushes that are more on the fluffy side for bronzer to get a sheerer application. These are my most frequently used brushes. For the creams, most of the time I use my fingers but my staple is the Prescriptives Foundation brush which is no longer available. Listed left to right:
  • Prescriptives Foundation Brush
  • MAC 129 Powder/Blush Brush $34
  • MAC 187 Duo Fibre Brush $42
  • MAC 138 Tapered $52
  • Bobbi Brown Bronzer Brush $50

My Top Bronzer Picks:

  • Best Bronzer Hands Down – Edward Bess Daydream
  • Best Bronzer For the Price – MAC Golden or Bronze
  • Most Natural Bronzer – MAC Golden & Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base
  • Best Bronzer Brush – MAC 129 (because it’s the most versatile)

A Side Note: I do have a number of other bronzers from the same brands listed above and other brands like Guerlain, Laura Mercier, Le Metier de Beaute, Dolce & Gabbana, Becca and Dior. The ones listed above are just my favorites for the formula and price. Also, I just got a new computer which I am trying to get used to. You may see a slight difference in the photos from my normal posting. Please bear with me as I am trying to figure out all the new settings with a new version of photoshop as well.

A Note About These Swatches: Please take these with a grain of salt. These were swatched on a bare arm without primer or moisturizer. Bronzers apply better over foundation + powder for me, so these swatches aren’t really true to life. I put as many as I could fit on my arm. There might be a few missing. Please don’t be alarmed by the furry thing at the bottom, he’s my kitty.

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  • wow you are the bronzer queen! great review!!! xo I think I need to try the Chanel universal ive been hearing great things on it! xoox


  • Lovely post Sabrina!! I really want to try EB's bronzer for deeper skins, I wonder if it'll show up on me.. Have you ever tried using the MAC 109 for contouring? I have an MSF natural a few shades darker than my skin tone because a MAC artist suggested it, but I never end up using it πŸ™
    Must try and learn some contouring! πŸ™‚

  • Andee – LOL, more like a bronzer freak! I really like the Chanel. It's so big I couldn't believe I used an entire container up.

    Lakshmi – TY! I have tried MAC 109 at the MAC store. I didn't like it. The brush head was too small for my round face and too big for my eyes. Even 2 other MAC SAs said it was difficult to use and recommended the tapered one instead. The angle of it helps contour better. I agree with them but then my face is round. Might be better for ladies with more defined cheekbones?

  • Love your blog and specially this bronzer post. Being french I love a tan look in summer. This year m'y favorite is the new four season terracota, buttery matte and great shade. Rest of the year bobbi Brown bronzing powder in medium and golden light are perfect for me. But I Will try the Edward Bess one , seems like a good match .
    Thank you again for a great review.

  • Frederique – Funny you should mention Bobbi Brown Medium & Golden Light! I used Bobbi Brown's "Light" but I believe it's been discontinued. I wasn't sure how Golden Light compared to the original Light and never looked into it.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Lina,

    You always have fresh and interesting posts on this blog. What a great (and topical) subject. I liked the added brush help, too. Rock on, m'dear πŸ™‚


  • Jessi G

    I'm very fair, also love Nars Irristiblement (I'm sure I butchered the spelling) but as I am also very oily, had to switch to a cream bronzer, everything else got really dark on me over a couple hours. Nars Tuomota is fantastic-try it if you are interested. Love the site as usual!!

  • I am a fellow Cali girl – representin NorCal! I think I'm behind on the bronzer trend but since I highlighted my hair and got a bit of a tan I got bit by the bronzing bug too! I remember when I first got the NARS Irresistiblement – I thought it was too red but it grew on me and gave me a great sunkissed color. Then again I'm darker than you by a shade or two. I still want the Chanel Universal – hmm…good reason to try a cream bronzer. I did get a full sized GWP NARS multiple in Cape Vert but I don't think it does much for me. I'll try it again over a tinted moisturizer but I am not counting on it. I do have a blush/bronzing duo from BB – Med bronze/peony blush which is a great combo. The other bronzer I still have is Benefit's Hoola which is a nice matte bronzer for dark skin. I think I may have a Cargo Med. Bronzer lurking in one of my makeup pouches – I should play with that again.

    This is a fun post especially for bronzing newbies like myself!!

  • JessiG – Hi! I have NARS Tuomota and it doesn't really do much for me. I think it's better suited for fair-skinned girls. The other shades in the Bronzer Multiple form are too orangey for me. I'm waiting for a good inbetween shade b/c I like the formula.

    Lexi – That's awesome!!! A full sized multiple GWP is amazing. I have to agree with you on Cap Vert. I tried it and it didn't do much for me. Kinda orangey. Have you looked at NARS Casino? It's a lot darker/browner than Laguna so it might show up bronzey on you.

  • LS

    Great great post. it's so inspiring. now i plan to do my own bronzer post on my blog. do i get a permission of mentioning your blog?

  • Sabrina,
    This is a fantastic post! Time to order the Edward Bess bronzer, I think. I really like the brush recs as well, because I still haven't found one I love. Mostly use my MAC 187. Thanks!

  • Oh my gosh, you have so many bronzers! Great post!

    I have never been crazy about bronzers, I have a love/hate relationship with them. I started using the Chanel Universel Bronzer a couple of months and I love it, so now I'm obsessed with finding other bronzers I might like. I want to try the Edward Bess bronzer you posted. You have me obsessed and lemming EB now!

  • Frederique

    You are right Sabrina , light has been discontinued and replaced by golden light which is just slightly warmer. The two Mac look very similar to the BB. I was surprised by your EB swatch , I would have thought it would aplly sheerer and lighter. Hence the interest of swatches πŸ˜‰

  • Hi Sabrina,
    Thanks for such an informative post, I can not live without bronzer.I envy your collection!
    After seeing your EB Daydream so many times here, I want it so bad, but I will wait for your review for the other EB. I am medium skin tone with olive undertones, so I guess the Daydream will be fine but I will wait. I own the Soleil tan de Chanel (my new everyday), and the Armani SF in 11, I used to use it everyday, but I would put some more powder bronzer on top, I used the Jemma Kidd makeup school line, they used to have a "perfect sun trio", something like that, bronzer…I still use it, love it, I already hit pan, I am planning not to buy any more bronzer until I finish this up…I knew I can suppress all that desire of buying before I saw this post….

    I keep reading about the Laguna bronze so much, it is everywhere, I guess I will have to check it out…


  • A

    This was such a comprehensive, helpful, organized post! Thank you! I love the care you take in arranging your pictures. Adele

  • I absolutely love these kinds of posts from you because you have the best pictures and you describe each product so well! I heard a lot of great things about the Chanel Bronzing Makeup Base but it seems a bit sheer and I'm not sure it would work well with my oily skin. The Edward Bess Bronzer, however, looks gorgeous! Do you know where I can purchase it?

  • Thank you for this! Fantastic reference point as I am also obsessed with bronzers. I want the Chanel one next!

  • Fanatastic post! I love bronzers too, and I have the same skin coloring as you (NC30-35 with olive undertones). This was really helpful!

  • Another fantastic post Sabrina! I'd pay to subscribe to your blog! You're the best!

  • Wow! What an amazing bronzer collection! I actually didn't like Laguna so much because I thought it was to red, lol… weird since it looks like one of the coolest bronzers in your collection. I'm using tokidoki Diavolina instead.

  • Loved this post, very helpful! I have a few nice bronzers, but I actually use my Physicians Formula Bronze Booster Pressed Powder more than my expensive ones. It's cool because for me it actually lived up to it's gimmick, which is to naturally boost the tan you have over time with continued use. It honestly does what it claims – for me anyway! So I was rather impressed, because normally I am disappointed with drugstore products. Another great bronzer I read about on Too Much Blush is the Illamasqua Glint/Writhe bronzer duo. This is a good year round bronzer, because it has two shades that you can customize. Thanks again for all your hard work. I can usually go a few days between checking other blogs, but I read yours on the daily! <3

  • What a brilliant, informative post! You have a lovely collection of bronzers. Just found your blog – it's great!


  • Nell

    Since I discovered your blog, I did not only read it all from the beginning to every highly anticipated update, but I use it as my first reference whenever I am interested in a product. Your sense of style and your taste are impeccable and I feel I found a kindred "make up-spirit" in you. Our stashes look very similar…
    I write to you today because I needed to tell you how fabulous the photos are that you take. Such good photography! You have a wonderful aesthetic, you can be so proud of this blog, it is a great achievement and I really appreciate you taking the time and making the effort every day.
    Thank you!

  • Awesome post! I've been looking for a new bronzer and with so many options listed here, I now have a whole bunch to look at. πŸ˜€

  • Never tried a cream bronzer. I have been Liking the Tarte Park Avenue Princess these days. This is a good refernace when I go to buy next one. Thank you!

  • Wow so many of them! They all seem so pretty! I can't wear bronzer though..I'm so pale that it just come out brown or orange on me lol there is no inbetween!! XP

  • Julie – I'm glad this helped. I mostly use my blush/powder brushes for bronzer b/c it's easy to use. The Bobbi Brown is the most luxurious in my opinion. It's so soft and gives a natural finish.

    Diane – Chanel's is amazing πŸ™‚ I wish they kept their Irreelle bronzers. They were so great.

    Frederique – I may have to check Golden Light. Thanks for the comparison info! Please take the swatches with a grain of salt. I don't love my swatches. Check out Karlasugar's blog for better ones.

    Lucia – Glad to know there's another bronzer lover! Laguna is pretty nice. Definitely do check it out.

    A – I'm glad this helped you πŸ™‚ TY for being so kind.

    WillWorkForMakeup – Love your screen name. If you're oily then the Chanel Makeup Base might be too emollient. I do find the NARS Bronzer Multiple Sticks less moist than the Multiples. Maybe give those a try πŸ™‚ Edward Bess is available in the US at Bergdorf Goodman in New York (instore) and edwardbess.com. I recommend ordering from the store. They are really nice.

    LipstickRules, Stephanie, Catherine, Sophie, Mellie, Rehsam & Rachel – TY! Glad to help or peak interest πŸ™‚

    Evelynn – I've heard so many good things about the Physicians Formula Bronzer. Thanks for the rec on the Illamasqua. I will see if my Sephora has this. I haven't been able to get over their funky packaging though. If I can buy UD, then perhaps I'll be able to get into Illamasqua someday πŸ™‚

    Nell – OMG Thank you! It must have taken you hours to go through the archives! That means a lot to me since I'm an amateur when it comes to photography and photoshop. I wish I knew how to do it professionally!

  • Oops – I missed a comment! Lori – you're so sweet. It would be amazing to do something like this as a job and get paid, lol! TY for your support.

  • Great overview, thank you very much! My favorite bronzers are MAC Solar Riche and MAC So Ceylon!