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:
Don’t turn orangey as my skin
Don’t make me look dirty/muddy
Too much shimmer = copper bronze statue
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.
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.
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.