Just before we started grade 11, a friend who had spent the last few weeks of the summer in overcast Vancouver borrowed her mother’s face bronzer to give herself a little colour in anticipation of the first day of school. When she showed up in homeroom looking like a Burnt Sienna crayon—there was an orange line around her cheeks, down to her chin and up to her forehead — it was pretty obvious she had a faux glow. Needless to say, it wasn’t quite the look she was going for.
Bronzers are one of the best ways to fake a healthy-looking, golden complexion—and they’re obviously much safer than spending hours lying on a tanning bed, à la Snooki and the Jersey Shore gang.
“The benefits of using bronzers are that you can achieve a beautiful sun-kissed look without enduring damaging UV rays; you don’t have bake in the sun to get colour. You have control over how dark you want to be,” says Toronto makeup artist Tracy Peart. “Another advantage to bronzers is that they can diminish the appearance of imperfections like blemishes, broken capillaries and spider veins.”
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But the key to making a bronzer work for you, whether using one on your face or body, is to find the shade that best complements your skin tone. “If you pick the wrong colour, you can end up looking like an Oompa-Loompa,” Peart says. “When you’re at the store, try holding different shades up beside your face in a mirror. Choose a colour that’s only two to three shades darker than your skin. Anything darker than that will make you look like the Great Pumpkin,” she says. Then, decide what look you’re going for—if you want a sexy glow, try one that adds shimmer. If you just want to look tanned, Peart says to pick a more matte bronzer.
How-to—Face Bronzers: Using your everyday blush brush (not a big face brush), draw the number three on both sides of your face. “Start sweeping the bronzer at the side of your forehead, just above the temple, and move down,” Peart advises. “Sweep it over the top of your cheekbones, and bring it along your jawline to the centre of your chin. Finish with an ever-so-gentle tickle of the brush on the tip of your nose.”
How-to—Body Bronzers: As long as you’re mindful that body bronzers get messy and need enough time to dry (you don’t want to be slipping on a pair of white capris when your legs are covered in tinted moisturizer), you can use them all over — neck to toes. Rub in the cream or spray as you would a moisturizer, but use one specific motion to avoid streaks. “Don’t rub in circles on your forearm, for example, then up and down on your upper arm. Keep it consistent.”
A version of this article originally appeared in our June 2013 issue with the headline “Get a faux glow,” p. 40.