We’d all love to have that beautiful, healthy, sun-kissed glow that looks like we spend more time outdoors on the beach than we actually do. But how can we achieve the sun-Goddess look without skin damage or the risk of sporting an orange faux-glow for a week after a self-tanning disaster?

Sure we know that celebrities love bronzers, but they have professional makeup artists following them around at their heels sporting sponges and fluffy makeup brushes. How can we achieve the same sun-loving look without ending up with streaks?

Quell the Gel

While gel bronzers can give great results, they are much more difficult to apply in a natural way, and here again is where you’d need that makeup artist following you around. Instead, if you are new to bronzers, stick with a pressed powder bronzer for easier, more natural-looking results. How well bronzer is applied is what makes or breaks the look.

While some people prefer gel or liquid bronzers for the dewy appearance they leave and the extra moisture boost for your skin, the benefits are only worth the risks if you are really good at applying it. If you are a bronzer beginner, it’s best to reach past the gels in the bronzer aisle and reach for the best drugstore bronzer in a pressed powder format. With powder bronzer, if you find you’ve used too much you can use a clean fluffy makeup brush to blend it out.

Don’t Over-Apply

Some bronzer beginners make the mistake of using bronzer to attempt an all-over face tan appearance. Experts tell us that this is a dead give-away that you are new to the world of bronzers. Instead of applying all over your face, choose the places that the sun hits first. (Remember where you used to burn before you got wise to sun-damage?) The bridge of the nose, apples of your cheeks, along the jawline, and across your hairline are the areas to target with a good bronzer. Some makeup artists recommend thinking of the number three when applying your bronzer. Start at the temple, go across your cheek, and down to your jawline. And then blend it lightly with a clean makeup brush. The blending is important to avoid the dreaded streaky look, so blend, blend, blend. And then blend one more time.

Choose the Right Shade

Choosing the best shade for your skin is critical for getting a natural look with your bronzer. If the shade is wrong, you might as well just write the word BRONZER on your forehead with the product, because everyone will know that you are using it—and that you aren’t good at it.

Avoid shades that look too red or orange. Instead, look for your own natural skin tone and undertone, and then choose a bronzer that’s only one or two shades darker than your skin.

If you have fair skin, you should lean toward a honey-toned bronzer. For medium skin, look for a rosy bronze or a gold-flecked bronzer. For dark skin, choose a tawny or amber-toned bronzer.

Go Toward the Light

Dim lighting is your worst enemy when applying cosmetics, and it’s really out to get you when it comes to bronzer. If possible, apply your bronzer in natural lighting, or at least bring a mirror with you and double-check your application outside in the natural light. Even bright indoor lights can alter the appearance of your bronzer. Blue-toned lighting will make it difficult to see the color, and when you emerge in natural light what you thought was subtle shading, actually appears as dark streaks. Ugh. Yellowish lighting will make your bronzer look more orange-toned than it actually is.

Apply your bronzer near a window for the best results and give it a quick check outdoors before you go anywhere. If your bronzer looks darker, or too streaky, you can dot a little foundation on the area and blend it in for instant color correction.

Bronzer Beginner How-To

First, start with clean skin that’s been moisturized with a lightweight moisturizer with sunscreen protection. Next, use your favorite foundation, tinted moisturizer BB cream, or leave your skin bare if you dare. Then apply your concealer under the eye area to brighten and to conceal any dark under-eye circles. Blend well to create a smooth base for your bronzer.

Then, using a wide, fluffy powder blending brush, lightly apply the bronzer to places the sun typically tans you. At the hairline, temples, apples of your cheeks, bridge of the nose, and jawline. Be sure the brush is fluffy and rounded. Using a narrow brush or one with stiff bristles will cause your bronzer to appear streaky. Be sure to tap off any excess bronzer if the brush picks up too much product. Finally, use a clean brush to blend out your bronzer for a natural finish.

Be sure to blend the bronzer really well at your neckline to avoid the dreaded jawline streak. Blend by starting at the center and blending outward in light, circular motions.

To Shimmer or Not to Shimmer?

Bronzers with shimmer contain light-reflecting particles that highlight the skin. Shimmer bronzer should be lightly applied only at the cheekbones and temples, being careful not to overdo it. Be sure to avoid the shimmer completely if you have blemishes because a shimmer product may accidentally highlight it.

You should also shun the shimmer if you have oily skin. Shimmery bronze will only enhance the shiny appearance of your skin.

Are Bronzers and Contouring Powders Interchangeable?

Many people try to economize by using these interchangeably, but they have distinctly different uses and formats. Bronzers are bright, shimmery, and warm-toned, meant to impart a glowing, sun-touched appearance. Contours should be cool-toned and have a matte finish—which is the opposite of a bronzer. Attempting to use these products interchangeably doesn’t usually end well.

Practice Until Perfect!

The most important thing for beginning bronzers to remember is to practice until you get it right! Too many people give up on bronzers the first time they try to use one, but using a bronzer correctly takes practice in application, as well as some experimentation to find the perfect shade and amount of shimmer. When used correctly, bronzer can bring you stunning results—no makeup artist required.

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