High Definition: A Bronzed Babe

ColumnQuick tips on how to make bronzer work for you this summer.

I got a letter last week from a High Definition reader, Jessica P. Jessica writes:

“Dear Kristen, I’ve been loving your articles with all the cool makeup how-to’s.  You’ve written about bronzers a few times and I still feel like I don’t really know what I’m doing. I have a medium skin color and some of the bronzers I’ve used seem like they don’t show up at all, others are too orangey and streaky.  Is it best to use a matte, cream or powder.  I’m confused. Please help!”

Jessica, this is definitely not the first time I’ve heard confused over choosing bronzer. Let’s start with texture. Cream bronzer melts into the skin, appearing to give you a glow from within, and can easily be applied with either fingers or a brush.  It’s great for keeping a hydrated, dewy look on the face, but if it’s nearing triple digits, I’d set it with a powder to make sure it doesn’t slip away.

Nearly every makeup line has a powdered bronzer, so that can make it even more confusing to decide which one to choose. These bronzers glide on effortlessly with a brush and have more staying power through hot and humid weather than creams. Depending on how matte the finish, they can also offer a dewy look.  Be careful because they don’t always blend easily and you don’t want to look streaky or overly powdered up.

The Sparkle Factor

The majority of bronzers have some shimmer in them because consumers love their sparkle, even if it’s not always the most flattering look on their faces. Often on photo shoots, I start with a matte bronzer and build in the amount of shimmer over it that feels right for the face I’m working on and the overall makeup look we are going for. More shimmer can be a lot of fun for a candlelit summer soiree, but for a more natural look, like at the workplace, keep the sparkle factor to a minimum.

Truly matte bronzers are few and far between, so if that’s what you are going for, use a foundation about 2-3 shades darker than your skin tone.  The above photo is an example of how I used a warmer, darker foundation shade on this model to create a tanned and sculpted cheekbone.  There’s dewiness to the skin, but it doesn’t come from using shimmer.

Not Faking It

The hue of bronze is where it can get trickier, because “tan” for one person could be a totally different type of shade for another and the goal is having that color look realistic. There are two extremes you never want to touch: a shade that is so orange that it looks as if you are cousins with an ompah loompah and a shade that is so cool and muddy that you looked as if you got some dirt on your face.

You said you have a medium skin tone, and now the question is do you have more golden, olive, or pink undertones? That will help determine the hue of bronzer to use. The best way to see which shade complements you best is to compare swatches of the color on your forearm side by side.  Usually that area is more tan than the face and there you’ll be able to see very clearly which bronzer comes closest to the shade of your natural tan.

Some of my favorites include:

Revolution Organics (cream, slight shimmer)

Josie Maran (cream, no shimmer)

ZuZu Luxe (powder, slight shimmer)

100% Pure (powder, slight shimmer)

Jane Iredale (powder, very shimmery)

Alima Pure (powder, a variety of finishes)

Once you’ve settled on your perfected shade of bronze, refer to the High Definition article Tropical Eyes for the exact application technique.

Thanks for reading and asking such a great question!

Editor’s note: Got a celebrity look you’d like to copy or a trend you’d like to see incorporating healthy, non-toxic makeup? Send your questions to High Definition columnist Kristen Arnett at beauty@ecosalon.com

New York City based Kristen Arnett is an internationally renowned makeup artist and founder of the Green Beauty Team, styling high profile celebrities and runway models as well as a sought after beauty expert, educator and teacher for other makeup artists.

Image: Kate Owen