Go Bronze: The Essential Guide to Self-Tanning
Channel your inner bronze goddess this summer, without soaking up harsh UV rays. We put together this guide for achieving a faux glow. Click through to see the best bronzers for every skin tone, products we love, and key tips to perfect your glow.
The Day Before: Spray Tan
An at-home spray tan may sound intimidating, but DIY systems like Luminess Tan ($159; luminessair.com) are surprisingly easy to master-even if you're a beginner. Create a flawless finish by applying your spray tan in layers. "Begin spraying your base coat first onto your front, back, and sides, then spray on the second coat, concentrating heavier application on your natural curves and contours," said St. Tropez tanning expert Sophie Evans, who works with Victoria Beckham and Kate Beckinsale. "Afterward, give nails and palms a thorough cleaning to avoid staining, and lightly buff your skin with an applicator mitt to really blend the color." The color takes time to set and dry so plan ahead.
Three Hours Before: Sunless Tanner
Sunless tanners look better and last longer when you put in extra prep time, so be sure to exfoliate first to slough away dead skin cells, which can create an uneven finish. "The better condition your skin is in, the better your tan will look," said Evans. "Apply an oil-free moisturizer to joints, feet, and hands prior to tanning, since these areas develop darker than anywhere else on the body, then drench your body in self tanner, stopping at the ankles and wrists." We love Dior's ($34; dior.com) and Charlotte Ronson's ($28; sephora.com) foolproof formulas, and the flawless finish St. Tropez Self Tan Perfect Legs Spray ($18; sephora.com) creates.
Five Minutes Before: Bronzer
A quick sweep of bronzer creates an instant glow in a few minutes flat, and conceals any flaws in your complexion to boot. Just keep the rest of your makeup in mind when deciding between a cream or powder. "Choose a formula that blends best with your foundation, and decide if you want a matte or shimmery finish," said Lea Michele's makeup artist Melanie Inglessis. "If you have a shimmery eye, keep your bronzer matte, and beware of colors with too many red and orange undertones." A few natural hues we love: Tom Ford's Bronzer in Terra ($90; neimanmarcus.com), Stila's self-adjusting powder ($20; stilacosmetics.com), and ultra-blendable cremes like Laura Mercier's ($35; lauramercier.com).
If You're Fair
Finding the perfect bronze for a light complexion like Elizabeth Banks's can be tricky, so look for a product with a mixture of tones like Guerlain's Terracotta Bronzing Powder in Blondes ($50; sephora.com) to balance out your natural undertones. We also love the Too Faced Milk Chocolate Bronzing Powder ($29; sephora.com), a sweet-smelling matte formula made especially for fair skin.
If You Have Medium Skin
Medium and olive skin tones like Emmanuelle Chriqui should steer clear of bronzers with too much shimmer. "This can create a muddy appearance, and the easiest way to avoid this is by using a cream bronzer," said Rachel Bilson's makeup artist Amy Nadine. "I love the Hourglass Illume Bronze Duo ($40; hourglasscosmetics.com) because it is really melts into the skin." Another great option: Blend the tawny brown tones together in Chanel's dynamic Soleil De Tan in Sable Beige ($60; chanel.com) for a custom fawn hue.
If You're Dark
While people with a deeper skin tone like Brandy's may not need an ultra-tan finish, you can amp up your natural complexion and create a more dramatic look with St. Tropez's Dark Bronzing Lotion ($44; sephora.com), which the star wore to the Billboard Music Awards. "The idea to a flawless glow is to enhance your natural pigmentation," Evans said. "Find a shade that works with your true coloring and gives you a fresh, golden glow."
Bronze by Day
To accent your sun-kissed glow during the day, swipe on a bold lip color like Sofia Vergara. "Keep the rest of your face fresh and natural, but take your lip color up a notch," said Inglessis. "Corals and pinks are trending for the summer, and would be a great match."
Bronze by Night
For a sultry nighttime look, put a twist on the traditional smoky eye and opt for a dramatic gilded look like Taylor Swift. "Use a dusting of a copper or gold shadow on the eye lids to harmonize with the undertones of your tan, and really make eyes pop," said makeup artist Napoleon Perdis, who has worked with Leighton Meester. "Sweep the color on for a subtle effect, or press it on in layers for a bolder look."