If you’re a little bronzerily-challenged (yes, we made up that word), here are the basics for how to use bronzer—from choosing the right shade to applying it in a way that looks natural and not like a Jersey Shore extra. We talked to top makeup artists and broke it down into Bronzer 101.
Pick the Right Shade
“You want a bronzer that’s not too dark or too strong,” explains celebrity makeup artist Pat McGrath. “If you’re going to the makeup counter, they’ll help you choose the right shade.”
When you’re shopping at the drugstore, hold the bronzer up to your face and look in a mirror. Celebrity makeup artist Joanna Schlip explains, “a bronzer novice should only go two shades darker than her skin tone.”
This printed powder is super-sexy, but looks subtle when you wear it. Dolce & Gabbana Animalier Bronzer, dolcegabbana.com
Change Your Foundation
If you’re going to wear makeup under your bronzer, you want to switch to a slightly darker base color. “Wear your foundation a little warmer—one shade warmer than your own skin tone,” says McGrath. Here’s how the “makeup math” works: The foundation will make your skin seem tanner so the bronzer doesn’t look too dark—the colors meet in the middle rather adding up to too much tan. (McGrath also suggests always having two foundations on hand—one for when your skin is its palest, the other for summer or if you’ve been using self-tanner. The rest of the time, you can blend the two to create a custom hue.)
Rimmel Lasting Finish 25 Hour Foundation, $7.13, drugstore.com
Stock Your Toolbox
“If you’re a makeup junkie, then go buy yourself a bronzer brush!” says McGrath. “But a regular blush brush works just as well.” Bronzer brushes have more bristles and they’re packed tightly together so you get more color with each swipe.
Ecotools Bamboo Bronzer Brush, $9.99, drugstore.com
Follow the Rule of 3
Now that you’ve found the right shade and changed your foundation, you’re ready to start applying. With a brush, create the number “3″ on both sides of your face. Start at the top of your forehead, dust it along your cheeks and sweep it across your jawline all the way to your chin. Remember to blend it into your neck. “And if you’re putting your hair up, you have to bronze the back of your neck, too,” explains Schlip.
Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess soft matte bronzer, $30, esteelauder.com
Graduate to Shimmer
Once you’ve mastered matte bronzer, you’re ready to move on to shimmer! Schlip suggests using it underneath your cheekbones and along the bridge of your nose as highlighter—it creates a glowy, fresh effect. You can also use it to enhance your cleavage—just dust it between and along the tops of your twins.
Physicians Formula Shimmer Strips, $11.95, physiciansformula.com