Tuesday, 3 November 2009 | Tags: , , , , ,

With the health risks that come with suntanning, bronzers are a good, safe alternative for a healthy, sun-kissed glow. We test a selection to see if one looks better than the rest.

The Basics

  • Bronzers are different from self-tanners in that they are temporary: the colour from a bronzer washes right off, whereas a self-tanner actually works to darken the shade of your skin’s pigment.

  • Types of bronzers include:

    • Powders: most popular for their easy brush-on application. Washes off easily, doesn’t last as long, may require reapplication during the day. Best for oily skin types. If it doesn’t come with an applicator brush, look for a “kabuki” style make-up brush, which has dense, soft bristles, a rounded shape, and a short handle.

    • Gels: fast-absorbing gels require a bit of practice to get even. Use a light hand and blend quickly. Gels are usually oil-free, which is a good option for acne-prone skin.

    • Sticks: popular for their almost no-hands application (apart from a bit of blending), they’re great for travel. They’re also usually oil-free.

    • Creams and lotions: these provide good moisture, which is especially good for dry winter skin. They can also be tricky to apply and may take some practice to avoid a streaky appearance. Be careful using liquids in breakout-prone areas like your chest, back, and face. 

    • Sprays: emitting a fine mist for an even, airbrush-like look. Most formulas are water-based so they should dry quickly. These can be pretty messy for your surroundings, however, so we suggest standing in the bathtub and rinsing away any overspray as soon as possible.

  • A touch of shimmer can give you that sun-kissed, dewy look, but avoid an all-over application. Instead, highlight areas like your collarbone and shoulders. 

    • Be aware: shimmer can also accentuate fine lines. For many women, a matte is a better choice than a shimmer. 

  • Picking the right colour is crucial for the bronzer to look natural.

    • Choose a shade one to one-and-a-half times darker than your natural skin tone.

    • If you’re pale, start with a bronzer that is sheer rather than intensely pigmented. Avoid browns, which will look muddy or dirty rather than tanned.

    • Cool skin tones (pink/blue undertones): choose a shade with pink or peach undertones.

    • Warm skin tones (yellow undertones): choose apricot-hued bronzers, but avoid anything too orangey.

    • Olive skin tones: choose golden brown shades.

    • Dark skin tones: choose browns with an undertone of tawny red.

Application Tips

  • Exfoliate before you apply bronzer for a smoother application, especially during the dry, winter months.

  • Moisturizer is important to ensure your skin is hydrated. However, do not apply moisturizer immediately before applying bronzer since it can cause the bronzer to go on streaky or blotchy. Alternatively, look for a bronzer that has moisturizing qualities.

  • Apply a light amount of bronzer at first (you can always add more) and blend quickly (esp. gels and creams).
  • Don’t apply bronzer all over your face. Only apply it in areas where you naturally receive a bit of colour: your cheeks, your nose, your forehead, and a bit on the centre of your chin.

  • To avoid mess: apply only a thin layer and allow it to fully dry. Skin should be dry before application (avoid moisturizing for a few hours before).

  • Don’t apply bronzer to areas covered by clothes. Stick to exposed skin only. (Most bronzers will wash out of clothes fairly easily.)

Be Aware

  • When shopping, be sure to sniff the samples before buying since some products are quite strongly scented. You may even want to try a sample and walk around with it for a few hours to make sure you like the scent over time.


We recruited some sun-thirsty women who spend the majority of their time hard at work in an office to help us try on five different bronzers.


  • Rimmel SunShimmer Maxi Bronzer (powder with gold shimmer): $8.99/18g
. . Well.ca
  • The Body Shop Body & Leg Shine (stick): $18.50/55g
. . TheBodyShop
  • Benefit Cosmetics Jiffy Tan (cream): $36/200ml
. .
  • Scott Barnes Body Bling (cream): $49/120ml

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)


 Tan Test

  • Scott Barnes was shimmery, and turned out orangey on a couple of our testers. (It was definitely the wrong colour for Kristina.) It also felt sticky and took a long time to dry.

  • Benefit’s Jiffy Tan had a nice scent, and looked more like natural colour. It had a touch of shimmer that sparkled nicely in the light. It went on smoothly and easily.

  • The Body Shop’s Body & Leg Shine was easy to put on and lightweight but didn’t have much colour to it.

  • With the Rimmel SunShimmer, it gave sparkle, but it just looked like make-up on your arm.


Benefit’s Jiffy Tan was our favourite overall. It dried the fastest, the slight shimmer was a good balance with the colour it gave, and we all felt it looked the most natural. It also was the best colour for our wide range of testers’ skin tones.


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