How Do Brown Girls Wear Bronzer?


It started with a shopping trip. A few weeks ago, I was with my friend Alysha, who like me, clocks in at a G4 on this handy Shade Finder. We found our way to the makeup counter at a midtown department store, and looked over a few lipsticks (creamy and pigmented), some blushes (warm and rosy), and then, like two people confronted with the boogeyman, we both stopped at the sight of a mountain of bronzers. “When would I ever need to use one of these?” Alysha asked. And me, a person definitely employed at a beauty company and most certainly personally invested in the idea of warm, glowy skin, responded with a quick, “I don’t know!” Because I didn’t know! Maybe because I never thought bronzers were for me. What do they do for deep skin tones, anyway? And which ones would actually work?

So I didn’t have answers, but I did have a few lifelines—makeup artist, Benjamin Puckey, for one. A few days later via email he explained, “Bronzers warm your skin tone and create dimension. Every skin tone can have a sun kissed glow, as long as you use the right shade.” And that was the start of what turned into an email chain with Benjamin, and a handful of other makeup artists and beauty experts. I wanted to know everything about bronzers—the best ones, how to apply them, and how to make them stand out on brown skin. Here's what they had to say:

Delina Medhin, Makeup Artist

“Bronzers almost always have a red, warm undertone. Always try to choose something that is complementary and only a couple shades deeper than your natural skin tone. My favorite bronzer for deeper skin tones is actually a matte pressed powder from Iman Cosmetics. It’s perfect for bronzing the skin and sculpting the face. My current clients who have worn it are comedians Franchesca Ramsey and Phoebe Robinson of 2 Dope Queens."

Application Tips: "The best way to apply bronzer is right above the hollows of the cheek (right above the contour), in the same place you would apply a blush. It's also nice to bring across the forehead right where the sun would naturally hit."

Kym Davis, Product Developer

"For deeper skin tones, the idea of a bronzer is to warm the skin, not by necessarily going deeper in bronzer tone, but instead using a brighter, warm shade to make the skin look sun-kissed. When looking at more of the medium to deep range, you would look for shades that would be slightly deeper but still warm the skin. Fenty Beauty's new range of matte bronzers were all developed on the skin tones they’re intended for. For matte bronzers, it's important to include a slight amount of pearl or synthetic mica to soften the look so that it doesn't look chalky. Another bronzer that is loved by makeup artists is the one from Iman Cosmetics. Graftobian also has some great shades, too."

Application Tips: "For powder bronzers, make sure to blend it out (including up towards the hairline) for a seamless, natural finish."

Stevie Huynh, Makeup Artist

“Stay away from anything that's too orange, and if you’re new to bronzer, choose a sheer, buildable formula like Chanel Les Beiges No. 60 or No. 70. These are a little more forgiving and fool proof. After applying to the cheeks or where you want maximum color, lightly brush remaining product that's left on the brush to the rest of your face (forehead, nose, chin), to make sure your whole face feels sun kissed and to ensure no lines! Some more favorites: Guerlain’s 05 Medium Brunette, which adds the perfect summer warmth to the skin and looks seamless when applied with a rounded fluffy powder brush. And I loved using it on Imaan Hammam to warm up her skin."

Application Tips: "Use a synthetic brush (Real Techniques makes a great buffing brush) and lightly brush onto the cheeks, temples and bridge of nose to create a contoured look. Another option is to finish with a fine highlighting powder to set and add maximum dimension.”

Benjamin Puckey, Makeup Artist

“Make sure the bronzer has enough warmth so it actually shows up on your skin tone. So many bronzers are either full of shimmer, show up grey or are way too red or orange to appear natural. A good bronzer should make your skin look richer and glowier. For deeper skin tones, I love to use cream bronzers such as Huda Beauty Tan Tour in Medium, Three Custom Color Specialists Crème To Powder Blush in Brown, and the olive brown and dark brown shades from the Ben Nye Creme Contour Wheel in Brown. But..I’ve yet to find a better powder bronzer for deeper skin tones than the Covergirl Queen Natural Hue Bronzer in Ebony Bronze, which has an amazing richness of color and shows up on the skin as a beautiful glow. I recently used the Covergirl bronzer on Solange and I’ve used a deeper Ben Nye Creme Shadow in CS-6 Midnite Browne as a beautiful bronzer on Alek Wek. For olive and tan skin tones I love Nars Bronzer in Casino because of it’s golden undertones and the warm glow it gives the skin."

Application Tips: “For cream bronzer I like to use a rounded synthetic brush such as the IT Cosmetics Wand Ball Powder Brush #8, and for powder bronzer I like the super soft Surratt Artistique Face Brush. I apply the color in a soft swirling motion starting at the hairline, going to the sides of the forehead and then down to the cheekbones.”

Yacine Diallo, Makeup Artist

“I’ve gradually stopped using bronzer on deeper skin tones because of the lack of good shades or because the shades I find are too pale (I miss Covergirl’s Queen collection bronzer!) But lately, I’ve been playing with two tones of foundation when I want to create dimension and using a shimmery powder on top of the cheekbones. Recently, on Jasmine Tookes, I applied Laura Mercier's Flaweless Fusion Foundation in 5N1 Pecan on the bridge of her nose, above the cheeks, and on the lowest part of her forehead. Then I applied the deeper shade, 6N1 Truffle, around the perimeter of her face. I do love the translucent powder from Laura Mercier, the ‘Glow’ one in Medium Deep. I have been using this on clients and on myself when I want a shimmery bronze effect on top of my magical trick of layering foundations.”

Photos via Instagram