What’s your ride-or-die make-up product? Common answers to this question include mascara, brow gel, a bold lipstick. For me, it has always been all about bronzer. Nothing appeals to me more than a lustrous sun-baked veil of tan over skin, and since my sunbathing days are over (now it’s all about a hat and SPF 50), I turn to bronzer to achieve the natural, sun-kissed look I ‘m after.
This year, however, I’ve swapped my usual powder formulas for buttery, cream iterations, after a series of impressive new launches landed on my desk. Having dabbled with some brilliant cream formulas in the past – Chanel’s Les Beiges Bronzing Cream is one cult product that long ago earned a permanent spot in my make-up bag – and as a cream blush devotee, I knew that switching to a balmier consistency can create a more believable finish.
“Minimalist skin is such a big trend right now, so I’m not surprised that cream bronzers are having a moment,” agrees Rachel Hardie, lead artist at Nars. “The texture allows seamless blendability and looks like a second skin, plus the great thing is that anyone can work with a cream bronzer, even if you are a make-up novice.” Ultra easy to blend, cream formulas are the best way to achieve skin that looks like it’s actually being in the sun, whereas in my experience, it takes a really good, finely-milled powder bronzer (not always easy to find), to create the kind of glowy look I seek day to day.
“Powder has more pigment pay-off and works really well for an evening glam look or when you need a bit of extra warmth,” says Hardie. “I love layering cream and powder textures to really add dimension to the skin, but for an everyday look, cream is my go-to right now as it melts weightlessly into the skin and hydrates.” What I’ve found is that if that the day ahead is going to be a little humid or, well, sweaty, then dusting a layer of powder bronzer over the top can help set a cream formula in place, but this step isn’t required most of the time.
A great way to lightly sculpt, cream bronzers add effortless glow, plus there are so many good ones to choose from. I apply with a big fluffy brush over the points of my face where the sun is most likely to hit (including the top of the forehead, bridge of nose and cheekbones), and sometimes I apply to my eyelids too, for a little extra glow . It’s also a great partner to cream blush as the two consistencies fuse together in a really natural way.
Some of my favorites include Charlotte Tilbury’s, which is housed in a big compact with an equally big mirror, Nars’s Cream Bronzer and Rare Beauty’s Contour Stick, which is super easy to apply thanks to its stick format. Meanwhile, Saie, Rose Inc and Anastasia Beverly Hills have also recently launched formulas that are well worth trying.
How to choose the right shade for you? “Always opt for a couple of tones darker than your natural skin tone,” recommends Hardie. “Paler skin types should find a golden-toned shade with a hint of green; olive skins should opt for a warmer base, as it cancels any sallowness; and deeper skin tones are typically complemented by rich pigments, without too much red.”
Below, some of the best to try now.