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Bronzer 101: Choosing the best bronzer by your skin's undertone

Bronzer isn't only just for those winter months when you're cooped indoors, swaddled in your favorite blanket watching the snow falling on oaks, eating popcorn and making resolutions to workout as you catch up on the latest tearjerker on Netflix. If applied well, bronzer can give you that "sun-kissed goddess" look that's virtually in every Fashion magazine, and if done wrong-it can make you look like the missing member of Charlie's Oompa Loompas.

Adriana Lima is known for her gorgeous, bronze glow; using a bronzer with the proper undertone will help you look a sun-kissed goddess this summer.

The important thing to keep in mind is your skin's undertone, when selecting a bronzer. Have you ever reached for a foundation in your skin tone, which looked like a perfect match in the store, and then you end up going home, and realizing that the shade you selected is less than fabulous? The culprit? The foundation's undertone. Beyond your complexion which can range from Fair to Dark, your undertone, or the color beneath your skin's surface plays a huge role in helping you choose the right bronzer that will look the best on you.

Skin undertones are generally divided into three categories: "Cool" (your skin will have a pink, reddish or bluish base), "Warm" (your skin will have a yellow, honey, amber or golden base), and lastly, Neutral (which is a mix of cool and warm tones). Some makeup artists also make the distinction of a fourth category, Olive, but it generally falls into the neutral zone because it is a mix of cool and warm undertones.

Now, the fun part... figuring out your undertone. There are many great ways to figure out your skin's base shade on your own, but if you feel nervous about it or want confirmation, visit any beauty department store or luxury beauty brand, and an in-store makeup artist will help you identify the proper match. However, for us DIY types, here are some steps you can use to determine your skin's undertone; be sure to watch Destiny's video on Skin Undertones, for an in-depth, how-to:

Vein Color

This isn't a definite, and doesn't always work well for everyone, but it's a common test used to identify undertone; look at the veins in your arms and legs; if they appear blue or purplish, you most likely have a "Cool" undertone, if they're more green, then you most likely have a "Warm" undertone, and if you really can't figure it out if you're more of a blue-purple or green, you're most likely "Neutral."

Ivory Fabric

Wash your face and pat it dry; pull your hair back into a ponytail or bun. Drape an ivory colored cloth or towel over your neck and shoulders to determine your true undertone. It's important that the cloth is ivory, and not pure white because it will give you a more accurate starting point. Perform this test in natural light or in incandescent light, you want to avoid fluorescent lighting. If your face looks more yellow or golden, you're warm, if your face looks more blue or pinkish, you're cool, and if you "blend" in with the fabric, you're neutral.

Best bronzers by undertone


Too Faced makes some amazing bronzers that compliment a variety of complexions and undertones. One of its best-sellers is Milk Chocolate Soileil ("Milk Chocolate Sun"), which has a lovely chocolaty scent, and is a light/medium matte, which is suitable for people with pale to fair skin. If bronzer generally looks too orange on you, this product might be your dream come true. It works best for people with cool or neutral undertones, and it's super easy to blend, offers long-lasting wear, and isn't tested on animals.


theBalm's Bahama Mama is a perfect matte-cool bronzer for those of a medium or dark complexion with warm-yellow or olive undertones, and it even doubles as a shadow/powder, making it a perfect choice for contouring. You'll get beautifully tan skin without that fake-and-bake orange glow.

Multi-tonal Bronzer

Christian Dior Diorskin Nude Tan Healthy Glow Enhancing Powder is a multi-tonal bronzer that comes in two quasi-universally flattering shades. It comes in a cooler (pinker) shade, and in a darker (warmer) shade. It's hassle-free, and takes the guesswork out of determining your undertone.

Other tips...

If you're older or are concerned about fine lines and wrinkles, avoid bronzers with too much shimmer, and opt for matte to reduce their appearance. Remember... with makeup, less, is more. Don't overdo it; blend in color slowly- you can always add more. Also, use a good primer before you apply makeup like Smashbox's Photo Finish Foundation Primer or Laura Mercier's Foundation Primer.

Lastly, try before you buy, so you avoid the hassle of returns, and product that just doesn't work on you.

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