Nothing says summer like tanned, golden skin, but in this day and age of SPF 50 sporting a real tan is just plain irresponsible. Still, blatantly faking one is outdated and can look silly.
To achieve a beautifully bronzed glow, I recommend swapping your fake-bake palette of browns and peachy-gold makeup for subtle, gradual self-tanners that flatter skin of every shade.
A hint of color can camouflage everything from undereye circles to cellulite and make you feel sexier, chicer and thinner. I've experimented madly with tanners and bronzers in search of the perfect faux glow - so much that my girlfriends await bronzing updates like seekers at the oracle of Delphi.
Here are a few of my secrets for a goddess-like glow. You won't need them all - feel free to cherry-pick your own combos.
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1. Even the lightest shades of bronzing powders have a tendency to look too dark, too matte, too opaque, too metallic or too orange when applied. Nars Sparkling Pressed Powder in Gold Rush ($30) provides radiance without the extra color. This low-watt powder blurs pores and wrinkles, absorbs oil and gives eyelids a clean sparkle so you don't need shadow.
2. I'm a convert to tinted lip balms in peachy-pink or golden nude shades that add just enough color and volume to look fresh but not makeup-y. Neutrogena Soothing Lip Sheers SPF 20 in Sparkling Nude ($9) does the trick and has a peppermint flavor.
3. Fresh High Noon FreshFace Glow ($36) is a hydrating tint with botanicals that renders dry skin immediately sunny and dewy. If you like more coverage, mix it fifty-fifty with your foundation. I first tried this after a glycolic peel, noting that it counteracted redness and sensitivity brilliantly. Try it also if you have rosacea.
4. Shiseido Daily Bronze Moisturizing Emulsion for Face/Body ($35) is the subtlest self-tanner I've found. It contains a reduced level of the active ingredient, DHA. The effect is like bumping up your light-reflecting foundation a shade - just enough to blur discolorations - and it won't cause elbows, knees or brown spots to overtan.
5. Revlon Bare It All Lustrous Lotion in Peachy Tease ($15), a cross between primer and a highlighter, comes close to giving "experienced" skin that lit-from-within look you see on 18-year-olds in cosmetics ads. Think of it as your personal retoucher in a tube. You can blend it under your foundation or wear it over sunblock for extra glow.