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The best bronzers for a natural-looking glow

From illuminating liquids to the best contouring creams, we reveal the ultimate bronzers for all year round

best bronzer
Harper's Bazaar

Finding a great bronzer is a trickier task that you might think – in fact, the finest glow-givers are almost impossible to detect.

That’s precisely what makes them so brilliant: rather than disco-ball shimmer, terracotta tones or tell-tale streaks, the very best bronzers on the market will look almost imperceptible on skin, veiling your complexion with believable luminosity and gentle warmth. When people are asking if you've managed a weekend in the sun, you’re doing bronzer right.

Cream, powder or liquid?

Now, traditional powders aren't the only option open to you, as a host of cream and liquid bronzers have hit the market, capitalising on our obsession with skin that shines. Generally speaking, a liquid formula will deliver less in the longevity stakes but excel when it comes to luminosity, offering more of a natural, radiant look than a powder. Some, like Lumene's, are infused with highlighter-style pigments that'll bounce the light beautifully, while others – take note of Dolce & Gabbana's outstanding Solar Glow drops – can be blended into your foundation, taking the tone a little deeper while looking entirely realistic.

A cream bronzer sits somewhere in-between a liquid and a powder, offering translucent colour without sliding around your cheeks. Milk Makeup's translucent option is a new favourite on the Bazaar beauty team, while Drunk Elephant's antioxidant drops are ideal for deepening your foundation.

How to apply bronzer

Finding your perfect bronzer is a great start, but the success of your final look also rides on your application skills.

When it comes to achieving a natural-looking result, it's all about placement. Don't be tempted to simply sweep your bronzer over your cheeks, as this will leave too much contrast against your natural skin tone, and leave you with an obviously faux tan. Remember, you're using your bronzer not as a blush, but to accentuate all your features.

Olivia Devey, Guerlain's national beauty expert shares a few expert hacks to ensure a seamless result. “Try swirling the brush around in the product and then press the product into the brush using the palm of your hand. For formulas with a little radiance, I love to apply horizontally across the top of the cheekbone, just under the eyes, and across the bridge of the nose. This 'sunstrip' mimics the way you catch the sun if sat out for a few hours, so looks super natural. With what’s left on the brush I’d add a little to the top of the forehead in a horizontal line and on the chin."

For a more sculpted look, Devey recommends switching to a matte bronzer. "Follow the classic 'three' shape, drawing your product under the cheekbones, angling the brush upwards, around the temples and along the jaw line.”

Here, discover the bronzers to rely on for a ‘you look well’ glow, from new mineral powders to a genius illuminating liquid, and the most cult-classic bronzing cream of all time.

The best bronzers, from radiant powders to dewy liquids

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Best liquid bronzer
Invisible Illumination [Kaunis] Watercolor Bronzer
Lumene feelunique.com

Anyone with very dry skin will know that powders can end up looking cakey. The solution lies in a liquid bronzer, like Lumene's. This radiant formula can be applied under or over foundation, or even blended into a liquid base to amp up its glow.

Best multi-use bronzer
Les Beiges Healthy Glow Bronzing Cream
CHANEL feelunique.com

Product reformulations are always risky, so when Chanel tweaked the formula of its beloved Soleil Tan, loyal fans prepared to stockpile the original.

Thankfully, the new formulation – now available in three shades – is even better than the first. The finish is similar, but a very well-trained eye will notice a slightly softer, glowier effect. The hydration-boosting kalanchoe extract is a welcome addition too.

There's myriad ways to apply this radiant, moussey cream, but we like swirling it on beneath foundation for the most believable bronze. Those in the know swear by it for a grown-up contour, too.

Best natural finish bronzer
Soleil Glow Bronzer Terra Small
Tom Ford lookfantastic.com

Tom Ford might own the floor when it comes to big, bold beauty, but this is actually one of the subtlest, most natural-looking bronzers on the shelves.

Luminous and lightly pigmented, it works to unify and brighten the complexion while imparting a subtle, translucent bronze that never looks artificial.

The cool-toned Terra is perfect for paler skin toners, while Gold Dust is a little richer and warmer with a shot of shimmer, making it ideal for darker skin.

Best bronzer for contouring
Modern Bronzer
Cult Beauty
VIEVE cultbeauty.co.uk

Jamie Genevieve's clever bronzer is designed to deliver razor-sharp cheekbones. Each palette contains two tonal shades that can be combined to sculpt and shape the facial contours.

The texture is the most buttery, cream-like powder we've tried, meaning you get both longevity and a glowing finish, with a very discreet touch of shimmer.

Best bronzer for dry skin
Beautiful Skin Sun Kissed Glow Bronzer
Charlotte Tilbury feelunique.com

Charlotte Tilbury's latest release really stands up to the hype surrounding it. Rich and creamy, but with staying power that impresses, the Beautiful Skin bronzer is ideal for anyone who wants hydration and satiny colour without reflective shine. The pan is large enough to swirl a fluffy brush evenly through, and the full-size mirror is helpful, too.

Best light cream bronzer
Cream Bronzer
REFY selfridges.com

This cream-based bronzer is light and gleaming, so it's best to apply with a light hand, either dabbing on with fingers or blending with a stipple brush. The finish is glowing yet matte, warming the skin while letting your natural complexion shine through.

Best matte cream bronzer
Sun Melt Natural Cream Bronzer
Cult Beauty
Saie cultbeauty.co.uk

This one offers more intense colour than the bronzer above, and a slightly more matte finish that really impresses in the longevity stakes. The generous, round pot is ideal for swirling a buffing brush into, while the four shades will cover all complexions.

Best mineral bronzer
Forever Natural Bronze
Christian Dior boots.com

Ideal for sensitive skin, Dior's bronzer is made using mineral pigments, so won't clog pores or prompt irritation. There are eight shades to choose from, and each imparts a luminous, soft-focus veil of warmth rather than obvious, high-pigment colour.

Best bronzer for brides
Ambient Lighting Bronzer
Hourglass feelunique.com

A favourite with bridal makeup artists, Hourglass' cult bronzer has a marbled surface that means you can achieve a radiant finish with a single swirl. The lighter pigments add luminosity for a glow without the glitter.

Best bronzer with skincare benefits
D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops
Cult Beauty
Drunk Elephant cultbeauty.co.uk

Drunk Elephant’s smart offering is an antioxidant-packed liquid. Part skincare, part make-up, these clever drops can be mixed into foundation to deepen the tone and add radiance, or blended out over cheeks for a translucent, dewy result.

Best powder bronzer
Terracotta Light The Sun-Kissed Natural Healthy Glow Powder
Guerlain selfridges.com

Guerlain is famed for its Terracotta bronzers, and this 96 per cent natural newcomer is perhaps the very best. Lighter than the originals, it's designed to make skin look lit from within, rather than noticeably bronzed. The sheer powder is shot through with a gentle gold shimmer and fine enough to skim over pores. Try using it to set a low-coverage foundation.

Best balm bronzer
Milk Makeup Bionic Bronzer 17ml
Cult Beauty
Milk Makeup cultbeauty.co.uk

A bronzer that lets your freckles shine through will always look believably natural, and Milk Makeup's new launch does just that. Don't be put off by the intensely pigmented appearance on first squeeze: the balmy texture sheers out once buffed into skin, leaving behind a translucent wash of colour that looks radiant, not sparkly. Try it over a tinted moisturiser for a summer complexion that shines.

Best blush and bronzer palette
Summer Unrated Blush/Bronzer Duo
Space NK
Nars spacenk.com.uk

Nars boasts some of the most iconic complexion shades in beauty history, and this summer the brand has combined them into practical palettes. This limited-edition launch sees the skin-brightening Orgasm blush combined with the brand's legendary bronzers in Laguna, Casino or Cyprus. There's one to flatter every skin tone.

Best luxury bronzer
Beauty Butter Powder Bronzer
Cult Beauty
Westman Atelier cultbeauty.co.uk

Gucci Westman's eponymous line is full of light, easy-to-wear classics that always look and feel low-key yet beautiful. Her weighty metal bronzer palette is ideal for gently warming up the skin, creating a healthy glow that everyone will assume is natural. The powder is so soft, it blends seamlessly and never cakes.

Best bronzing drops
Solar Glow Universal Bronzing Drops
Dolce & Gabbana feelunique.com

Brilliant bronzing products are, of course, a cornerstone of Dolce & Gabbana's make-up offering. There's a great dual-tone powder bronzer in the line-up, but the real star is this sparkle-free liquid formula, which can be used in multiple ways to create a flawless radiant finish.

Dispense a drop into your moisturiser to gently warm up the complexion without coverage, or blend it with a liquid foundation to deepen the hue as the weather heats up. Finally, try using it neat, brushing a couple of drops over clean skin for a tan that looks completely natural.

Best beginners' bronzer
Cult Beauty
Benefit cultbeauty.co.uk

If you're new to bronzing, or simply a little nervous about application, consider Benefit's iconic Hoola powder. It's available in four shades, and looks incredibly natural, so you really can't go wrong. Apply it over cheekbones and the bridge of your nose in light, sweeping motions: the matte-yet-radiant powder illuminates while imparting translucent, blendable colour. Bronzing, for beginners.

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