Bronzer can be off-putting for anyone with pale skin, but lots of beauty brands do offer a lighter option for fairer skin (or for those who just want a gentle, sun-kissed look rather than a full-on Mediterranean tan).
Our main considerations during testing were to ensure the bronzer looked completely natural on fair skin, blended easily and that there was zero risk of even a hint of orange.
Like blusher, bronzer can often get neglected (or over-used), but choosing one for pale skin will simply give your complexion a lift in colour so you look healthier and less tired. Focus on where the sunshine naturally hits the skin – cheeks, cheekbones, forehead (particularly around the hairline), tip of the nose and chin.
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1. Delilah Sunset Compact Matte Bronzer in Light Medium: £34 for 11g, Space.NK
A solid, weighty rose-gold and soft, gunmetal grey compact gives Delilah instant cache and is definitely a notch above the other bronzer palettes we tested. However it's not all about the packaging. And inside, Delilah delivers above and beyond for a bronzer. It's completely matte, so if you find the shimmer in lots of bronzers settles in your fine lines and exacerbates them, then matte is the way to go. It’s a really gentle bronzer, and you can work up to the colour you want by building slowly – one swish and you're not instantly bronzed – so it's great for novice bronzer users. And it contains vitamin E and jojoba oil to keep sun-parched summer skin hydrated.
2. Hourglass Ambient Lighting Bronzer in Diffused Bronze Light: £45 for 11g, Space.NK
Bronzers can appear flat on the skin, chalky and powdery, but this compact blends two products in one – a soft, pale yellow luminising powder mixes with a cool-toned bronzer. The luminising powder contains a soft focus effect as well, so not only does it boost radiance, but it also minimises the look of fine lines, high colour and imperfections, making it great for more mature complexions. The bronzer adds a sun-kissed glow. You just swirl your brush around the palette to pick up a mix of the two shades and apply as you would a normal bronzer. It definitely lifts tired skin and gives lacklustre complexions a boost.
3. Urban Decay Beached Bronzer in Sun-Kissed: £22 for 9g, Urban Decay
This is a flat matte bronzer, but the ultra-creamy, soft texture comes from extra fine milling, so there’s no chalky, dry feeling at all. It can be used on your face and body – you can sweep it across the top of the décolleté, collarbone and tops of arms to give a really pretty, sun-kissed look. It comes in two shades – opt for Sun-Kissed if you have fair skin. If you dampen your brush you can also use it wet, which gives it loads more staying-power – so if your make-up slides in the heat, try this one for better longevity.
4. Bare Minerals Invisible Bronze Powder Bronzer in Fair to Light: £21.25 for 7g, Escentual
This one looks quite shimmery in the compact and the photo, but don't be put off. Once swirled onto your skin, it's much more sheeny than shimmery – it simply gives a soft glow to the skin, with no glitter. A slightly pearlescent finish helps bronzer look more natural and part of the skin. It's called “Invisible Bronze” and that’s almost right – you have to build up quite a decent amount on the skin before it really shows. This one is great for ultra-pale skin or bronzing beginners as you can't overdo it very easily. It comes with a handy illustrated card to show you where to apply bronzer, too.
5. Givenchy Healthy Glow Powder in 02 Douce Saison: £44 for 16g, Escentual
Almost double the size of many bronzers tested, this is actually not as expensive as it initially looks – as long as you do actually get to the bottom of the oversized pan. It's not terribly handbag-friendly as it is such a large compact. But the delightful gypsophila pattern makes us smile every time we open it up. It says “Healthy Glow” on the box and Givenchy delivers just that – no orange disasters here. This is just a simple, natural bronzer that makes you look like you've had a few days outdoors in the sunshine. It feels quite creamy, with no chalky feeling at all, so it really sinks in and looks part of the skin. You can build up the colour too, as it's not too strong a pigment.
6. YSL Les Sahariennes Bronzing Stones Collection in 1 Sunstone: £35 for 8g, YSL Beauty
The micro-milling process YSL uses for this palette creates a transparency in the bronzer – so it appears quite dark in the palette, but once applied looks natural. It doesn't seem to sit on the skin so much as be part of the skin, and adds a real luminosity to dull complexions. The brightening and light-enhancing qualities mean it's a good option if you're tired and your skin needs a boost.
7. English Mineral Makeup Bronzer in Mediterranean: £25 for 10g, English Mineral Makeup
You might think this is an unusual shade to include in a round-up of bronzers for pale skin – but don't be put off by the colour swatch or the name, as this bronzer is sublime on pale skin. Out of the pot and swirled onto the skin, it transforms into a stunning oyster mink with a slightly sheeny pearlescence. It has blue-based undertones to knock out and neutralise pinkness from sunburn or high colour on the cheeks (like rosacea) and these cool tones ensure the skin will never look orange. It's also 100 per cent natural, vegan, and non-pore clogging. There are no binders or fillers, either, just pure pigment.
8. Laura Geller Baked Bronze-n-Brighten in Fair: £26 for 9g, Feel Unique
This is one of those bronzers with several shades in one compact – a very pale bronze to highlight, a soft pink to lift and brighten the skin and a darker bronze to add the warmth. It's very easy to use though, you just swirl your brush around to pick up all the colours at once and then sweep over the apples and up to the hairline and then in all the places that the sun naturally catches. They are made without fillers or binders, so the colours are more intense. As it’s a baked product, it feels weightless on the skin, which makes a difference in the summer when you don't want to feel like you're wearing make-up.
9. Bagsy Ray of Sunshine Perfect Glow Bronzing Powder in 01 Light/Medium: £18 for 7.5g, Feel Unique
Good value for money, this is another completely matte bronzer that's ideal if you find your skin too shiny in the summer months. A superb matte, this one blends so seamlessly into the skin, it looks like you're glowing from within and with a gentle, slightly peach-toned colour, it should suit all pale skin types. It’s a brilliant bronzer if you're not wearing any other make-up as it doesn't need a base or foundation to carry it off.
10. Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil Light/Medium Matte Bronzer: £25 for 10g, Selfridges
If you like cocoa butter body lotion, or you like your make-up scented, you will love this sweet-smelling chocolate bronzer. Infused with anti-oxidant cocoa, it treats and protects the skin while adding a gentle sun-kissed glow. It's a fairly flat, matte, pretty apricot beige, but definitely adds warmth to the skin without looking orange.
The Verdict: Bronzers for pale skin
Bare Minerals looks natural and light, Urban Decay has astonishing staying power in the heat when the rest of your make-up can slide off, and Hourglass gives tired lacklustre skin a brilliant radiance boost. But for ticking all the bronzer boxes – skin-friendly ingredients, buildable colour, completely matte, suits-all shade and beautiful packaging – Delilah takes the Best Buy.
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