How to Look Like You’ve Been on Vacation in the Dead of Winter

Whatever your skin tone, you can resemble a bronzed goddess in no time.

bronzer application tips
Whether or not you find winter cozy and romantic or freezing and hellish, the lack of sunlight is affecting everyone’s complexions at this point in the year. And while less sun exposure means minimal UV damage, we could all do without the sallow look that says “I haven’t seen the outside of my apartment in months.” Cue bronzer to the rescue.

If you’ve ever tried to apply bronzer during the winter time, you might already know how tricky it can be to pull off (without looking like you had an unfortunate spray-tan session). But creating that lit-from-within glow that perfectly complements your skin tone, while difficult to get right, is totally possible with the right products and technique.

Celebrity makeup artist and founder of Westman Atelier Gucci Westman, makeup artist and founder of Danessa Myricks Beauty Danessa Myricks, and makeup artist Sarah Redzikowski shared all their secrets for wielding bronzer appropriately—allowing you to recreate that sun-kissed goddess look from your bathroom.


Skin Prep

Your makeup is only as good as its base, and this sentiment is especially true when trying to replicate a summer vacation during the season when our skin is at its driest. We recommend a skin-care routine that is full of humectants and occlusives that will deliver water to your skin and lock moisture in place. If, despite the weather, your skin is on the oilier side, opt for an oil-free moisturizer to keep your products from slip-sliding around your face. A luminizing primer is your best friend to provide grip for your makeup to stay in place while adding a dewy sheen to the rest of your complexion.

An Oil for All Day

No, Thank You

The Tools

Redzikowski reminds us all that “shorter days mean the sun rises later, which in turn means you may be doing your makeup in the early, dark hours.” Before diving into the actual makeup, she recommends investing in a mirror with proper lighting so that you can actually see yourself while you’re doing your makeup.

In terms of additional tools, Westman and Redzikowski agree that a rounded or oval-shaped brush with soft bristles is ideal for applying bronzer. Says Westman, “It disperses the product more evenly and gives you more control over the application.”

Bronzer & Blusher Brush

Charlotte Tilbury

Finding the Right Bronzer

Choosing the right bronzer is much like choosing the right pair of shoes–you have to make sure that it fits just right. So no matter how much you are currently pining over your favorite celebrity’s new product, the formula has to complement your skin tone. Unsure of how to find the right match for you? Our experts suggest focusing on your skin’s undertone.

Fair and Cool Skin:

If you’re at the exceptionally fair end of the skin spectrum, with cooler undertones, a bronzer with orange or brown tones may create a faux bronze that looks just a bit too…faux. To enhance the coolness in your complexion while still faking a subtle tan (without that telltale orange-y effect), Westman recommends a bronzer that has a true terracotta undertone.

The Neo-bronzer

Kevyn Aucoin

Hoola Matte Bronzer

Benefit Cosmetics

Medium and Warm Skin:

Given the warmth of your complexion, opting for a bronzer that has golden undertones will enhance your skin color without ever looking too muddy.

Sunlit Bronzer

Becca Cosmetics

Dark and Deep Skin:

Myricks reveals to Coveteur, “A warm orange [with] a balance of red and brown [to] mimic the richness of undertones that naturally occur in melanated skin” is the ideal bronzer for your complexion.

Power Bronzer

Danessa Myricks



Faking a Tan Technique

According to Myricks, the placement of your bronzer is dependent on your skin tone. Myricks says, “For fair to medium skin tones, I strategize adding the warmth along the perimeters of the face, along the hairline, along the jawline, and through the cheeks.” An easy way to do this is to follow the tried and true 3-E method—draw a 3 and an E on either side of your face with your bronzer and brush, targeting the forehead, temples, cheeks, and jawline.

As for those with darker skin tones, Myricks recommends applying bronzer through the center of the face. She says, “I like to amplify the natural undertones through the center of the face on the planes of the forehead, cheek, and chin. Since the sun will naturally intensify the contours of the face, the rich warmth from the bronzer will add that amplified, warm, sun-kissed glow.”

To replicate a touch of sun with just a hint of product, you can target the high points of your face, like the bridge of your nose, temples, and the tops of your cheeks. “Use a high-quality fluffy brush, tap away the excess before you start, and think about where the sun naturally hits your face when you’re outdoors,” Westman says. She recommends swiping the product in a horizontal motion across your face. “I find this horizontal motion technique gives you more authentically bronzed skin.” Just be sure to stop before you reach the bottom of your cheekbones—that will keep the effect looking natural.

Finish with Some Glow

All the makeup artists agree that bronzer in and of itself is never complete without the juxtaposition of a bit of highlighter for a true lit-from-within look. In order to achieve this, apply highlighter to the high points of your face, such as the tops of the cheekbones, the bridge of your nose, the brow bone, and the Cupid’s bow.

“When choosing a highlighter for deeper skin tones, I like to pull from the tones existing in their natural undertones,” says Myricks. “This creates a super-natural, lit-from-within radiance. For example, for someone with yellow or golden undertones, I would use a range of golden highlighter tones. For someone with red undertones, I would use a rose gold, pink, or bronze tone to add light. [And] for neutral skin tones, my go-to is a universally flattering champagne.”

Fair and Medium Skin with Neutral Undertones:

Face Glaze

InnBeauty Project

Positive Light Liquid Luminizer Highlight

Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez

Deep Skin with Yellow Or Golden Undertones:

Cream Glow

Kjaer Weis



Endless Glow Highlighter

$29 $23

Deep Skin with Red Undertones:

Dew Balm


Illuminating Veil

Danessa Myricks
And finally, don’t be bronzer shy. The trick to mimicking a natural-looking bronzed complexion is to target everywhere, not just your face. Westman explains, “[One of the biggest mistakes I see when people apply bronzer is] not including [the] neck and collarbones if they’re showing.” Finish the look off by dusting bronzer down your neck, around your collarbones, and in the center of your décolletage. It might not be summer just yet, but your new look will have everyone asking if you snuck off for a weekend at the beach.

Want more stories like this?

The Best Bronzers for Faking a Sun-Kissed Glow
The 8 Best Highlighters for a Subtle, Lit-from-Within Glow
A Fake Sunburn Is My Ultimate End-of-Summer Beauty Look
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