woman wearing sunhat looking up
Credit: Anna Dabrowska/The Licensing Project

Golden Hour: Consider This Your Guide to Faking a Sun-Kissed Glow

Keep your SPF and hats on, and heed these product-based bronzing tips, instead.
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Glowing, healthy skin is what everyone wants come summertime. And thanks to a new wave of bronzers and illuminators, you can instantly recapture the warmth and dewiness you used to get from a day spent sprinting through the sprinklers. We found a flattering formula for every skin tone under the sun.

Products to Help You Glow

Smooth Your Skin

This is key to a more radiant look. Exfoliate two to three times a week to slough off dead cells and help makeup go on evenly: You can use a damp washcloth with your cleanser or a light scrub. For a deeper sweep, consider a dermaplane treatment, which will remove flakiness, fuzz, and dullness, says Birmingham, Alabama, dermatologist Corey L. Hartman. Then moisturize daily, says Dr. Hartman, who suggests applying Vichy Minéral 89 Skin Fortifying Daily Booster (from $20, walgreens.com) onto still-damp skin, followed by sunscreen. Everyone should wear SPF 30 to 50 daily—even those with darker skin tones, which have inherent SPF of only 3 to 8. Dr. Hartman's go-to choice is fast-absorbing Isdin Eryfotona Actinica Ultralight Emulsion Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ ($55, isdin.com). For a wallet-friendly option, try Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 ($9, walgreens.com).

Tap the Right Tools

To warm up your skin tone, a thick brush is essential. "Choose one that's big enough to hug the contours of your face and help you blend," says New York City makeup artist Nam Vo. Dense bristles are also best for picking up pigments from any bronzer or illuminator, and they're especially handy for creams and oils that just get absorbed by a fluffier brush. "To soften the edges of your face and lift away excess product, dab a damp beauty sponge all over when you're finished—it'll also press the pigments in, which extends wear time," says Chicago makeup artist Jenny Patinkin.

Hourglass No. 2 Foundation/ Blush Brush

Foundation Brush

Brush in powder or cream compacts, or into a few drops of tinted oil on the back of your hand.

Shop Now: Hourglass Cosmetics No. 2 Foundation/Blush Brush, $58, hourglasscosmetics.com.

Choose a Good Formula

Your ideal bronzer or illuminator will be simpatico with your skin type—and tone. A powder makes sense if you're oily; go for something creamy if you're dry. If you're overwhelmed by all the color options (rule of thumb: Go one shade darker than your natural tone), simply enhance your complexion with a subtle gold (which is flattering on skin with warm undertones) or peach (perfect for cool types)—these shades suit everyone, Patinkin says.

Vesca Beauty Kissed By Soft-Matte Bronzing Powder

Powder Bronzer

The choice for shine-free color. We like Vesca Beauty Kissed By Soft-Matte Bronzing Powder because it melts into your skin instead of sitting on top, and comes in a shade for every skin tone.

Shop Now: Vesca Beauty Kissed By Soft-Matte Bronzing Powder, $30, urbanoutfitters.com.

Tower 28 Bronzino Illuminating Cream Bronzer

Cream Bronzer

Dewiness delivered. Tower 28's cream bronzer contains moisturizing mango butter and soothing green-tea extract to wake up your complexion. Build it up just below your cheekbones for believable dimension.

Shop Now: Tower 28 "Bronzino" Illuminating Cream Bronzer, $20, credobeauty.com.

Maya Chia Highlight of the Day Illuminating Face Serum

Oil Bronzer

Fear not: "A little shimmer can be incredibly brightening and fresh," says Patinkin. Maya Chia Highlight of the Day Illuminating Face Serum works overtime as a highlighter; sweep it on the bridge of your nose and the high planes of your cheeks

Shop Now: Maya Chia Highlight of the Day Illuminating Face Serum, $42, credobeauty.com.

Apply and Go

Start on the upper half of your face, where you naturally get some sun; then define your cheeks and jawline. Vo suggests sweeping a brush in the shape of a "3" on both sides of your face, so you hit the top of the forehead, highs of the cheekbone, and jaw. Buff it onto your ears and a few inches down your neck, too. Then press a single-ply tissue onto your skin to dial down any shine or too much sparkle. Oily types can benefit from patting it all over, but those with normal to dry skin can zero in on the forehead, chin, and creases of the nose.

illustration of woman applying bronzer
Credit: Illustration by Brown Bird Design

Try a Tint

Sheer, single-shade tints subtly enhance any skin tone; smooth them over your face for a wash of color that creates a lit-from-within effect—no precision necessary—or put a drop or two into your moisturizer for a more subtle approach.

Beauty Counter Glow Shimmer Oil

Shimmer Oil

Give Beauty Counter's shimmer oil a good shake, then smooth it onto your cheeks, décolletage, and even legs.

Shop Now: Beauty Counter Glow Shimmer Oil, $35, beautycounter.com.

Dr. Hauschka Translucent Bronzing Tint

Bronzing Tint

Mix a drop of this bronzing tint in your day cream. The mineral pigments deposit a soft, golden flush.

Shop Now: Dr. Hauschka Translucent Bronzing Tint, $29, skinstore.com.

Patrick Ta Major Glow All-Over Glow Balm

Glow Balm

Jojoba oil and shea butter in Patrick Ta's glow balm moisturize wherever you dab it on.

Shop Now: Patrick Ta "Major Glow All-Over" Glow Balm, $50, sephora.com.