A Pale Girl’s Guide to Bronzing and Contouring

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Summer’s coming, and you know what that means? Tropical vacations and beautiful, sun-tanned skin. Hah. In my dreams.

If you’re a pale girl like myself (MAC NW20), then you know the woes of trying to find the perfect bronzing and contouring products. Too warm and you look like an Oompa Loompa. Too cool and you look like you’ve been rolling around in the dirt. What’s a pasty girl to do? I’ve rounded up the (mostly) matte bronzers from my collection to help you find your perfect product.

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The Glow-Getters

Warm and sunny, these bronzers are best used to warm up your complexion and fake that, “I just got back from vacation” look.

Physician’s Formula bronze Booster

Price: Roughly $15 depending on drugstore sales
Appearance:
Light brown, slightly warm, nearly matte with subtle shimmer
My Thoughts: 
I somehow always manage to forget about this product, despite the fact that I’ve owned it forever. If you have a hard time finding drugstore bronzers that aren’t too orange, this is a great option. Don’t be scared off by the shimmer– it’s not apparent on the skin, and adds a healthy glow. Unfortunately, this product isn’t very long lasting– especially when you consider that it’s one of the pricier items at the drugstore.

Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow

Price: $68
Appearance:
Warm brown with faint shimmer, sheer but buildable
My Thoughts:
#UnpopularOpinion: If you’re a pale girl, this product is not as great as everyone says. For $68, I expect to be wowed. The “sculpting” powder is far too warm to be used for contouring, and as a bronzer, it’s nothing outstanding. (And while I was initially quite impressed with the highlighter, I discovered that it emphasizes every little imperfection on your face when worn in direct sunlight.)  Skip the hype and save your money.

The Balm Bahama Mama

Price: $20
Appearance:
Deep brown matte, extremely pigmented
My Thoughts: 
Holy moly is this mama pigmented! This is the deepest brown bronzing/contouring powder I own, and because of that, I rarely use it except in the middle of the summer when I’m at my tannest. (Which, sadly, is never that tan.) If you’re new to bronzers or extremely pale, you might want to pass on this one. If you do try it, just make sure to use a light hand when applying. This powder has a red undertone, and so I’ve found that it looks more natural as an all-over bronzer rather than a contouring powder.

THE Sculptors

Want to fake sky-high cheekbones? These are your new best friends.

Too Faced Milk Chocolate SoleiL Bronzer

Price: $30
Appearance:
Light neutral brown, matte-finish
My Thoughts: 
This is a recent addition to my collection, but it’s definitely becoming a favorite. I like this product because it’s not too dark, not too light, easy to build, and easy to blend. I’m not sure why Too Faced considers this a “bronzer,” since it’s quite a neutral tone, making it great for adding definition without adding warmth. (Sidenote: This product smells very strongly of chocolate. If you’re sensitive to fragrance, I recommend avoiding it.)

NXY HD Blush in Taupe

Price: Roughly $6 depending on drugstore sales
Appearance:
Dark, cool toned brown, matte finish
My Thoughts: 
(*Note: This product is different than the NYX Powder Blush in Taupe, which I can’t seem to get my hands on.) This is a great contouring powder for someone on a budget! It creates nice, natural looking definition if applied in light layers. The formula has phenomenal pigmentation, and is quite easy to work with. Plus, for $6, how can you argue?

Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder in Medium

Price: $44
Appearance:
Medium, cool toned brown
My Thoughts:
I think that this product is what I was hoping the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow would be. I held off on buying it for a long time, due to its price tag. I don’t mind paying good money for a product that works, but I was nervous. What could possibly be so special about this contour powder? Now that I’ve caved, I understand why everyone raves about it! It creates the most natural looking shadows on the hollows of your face. It looks amazing no matter how it’s applied: sheer for a more natural look or heavier for something more dramatic and defined. (Then again, if you can’t quite stomach $44, the Too Faced Milk Chocolate Soleil isn’t a perfect dupe, but it’s similar in a lot of ways.) One step closer in my quest to become Karlie Kloss!

THE multi-taskers

Perfect for every day, these are the perfect products for adding warmth and definition in one easy step.

Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Contour

Price: $21
Appearance:
Cream product, warm brown
My Thoughts: 
It’s taken a long time for me to develop an opinion on this product. The formula and ease of application are great. While the product can look quite scary when first applied, it actually sheers out nicely, and is easy to blend. This makes it easy to achieve your desired level of contour, whether that’s something Kim Kardashian-esque or something a bit more natural. The color is quite warm, and so some may not like it for contouring, but I find that the cream product melts seamlessly into my skin, lasts all day, and gives me a great combination of sunny, sculpted features. If they ever came out with a cooler-toned version, I’d be even more in love. If you’re a contouring beginner, I quite enjoy using a light layer of this product beneath my setting powder as a “guide” before applying powder contour.

Benefit Hoola

Price: $28
Appearance:
Medium, cool toned brown
My Thoughts:
A few years ago, Hoola was the bronzer to own. In the pan, this product looks quite a bit like the Kevyn Aucoin Sculpting Powder. However, on my very pale skin, I’ve noticed that this is ever so slightly warmer. And while I’d never use the Kevyn Aucoin powder for all-over bronzing, Hoola performs well at both bronzing and contouring. Despite the fact that I find the formula difficult to work with (sometimes it blends unevenly) I actually quite like the effect Hoola achieves when I have patience.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Matte Waterproof Bronzer

Price: $28
Appearance:
Medium brown, slightly warm, matte finish
My Thoughts:
If I’m not reaching for my Body Shop Honey Bronze Bronzer (below), then I’m probably reaching for this in my makeup routine. A great everyday bronzer, this is perfect for adding some color back into your complexion. It’s definitely on the warm side of the spectrum, but can work for contouring in a pinch. Plus, the waterproof* formula means that it’s super long-lasting, and a great option for summer.

*This bronzer is definitely not waterproof like it claims, but it is long lasting!

The Body Shop Honey Bronze Bronzing Powder

Price: $20
Appearance:
Light brown, slightly warm, matte finish
My Thoughts:
Ol’ reliable.  My Body Shop bronzer is the product I return to again and again, all year long. (You can tell by how beat up mine looks in the top photo.) I own shade number 2, “Fair.” It leans slightly warm, which makes it great for adding just a touch of color to your face when your foundation has you looking washed out. Don’t let the (nearly nonexistent) swatch fool you– the fact that this product is quite sheer is one of the reasons I love it. It allows you to slowly build up the perfect amount of color and definition.

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