The Best Bronzers for Fair Skin That Make You Look Sun-Kissed—Not Orange

No streaks in sight.

Fair skinned models wearing bronzer pose backstage at the Ermanno Scervino Fashion Show during the Milan Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2023 on September 24, 2022 in Milan, Italy.
(Image credit: Rosdiana Ciaravolo/Wireimage)

I have the utmost respect for an elegantly crafted bronzer formula. But, at the same time, I frequently struggle to find a shade in the range that doesn't leave my incredibly pale, never-tan skin with an orange, oompa-loompa-ish tint. I refuse to look like a bad fake tan victim (although there are self-tanners on the market that are great), so I set out to find the best bronzers for fair skin. I wanted an assortment of creams, liquids, and powders that would give even the lightest tones a subtle glow and cheekbone definition, without the chalky, ruddy oxidation.

I have the luxury of having dozens of formulas at my disposal, so I set off on a testing mission. Over the past few years, I've swatched and blended well over 50 different bronzers from brands like Dior, Chanel, and Physician's Formula. I've also tapped top makeup artists in the business—the likes of whom work with Olivia Rodrigo, Emma Chamberlain, and Rihanna—for their suggestions.

Without further ado, I present to you: The best bronzers for fair skin.

The Best Bronzers for Fair Skin

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How to Find The Best Bronzer Shade for Fair Skin

“Generally speaking, your bronzer color should be one to two shades darker than your surface tone (or skin tone),” makeup artist Priscilla Ono explains. You'll also want to consider your undertones. Brands typically group their shade ranges and undertones together, so it’s easy to find one that works.

If you’re not sure of your undertone, Ono recommends looking at the veins in your arm. "If they are blueish, you have a cool undertone; if they are greener, you’re warmer; and if you can’t really determine which shade you are, you’re more likely a neutral undertone,” she adds.

What Bronzer Formula Should I Use?

Powder, cream, and liquid formulas are at your disposal with fair skin, so it really depends on the finish you're looking for. "Liquid bronzers can be mixed into foundation for a subtle amp up on warmth and will dry down, while cream bronzers can stay looking dewy and blend into skin seamlessly for an effortless look," explains celebrity makeup artist Judi Gabbay Braha. Powder bronzers on the other hand are available in luminous and matte formulas, which can be great for oily skin types.

How to Apply Bronzer to Fair Skin

With fair skin, less is always more. "Apply bronzer where the sun would naturally hit—the forehead, tip of the nose, chin, and cheekbones," says Braha. If you're using a brush, make sure to tap off excess product. If you're using a cream, place the product on the back of your hand first. Building bronzer in light layers is key to looking glowy and tan, as opposed to overly orange.

Meet The Experts

Judi Gabbay Braha

Judi Gabbay Braha is a celebrity makeup artist based in New York. Her work has been featured in Seventeen Magazine, Vogue Italia, Marie Claire, Nylon and more. She has learned tricks of the Hollywood trade from top artists such as Mario Dedivanovic, Scott Barnes, Samuel Rauda and Patrick Ta. And, she's worked with networks such as Bravo, TLC, ABC and more.

Priscilla Ono
Priscilla Ono

Priscilla’s passion for beauty began in the ‘90s, while watching music videos on MTV. She has since translated her obsession for artistic expression into a 13-year career as a celebrity makeup artist and instructor, leading sold-out master classes and creating looks that have graced international magazine covers, campaigns, and red carpets.

Beauty Editor

Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and shares the breakdown on the latest and greatest trends in the beauty space. She's studied up on every ingredient you'll find on INCI list and is constantly in search of the world's glowiest makeup products. Prior to joining the team, she worked as Us Weekly’s Beauty and Style Editor, where she stayed on the pulse of pop culture and broke down celebrity beauty routines, hair transformations, and red carpet looks. Her words have also appeared on Popsugar,,,, and Philadelphia Wedding. Samantha also serves as a board member for the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). She first joined the organization in 2018, when she worked as an editorial intern at Food Network Magazine and Pioneer Woman Magazine. Samantha has a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. While at GWU, she was a founding member of the school’s HerCampus chapter and served as its President for four years. When she’s not deep in the beauty closet or swatching eyeshadows, you can find her obsessing over Real Housewives and all things Bravo. Keep up with her on Instagram @samholender.

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