When it comes to bronzer, there are a few things beauty lovers know for sure. The best bronzers are supposed to make you look like you just stepped off a beach in the south of France; they’re supposed to blend seamlessly into the rest of your makeup; and they are not supposed to make you look orange or ashy. But if you have fair skin, finding the best bronzer for your skin tone can feel tricky. As someone who does have fairer skin, I took it upon myself to speak to two celebrity makeup artists about how to find the best bronzers for fair skin—and these picks don’t disappoint.
There’s nothing worse than finding a bronzer that you think is going to work, swiping it on, and realizing that it’s far too dark or muddy-looking. Not to mention, there are also undertones to contend with. A warm shade that works for a friend may fight your rosy undertone and vice versa. And while celebrity makeup artist Lilly Keys—the woman behind Olivia Rodrigo’s '90s-inspired Glossier beauty look at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards and Emma Chamberlain’s glam at the 2022 Vanity Fair Oscars After Party—prefers to opt for “sheer, light shades,” it can still feel tricky to figure out which bronzer shade is right for you.
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),” says Fenty Beauty Global Makeup Artist Priscilla Ono over email.
Personally, I start by looking at the lightest two shades and work towards the darker ones. But if browsing through seemingly-endless shades feels daunting, start with a sheer powder formula or a liquid or cream bronzer that can be blended into your foundation or worn underneath it. Remember, bronzer and contour are not the same, so you don’t need to worry about creating shadows or chiseling your cheekbones at this stage. (If you are looking for a contour, the editors at Marie Claire compiled a guide on how to contour your face.)
How to Find The Best Bronzer Undertone
Once you’ve found a shade family that works, consider your undertone, just like you would with your foundation. “This could be cool, warm, or neutral,” says Ono. Brands like Fenty Beauty often group their shade ranges and undertones together, so it’s easy to find ones that work.
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 more green, you’re warmer; and if you can’t really determine which shade you are, you’re more likely a neutral undertone.”
What Shades Work With Which Undertones?
“Cool undertones work best with warm peach hues or soft browns, while warm undertones are great paired with all golden-brown colors and neutral undertones should opt for more true brown-based shades,” says Ono.
Ahead, shop the best bronzers for fair skin according to Keys, Ono, Marie Claire editors, and the internet writ large. For even more help on your bronzer search, check out our guides to finding the best bronzer brushes, as well as how to apply bronzer once you’ve got everything you need in your arsenal.
The Best Bronzers for Fair Skin
Best Drugstore Bronzer for Fair Skin
“This may have a drugstore price point, but the formula feels as luxe as it gets. It applies seamlessly onto the skin—there's never any patches or clumping. When it comes to the color of it all, I can confirm that it gives the most gorgeous, bronzed glow. I have super fair skin that runs on the red side, and this bronzer makes me look tan, not ruddy. To top it all off, it smells absolutely amazing. Think: sweet and tropical.” - Samantha Holender, Beauty Editor
Best Baked Powder Bronzer for Fair Skin
Keys loves this baked powder bronzer because “it’s super natural with fine, light reflecting pigments and gives the most gorgeous naturally sun kissed finish."
Best Cult Favorite Bronzer for Fair Skin
“This is one of my all time favorite warm-toned bronzers. I first tried it as a tester and then became obsessed with it—I use it on my face, yes, but also on the eyes for an easy, monochromatic makeup look. It has a slight golden shimmer running through it that looks healthy, not glittery or sparkly. There’s even a matte cream version that I love, too.” – Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Writer
Most Viral Bronzer for Fair Skin
BeautyTok is obsessed with this warm-toned cream bronzer from Charlotte Tilbury, thanks to its long-wearing, hydrating formula. It was worn on Lily James at the 2022 Emmy Awards, so you just know it works for high-glam wear.
Best Powder Bronzer for Fair Skin
“My favorite bronzer, hands down, is the Fenty Beauty Sun Stalk’r Instant Warmth Bronzer—it’s also Rihanna’s! I love Sun Stalk’r for so many reasons: It’s easy to use and hard to overdo, it’s longwear and transfer-resistant, and it’s truly light-as-air and never streaks. But most importantly, it really works on…everyone,” says Ono. “Rihanna created nine versatile shades that bring out the warmth in all skin tones, from the fairest to the deepest. It’s not about creating a strong contour, but really adding that warmth to your skin with natural dimension. I’m obsessed! I personally use the shade Private Island.”
Best Cream Bronzer For Fair Skin
Ono also loves this cream bronzer because “you can bronze, define or contour so easily and it just softly defines your face,” she says. “I love how it melts into your skin creating the illusion that your skin is glowing from within with it’s sheer-to-medium coverage—it’s very natural looking with just the most subtle of dewiness. The color Amber (opens in new tab) is the perfect cool undertone for fair skin tones to contour with.”
"This was the first bronzer I ever bought for myself and I still use it in my rotation today. It comes in four shades including the iconic original, has a matte finish, and has a neutral undertone for seamless blending." - JM
Meet The Experts
Priscilla’s passion for beauty began in the ‘90s, 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. A California native with Mexican roots, Priscilla is one of the leading makeup artists in the industry, known for working with many different skin types and face and eye shapes to perfect her craft. Fueled by her motto that “practice makes perfect,’ her profound expertise caught Rihanna’s attention and led her to be chosen out of hundreds of artists to join the Fenty Beauty Global Artistry Team. Whether she’s creating headline-making looks for Rihanna or developing training tools to educate thousands of Sephora makeup artists worldwide, Priscilla lends her diverse experience and masterful hand to Fenty Beauty’s groundbreaking launches, playing a key role in the brand’s commitment to inclusive artistry.
Lilly Keys is a Los Angeles based makeup artist. A native of Cape Town, Lilly moved to London in 1997 and became influenced by the city's multicultural fashion, music and visual art scenes. She graduated from the London College of Fashion and began pursuing makeup professionally in 2007. Lilly refined her editorial skills while working on runway shows for Gucci, Balenciaga, Antonia Berardi, Topshop, Jaeger and Maison Martin Margiela. Lilly's celebrity clients include Dua Lipa, Anya Taylor Joy, Alessandra Ambrosio, Charli XCX, Kali Uchis, Ella Mai, Melissa Barrera, David Beckham and Joanne Froggatt. Her work has appeared in publications such as Hunger, Esquire, King Kong, Grazia, Vogue Italia, Teen Vogue and Galore and she has collaborated on major advertising campaigns for Swarovski, Adidas, Converse and Olivia Von Halle.Lilly's celebrity clients include Dua Lipa, Anya Taylor Joy, Alessandra Ambrosio, Charli XCX, Kali Uchis, Ella Mai, Melissa Barrera, David Beckham and Joanne Froggatt. Her work has appeared in publications such as Hunger, Esquire, King Kong, Grazia, Vogue Italia, Teen Vogue and Galore and she has collaborated on major advertising campaigns for Swarovski, Adidas, Converse and Olivia Von Halle.