Bronzer is one of those cosmetic products that I eschewed in my tomboy days.

“I’m black, I live in the Caribbean. My skin is baking in the sun all day. I don’t need bronzer or blush,” I’d scoff.

What a fool I was. A little blush can take your look from a’ight to amazing with minimal effort, and bronzer can be an afrobella’s best friend – especially for those of you who are living in chilly climates and can’t get a sunkissed glow the natural way.

I’ve been meaning to hold forth on the benefits of bronzer since November, when a reader by the name of St. Lucian Spirit asked me this Ask Afrobella question:

Hey Afrobella, thanks for taking the time to blog about black beauty and so forth. My question is, can black people wear bronzer? I tried wearing it once just on my cheeks but I looked darker. Is there something known just as shimmer? Thanks in advance.”

First of all — big up to all my island sistren! Secondly, St. Lucian Spirit, black women can and should wear bronzer! A little shimmer along the bridge of your nose, on the apples of your cheeks, and the top of your cheekbones can give you a gorgeous, natural outdoorsy glow.

The key is in application — like every skin-enhancing cosmetic item, less is definitely more with bronzer. Too much and you could wind up looking like an extra-crispy Lil Kim. Use a light hand to highlight your features, and apply your makeup in full, natural light if possible. I open the blinds and sit facing the window to put on my blush and bronzer. That way, I know I’m not going to leave for work looking like Carnival Tuesday.

Iman’s The Beauty of Color offers the following tips:

1. First, make sure your face is clean, dry and matte. Bronzer will stick to oily or damp areas and streak, making your face look dirty.

2. Women of color always need to apply blush before bronzer. Why? Since we’re already brown, most bronzers wouldn’t show up on us. But if it’s blended over a rosy blush, it’ll not only be visible, but the rosy-bronze combination gives an impossibly sexy, slightly sunburned look.

3. Want a dewy look? Dab a sheer gel bronzer over gel blush, or blend a bronze highlighting stick along your cheekbones.

4. When going for a sunkissed look, apply bronzer with a big fluffy brush, and concentrate on the areas where the sun naturally hits your face – cheekbones, bridge of nose, and forehead.

Afrobellas who happen to be darker than a paper bag are advised to use true bronze shades, with a gold shimmer.
For bellas cruising the drugstore aisle (or, Physician’s Formula gives a wide range of options.

A great start-up bronzer is the Pearls of Perfection Multi-Colored Powder Bronzer.

The container comes filled with these little multicolored bronzer balls that swirl together to make an effortless and subtle sun-kissed look. If you’ve got little ones, keep this product far out of their reach. I think the little round balls are adorable and fascinating enough for an inquisitive toddler to try to put in their mouths.

Physicians Formula also makes Pearls of Perfection Multi-Colored Face Tint, which comes in one of those gel formula pumps that I’ve already admitted to being fascinated by. I’m itching to try this one, because I bet it goes on sheerer than its powder-ball compadre, which means I’d be less likely to wind up overapplying.

Bronzer experts like Lianne The Makeup Girl recommend that you have a specific brush for your bronzer.

When I’m making big-girl money and can buy all the makeup I want, I plan to get Bobbi Brown Shimmer Bricks in Bronze, Rose, and Brownie, and her Face Blender Brush.

But because I’m always trying to look fly on the cheap, for right now I’ll stick to e.l.f Natural Radiance Blusher in Bronzed.

This is my favorite of all of the e.l.f products I’ve had the pleasure to try so far. The color perfectly compliments my skintone, and the subtle gold glimmers absolutely illuminate my cheeks. AND it only costs a buck! I love e.l.f. stuff, and I highly recommend them to any bella on a budget.

Here’s a great, affordable bronze goddess look for beautiful brown-skinned bellas — after your eyes are lined with your liner of choice (both top and bottom lids), sweep some e.l.f bronze blusher on the apples of your cheeks, then swirl some of the Physicians Formula Pearls of Perfection over that. Highlight your brow bone with a little HIP Illuminating Highlighter, slide on some Milani Glitzy Glamour Gloss in Lady Like or Star Stunned, and work the look with a beautiful earth toned or golden yellow top and some gorgeous yellow gold earrings.

Fabulous for less than $25!

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cool_caramel says:
February 27, 2007, 9:32 am
Shouldn't bronzer actually be darker than your natural skin color? Every bronzer that I've tried is actually lighter (I'm caramel brown) than my skin, which just make my already oily skin even shinier. Or should it only be used for lighter skinned people, I'm confused?
cool_caramel says:
February 27, 2007, 10:34 am
Thanks for adding the excerpt from Iman's book, that helps clear up my confusion. I will search for a true bronzer, instead of the lighter one I have!
kia says:
February 27, 2007, 3:55 pm
hey bella! we are thinking on the same wavelength. i just posted about the same thing! i give some suggestions of the highlighters, shimmers and bronzers that i love! great post =)
AppleDiva says:
February 27, 2007, 7:49 pm
Hiya, Iman said that everyone should wear a bronzer. She also said that Jennifer Lopez became J-Lo when she started wearing a bronzer. I absolutely love my bronzer. Thanks for once again for confirming that Black women can and should wear bronzers. :D
Dee says:
February 28, 2007, 2:13 am
Thanks Bella, I've been waiting on a post about applying bronzers. Do you recommend getting makeup done at the mall? P.S. I definately won't pass the brown paper bag test!
kia says:
February 28, 2007, 12:09 pm
just because i love this topic.. @Dee, what i do, when i 'm browsing makeup, i look at the artist's makeup, but more importantly if they are helping a client, i'll see how they are helping her.. talking to the client? does the client's makeup look good? then i'll decide if i want them to do my makeup (make an appt)
Coffy says:
February 28, 2007, 1:49 pm
here are a few bronzers that are worth checking out, MAC Iridescent Powder in Golden Bronze, Christian Dior bronze blush in Sunshine Tones, i.d. bare Minerals Rose Radiance and Warmth, i believe that in the Cover Girl Queen Collection they have a bronzer. for anyone that wants to ease into bronzers a good color to try is a golden peach color, i recommend Laura Mercier Shimmer Bloc in Peach Mosaic, it will flatter all skintones. if you want to treat yourself take a look at Trish McEvoy, this woman offers more brushes than anyone, they are worth the price also.
bella says:
February 28, 2007, 1:50 pm
I've definitely had my makeup done at the mall before -- my first day at college me and my mom went to the Chanel stall at Saks and I moved into my dorm with a mask of older-woman makeup. I've returned for cheer-me-up makeovers and makeup events. I say go for it, and try to choose an artist whose style you admire.
TheMakeupGirl says:
March 1, 2007, 6:18 pm
Hey Bella!!! There are plenty of on the cheap versions of bronzers. Many are actually incorporating a bit of color so you can get that rosey bronze glow. Try Rimmel's natural bronzer, Neutrogena Healthy Skin bronzer or CoverGirl's cheekers. Any of those have a rosey broze tint to them so you can use one product.
Jennifer says:
March 9, 2007, 10:23 am
Hi Afrobella, love your site. I was in Walgreen's one day, and on a whim bought Isadora's Bronzing Powder - it's amazing. Gives such great cover I don't have to wear anything else. bonus points: it comes in a big compact with a nice, big mirror
Sue Le Vent says:
March 12, 2007, 5:30 am
All I have to add about ELF products is that you really get what you pay for, the quality of that stuff is crap IMO. The only thing worth buying are the brushes and other accessories.
Maggie says:
June 30, 2007, 10:28 pm
Hello ladies all I have to say is black women who are or a lighter tone/caramel or whater you may want to call it should def. tan. But if you want to look like Rhianna or Beyonce write me and i will give you the secret do not tan without a tanning lotion thats one and the best is in the natural sun thats two the third part you will have to contact me on
Joy Cohen says:
February 5, 2008, 8:49 pm
I am a dark skinned black woman and I was wondering what kind of tanning oil or lotion would best suit my skin to give me that beautiful bronzed glowing skin. I thought of purchasing a tanning lotion to enhance my natural beauty, but I don't want to waste money. I have tried Nars body oil, which I love, but I want something a little more permanent. Any ideas? Sincerely, Miss Joy
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