How To Fake A Sun-Kissed Face

Photo: MCV Photo.
By now, we are all fully aware that the sun is the devil (beyond the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D it provides), and whatever color its evil rays impart is bad news, bears. So what's a girl who wants to accessorize her bikini with beautifully sun-kissed skin to do? The no-brainer solutions are bronzer and self-tanner.

While getting a fake tan on your body is pretty close to foolproof these days, with new technology that makes streaks easier to disguise, the face is a little trickier — especially when the mistakes are, well, on your face. To assist you in your quest for a sunless tan, we’ve enlisted celeb makeup artist Vanessa Scali to put together a definitive guide to getting a believable glow.

Read on for our guide to glowing — for every skin tone.
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Add Prep To Your Steps
Sun-kissed streaks in your hair are cute. But on your face? Not so much. To prevent unsightly stripes and splotches, make sure to get your skin right first. One key to getting a super-smooth finish is, duh, super-smooth skin — so give yourself a good (gentle!) scrub or peel first to help slough off dry bits. Then slather on a non-oily, lightweight moisturizer and let it sink in to prevent any residue from creating blotchiness, says Scali.
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Formulas For Faking It
If you’re a faux-tan novice, you might think powder is your only option. While it’s certainly a fine choice, we invite you to broaden your horizons with an array of textures. Let us count the ways: loose powder, cream, liquid, gel, balm...

For newbies, Scali prefers creams and gels — like Stila Aqua Glow Perfecting Bronzer — for their transparency, blendability, and luminosity. She suggests using your fingers or a dual-fiber brush to work it into skin.

Liquids like Giorgio Armani Maestro Liquid Summer SPF 15 are also super-sheer. You can apply them all over with a Beautyblender for a hint of color.

Powders are more opaque, and require brushes for precise application on the spots that the sun naturally hits (temples, cheeks, bridge of the nose, and chin). “I suggest experimenting to see which formula you prefer,” says Scali. “You can also mix them and create a custom glow.”
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It's not always about the bronzer. Foundation a shade or two darker than your natural skin tone gives you a subtle sun-kissed look without the Oompa Loompa vibes. We like this one from Maybelline because of its futuristic ability to adapt to different skin tones and textures for a flawless face.
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Hues You Can Use
Do not, I repeat, do not, pick a shade that you couldn’t plausibly achieve with the help of the sun. So if you’re a fair lass, no need to channel Magda from There’s Something About Mary. “The general rule of thumb is to pick a shade only slightly darker than your skin tone, so one or two shades max,” says Scali.

In addition to the color, consider the tone. For instance if you’re pale, Scali suggests warming up your complexion with beige- or gold-based options, like MAC Wash & Dry Bronzing Powder in Refined Golden, rather than bronzes or terracottas.

If your skin tone is in the medium range, try Make Up For Ever Pro Bronze in 25I. And if you have darker skin, get a lit-from-within radiance with shades of amber and copper like YSL Healthy Glow Balm Powder in Sienne.
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Glow Long
If you’d prefer not to see your tan wash down the drain every night, then try swapping your bronzer for a self-tanner like James Read Express Glow Mask.

For color that doesn’t scream, “I came from a bottle!” Scali recommends this course of action: Apply it at night to give it time to develop, use your fingers to slather on a small amount the same as you would with a moisturizer, going easy around your nostrils and top lip as they tend to absorb more color, and then blend the edges.

Remember to hit up your neck and décolletage to avoid looking like you’re wearing a, well, mask. If you’d like to enhance your new sun-kissed hue, sweep some bronzer onto the high points of your face.
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A Fine Finish
Some ladies scorn sparkles. We get it. For all you glitter haters, there are matte options like Guerlain Terracotta 4 Seasons Tailor-Made Bronzing Powder. “Matte can easily look too dense and heavy, so use a light touch,” says Scali. Bonus: You can repurpose mattes as contour. They're best applied with a fluffy, angled brush on your temples, beneath cheekbones, and across your jawline.

For you glimmer girls, use that shimmery bronzer (try Hourglass Ambient Bronzer) sparingly, as if it’s a precious gem. “A little bit blended along the tops of cheekbones, bridge of the nose, and chin is just fine,” says Scali. Advanced technique: Try a combination of matte and shimmer for added dimension.
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