Product Reviews: Bronzers

Bronzers are perfect when you want a warm, sexy glow but would rather stay out of the sun or tanning bed. They're convenient, quick to apply, provide instant results and when you're tired of the look, they wash right off.

As women grow more aware of the health and cosmetic dangers of the sun's harmful rays, the sales of alternative tanning products have risen and companies continue to launch new self-tanners and bronzers. The new bronzers work better than ever but you need to be selective to find out which products really go the extra mile.

Like all cosmetics, bronzers come in a variety of formats and a range of colors. A good bronzer won't be overly brassy or orange; it will blend with your natural tone so that you'll look like a sun-kissed version of yourself and not like a walking carrot.

When you're shopping for bronzers, it's essential to try them out and compare different swatches next to each other in the same testing session. If possible, see how they look under natural light as well as under the lights of the drugstore or cosmetics counter. If you're fair-skinned, be extra cautious of your bronzer choices; some bronzers can look unnatural on your skin tone in certain lights.

Powder Bronzer

Powder bronzer is a favorite because it's so easy to use. Just dust it on, blend with a brush and you're good to go. It's wise to evaluate how finely milled a powder bronzer is because it can affect how much product you'll need to get natural yet effective coverage. Some drugstore powder bronzers are cheaply made and leave you looking painted but some will surprise you with their quality.

Revlon Bronzer (average price $13.99) is a good, basic bronzer that's widely available at drugstores and grocery stores nationwide. While this bronzer comes in only 2 colors, the pigments look natural and don't have an excessive metallic edge. The powder is lightweight and helps absorb excess oil from your skin. The only caveat: the small, flat brush that comes with the product isn't the best for bronzer application. Spend an extra few dollars and get a larger, softer brush that will more evenly dust on your bronzer.

Streaking is a legitimate worry when using bronzer. Sweat, drizzle or an afternoon poolside can all wreak havoc on your faux glow. Luckily, there are products like Cargo Waterproof Bronzer (average price $28). Cargo cosmetics were developed by professional makeup artists, who know better than most what heat, light and perspiration can do to makeup. This bronzer goes on smooth and natural and stays on throughout your day, regardless of your agenda or the weather report.

Powder bronzer most commonly comes in compact format, but loose powders are popular, as well. Marcelle Mineral Bronzer (average price $15.95) is a loose powder that comes in a unique brush/dispenser to release the perfect amount of bronzer each time. The all-natural pure mineral and clay formula offers smooth velvety coverage with a hint of warm color to set your face aglow.

Gel Bronzers

Gel bronzers add glowing color to your face when you want a fresh, makeup-free look. Gel bronzers are easy to apply and can also be used for bronzing your body. When buying a gel bronzer, realize that some are actually self-tanners. This means that they will seep into your skin and create a longer-lasting tanned appearance.

This is great if it's what you're looking for but if you want a tan look that washes off clean at the end of the day, you undoubtedly won't be happy with the mix-up. Be sure to read labels carefully before applying. Also, when choosing gel bronzers, remember that they can be highly pigmented and strong. Go for the lightest color that will suit your skin.

DuWop SunDrops Bronzing Serum (average price $28) is a light facial bronzer that gives you a beach-ready look in just minutes. It includes concentrated botanical extracts to moisturize and care for your skin while making you look great. What could be better?

Sometimes, you don't want to spend a lot for facial bronzer. You want a basic, workable product that can be thrown on before heading out on a warm spring day. Jane Summer Glow Gel Bronzer (average price $7) fits the bill. It's a no-frills product that you can wear alone for an intense, shimmery glow or mix with foundation for a subtler look.

If you're bronzing your face, you might want to bronze your body, too. L'Oréal Sublime Bronze Luminous Bronzer (average price $7 to $13) is a bronzer and self-tanner that's infused with anti-oxidants and skin conditioners. It promises a natural, long-lasting, streak-free tan and comes in a generous size bottle so you get plenty of coverage for your money.

Bronzing Tinted Moisturizers

Moisturizers are important skincare products that can help protect your skin from weather damage and reduce the appearance of aging. Tinted moisturizers provide you with those benefits plus the added bonus of a sun-kissed look. Many tinted moisturizers contain sun protection of SPF 15 or higher so you can be safe from the sun's harmful rays while looking like you've been poolside all day.

Not all tinted moisturizers are bronzers; most are simply tinted in a similar fashion to foundation. You can, however, make your own bronzing tinted moisturizer. Simply mix some bronzing powder (a fine-milled mineral product is best) with your tinted moisturizer or foundation.

If you want a pre-mixed and read-to-wear bronzing tinted moisturizer, your best bet is Stila Bronzing Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 (average price $32). It not only gives you natural looking glow and sun protection, it also helps you achieve younger-looking skin with hyaluronic acid to condition. Even better, light reflecting particles camouflage imperfections.

Other Bronzing Products

Tan in a can doesn't sound like the classiest thing in the world, and granted, it usually doesn't look very classy either, but Dior Bronze Sun Powder Spray (average price $60) transports spray tanning from the Jersey Shore to the French Riviera. This lightweight, cooling spray is meant to be used on the face, so it's gentle and non-streaking.

The can is a deep bronze color but the product itself is not at all dark orange or metallic. You can choose between 2 peach-toned, face-flattering colors that even out your skin and enhance your natural, healthy glow.