I Just Tried 40 Bronzers—These Are the Only Ones Worth Buying

I'll admit it—this is the beauty try-on I've been dreading the most. While I've made no secret of my love for blushers and concealers, and even convinced myself of the joy of wearing mascara every day during my quest to find the basic beauty products, I'm not a bronzer girl. Yes, despite being pretty pale, I rarely reach for products that attempt to mimic that sun-kissed holiday glow. Maybe it's because I don't tend to achieve that kind of colour naturally. (Trust me—after spending two weeks in Thailand, I returned to see friends who had achieved more of a sun tan from a Saturday afternoon in the park than I had after a fortnight in 30-degree heat.) Or maybe it's because I'm genuinely content with my skin tone and prefer to add colour with fun eye shadow or pops of blusher. Either way, bronzer is one makeup product that's well and truly out of my comfort zone.

Regardless, over the past couple of weeks, I've tried nearly 40 bronzers to work out which are the best on the market. A couple learnings I made along the way: Cream and liquid formulas are your friend if you're looking for a subtle glow. You can mix them with your moisturisers and foundations for an all-over sun-kissed look, or you can pat them over cheekbones for a highlighted effect. If you're after something quick and easy that can be built up into a full-on bronzed complexion, opt for powders instead.

For reference, here's what my skin looks like without bronzer.

Keep scrolling to shop the 10 best bronzers on the market right now.

Trinny London Golden Glow Bronzer

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@MICARICKETTS

For fuss-free makeup, I'm already a big fan of Trinny London's portable cream pot products, and the bronzer didn't disappoint. It's a subtle, shimmer-free golden hue that would look gorgeous on bare skin. Here, I used a buffing brush to stipple it over my foundation on my cheeks as a bronze-toned blusher—and I'm into it.

Maybelline City Bronze Bronzer

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@MICARICKETTS

This was one of the first bronzers I tried, and it's definitely a good entry point if you're new to wearing it. It's a finely milled powder, so it blends seamlessly into the skin, and it's near impossible to apply too much. I used a fluffy brush and dusted it basically everywhere to make my skin look a little perkier.

Milk Makeup Matte Bronzer

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@MICARICKETTS

Despite its name, I found this creamy bronzing stick actually pretty glowy on my skin. A great one for on-the-go application or travelling, you can apply it straight to your skin from the stick and blend it in with your fingertips. I loved the sheen it delivered to the tops of my cheekbones and the way it meshed with my foundation for a natural glow. You could easily layer this up if you want even more of a bronzed look.

Marc Jacobs Beauty O!Mega Perfect Tan Bronzer

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@MICARICKETTS

First up, this bronzer is huge. Although it's one of the pricer products in the lineup, I'm not sure how you'd ever finish one of these compacts. I loved the formula—an incredibly creamy powder—but it looked a little muddy on my skin. I think for deeper, more olive skin tones, this would be beautiful.

Beached Rays for Days

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@MICARICKETTS

Inspired by the easy-breezy life Down Under, this new beauty brand is trending all over Instagram. You can wear this pigmented serum on its own, mixed with a based product or as a highlighter. I added a few drops to my tinted moisturiser and really loved the results. Although it doesn't have as much of a tan effect as some of the other bronzers, this made my skin look way healthier and dewier, and definitely brought the glow factor.

Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze and Glow

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@MICARICKETTS

For me, this was real bronzer love. Although Charlotte Tilbury recommends that you add the "sculpt" part of this palette to areas you want to define and contour, I dusted it generously all over my cheeks for more of a golden glow. I love that it came with a highlighter too, which added a soft, almost filtered radiance to the skin. This might just be making its way into my everyday makeup bag.

Ciate Marbled Light Illuminating Powder

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@MICARICKETTS

While this won't work for everyone, if you're pale like me, a bronze- or gold-toned powder will give you a bronzer effect without the risk of overdoing it. This one from Ciate has an illuminating finish thanks to its marbled powder texture. It would make a great winter bronzer option for me.

Westman Atelier Beauty Butter Powder Bronzer

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@MICARICKETTS

I can genuinely only apologise that my favourite bronzer of the bunch happens to be the most expensive on the list. A new launch from makeup artist Gucci Westman, this bronzer was—as the name suggests—the butteriest powder I've ever come across. I loved how it looked natural and bright on my skin, and after applying it in the morning, it lasted all day long without looking cakey or settling into any pores or fine lines.

Illamasqua Sculpting Face Powder Duo

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@MICARICKETTS

Of all the bronzers I tried, it was this powder one from Illamasqua that mimicked that just-stepped-off-a-plane glow most closely. I wore this on a day when I was only wearing a tinted serum, and it helped my skin to look a little fresher and healthier without having to layer up loads of products.

Morphe 8L Lo-Fi Sculpt & Shimmer

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@MICARICKETTS

I saved this product until the end of my journey because, let's face it, a palette this huge isn't for bronzing newbies. However, I have to say that while I might have got a bit overenthusiastic with the application (this photo is what I'd dreamed I would look like after my tropical holiday), this has a really impressive range of pigmented bronzers and pretty highlighters that would work well on a whole range of skin tones.