The 7 Best Liquid Bronzers To Give You an Instant Summer Glow

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If you could use a little color, you neednโ€™t worship the sun. The best liquid bronzer can lend your complexion a sun-kissed wash of color without the UV. Such options blend nicely into the skin to make you look as if youโ€™re perpetually basking in golden-hour light, and unlike powder bronzer, theyโ€™re more forgiving, so even beginners can seamlessly apply it to their routine.

No matter how you apply it, whether on the high points of your face or as a mix-in with foundation or moisturizer, the resulting effect is โ€œa natural radiance,โ€ says Los Angeles-based makeup artist Beth Follert. These results are instantaneous, but many liquid formulas are also infused with skin-loving ingredients that can promise healthier, glowier skin over time. Others boast SPF too, which is a welcome bonus for anyone who wants an extra layer of protection against sun damageโ€”and come summer, who doesnโ€™t?

All to say, there are many options to choose fromโ€”and to help you narrow down your choices, I spoke to Follert and New York City-based makeup artist Natalia Thomas for tips on choosing your ideal liquid bronzer. Below, find seven of the best picks, most of which come with their stamp of approval.

The best liquid bronzers, at a glance

What to look for when shopping for the best liquid bronzer

As with powder and cream bronzer, selecting a liquid bronzer is largely a matter of choosing your ideal shade, and Follert suggests looking for a bronzer one or two shades darker than your natural skin tone. Thomas adds that it also pays to consider your undertone. โ€œTo make [bronzer] actually look natural on your skin, it needs to vibe with your undertone,โ€ she says. If you have a pink undertone, for example, she suggests opting for something with a natural cool tone, whereas those with golden undertones will want to pick out a similarly golden hue. With this in mind, the majority of liquid bronzers youโ€™ll find in the list ahead come in several shade options to help you find your best match.

Still, it can be difficult to know whether a specific shade is right for you without swatching it on your skin, which is why Follert usually recommends trying out a bronzer in person prior to buying. Another tip from Thomas? โ€œDonโ€™t be afraid to ask for samples to find what it is that works for youโ€”and if you find that you really love it, then buy it.โ€

Itโ€™s as important to ensure that a liquid bronzer is well suited to your skin type. If you have dry skin, for instance, you may want an option that boasts moisturizing ingredients, while those with oily skin might want to opt for an oil-free formula, says Thomas.

Liquid bronzers can also differ in finish, but more often than not it will leave skin with a luminous sheen, as many pack shimmer particles that lend to that lovely radiance. If youโ€™re someone who prefers to steer clear of sparkle, youโ€™ll find shimmer-free options, too. According to Thomas, the choice between these two finishes is largely dependent on your desired effect, but you may also want to think about your skin type. โ€œIf the bronzer has a shimmery finish to it and you have oily skin and donโ€™t want to look oily, then maybe consider looking for a product that doesnโ€™t have shimmer in it. But she adds: โ€œIf youโ€™re an oily person and you want to be a dew baby, then go ahead, put the shine on.โ€

Shop the best liquid bronzers

Glossier Cloud Paint Gel Cream Bronzer

The expert-favorite liquid bronzer: Glossier Cloud Paint Gel Cream Bronzer โ€” $22.00

Thomasโ€™s top pick, the Glossier Cloud Paint Bronzer is lightweight, buildable, and blends well into the skin, making it a good choice overall. Whatโ€™s more? โ€œIn true Glossier fashion, itโ€™s offered in a wide range of colors that fit every single skin tone,โ€ she says. There are five shades in total, including: Sail (a light neutral tan); Dune (golden tan); Swept (medium neutral tan); Coast (golden bronze); and Drift (deep neutral bronze). Like the beloved Cloud Plaint blushes, the bronzers combine a โ€œsmooth-gel textureโ€ with โ€œblurring powder pigmentsโ€ that promise smooth application and a seamless finish that wonโ€™t settle into pores or fine lines.

Shades: 5

Finish: Natural

Oil-free: Yes

  • Smooth application with a seamless finish
  • Available in five shades for light to deep skin tones
  • It isnโ€™t very long-lasting

Jones Road Gel Bronzer

Best sheer liquid bronzer: Jones Road Gel Bronzer โ€” $34.00

For a believable faux glow, consider the Jones Road gel bronzer. Itโ€™s endorsed by Follert, who says it lends the skin an โ€œoverall warmth.โ€ It comes in three shades, including Light (a golden brown), Medium (reddish brown), and Dark (chocolate brown), which go on opaque but sheer out to a subtle and even wash of sun-kissed color upon applicationโ€”ideal for those who like natural-looking results. However, you can easily build it up as needed for more oomph. Rounding out the formula is shea butter to hydrate the skin without crossing over into greasy territory.

Shades: 3

Finish: Natural

Oil-free: No

  • Natural-looking finish
  • Buildable formula
  • Might not be suited for oily skin

Westman Atelier Liquid Super Loaded Drops

A splurge-worthy liquid bronzer: Westman Atelier Liquid Super Loaded Drops โ€” $58.00

If youโ€™re inclined to shimmer, Westman Atelierโ€™s illuminating drops leave skin with a subtle glow. Itโ€™s available in three shades, including Peau de Pศ‡che (a warm peach color), Peau de Rosรฉ (a cool rose), and Peau de Soleil (a warm bronze gold), which, according to Follert, works well as a liquid bronzer. She says that it has the perfect amount of bronzy-gold pigment to warm up the skin and impart a soft radiance. Thomas adds that you can also use it from the neck down if you want to shine all over. We also love that itโ€™s infused with skin-brightening vitamin C, along with avocado and Tsubaki oils to soothe, moisturize, and protect the skin from free radicals.

Shades: 3

Finish: Luminous

Oil-free: No

  • Natural luminous finish
  • Formulated with ingredients to brighten, soothe, and moisturize skin

Vacation Studio Tone SPF 50 Bronzing Drops

A liquid bronzer with SPF: Vacation Studio Tone SPF 50 Bronzing Drops โ€” $28.00

This liquid bronzer pulls double duty to defend the skin from UV rays and environmental stressors. (Win-win-win!) It contains SPF 50, along with a slew of antioxidants to strengthen the skin barrier. Also nice: The SPF included is chemical-based, so it wonโ€™t leave behind a white cast, only a bronzy glow. One layer of the stuff is enough to deliver visible results. But if you want to look as if you spent a week at a tropical getaway? You can layer on the product as you please.

Shades: 1

Finish: Natural

Oil-free: No

  • Protects skin from UV rays with SPF 50
  • Buildable formula

Typology Bronzing Drops

The best shimmer-y bronzing drops: Typology Bronzing Drops โ€” $35.00

Thereโ€™s no one shade of liquid bronzer that is right for everyone, but this option comes pretty closeโ€”and Thomas describes it as a โ€œbeautiful one size fits all.โ€ It is infused with a versatile gold shimmer (which, she says, โ€œworks with everybodyโ€) and it features a tint that is sheer enough to adapt to a variety of skin tones. The formula also packs antioxidant-rich vitamin E and apricot extract, which is said to help protect the skin from free-radical damage. It works best when mixed with foundation or moisturizer, and you can easily dial up the intensity of your faux tan by increasing the amount you use at a given time. It might take some trial and error to find your desired outcome, but, like most options on the list, it quickly washes away with makeup remover.

Shades: 1

Finish: Luminous

Oil-free: No

  • Flexible shade
  • Buildable formula
  • Only available in one shade

E.l.f. Bronzing Drops

The drugstore pick: E.l.f. Bronzing Drops โ€” $12.00

E.l.f.โ€™s bronzing serum is easy on the wallet, but will leave the skin with a million-dollar glow. Itโ€™s available in three shades (Rose Gold, Pure Gold, and Copper Gold), and a small amount goes a long way to make skin shine. The formula also promises long-term skin benefits, thanks to a list of antioxidant-rich ingredients. It has vitamin E, as well as sunflower, marula, and raspberry seed oils to moisturize and soothe the skin. You can apply on its own or with your favorite skin-care or makeup products for an instant boost of radiance.

Shades: 3

Finish: Luminous

Oil-free: No

  • The most budget-friendly option on the list
  • Formulated with antioxidant-rich ingredients to soothe and protect the skin
  • Might not be ideal for those who donโ€™t like shimmer

Tan-Luxe The Face Illuminating Self-Tan Drops

The best self-tanning bronzing drops: Tan-Luxe The Face Illuminating Self-Tan Drops โ€” $25.00

If you want longer-lasting results, Iโ€™m partial to these self-tanning drops from Tan-Luxe. It contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA), the active ingredient most commonly used in self-tanners, that works to deepen the top layer of the skinโ€”sans sun exposure. It comes in two shades, and I use the Light/Medium option, which leaves me with a healthy wash of color that seems to be a byproduct of a day at the beach, rather than the orange tint of a Mystic Tan. I also like that it is easy to apply. I mix it in with my moisturizer, and it works within a few hours to give me a glow that looks all my own. (Simple as that!) If anything, it contains synthetic fragrance, which isnโ€™t typically ideal for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin. However, my combination skin hasnโ€™t reacted to it, at least not yet. The effect lasts for about one to two days, but if I remember to use it consistently, for longer. Another bonus: It doesnโ€™t leave behind stains, even on my white sheets.

Shades: 2

Finish: N/A

Oil-free: No

  • Easy to use
  • Long-lasting color
  • Formulated with synthetic fragrance

What is the best way to apply liquid bronzer?

When applying liquid bronzer, Follert suggests using an angled contour brush with synthetic bristles. However, she also says that your fingers work fine for liquid bronzers, too. Regardless of your preferred method, itโ€™s important to moisturize the skin before applying liquid bronzer. โ€œMake sure, particularly if you have dry skin, that you moisturize to prevent patchy application,โ€ she says. Thomas adds, youโ€™ll also want to avoid using oil-free or water-based formulas over oil-based foundations and moisturizers. โ€œIf you use that over an oily situation, it just pills up,โ€ she explains.

As for where to apply liquid bronzer, youโ€™ll want to blend it into the high points of the face, where the sun naturally kisses your skin, such as your forehead, cheekbones, and the bridge of the nose, or you can opt to mix it with your foundation or moisturizer to boost your skinโ€™s overall warmth.

โ€œAll of the above are great techniques, but for a really natural glow, I love doing underpainting with both the bronzer and blush.โ€ says Thomas. โ€œYouโ€™re essentially mapping the face out with your bronzer or your blush, and then filling in the gaps with your concealerโ€”or, if you want heavier coverage, foundation instead of concealer.โ€

When underpainting, Thomas says that youโ€™ll want to apply bronzer first, then blush, and, finally, your foundation and concealer. You can use the same brush for your bronzer and blush (โ€œThey play well together,โ€ she says), blending as you go, and then applying your base makeup with a separate brush. The end result is not only great for those who want to achieve a natural-looking finish but also for the summer when the less-is-more approach is your best bet in the face of extreme heat and humidity, she says.

Should you apply liquid bronzer before or after foundation?

Itโ€™s best to apply liquid bronzer before foundation, says Follert. However, she says, this isnโ€™t a hard and fast rule, and you can opt to apply liquid bronzer before and after foundation. Either way, the end result will look natural, but if you want to punch up the intensity, you can also layer on a powder bronzer over the liquid. This, says Thomas, is โ€œgoing to give you a lot of pigment,โ€ and as bonus, โ€œa matte finish in those areas to really lock it inโ€โ€”the latter of which might be ideal if you have oily skin or find that your liquid bronzer isnโ€™t lasting as long as you want it to.

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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