How to Look Tan Without the Sun or Self-Tanner When You're a Pale Sheet of Paper Like Me

It can be exhausting having people ask if I'm tired or sick every other day.
Publish date:
May 31, 2016
bronzer, nars, sephora, Make Up For Ever, techniques, Too Faced, pale skin

I'm so pale.

How pale are you?

I'm so pale that Too Faced's lightest shade, Porcelain, from the original Born This Way Collection was about 6 shades too orange for me. I'm so pale that most bronzers will make me look like an Oompa Loompa from the chin up. I'm so pale that if I even walk outside while it's sunny, I'll combust into a pile of glittery dust.

That last line was a joke, of course, but my paleness is no laughing matter. And don't get me wrong — I love the skin I'm in. But it can be exhausting having people ask if I'm tired or sick every other day.

Every so often, I want to be a bronzed babe. I want to look like my skin soaked up that good vitamin D, making me a glowing goddess in return. I want to look like I just returned from a tropical vacation, beaming with sunshine and slightly burnt in that sun-kissed way.

But, unfortunately, the sun just makes my skin temporarily pink before I return to my same shade of milk. I've used spray and self-tanner three times now, but, by the third day, I miss my normal self. Plus, I hate not being able to always match my foundation perfectly.

Out of passion (and perhaps frustration) I've developed the perfect temporary bronzing routine to get that healthy glow without the sun burn and self-tanner. And I want to share my golden rules and products with you all.

It's always better to use a foundation that's too light than too dark.

If your foundation is lighter than the rest of your body, it is very easy to bronze the edges to match. But, if the foundation is one shade darker than the rest of the body, the skin can start to look muddy where the foundation is applied unevenly and you might show signs of "floating head syndrome" (where there is a harsh line between the jaw and the neck). TRUST ME — we will be getting our glow elsewhere, and it will look much more natural.

Apply bronzer in a "3" and an "E" around the edges of the face first and then lightly dust the remainder or the powder all over.

This helps to add depth to the face and give more of a natural glow. We want to mimic the patterns of being naturally sun-kissed, so we focus our bronzer where we're more likely to get color. If we just dust the bronzer haphazardly all over, the result will be muddy (remember our directional blending?).

NARS Laguna Liquid Bronzer is great for that natural glow.

I have tried Benefit's and Bare Minerals' as well, but NARS has just enough shimmer to look healthy and beaming. You can even mix this in with your foundation if you've been tanning naturally and your foundation is way too light for your body (just be wary — it may sheer it out a bit). I like to use my fingers to tap the bronzer in a big 3 and an E around my face to give myself a really soft and natural sunkiss.

Make Up For Ever Pro Bronze Fusion and Too Faced Chocolate Soleil bronzers look bronze without going orange.

When I want my bronze to be a bit more noticeable, I opt for a powder. Powders have a tendency to go orange on me immediately, but these two brands have developed colors that look like a natural tan rather than Cheeto dust. I use a dense yet fluffy, powder brush and, once again, apply in the 3 and an E shape. Normally, I use either liquid or powder, depending on the look I'm going for.

Choose your supporting colors wisely.

I have black hair that contrasts heavily with my super-pale skin, so I have a tendency to look "washed out." By picking tones that are more harmonious with my tanned color scheme, I'll look more bronzed in comparison.

I opt for a golden highlight as opposed to my normal cool-toned one. I apply golden shadow to my lids instead of silver. And, most importantly, I apply a soft, natural, glossy pink tone to my lips, rather than an intense pop of red. By eliminating the colors that would cause too much contrast, my skin looks more tan simply by relation.

Sephora Perfection Mist Airbrush Bronzer is the holy grail.

After I complete my complexion, but before I do my eyeshadow and mascara, I apply this spray bronzer. It can be used all over the face and body and looks like a naturally tanned glow rather than an orange halo. I hold the can six inches away from where I want to tan and let the mist fall on me like rain.

If you accidentally spray too much in one area (like I initially did), it is super easy to blend away with your fingers while it's wet. But, once it's dried, that stuff is THERE! Which means it won't move and transfer ALL DAY.

Word to the wise: if you plan on spraying you decollete, move your bra straps out of the way because it will seriously give you tan lines (I learned this the hard way).

As you can see, the result is pretty drastic. Full disclosure: whenever I've done this bronzing routine, I've received numerous compliments from coworkers saying "Something's different about you. I don't know what it is, but keep doing it." That's not necessarily enough to convince me to bronze every day (after all, my extreme paleness is part of what makes me me), but it's definitely fun to switch it up every once and a while.

  • Do you guys tan naturally during the summer? How do you adjust your foundation shade?
  • Do you use self-tanner?
  • What's your holy grail bronzer?