A (Fake) Sunburn Is Actually a Really Cute Look

How to glow like you've suffered from UV overexposure without even stepping outside.
Publish date:
August 9, 2016
sephora, YSL, cream blush, blush, orange lipstick, Milk Makeup

Anyone who has experienced a sunburn is aware that they suck. They suck now, and they can especially suck later, lurking around your skin cells just waiting to potentially come out as a freak-show debutante ball of sun poisoning and maybe skin cancer.

But as itchy, aging, and inflamed as the very few times I've gotten a sunburn on my face have been, there was a part of me that admired the hot, flushed glow it gave my cheeks. It's like a one-drink-in blush without the bloating.

Inspired by the nearing end of summer and my general hermetic tendencies, I sought to capture the technically harmful beauty bestowed upon us fragile humans by the powerful Ra, the ball of fire around which our planet orbits, giver of (plant) life and also possible melanoma as well as free radicals: the sun!

And all you need is stuff you probably already have.

Evening out my complexion is step one. I mean, you can go complexionally nekkid, but blush glows just a bit brighter with something underneath it, in my experience. I'm using Milk Sunshine Skin Tint in Honey. Ironically, this has SPF 30 — which by all means is a very good thing.

I really love this skin tint for that reason, but also because the of idiot-proof packaging. It's basically a giant ballpoint pen that you roll onto your face and blend with your fingers. It's dewy but not greasy, and it has a sheer, buildable tint that is comfortable to wear all day. The number-one reason I usually steer clear of foundation is that I can't trust them to behave throughout the day. Anything could happen! You have one job, foundation! You'd be surprised at how often foundation does not know that. Skin Tint, however, seems to perform as sentiently well, by which I mean it knows better than to make itself known throughout the day.

I'm going to stop anthropomorphizing makeup now.

Pat on a tan under that "burn." (I mean, it's sort of true to life, no?) This cushion bronzer from Sephora's in-house collection is pretty great in that you don't really ever have to worry about streaky application since you build it up with each pat. Just cover the high points of your face, where you normally would tan — so cheekbones, nose bridge, and the top of your forehead.

Loading up on blush is pretty much the only other step. Cream blush is buildable and blendable while also incorporating that natural dewiness, so I'm going with that.

This fat stick of coral blush is Milk Makeup's Lip+Cheek in Perk on top of the apples of my cheeks, going borderline under-eye area. I dragged it towards my temples, on the top of my nose, and it's pretty much swipe-blend-repeat until reaching a "desirable" glow.

Slightly more than sun-kissed is what we're going for here. *continues to glob on blush...*

I'm of the opinion that a sunburned makeup look is best paired with a complimentary bright lip — coral, orange, poppy red.

I'm about this plushy orange lip (and cheek) color, YSL Baby Doll Kiss & Blush Lips & Cheek in Orange Fougueux. It's a creamy gel pigment, and since it's meant to be a blush and a lip color, it's sheer but highly pigmented. Little or a lot, it looks good on ya. A bright coral orange lip over bright coral cheeks is, to me, something of the validator of those flushed cheeks, so the whole thing looks very intentional and not like you let a kindergartener do your makeup.

Wearing this look out to dinner with friends garnered a lot of "Wow, have you been to the beach? You're so glowy!" remarks, as well as, "What is that lip color?" questions because — let's face it — orange lips are attention-grabbers.

I don't hate the fact that it also makes me look like I just came from the very fancy rich-people gym after a glamorously graceful yet impressively tough workout... which is not my life at all, but such is the artifice of makeup

  • I mean, does anyone hate exercising as much as me? I challenge thee.
  • But how do you actually feel about a sun-Frenched makeup look?
  • Are sporting obvious and intentional tans a totally 21st century flip-flop on beauty ideals and status? Am I thinking too deeply about tanning? Probably.