Prev Next


By Amalah

My problem is that I am white – of the may-need-sunglasses-if-you-look-in-my-direction white. While that is not a
problem in itself (no tanning for me, fake or otherwise – very much against my Australian culture), makeup for my face tends to be problematic. A light coat of a well matched liquid foundation gives me a lovely even skin colouring without any cakey-ness. However, it also looks a little… dull. Not deathly pale or anything – it just gives my already wide face a seeminginly endless expanse of white.
I believe the answer may be bronzer (or so Cosmo tells me). The problem is, how do I make it work? How do I apply it so I don’t get shimmery stripes across my face? And what colour would work well against the white base – pinks?
Not sure if this is pertinent, but:
1. I don’t wear any blush (I think you call it ‘blusher’ in the US?). Ever. It either ages me terribly, or gives the look of ‘little girl playing dress-up’ (I’m 21 and look very young, so neither of those options work).
2. I have very dry skin, which is manageable with a heavy moisturiser and a moisturising foundation (this in Number 1, if that helps). I don’t wear any powder at all because it just flakes off and there is no oil to control anyway.
3. My whiteness has slight pink tones.

I will be honest: Bronzer is tough. TOUGH. It’s one of those things that requires a very light, steady touch, otherwise your nice sunkissed glow turns into overdone fakey pumpkin. And if you aren’t used to applying blush, well, bronzer is going to piss you off.
I’ve had the most luck with powdered bronzer, and some success with the “cheek stain” types. Zero success and loads of hate for the heavier liquid bronzers — they provide a little too much coverage…or else I’m just too boneheaded to apply them without looking like I’ve completely mismatched my foundation to my skin tone.
Oh, and I have NO LUCK with the shimmery kind. NO LUCK. I look like a first-grader’s art project. So I like matte bronzers.
bronzer.jpg I’m not sure of all the brand options you have in Australia, so I’ll try to focus more on the application. I use Physician’s Formula multi-colored pressed bronzer and have found it to be the most idiot-proof, probably since it isn’t just one solid color. I moisturize and apply foundation, and then with a REALLY GOOD BIG FAT POWDER BRUSH (i.e. not the crappy brush or sponge that comes with these compact things), I brush the bronzer on like blush. Smile really big and start at the most prominent round part of your cheekbones and swoop up and out, towards your temples. I find the pressed powders to be a little easier to control, but I bet some of the mineral-based makeup lines (Bare Escentuals and the like) probably make some pretty kickass loose powder versions that would be really subtle.
Like you, I’m pretty pale, with an ivory-pink kind of complexion. So bronzer REALLY stands out on skin like ours. So sometimes after doing my cheeks, I’ll lightly tap the brush on the end of my nose — just to make it look like the color came naturally from the sun. If I find that I’ve overapplied or the color has gotten lodged in some dry patches on my cheeks, I smooth it out with a loose translucent powder.
tarte.jpgThe dry skin on my cheeks is what led me to try Tarte’s Sunkissed Cheek Stain instead of powder. (And I’m not seeing that color anymore at Sephora…could be a summer seasonal shade or perhaps it’s been replaced by Bronze Goddess, argh.) I bought a thing of cheek stain in Flush a bazillion years ago and STILL haven’t used it all, but found it to be really natural-looking color once I got used to applying it. (Hint: use your damn fingers.) Put it on right over your moisturizer or foundation, but NOT over powder. Too sticky.
It would probably be best if you got an in-person demonstration on how to use bronzer at a cosmetics counter or department store. They’ll help pick a good shade for your complexion and give you pointers on applying it. Who knows, maybe you’ll find that you’re a whiz at the liquidy-shimmery kind and can write me back and tell me everything that I’m doing wrong, because seriously. I looked like somebody’s vintage Louis Vuitton luggage. Eeep.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon


newest oldest most voted
Notify of

I have very dry, quite white Alaskan skin and have had a lot of luck with a liquid bronzer. Once I got used to applying it with my fingers, I could blend it in to look perfect on my skin.


I luuuuuuuurve Tarte cheekstain. It really simulates the natural flushed appearance, and it stays for quite a while. I think it’s impossible to mess up because you can always wipe some off. You do need to blend a tad with the fingers though. The Raggedy Ann look is not so hot.


I’m addicted to TLC’s What Not to Wear, especially Carmindy’s make-up tips. One of the most invaluable things I learned from her was how to use bronzer. She says to use it like a shadow, sweeping it where 1) the sun would hit it but ALSO 2) where you need a little bit of a shadow in order to contour your face. i.e., sweep the bronzer onto your temples and just UNDER your cheekbones, and then blend, blend, blend. It’s worked for me — it adds color variation to my pasty-white skin and it makes my cheekbones look more prominent.


I glow in the dark, and I cannot rave about Laura Mercier Oil Free Tinted Foundation. Foundation makes me look a bit like a corpse, so flat/matte. This stuff has just enough coverage, blends super well, and has a nice little SPF bonus.
Also, if you like the cheek stain, check out the Vincent Longo gel cheek and lip stain. Much easier to blend for me than the liquidier kinds.


Er, cannot rave enough. It’s that great, seriously. Much better than foundation, and who doesn’t love a smaller makeup bag.


Oooh! oooh! I was just in Sephora on Wednesday and saw the Tarte cheek stain in Flush. Also, I really like benetint by benefit. It’s probably pretty much the same thing. And it works great as a lip stain, too.


I also use Physician’s Formula pressed bronzer and have had very good luck with it. I also use it as eyeshadow. With a shadow brush, I apply some of the darker colors in the crease of my eyes. I put the lighter colors under my brow. It’s sort of my all in one make-up for daytime use.