On the glow
Even if the weather does nothing to lift our pale complexions, or if we decline to self-tan, there are few among us who don't break out the bronzer once the so-called summer arrives.
Used judiciously, bronzer is a great way to achieve a healthy glow, so long as you steer clear of muddy shades, and apply only where the sun would naturally hit your face, thus avoiding a nasty, dirty-face look.
Powder bronzers are best applied with a large, soft brush, bigger than you would use for blusher, and blended well. They give the longest-lasting effect, while gels and creams -- which you can put on with your fingers -- lend a sheer, hint-of-a-glow finish. These can also be mixed with moisturiser or your usual, paler foundation, thus avoiding the purchase of yet another base in summer. After all, one can only get away with seeming sun-kissed for a few short months, so there's no call to invest in a whole new summer make-up bag when a couple of carefully chosen items will sufficiently alter your look. And these are the best of the bronzers we tried.
Mac Bronzing Powder in Matte Bronze, €23, Brown Thomas and BT2
Mac does every shade and finish you can think of when it comes to bronzers, but this one proved a brilliant basic that you can dress up with a bit of shimmer or use alone to put a bit of subtle summer in your regular make-up look. It is truly matt, though so finely milled that it is remarkably sheer and doesn't look dull or heavy on the skin. "This is a great everyday option, very sheer, but with no sheen," said a panellist. "Then you can put some glimmer over it at night, if you want, but you just look healthier and nicely golden by day."
Best Liquid Bronze
Giorgio Armani Fluid Sheer in 10, €40, Brown Thomas Dublin and Cork
A pale bronze liquid from this range of highlighters and complexion enhancers. A slightly shimmery thin lotion that is easy to blend, it lends a hint of sun and a light-catching lift when applied high on the cheekbones and on the temples. "I love the texture of this and the little bit of gleam," said a panellist. "It's particularly nice if you want to steer clear of powders in the warmer weather."
Rimmel Sun Shimmer Shimmering Maxi Bronzer, €9.91, nationwide
Good for night-time, this great big compact combines bronze powder with waves of gold for an effect that is glimmery rather than glittery. A healthy glow at a good price, which is what makes Rimmel's Sun Shimmer range such an enduring success. "The compact is brilliant for the kind of big brush you'd use for your chest and collarbone," said a panellist. "There is a nice, fine shimmer to this, good for a night out."
Best Gentle Glow
Sisley Sun Glow Gel, €55, Brown Thomas Dublin and Cork
A transparent gel that blends to a golden colour that is lovely on paler skins. Ideal for mixing in with your favourite foundation to create a shade that sits right on slightly sun-kissed summer skin. A hit with those who remain a little wary of bronzers. "It's hard to find a golden colour as opposed to a bronze effect," said a panellist, "but this was perfect on my pale skin."
Best Contour Queen
Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Soft Duo Bronzer, €35, Estee Lauder counters nationwide
For the bronzer expert, the two shades allow you to create the illusion of cheek contours with some nifty brushwork. Two very flattering shades, with a very slight shimmer. "Great for throwing in the holiday bag, as you could start with the paler shade and then go to the darker one, as you tan," a panellist said. "Easy to blend or use separately, and, unusually, the brush provided isn't too bad."