The Panel: Miss brown
A bit of summer colour in your complexion, while much desired, is not so easy to achieve. Even if you insist on exposing your face to the sun, a tan in that area never lasts long, and is absolutely not worth the risk of skin cancer or accelerated ageing. Then, when it comes to self-tan, even the best products can be a bit greasy, or can settle into enlarged pores.
All that said, however, the answer does not lie in a darker foundation: all that does is create a tidemark. However, a decent bronzer can be applied where the sun would naturally hit and give that 'whiter eyes, brighter-smile' effect instead of a mask of tan. Apply powder with a big brush and blend like mad, or try a liquid or gel for a more moist finish. And steer clear of anything with a hint of orange. Dull, brown bronzers can look mucky, but once applied, they should transform into a sheer tan colour, without any hint of Oompa Loompa.
Lancome Star Bronzer Mineral Mat, €37, Lancome counters nationwide
Overall, the panellists favoured the matt bronzers, preferring to add shimmer with blush or a highlighter if they so desired. This one gives a very natural sunkissed look, and it scored well in terms of the colour, texture, and also for its SPF15. "Try out the four shades before buying," said a panellist, "as even the lightest looks very dark, but goes on quite sheer. I love the compact: it opens out flat for optimum use of the mirror."
Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Soft Shimmer Bronzer, €35, Estee Lauder counters nationwide
What's nice about this product is the big, wide compact, which is the perfect size to accommodate a large, fluffy brush; the brush enclosed isn't bad, either. If you're after a golden-tinged shimmer that conjures up an evening at the beach bar, this is it, with little bits of gold glitter distributed through the shimmery pressed powder. "At home, I'd use this lightly on my face, collarbones and decolletage," said one panellist. "On holiday I'd ramp it up for nights out."
Best with Blush
Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel 4 Facettes Bronzing Powder, €49, Chanel counters nationwide
This compact goes beyond bronzer with four strips of colour for the face -- three are for bronzing, while one is blush -- which can be used together or separately to achieve different degrees of a sunkissed complexion. It's a product for those who know what they're doing, but it's also a nice, 'one compact does all' option. "I have sallow skin and the lighter, Bronze Rose option worked well on me," said a panellist. "Darker bronzers can be grimy-looking, so the different depths of bronzer, paired with the colour from the blusher, is ideal."
Dr Hauschka Translucent Bronze Concentrate, €28.95, selected department stores, health stores and pharmacies nationwide
As with other Dr Hauschka 'one colour suits all' products, this looks terrifying in the bottle -- a bit like mahogany wood varnish. However, one pump of the bottle gives you just enough thin liquid to apply a little sun to areas it might hit naturally, or to mix with body cream to apply to your legs or shoulders. "Amazingly sheer once you blend it in," a panellist said. "I'm a bit scared of dropping the glass bottle, but so long as I don't do that, this will last ages."
Best for Bronzer Averse
Bobbi Brown Tortoise Shell Eye Palette, €57.50, Brown Thomas; Arnotts; House of Fraser, Dundrum Town Centre, D16
If you really can't find a bronzer that doesn't make you look filthy-faced or fake, then this palette might just be the answer. A limited-edition, double-decker selection of shimmer, sparkle and metallic eyeshadows; it comes in two versions, Sand and Bronze. The Bronze version hits all the sunkissed notes and can be mixed up to create looks for day or night, city or seaside. "Love the case, love the two tiers, love the colours," one panellist said.
Pictured, clockwise from left: Dr Hauschka Translucent Bronze Concentrate; Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel 4 Facettes Bronzing Powder in Bronze Rose; Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess Soft Shimmer Bronzer; Bobbi Brown Tortoise Shell Eye Palette in Bronze; Lancome Star Bronzer Mineral Mat in Naturel Dore