A Pale Girl’s Guide to Getting Bronzed

Published in: Makeup, Makeup Tips/How To

Written by Christy Gaeta

Today Christy of XT blog shares some of the benefits of bronzers for pale beauties.

It’s May, and the sun is coming out of hiding. Many of our friends are getting a nice bronzed glow naturally from the sun. But, if you’re fair like me, your skin stays white — that is, if it’s not turning red and itchy. How do we avoid this faux-pas? We could visit a tanning salon and face premature wrinkles and an increased risk of developing skin cancer (no look is worth that!), but I personally prefer to reach into my makeup stash of bronzing products for help.


What are some of the benefits of bronzers?

Versus tanning, it’s easier to control how much bronzing product you apply. You can use a little or a lot, however much it takes to reach a look you like. Once applied, bronzers makes your skin look healthier, and many powder varieties also double as a blush.

I think bronzers makes warmer colors look better on lighter skin tones, and you get all of these benefits without the risks of fake and bake!

Finding a good bronzing product

Many bronzers have warm/orange tones that just don’t work on fair skin. Look for bronzers with grey/cool tones, which should look more natural. When purchasing a bronzer, don’t focus on how pretty the color is in the package, but think about how it will look on you.

Here are a few of my pale girl favorites!

1. Benefit Hoola


Benefit Hoola is a great bronzer that works well on many skin tones. It’s a great place to start if you’re not sure what you’re doing. You can apply with a very light hand and build up the color as needed.

2. Giorgio Armani Sheer Bronzer #1

Giorgio Armani Sheer Bronzer #1 works particularly well on very light skin tones. The product looks almost entirely gray in the pan, but it provides a nice touch of bronze to very light skin.


3. Cargo Matte Bronzer in Medium

Cargo Matte Bronzer in Medium is another great bronzer for light skin tones and looks quite natural as well.

4. Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel

Clarins Self Tanning Instant Gel is a great sunless tanner that I like to use on my face about twice per week. Used lightly, it provides a great, even, natural-looking tan.

5. Aveeno Positively Ageless Sunblock Lotion

This one’s not a bronzer at all, but it’s even more important. I use oil-free Aveeno Positively Ageless Sunblock Lotion with SPF 70 on my face every day after moisturizer but before makeup. It absorbs quickly and provides the protection fair skin needs.

Written by Christy Gaeta

This post was written by Christy Gaeta of XT blog. When she isn’t working as a university research assistant down in St. Louis, Missouri, you’ll find her watching old episodes of Sex and the City, giving herself manicures or going out with friends and family. She’s loved makeup (particularly MAC and Urban Decay) ever since her older sister showed her the ropes.


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  1. dallasbrowneyes says:

    Thanks for sharing! It is tough to find a good bronzer to go with very fair skin.

  2. Hyzenthlay says:

    Do you know your shade in any foundations? I’m curious . . . Thank you!

  3. Nina says:

    Im pale with yellow undertones – and bronzer scares me! I might give one of the products you listed a try – thanks!

    • Kate & Zena says:

      You’re going to go with one more yellow or neutral considering your undertone. Grey/cool tones definitely are more flattering to pale cool-toned girls; grey or cool tones can make you look really ill or sallow.

      You may want to look at really pale yellow or warmer colored bronzers. You might want to look at Benefit’s Dallas at the store first as it’s warmer than Hoola. Hoola is on the cooler side.

      Personally, I eschew bronzer. I may look transparent because I’m so pale, but bronzer (whether cool or warm) makes me look gaunt, not healthy. Bronzer isn’t always beneficial, especially if you have really high cheekbones and really pink cheeks like me.

      • Nina says:

        Hey thanks! Ill probly check out Dallas but like you, im not really a fan of bronzing. Aside from the fact that it intimidates me, im afraid of looking too hollowed. 🙂

  4. Carrie says:

    i’m so pale that i often get teased about being clear. too faced snow bunny is the perfect bronzer for me because it’s got a lot of pink mixed in.
    .-= Carrie’s last blog post… Minimizing = More Space for Favorites =-.

    • Kate & Zena says:

      You poor thing! That must be so hard to tolerate that on top of the cancer treatments (zipped over to your blog for a minute). People really can be so callous and shallow. I (thankfully) haven’t been teased about being pale and I’m as pale as you. I’ve been bullied about everything else except that.

      I don’t know if this helps, but if you find your skin is becoming sallow (dull) from treatments, I find Posietint works really well. There are just those days where I look crummy (although I feel fine) and the stuff is an instant pick-me-up. I recommend Aveeno daily moisturizing lotion too. It’s my favorite lotion as it doesn’t put my hyper-sensitive skin into overdrive but still moisturizes my skin.

  5. Jayme says:

    I am super pale also, and most of the items I have not tired, but i wanted to throw in a few more great options. So i wanted to offer a suggestion for those who are in the NW/NC 10-15 range in mac. (also i have a TON of blue undertones in my skin so much so that my skin actually turns almost purpley when i get tan so i have to be very careful with the amount of orange in my bronzer)

    The only two bronzers i have ever liked are Physicians formula healthy glow bronzer in the lightest shade
    and bobbi brown bronzing powder in golden light.
    Both are very subtle and matte.

    Also if you are looking for a shimmery bronze blush i woudl recomend cargo sunset beach

  6. Elaine says:

    My personal favorite is MAC’s mineralize skinfinish in “By Candlelight”.. i cant remember if it’s LE though!

  7. Celine says:

    These are great suggestions, I have Benefit Hoola and I’m glad to know it’s for someone like me. I’m still not quite sure HOW to apply bronzer though :[
    .-= Celine’s last blog post… maravi: I’m always compelled to eat at Roadhouse even though the service and food always sucks! =-.

    • Christy says:

      Hi Celine! Glad that helps! As for the HOW to apply bronzer, I follow these following steps:

      I grab product on my brush and tap it to rid the excess. Then I start with a sweep on each cheek (below the cheekbone). I then do a “3” on each side of my face (start at forehead and sweep to cheek (in a “c” shape) then sweep to chin (another “c”) to create a “3” shape). I then do a sweep across the bridge of my nose from cheek to cheek. Be careful to rid excess (particularly with being fair) otherwise you’ll get a big splotch of bronzer on your face 🙁

      Hope this helps!
      .-= Christy’s last blog post… hauls, hauls & hauls =-.

  8. Melissa says:

    wow! thanks for this. i have such a hard time not looking orange.can you recommend any good, grey undertoned drugstore brands?

    • Christy says:

      Hi Melissa,

      I haven’t used any bronzers that are d/s brands but I went by today and found that Physician’s Formula may have the best options. I particularly liked the mineral glow pearl in light bronze pearly — this could also double as a highlighter. Hope this helps!


  9. Hedy says:

    Great to know says the pale girl. Should we use the 3/E method for applying, or something else?
    .-= Hedy’s last blog post… Sunday Stealing: May 23, 2010 =-.

  10. KellyK. says:

    Another awesome option for fair ladies is bobbi browns illuminating bronzers, antigua is so not orange, it a nice warn pink color, which when you think about it, that’s actually what color a fair lady turns in the sun! Of course there are progressively darker colors in the line, one is sure to suit every shade of lady out there! And with the sheer formula its so easy to use and its gives an awesome natural finish that no one would ever suspect was fake!

  11. Jen says:

    I’m as pale as a vampire… and wanted to add a couple of other products to this list! Urban Decay’s Baked Bronzer in Gilded and Smashbox Fusion Soft Lights in Starburst are both terrific for fair skin. A great drugstore option is Rimmel London Sumshimmer Maxi Bronzer, and is a total steal at under $8!
    .-= Jen’s last blog post… Bath & Body Works Promotions! Deep Aqua! =-.

  12. Toni says:

    Thanks so much for these tips/suggestions. I am NW20 in MAC and have been afraid of bronzers – most look too orange or muddy on me. I am definitely going to check out the ones you’ve mentioned and try to do the “3” method as well. Thanks again!

  13. Scientific Housewife says:

    Great post, I am very pale and always tend to shy away from bronzers.

  14. Shannon says:

    Thank you SO MUCH! I’ll have to check some of these out. I am a recent Sunless Convert (Grew up in S.Fla so tanning was a pastime not a cosmetic choice, if that makes sense. Its how we S.Fla girls bond, beach days and tanning+reading+gossiping. LOL.

    ANYWAYS. Thank you so much, now that I have stopped (mostly) tanning I am PALE and freckly. Everything I try tends to look muddy or dirty on me, should I try something with blues/pinkish tones?

    Do you have any drugstore recommendations?

    • Christy says:


      Glad you liked it! Please see my comment above regarding d/s brand items. I am the same, pale w/freckles. Pink tones can help to diminish the darkness of the bronzer so that could help. If it looks muddy or dirty on you, it’s probably too dark. I would try a lighter hand and try a shade or two lighter.

      Hope this helps!


  15. Maria Cole says:

    Bonzers work great! They add a fantastic glow to your face. You can also get tanning lotions with bronzer in them now to create instant color. I really like the Natural Organics brozers because they come in a variety of shade.

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