Get Sunkissed Without the Risk: Best Bronzers for $30 or Less
Prescriptives Mineral Bronzer ($30.00) is available in both Cool and Warm, which is something I can really appreciate from Prescriptives. I can just imagine some of the trials our cool-toned beauty addicts have to go through to find a bronzer that works well. I picked up the Warm Mineral Bronzer, and it’s smooth, silky in texture, and it gives me a subtle, natural glow. There is shimmer in it, which Prescriptives calls Radiance Emitting Crystals Complex (R.E.C.) — a combination of amethyst, rose quartz, and calcite. It’s oil-free and talc-free for those concerned about ingredients and oil.
MAC Bronzing Powder ($21.00) comes in three shades: Golden, Refined Golden, and Bronze. Golden is suitable for paler to medium-toned complexions, and it is not quite as pigmented as the other two shades. Refined Golden is a good color for those who are medium-toned in complexion, though it does seem to run a little peachier/orange-y if you are really cool-toned. Bronze is best suited for deeper complexions, and it does have some shimmer in its finish. MAC’s Bronzing Powder does seem to run a bit more pigmented than the typical bronzer, so take heed and use a light hand when you first give it a try. The shimmer may be too much or too little, depending on your preference, but the wear time is tops for this bronzer.
Smashbox Bronze Lights ($28.00) is available in two shades: Suntanned Matte and Sunkissed Matte. Bronze Lights is a silky, matte bronzer–aka no shimmer or glitter or any frostiness in its finish. Those with larger pores, skin concerns, or signs of aging will appreciate Bronze Lights’ lack of shimmer. It’s also a nice way to get a beautiful, sunkissed glow, which you can always highlight with your favorite highlighter. I often prefer to highlight separately, because then I can actually highlight, rather than just have shimmer everywhere I applied the bronzer. (In my case, I like to highlight the tops of cheekbones.) Sunkissed Matte will best suit paler and peachier/pinker complexions, I think, while Suntanned Matte is better for medium to dark complexions as it’s more on the brown side. I didn’t find either to run orange, though!
We’ve got three more top picks for bronzers!
NARS Bronzing Powder in Laguna ($30.00) is one of the most well-known, cult favorite bronzers. Like many NARS products, Laguna is definitely richly pigmented with a nice shade of sunkissed glow with subtle shimmer–I say this because it isn’t orange-y nor is it too brown either. This is a fairly universal shade of bronzer, which makes it a multi-tasker, because you can use it in the winter when tans have faded to fake it, but you can also give yourself an additional boost during the sunnier months, too. Some consider Laguna on the pricey side, but you get quite a bit of product, and even with daily use, I suspect it will last you many months.
Benefit Hoola Powder ($28.00) is great if you’re looking for a bronzer with a smooth, semi-matte finish, think about trying cult favorite Benefit Hoola. It’s a universal shade of bronzer that doesn’t look too orange-y on skin. The best part about Hoola is the color itself, because it works well on both paler and deeper skin tones, as the product itself is fairly pigmented and provides an ability to layer/build up the color as you need it. I’m not a huge fan of the little brush that comes with Hoola–it’s cute, but it’s virtually useless. I much prefer using an angled contouring, powder, or fan brush with it. I’m also not a big fan of the cardboard packaging, which can get a bit dinged up if you plan to carry it anywhere. But at least the packaging is more earth-friendly! I rarely lug around my cosmetics, so for me, it’s not a make or break point.
CARGO Bronzer ($25.00) comes in a shiny metal tin, and it is available in four shades: light (slightly pink-toned), medium (golden), medium – matte (less golden), and dark (deeper). Despite having four shades to choose from, most will find either Medium or Dark to work best for them. For paler ladies who want the sunkissed look, medium will get the job done without turning you orange or dumping shimmer on your face. I think it must be obvious to even Cargo that Medium does the job well for so many, because they also have a Medium with a matte finish, which lets you choose whether you want the shimmer or not. (For those who haven’t started a quest to find a matte bronzer, finding a shimmer-less bronzer is not always the easiest task!) I personally like the blendability of Cargo’s Bronzer, which is a characteristic not all bronzers have.
About the Reviewer
Christine has normal-to-dry skin with areas of dryness (cheeks, nose, and under the eyes). She has a light-medium skintone with subtle, warmer yellow undertones. Her best foundation matches include: Tarte Rainforest of the Sea in Light-Medium Neutral (best match), Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup in Desert Beige 2N1, Giorgio Armani Maestro Glow in 4.0, Hourglass Warm Ivory Vanish Seamless Finish, Laura Mercier Candleglow Soft Luminous in Dusk, MAC NC20/NC25, Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Liquid in Y305 (140). For more matches, please read our full Foundation FAQ. For more information on our review process, please read our Review FAQ.
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