The Best Bronze Leg Makeup: Our Picks and Tips to Keep in Mind
For many of us, leg makeup is an uncharted territory—we know exactly what to do when it comes to putting cosmetics on our face, but on other parts of our bodies? Not so much! People have a lot of questions, and surprisingly, there’s not too much online that provides answers.
So here, we’ll take a look at bronze leg makeup. We’ll go over our favorite picks (and our pick for best bronze leg makeup overall), but then we’ll describe the different types available, provide some tips on how to select one, and provide some insider tips on how to wear it.
The Best Bronze Leg Makeup: Our Reviews
Here are our top picks for bronze leg makeup…
…and here’s why:
SugarBaby Radiance Wash Off Bronzing Moisturizer Cream
- Designed for lightweight, moisturizing coverage;
- Formulated for easy application, just like a body lotion;
- Not tested on animals and vegan-friendly.
- Only comes in a single shade.
SugarBaby’s Radiance Bronzing Moisturizer is a tinted body moisturizer formulated to provide a luminous, bronze glow. At the time of this review, SugarBaby’s Radiance Bronzing Moisturizer is manufactured in only one shade (generic bronze), and that’s kind of a bummer, but luckily it’s designed to be pretty versatile: it’s a medium shade that’s designed to work for those with medium-light to medium-dark skin tones. Because of the cream’s warm brown undertones, it’s also possible to use this product as an illuminating moisturizer for those with dark skin tones.
We like that SugarBaby included some skincare ingredients, such as shea butter (to soften skin, and aloe vera (which can provide healing benefits). It’s also got Vitamin E, which is also known to have regenerative effects on the skin.
We think this can be a good option for those looking for a lightweight, temporary leg bronzer to be washed off at the end of the night. It’s probably not a great option if you’re want to conceal blemishes, stretch marks, varicose veins, or scarring—it’s not designed to have that kind of coverage—but it can be a good option if you’re looking for illumination and color effect and easy removal.
Votre Vu Silk Stockings Picture Perfect Leg Lustre
- Designed for easy application with little streaking / patchy spots;
- It’s buildable—multiple layers can be applied to build better coverage and amplify the glow effect;
- It’s free of synthetic fragrances, sulfates, and parabens, and Votre Vu is a brand that does not test products on animals.
- It’s not designed for full coverage—the lack of opacity is meant to conceal smaller blemishes and discoloration, and moderate to extreme ones.
Votre Vu’s Silk Stockings Picture Perfect Leg Lustre is a lotion-like body bronzer designed to provide a sheer layer of bronze illumination to your skin. It’s formulated to create a “medium” finish that can blur and cover very small blemishes and smooth your complexion. Because the applied pigment is lacking opacity, the bronzing effect is meant to blend with your skin tone and produce a natural-looking glow. Multiple applications can be used to amplify this effect.
It’s got some nice skincare features, and things we’d hope to see—shea butter (which is in a lot of leg makeups), chamomile (antioxidant and antifungal), Vitamin E (for skin cell regeneration), and an ingredient called ylang ylang (which is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties). If you haven’t heard of ylang ylang before, you’re not alone—it’s actually a pretty interesting ingredient, and we hope to read more studies about it, like this one. It may be something we see more and more in new products.
We think this can be a good option if you’re looking for a lightweight body bronzer with a light concealing effect and a subtle, natural glow. We consider this a great “all-around” pick. It’s not something we would recommend to those who are looking for a high-coverage leg bronzer, or a bronzer that provides a shimmer, but if you’re looking for an easy-to-apply tone and some light coverage, it can be a great option.
L'Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze One-Day Tinted Gel
- Gel texture is designed to glide on and dry quickly;
- Can be mixed with your favorite body lotion;
- Caramel tint can help mask discoloration like bruises or veins;
- Can be a good pick for people with pale skin; and
- Good for single-day application and easy removal.
- The caramel bronze tint can appear orange if applied too strongly, and must be washed off hands to avoid staining;
- It’s not a stain, so it can come off on your clothes if you get wet.
L’Oreal Paris Sublime Bronze One-Day Tinted Gel is a gel body bronzer that’s designed to provide a warm, caramel tint. We thought it was important to include a gel on our list—a lot of body bronzers have a motion lotion-y, liquid-y feel, and that’s why some people prefer to use a gel—it can be a little less runny, and it can be a little easier to work with.
The One-Day Tinted Gel is only available in one shade, suited for people with pale to medium skin, and it’s designed to have a transparent finish, with no shimmer or glitter—in other words, it’s designed to create a natural looking tan.
Because it’s a little on the lighter side, it can be a good option for people who have pale skin, or who have visible veins, or those who bruise easily. It’s not designed to be a heavy-duty bronzer, but instead to provide a little color and cover minor blemishes like scarring or faded marks. We don’t have any statistics or anything, but we imagine that’s what a lot of people are looking for—just a little bit of color for a little bit of time.
We should note that the product contains some alcohol-based ingredients, which can dry out your skin’s surface, so if you’ve got dry-skin issues, you may want to keep that in mind. However, this product can be mixed with body moisturizer, which may help maintain skin hydration.
Glimmer Goddess Organic Body Shimmer
- Features intensity options to give you control over the effect of the body bronzer;
- Made with 100% natural and organic ingredients, which are certified vegan and cruelty-free;
- Designed to actually smell nice (which can be a nice change from the leg makeups and tanners that smell very, very odd);
- A little goes a very long way, which can make the product last a while.
- Can transfer to clothes if the product is applied too liberally or if it is not given enough time to dry (the drying time is approximately 1-2 minutes).
Let’s start with something not that important but really lovely: in the jar, Glimmer Goddess’ Organic Body Shimmer looks like cupcake frosting, and we just love that. Even if we didn’t like anything else about it, that’s delightful.
There is a lot else we like about Glimmer Goddess, though: for starters, the tones offered are appropriately summer-y: bronze, rose gold, gold, and diamond. That’s all great, and that covers the general range of summer-y tones, but the thing we really appreciate is Glimmer Goddess’s approach to intensity: each degree of shimmer has three shades to choose from: subtle, normal, and super. The shades are designed to let you to choose how dramatic and bold you would like the effect to be, and we think that’s FANTASTIC. Honestly, we don’t know why all leg makeups and body bronzers don’t have that sort of option.
As for imperfection/scar/discoloration coverage, the product isn’t hyper-pigmented, so it’s not really designed for full coverage of skin discoloration or other blemishes. It does, however, include a lot of skin-healthy ingredients, and that’s not always the case with tanners and leg makeups. The active ingredient cocoa butter has been shown to improve skin elasticity and reduce inflammation, which can improve your skin’s complexion with continued use, and product itself only six ingredients: sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, coconut oil, mica mineral powder, and lemon essential oil. If you’ve ever taken a look at some popular cosmetics, you’ll often see a long list of weird-sounding ingredients, because it can be very, very difficult to make a makeup/bronzer/tanner without them. Creating a body shimmer with only six ingredients is really impressive. If you’re looking for a shimmery option that’s organic, designed to smell great, and be good for your skin, this is one of the ones we’d suggest.
Vita Liberata Body Blur Instant HD Skin
- Designed for full coverage of blemishes, like stretch marks, varicose veins, scarring, and discoloration;
- Features a hydrating, water-based formula free of silicones, alcohol, and parabens;
- Water-resistant and sweat-resistant;
- Made in a range of tan colors for all skin tones, and not just people with light skin;
- Created specifically for photography and to provide a photo-ready finish.
- Can transfer to clothes if it is applied too liberally or not fully absorbed into skin, so a little patience is required.
Vita Liberata’s Body Blur Instant HD Skin gets out vote for best bronze leg makeup overall, and definitely in the “high-end” category. It’s designed to conceal blemishes, provide a bronze finish to your skin, and it’s made in four shades, to cover a wide range of skin tone: cafe creme (light), light latte (light-medium), latte (medium), and mocha (dark). It’s designed specifically with a focus on coverage, and to provide a non-shimmer finish that makes it look like you aren’t wearing a product. It’s a little more “flexible” than some of the other products we’ve reviewed, and you can use it on your face or even mix it with foundation, and because its designed to provide a matte-ish finish, it won’t provide any glowing effects, but it’s buildable, so you should be able to reach the color tone you want.
It’s also got some very nice skincare features—the formula lacks alcohol-based ingredients, which can dehydrate skin and cause problems for people with dry complexions—and the ingredient list includes shea butter (a great source of Vitamin A), aloe vera (great for skin repair), and tocopheryl acetate, which contains Vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant and has been shown to have scar-repairing qualities.
Lastly—and we think this is so important and so often overlooked—the product is designed to be photo-friendly. If you think about it, that's such a great feature, 1) because people use leg makeups and body tanners at occasions where a lot of photography is going to take place, like the beach and day weddings and parties, and 2) because we are currently living in one of the most-photographed ears in all of history. Just about everybody has a phone with a camera on it, and just about everybody is taking pictures at all times. So while there are a lot of reasons why Vita Liberta stands out, that's one of the big ones.
This gets our vote for the best bronze leg makeup—we like it a lot.
Self-Tanner & Tanning Mitt Set
There’s one other product we’d like to mention, and that’s the Self Tanner & Tanning Mitt Set. This post is supposed to be about bronze leg makeup, and this is more of a bronze makeup for your entire body, but we like it a lot to because 1) it’s meant to be long-lasting (up to a couple of days, depending on your skin and how you use it), and 2) you can use it on your entire body and your face. That can make it a great option for longer trips (like vacations), and can keep you from having to re-apply all the time. It takes a little more time on the initial application, but after that, it can last a while.
We didn’t really include any long-lasting options in our list, so if that’s what you’re looking for, you may want to check this one out!
OK, now that we’ve gone through our picks, let’s take a lot at…
What is Bronze Leg Makeup: The Basics
“Sun-kissed” skin is on trend, and has been, for… well, for as long as we can remember! It’s a sexy, healthy look, and it’s reminiscent of all those fun, summery things so many of us love: the beach, the pool, vacation, freedom, happiness, etc etc etc. Like all makeup, it’s a look that says something about you, and it conveys an idea of youth and vitality and adventure.
But that wistful, youthful look doesn’t come easily, and you have to commit to getting it. That warm, tanned tone can take days, or even weeks, of sunbathing to attain, and while lounging in the sun can be a luxurious and indulgent pastime, it’s… not great for you. In fact, it can be very bad for you.
And that’s where bronzer—and particularly, leg bronzer—comes in. As our knowledge and understanding of sun damage grows, more and more people are opting to ditch sunbathing and tanning beds in favor of safer alternatives. For those of you who are new to these products, here’s a quick run-down of each.
Leg Bronzer, Tanning Oil, and Self Tanner: The Difference
There are generally three products people use to achieve a tanned look without actually getting tan: self-tanners, tanning oils, and leg bronzers.
Self-tanners are topical skin products that work with your body chemistry to essentially stain the surface layer of your skin to achieve a tanned color. Self-tanners usually contain a color additive called dihydroxyacetone, also known as DHA, which reacts with the natural amino acids on the top layer of your skin and changes the color of the cells to a brownish hue. As your skin cells die and naturally fall away, this color fades, and your skin returns to its natural tone.
Topical self-tanners generally come in two forms: single application self-tanners and gradual self-tanners. Single application self-tanners are the most well-known, and produce a tan that usually lasts 5-7 days. Gradual self-tanners are daily moisturizers that contain small amounts of DHA, which slowly builds up and sustains a tan color with repeated use.
Tanning accelerators are solutions that are said to speed up the rate that you naturally tan beneath UV rays. Tanning accelerators come in cream and oil form, and they are applied to your skin before using a tanning bed or sunbathing. The active ingredient in most accelerators is a chemical called tyrosine, which is said to increase the production of melanin when applied topically. Tanning accelerators have been around for decades, and while there is debate as to whether or not they actually work and (there’s no science that provides they’re effectual), many people have been using—and swearing by—tanning accelerators for years.
Leg bronzer is a type of body makeup that is applied to your skin for a temporary bronzing effect. Leg bronzers usually comes in cream or lotion form. Unlike self-tanners, leg bronzers last temporarily and wash off just like a facial bronzer would. The temporary effects of leg bronzer make this product a favorite for people who are looking to tan up for special occasions, photoshoots, or days where they want to feel particularly glamorous.
For many people, leg bronzers are more preferable than self-tanners, because leg bronzers don’t dye the skin. Also, self-tanners can sometimes be applied unevenly, which causes the new tan to appear patchy, streaky, and clearly artificial for 5-7 days. Bronzer can wash off immediately, and that can make them much less intimidating for new users.
What Are the Benefits of Wearing Leg Bronzer?
Each of the tanning products we just described has their pros and cons, but here are some of the reasons why people choose leg bronzers. They can be used to:
Conceal. We’ll list this one first, because many people don’t it: some leg bronzers have great coverage effects that hide blemishes on the wearer’s legs, including stretch marks, veins, discoloration, and scarring. We love that sort of thing.
Naturalize. Leg bronzer is often sheer or lightweight, which creates a natural looking tan over most skin tones. That can be a deciding factor for a lot of people.
Illuminate. Leg bronzer can provide reflective effects that make your skin look glow-y or sheen-y. Some do, some don’t, so be sure to read the labels if this is something you’re interested in.
Dazzle. Some bronzers come with shimmering or glittering effects. Again, some people love this, and some people don’t, so be sure you know what you’re getting.
Smooth. Leg bronzer can even out the complexion of the wearer’s legs by providing an effect that makes cellulite and wrinkles look smoother.
Hydrate. Many leg bronzers double as moisturizers, giving legs a hydrating nourishment and a bronze glow. That’s another thing many people absolutely love.
So, now that you know “why,” you may be wondering “how,” so here’s…
How to Choose the Bronze Leg Makeup
When choosing a leg bronzer, there are some things to consider:
What coverage level do you want to achieve? Some body bronzers focus primarily on illumination of your skin, while others focus on providing coverage similar to a foundation. If your main goal is to cover blemishes like scars, stretch marks, or major discoloration, you probably want to consider a creme leg bronzer. If you are primarily looking for something to produce a glowing and/or shimmering effect, a gel or lotion-like leg bronzer can be the better option.
What finish are you looking for? Some people love body bronzers that shimmer or glitter, while others prefer a matte or satin texture. Shimmer and glimmer can be a lot of fun, but they’re not really appropriate for all occasions, so it can make sense to consider whether you want a shimmery finish to your bronzed legs or if you want them to look more natural.
How dark should you go? This may seem counter-intuitive, but when deciding how dark you want to go, it makes sense to consider the consistency type of your leg bronzer. The general rule of thumb for creme leg bronzers is to go for a bronzer that is one or two shades darker than your regular skin tone. Gel or lotion bronzers are more transparent, though, so the rules are a little different, and you can build darker and richer tones by layering applications.
What is your skin’s undertone? All bronzers are, well, tan-colored! But “tan” can mean a lot of things, and shades can come with tints of other colors—usually pink or gold. Meanwhile, skin tones come with cool, warm, or neutral undertones, and that further complicates things.
Each skin undertone tans differently, so finding a bronzer with the right tint is important to achieve a non-artificial look, and if you know your skin and whether you need pink/gold with cool, warm, or neutral undertones, you’re good to go.
If you’re not sure what your undertone is, though, there are a few ways to test. Two of the most common ways are to…
1. Look at the veins beneath your skin. If they are blue, you likely have a cool undertone. If they are more greenish, you likely have a warm undertone. If you can’t distinguish, you are probably a neutral tone.
2. Consider your jewelry. What tends to flatter your complexion: gold or silver? If you look best in silver, you likely have a cool undertone. If you look best in gold, you likely have warm. If both of them flatter you equally, you are likely neutral.
Once you figure out your undertone, here’s how you use it make your selection:
- Those with cool undertones should usually go for bronzers on the rose or pink side;
- Those with warm undertones should usually go for bronzers with gold or yellow tinges; and finally
- Those with neutral undertones should usually try to go for “true” brown shades that are neither pink or gold.
Once you figure out the tone you’re looking for, many people ask…
What are the product’s ingredients? If you’ve got sensitive skin and get irritated by certain cosmetic ingredients, or if you have strict requirements about what you will/will not accept in an ingredient list (cosmetics must be fragrance-free/cruelty-free/vegan/gluten-free/etc.), you should take a look at the ingredients list. A full discussion of those ingredients is outside the scope of this post—and we’ve written a ton about chemical ingredients elsewhere—but we always urge people to get to know the materials in their cosmetics, and especially their skin’s reaction to those ingredients.
For many people, if not most, the chemicals included are not a problem. For certain people, however, inclusion of certain chemical compounds can be a big deal, so get to know your skin, and get to know your cosmetics!
How to Use Bronze Leg Makeup: Do's and Don'ts
Applying leg bronzer might seem pretty straight-forward, but there are actually some things you should do, and some things you should stay away from. Here are some tips:
Things You Probably Should Do:
Perform a patch test. Whenever you use a new product, it is a good idea to test it on a small patch of skin to ensure that you won’t have an adverse effect to it. To patch test, simply apply a small amount of the product close to where you would be applying it normally. For leg bronzer, consider applying the stomach or behind the knees. Most reactions will happen within 24 hours, but some dermatologists recommend waiting up to 72 hours to be sure.
Exfoliate and moisturize. Applying a cosmetic—of any kind—to unhealthy skin can be a very bad idea. Gentle exfoliation can be a great way to keep your skin healthy, as can routine moisturizing. Some bronzers double as moisturizers or body lotions, and using one such product can “cover” you if you miss your exfoliating/moisturizing routine.
Allow your leg bronzer time to dry. When it comes to body makeup, it’s essential to give the product enough time after application to dry and absorb into your skin. Not only can the bronzer transfer from your skin to your clothes or sheets, but… it’ll look awful! Splotchy and weird and irregular. You can usually consult your bronzer’s instructions to determine drying time, and whatever it says, you can double check to see if you’re sufficiently dry by lightly patting your leg with a paper towel or cloth and checking for transfer.
Start with a little bronzer. Using too much bronzer at once can result in thick or uneven layers that don’t dry properly. This can also make more pigmented bronzer look streaky or patchy. When it comes to body bronzer, a little goes a long way, so go easy until you get the hang of it.
Consider setting spray. We don’t realize how many objects our bodies brush up against during the day, and that increases the possibility of color transfer or rub-off onto foreign objects. A setting spray or misting spray can keep that from happening, and help to lock in the application and extend its lifespan.
Take care to apply each layer evenly over your legs. Uneven layers of body bronzer can cause your application to look streaky and artificial. Apply your product to your body in even strokes, taking care to glide it across every inch of skin to produce a thin, smooth layer. Some body bronzers encourage using a tanning mitt to help you apply it evenly.
Remember that “water-resistant” and “waterproof” are different things. Water-resistant leg bronzers are not waterproof, and make come off your body easily, so plan your use of body bronzer strategically.
Things You Probably Shouldn’t Do:
Layer bronzer before it is completely dry. When you apply multiple layers of bronzer, it’s usually a good idea to let previous layers dry completely before applying more on top. Applying a new layer too early can result in your bronzer gathering and becoming a consistency that leaves a streaky and patchy effect.
Use too much product at once in order to get amplified effects. We’ve already mentioned above that it is better to use a little product than a lot, and if you’re looking to build a stronger effect, it makes sense to apply your leg bronzer in thin, even layers.
Go for a bronzer that is too dark for your skin tone. Most bronzer is sheer or lightweight, so it can be a little more forgiving than foundation if you accidentally get a shade a few tones too dark. With that in mind, some people may opt to go for a very dark color, hoping that the darker pigment will mean fewer applications to achieve a very tanned look. This shortcut usually doesn’t work, so… “don’t do that,” is our recommendation.
Go swimming without first testing your product. Pool parties or beach outings are great places to show off your legs, which is exactly when you might whip out leg bronzer… but you may want to give your bronzer a “test run” before you use at an outing, just to be certain it’ll work for you.
Leg bronzers can be a very enjoyable cosmetic, and we always equate them with fun, summery, outdoorsy-events. Hopefully there’s enough info here for you to make an informed decision about your leg bronzer and makeup, and you can enjoy yourself and have a great time. Have fun, enjoy, and happy makeup!