I’m a black woman who grew up in white suburbia. As you can imagine, I heard things, almost daily, that made me question my identity. I frequently heard people I went to school with talk about laying out and tanning in an attempt to get “as dark as me.” Back then, and even still today, being tan was one of the many beauty industry standards that trickled its way down to little high school me who just wanted to get her hands on as much makeup as she could. And the only makeup I had access to was my mom’s Black Opal pressed powder and ruby lipstick that was way past its usability (according to her it was still perfectly good).
"This razor gave me the silkiest, smoothest shave I've ever had! I never get any cuts or scrapes, even on those hard-to-shave places."
Unfortunately, products like bronzer, which helped women achieve that “dark as me” look that was all the rage, seemed to exclude me as a Black girl from the narrative that makeup was for everyone. At the drugstore, I wasn’t able to find shades that fit my skin tone. The shelves were only filled with products for fair to medium-skinned people, and no one else. I wanted to try it but it clearly wasn’t a priority for businesses to cater to people who looked like me. The complete lack of bronzers for people with my skin color made me feel weirdly othered from something I really had an interest in.
Bronzer’s main job is to mimic where the sun hits your face—a concept I couldn’t grasp even after watching hours of beauty content on YouTube. Additionally, I could never get past the mental block that years of being told not to let the sun hit my face cemented in my mind. If anything, I am a rule follower to a fault. However, it was colorism that really kept me from trying it for so long. Letting the long-term effects of racism and prejudice judge how I used something as simple as a new makeup product. Who knew it would be that deep? And even worse, it made me feel like I was trying to be someone else.
Bronzer continued to be one of those steps in my makeup routine that I avoided. First, I didn’t know what it was for. Then, it felt like it was too late to learn. It felt like a stranger, when doing makeup had always felt like a close friend. Something that bonded me to my mom, my sister, and my friends.
Education became the key. Specifically, watching and learning from makeup artists of color really put me in the position to feel like I could try it and succeed. I turned to artists like Danessa Myricks and Pat McGrath who always celebrated makeup for women of color. I know I can’t be alone in these feelings. And they’re not exclusive to bronzer. So, to my fellow Black girls and any readers who have experienced the fatigue of not being able to find a bronzer that fits in your routine, there are products out there for you. Go out and find the brands that are working hard to be inclusive and bring more makeup lovers into the fold. But before you do that, here’s what I wish someone would have told me about bronzer as a Black girl all those years ago:
What I Wish I Knew About Bronzer as a Black Girl
1. It brings warmth back into the face
As someone who was very into the huge Tarte Shape Tape triangle method of concealer application (IYKYK), I know a thing or two about brightening the face. What I didn’t know is that when you brighten you also need something to counter that effect. Bronzer is key in adding back that sun-kissed glow. Anytime you put on makeup, it’s about striking the right balance of highlights and shadows. Starting here is the best way to create your best complexion routine.
2. A little goes a long way
The first bronzer I ever bought was Hula Toasted by Benefit. (I still highly recommend this.) At the time, Benefit was one of the few brands that carried darker bronzer shades for people with my skin tone. Of course, when I first tried it I went way too heavy-handed. (Let’s just say “toasted” was an understatement). Seriously, I looked like I’d been left in a toaster oven while the chef took a smoke break. To avoid this, I use a light hand. And in the words of every beauty influencer on TikTok, found a product that’s “super buildable.”
3. Practice makes perfect
This is a cliché but it’s a worthy one! It took practice to figure out that it only takes a little to create the perfect bronzy look that we’re all going for. The right tools go hand in hand with this as well. Whether that’s a sponge, a brush, or your fingers. Taking your time also helps. I also recommend using your next “do nothing” day as an opportunity to practice your application. In time, you’ll become a pro!
4. Makeup is for everyone
This is more of a gentle reminder I have to give myself from time to time. Makeup is more art than you might think. We’ve seen an incredible rise in people from all shades and backgrounds who create amazing looks. And the unbridled joy I get from just trying out products serves as that reminder. It’s also always good to remember that at the end of the day, makeup is supposed to be fun. I no longer want to give that much power to an industry that was born to prey on our natural insecurities in the first place. We are beautiful and worthy no matter what we decide to put on our faces every day. The industry has its issues. But at the end of the day, it’s the consumer and wearer who gets to define what is for you and what isn’t.
My Favorite Bronzers
Hoola Matte Powder Bronzer
4 shades available
Sun Melt Cream Bronzer
6 shades available
Matchstix Matte Contour Stick
9 shades available
Major Sculpt Crème Contour & Powder Bronzer Duo
5 shades available
Super Shock Bronzer
4 shades available
So Soft Multi Faceplay Bronze + Sculpt
4 shades available