Cold winter weather has a funny way of sucking all the color out of our skin. Typical midwinter paleness comes from both a lack of sunlight and a lack of moisture in the air. "Cold weather dries skin out leading to dull and even ashy skin appearance," explains Andrew Sotomayor, a makeup artist in New York City. You don’t need to hit up a tanning salon to regain that just-spent-an-afternoon-in-the-sun look (in fact, you should avoid tanning in general). What you need is the right product.
"Adding moisture and a bit of color will fight both problems,” Sotomayor tells SELF. Fortunately, there are several options on the market that deliver both at the same time, specifically formulated to be moisturizing and give a hint of tint. No more layering cakey powders over flaky skin, or trying to pass off a bold bronze look when everyone following you on Instagram knows you haven’t been on a tropical island recently.
Because people have different skin tones, there is no one-size-fits-all formula for the perfect glow. You might need to test out a few to find the one that works for you, which is what I did, based on Sotomayor suggestions. He says to opt for a product with pink undertones if your skin is fair to porcelain. And if your skin is medium-to-dark (yes, even dark skin tones can benefit from a little warmth, he believes), try something that adds a bit of coral or red tones to your skin to enhance your natural flush and mimic the effects of healthy circulation.
Here are four great formulas for medium skin tones that gave me the radiant, dewy look I was hoping for—no bronzer , contouring , powder, or sunlight required.
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Philosophy Take a Deep Breath Sheer Liquid Sunshine, $35; philosophy.com
My experience: The name of this product couldn’t be more fitting. It is exactly what you would imagine a bottle of liquid sunshine would look like. I put one large drop on my fingertip and divided it in half between both cheeks. Then pumped out a smaller drop for my nose and another for my forehead near my hairline. Once it was all blended, I went back for another round for both cheekbones and a dab on my chin. It gives a subtle, golden, all-over sheen. In addition to the glow, this bronzer is formulated with antioxidants to help skin recover from environmental aggressors that can age and dull skin.
For fair skin, try: Dr. Hauschka Translucent Bronzing Tint, $45; dr.hauschka.com
For dark skin, try: Armani Fluid Sheer #12, $62; giorgioarmanibeauty-usa.com .
Nars Hot Sand Illuminator, $30; narscosmetics.com
My experience: The whole concept of this illuminator is to impart a lit-from-within glow. To pull it off, it’s loaded with light-reflecting particles that disperse over your face so that when the light hits you at varying angles, all you see is luminous, refreshed-looking skin.
I tried this product two different ways. First, I used my fingers to blend it on bare skin, sweeping it across my forehead, down my nose, and over my cheeks. It gives an immediate golden glow, and my skin had an incredible sheen—but it is very subtle. The second way I used it was over my normal blush , concentrating on upper cheekbones and my nose. Doing it this way really amps up the warmth of my skin.
For fair skin, try: L’Oréal Paris True Match LUMI Liquid Glow Illuminator (for fair skin), $11, target.com
For dark skin, try: Nars Laguna Illuminator, $30; narscosmetics.com .
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Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops in Sunlight, $42; sephora.com
My experience: This product really puts you in the driver’s seat as to how subtle or intense you make your bronze glow. You can use the ultra concentrated drops in three different ways: Use them alone (for the most intense effect), mix them into your foundation, or blend a few drops into your moisturizer. “If you love your foundation, combine one drop of the mix-in pigment drops with one drop of your liquid foundation in the palm of your hand. Then apply all over with a foundation brush or a damp makeup sponge,” recommends Sotomayor.
It’s pretty incredible the warmth these drops add to your skin. I smudged a blob of my moisturizer on the back of my hand and then used the dropper to dispense one to two drops of the bronzer. I mushed the two together with my finger and then blended over my entire face. It instantly added an overall veil of warmth—but not in an obvious way. It sank in and gave me exactly what I was looking for: a hint of sunny color that looks super natural.
For fair skin, try: This Works Energy Bank Sun Flash, $52; thisworks.com
For dark skin, try: Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops in Sunset, $42; sephora.com
L’Oréal Paris Age Perfect Cell Renewal Rosy Tone Moisturizer, $25; lorealparisusa.com
My experience: This rose-colored cream is thick like a balm but spreads on incredibly smooth. Bonus: This product contains imperial peony, which has antioxidant properties that help stimulate cell renewal. As I blended it over my skin, it almost seemed like a pink cream blush, but then it disappeared like a traditional moisturizer. It gave my skin a flush—not like I just ran a mile , but rather like my skin was incredibly healthy and glowing.
But then I thought, if it looks this good alone I wonder how it would work with every other bronze product that I’m testing. So I went back and used this moisturizer as my base and then used each of the bronzers (one at a time) on top. And that’s when the mic dropped. Because I started with the rose base (a natural-looking flush), and then applied the bronze products on my cheeks, nose, and forehead, what I was left with was the perfect warm up to my skin—a mix of pink and bronze that’s ideal for all skin tones because it mimics the healthy glow that our skin naturally has in the warmer months.
For fair skin, try: Stila Stay All Day 10-in-One HD Illuminating Beauty Balm with SPF 30 in Radiant Glow, $38; stilacosmetics.com
For dark skin, try: Nars Cosmetics Super Orgasm, $30; narscosmetics.com