Bronzer Not Required: Beauty Trends from the Experts

Getting ready for the warm weather? According to fashion and beauty experts, there's never been a better time to flaunt your (properly sun-protected) untanned, natural beauty. "We love the pale look - the luminous, glowing skin that reflects your natural skin tone," said Eleanor Langston, Beauty Director at Fitness. Her colleagues at Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and Allure agree. They discussed this welcome trend - and how to wear it - with The Skin Cancer Foundation.

On Stage and On the Page

Fashion runways and magazines are the twin bellwethers of beauty trends - if a look is in, you'll find it there. "At the recent shows, many designers showed models who weren't totally tanned," said Ning Chao, Marie Claire's senior beauty editor. "Even Dolce & Gabbana!" (The iconic Italian brand often features bronzed models). "Designer Michael Kors is known for a sun-kissed look. But Dick Page, the makeup artist at his show, said he didn't want the super-bronzed look. He used bronzer for contour rather than for all-over darkening. And at the Marc Jacobs show, makeup artist François Nars actually used a ton of loose powder to lighten the skin tone - the complete opposite of a tanned look."

The waning of the deep, dark, dangerous tan is apparent in magazines, too, Chao said. "For fashion shoots, you never want a model to be very tan. It's not high fashion." The model's real skin color - be it ivory, tawny, olive, or deep brown - is the right shade.

"I think the mindset has shifted in the past couple of years," Langston observed. "Today, the trend is towards embracing your natural skin tone. It just looks fresher, and so much more sophisticated." She thinks the current popularity of untanned skin is "a natural progression, the result of all the news about skin cancer from The Skin Cancer Foundation and dermatologists." Tanning is often associated with an "overdone, fake look." But at Fitness, she said, "We want to promote a look that's realistic, healthy, and natural, and the models we look for have those qualities."

The tan-free aesthetic is visible in the editorial pages as well as the fashion pages. For instance, Fitness no longer advises readers to wear darker makeup in the summer; this was standard when everyone was assumed to tan in the warmer months. "You shouldn't have to switch foundation shades in the summer. We hope people's skin tones remain the same year round," Langston said. At Marie Claire, "in our June issue, we're running an article on how to get bronzer-free perfect legs," Chao said.

Spring and Summer: It's All About Color

But tan-free doesn't mean monochrome: "There's so much color right now," explained Leah Wyar, Cosmopolitan's Beauty Director. "That's after years and years of the 'natural' face - just mascara and a glossy lip." Ironically, with the 'natural' look, "people did tend to pile on the bronzer, because that let you wear less makeup everywhere else," Wyar added. But now "color is coming back: hot pink lipstick, teal eyeliner and blue shadow... You don't need to wear bronzer with these looks; the color supports itself."

Bronzer isn't necessary, Langston agreed. "If you're fair, a little color and contrast will keep you from looking sallow. Some luminosity will enhance your skin tone - I like a little champagne- or pearl-toned highlighter on the tops of cheeks, and cream blushes, since powders often cake in the heat."

Victoria Kirby, Allure's Beauty Editor, is also a blush fan. "It's very important if you're fair-skinned and you're not wearing bronzer. Skip it only if you're wearing a bright lip color." She favors shades of poppy coral and hot pink this season.

Like Langston, Chao is seeing a lot of products with a bit of luster. "Another big trend is a skin brightener in a pearly pink color rather than an orange-y bronze. Brighteners shouldn't have a distinctive shimmer, but they should give the skin a dewy sheen."

If you're worried that vibrant shades may make you look clownish, Kirby reassured us that while "bright makeup colors can look tacky on bronzed skin, a vivid cherry lip gloss or coral blush against a milky complexion is beautiful."

Celebs Who Look Gorgeous, Not Tan

A tan used to be the default look for many stars, but that's changed in the past few years. "I really noticed it at the Oscars last year," said Chao. "You had Anne Hathaway, Amy Adams, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, all untanned and beautiful."

The oft-mentioned Kidman and Adams (both natural redheads with very fair skin) are noted for their beautiful, sophisticated, and always tan-free looks. But you don't need to be alabaster-pale to make an impact. Many stars, not all of them so dramatically pale, have luminous, untanned skin. The editors love the bronze-free looks of Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, Kristen Bell, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt, Mariah Carey, Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Jennifer Garner, Selena Gomez, Scarlett Johansson, Eva Mendes, Kristen Stewart, and Michelle Trachtenberg.

From Bronze to Beautiful

The editors also noted that some celebs appear to have toned down their tans, a move they applaud. "Many celebrities, such as Christina Aguilera, used to wear tons of bronzer," Wyar pointed out. "She doesn't seem to be doing that anymore." Langston has observed the same change in Jessica Alba, noting, "Now she embraces her olive skin tone."

Kirby cited Nicole Richie, recalling, "When The Simple Life first came out, she was very bronzed. She had that celebutante look - streaky blond hair and bronzer. But now it looks like she's letting herself be naturally beautiful, rather than conforming to a certain idea."

The Glow of Health

Whether you play up your natural skin tone with bright colors, or apply a hint of self-tanner or bronzer, your glow will be healthy only when you avoid UV tanning. Today, beauty experts understand that there's nothing healthy about damaging your skin. "Tanning is not aspirational!" Langston declared. "Everyone's gotten the memo about how the dark tan look is out, and not flattering. It looks healthier to embrace and enhance your natural skin tone... It shows you're taking care of your skin, and that you think avoiding sun damage is important. That's a look we like!"

How to Wear Bold Colors

Wyar, Kirby, and Chao all mentioned teal, predicting we'll see it and other equally vibrant shades in eyeliners and eye shadows. But if your idea of a bright hue is taupe, take heart: It's not hard to "find your comfort level with color," according to Wyar. "For a lot of people, lip color is the easiest way to experiment. For instance, if you want a pop of color, use a gloss." When she hears the siren call of fuchsia lipstick, Wyar applies the bright color before anything else. "You get a sense of how much color is on your face, and you can adjust the rest of your makeup accordingly."

Rich pigments lend themselves to a light touch. "You can build color by layering. If you're pale, you might want just a wash of bright color. If you're darker, look for a creamy formulation that goes on more boldly," Wyar advised.

Besides, many bright hues are surprisingly easy to wear: "Teal blue on the eyes works with any complexion," Chao promised. "As long as you don't go overboard!"

Published on August 29, 2011