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This (Cruelty-Free) Bronzer Gives Me a Perfect Tan Without My Stepping Foot in the Sun

Photo: Rio Viera-Newton

Since going cruelty free, I’ve had to retire quite a few of my holy-grail beauty products. Most unfortunately, that meant saying good-bye to my Tom Ford Sculpt and Illuminate, which I loved for its unparalleled blendability and perfect bronzy pigment. For the past few weeks, I’ve been hunting for an everyday bronzer I could use to fake the tanned skin of someone who doesn’t triple-layer SPF, wear wide-brimmed hats, and lurk in the shade at the beach. My requirements were simple: It had to be cream based (I find cream works better on my dry skin than powder) and ultrablendable (obviously) and give my skin a natural sun-kissed look without making it violently orange (I was going for a just-got-back-from-vacation bronze, something softer and subtler than the tanned, chiseled, sculpted effect I’ll use my beloved KKW Beauty Crème Contour Stick for).

A friend suggested I try Milk Makeup’s Matte Bronzer in the shade Baked because she owns it and loves it. As you all likely know, I love Milk Makeup — its Lip + Cheek in the beautiful berry shade Quickie and Lip Color in saddle-brown Wavvy are two of my makeup-bag staples. So I wrote to the company to see if I could get a sample of the Matte Bronzer to test. When it arrived, I swiped a big Fenty powder brush through the product (which, by the way, comes in stick form), then swiped it from my temples down to my cheekbones and along my jawline. I looked in the mirror and couldn’t believe how golden and sun-kissed my skin looked. There was not a streak of scary, off-putting orange to be found. And there were no patches I had to touch up or reblend — only a believable, smooth, golden tan that made me look as if I’d spent just the right amount of time in the sun (even though I’d actually spent the past month hiding in shadows like a vampire).

It’s worth noting that you don’t necessarily need a big brush to use and love this bronzer. I also like the way it looks when I apply it with my fingers: I tap it just under the apples of my cheeks and blend it out with my hands to create a very light, controlled bronze. I tend to use this method when I’m traveling (and don’t want to pack all of my brushes) or when I’m in a rush. Shade-wise, Baked is perfect for my fair olive undertones, but if it seems like it’ll be too light for your complexion, it comes in a deeper shade called Blaze. The best part about my new bronzer? It (and everything else from Milk Makeup) is cruelty free, 100 percent vegan, and Leaping Bunny certified. Yay!

Milk Makeup Matte Bronzer

Other Rio-approved (cruelty-free) bronzers

Too Faced Chocolate Soleil Matte Bronzer

When chatting with other makeup lunatics about bronzers, Rio says this, from Too Faced, comes up time and time again. “It’s probably the most buildable product I’ve ever used,” she says, “meaning you can keep it subtle for some daytime or office-light chiseling, or you can pack it on for a more dramatic contoured effect.”

KKW Crème Contour Stick

As Rio mentions above, for a more chiseled effect, she loves using her KKW Crème Contour Stick. “Much like the Tom Ford, there’s a bit of oiliness to this product, which makes it blend straight into your skin,” she says. “No matter how much I put on, this product always leaves me looking like a glowing, bronzed goddess — never orange, never Snooki.”

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This (Cruelty-Free) Bronzer Gives Me a Perfect Sun-Free Tan