In the world of body oils, there’s a fine line between glowing like Gisele emerging from the Brazilian surf and shimmering like a seventh-grader heading to a middle school dance. Achieving a “sun-kissed” look is the goal of many during the summer, and even in the months beyond — the right mixture of color and sparkle has the power to elevate a good tan, and even make pale skin look like it occasionally sees the sunlight. Living in Los Angeles, I’m expected to be gloriously tan pretty much 365 days of the year, mostly by my New York friends and colleagues. So perhaps it was the sight of my pasty legs during my last visit to our New York office that inspired beauty editor Christina Han to recommend that I try out a slew of bronzing products that would give me the essence of a California glow.
The self-tanners I’ve tried in the past delivered moderately successful to Lindsay Lohan-level orange results, but I’d never delved into the realm of body shimmers. I learned quickly that all bronzing oils are not created equal. For one thing, the size of each individual sparkle varies — yes, the size of that little speck of glitter within the goo — and bigger is always tackier. Surprisingly, bronzing oils, which appear frighteningly opaque in the bottle, almost like nail polish or metallic paint, actually appear mostly sheer once smeared onto the skin. Those little specks, however, are incredibly resilient: Sometimes, even after a shower, they’ll remain firmly attached to my body. While you can apply it to any part of your body — some even recommended use in the hair and on the face — I liked it best on my legs. My goal: to find a bronzer with a subtle, classy sparkle, but without too much added color or an offensive odor.
I went to work testing ten different brands on my legs (it is shorts season, after all) to see which could give me glowing, healthy-looking gams that are worth a double-take — not because they looked like they’d been glitter-bombed, but because they looked damn good.