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Bronzing drops are making people ditch self-tanner — and beauty experts approve

Plus, the most-loved and raved-about bronzing drops to shop now.
Courtesy Olivia Magill; Courtesy Lynn Hanau; Courtesy Rachel Malin

There are a few ways to safely achieve a bronzed complexion: Tanning sprays, oils and lotions. All of which might achieve a lasting tan for a few days up to two weeks. But these methods might be costly over time, and/or result in a streaky and patchy result.

That, however, is no longer the case — there's an alternative method on the market. If you've recently scrolled through your social feed, you might've noticed a new innovation for "tanning:" Bronzing drops.

Unlike some of the original tanning methods, bronzing drops can be mixed with your favorite products or used alone for daily use, so you can decide on the day(s) you want a sun-kissed glow. Their pigments are often buildable, never blotchy and contain a plethora of skin care benefits so your skin receives some perks, too — plus, they're editor- and expert-approved.

What do bronzing drops do? | How often should I use bronzing drops? | How do you use bronzing drops? | Bronzing drops to shop | FAQ | How we chose | Meet the experts

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The best bronzing drops, according to editors

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Hue Drops

What we like
  • Natural-looking tint and glow
  • Contains skin care ingredients
Something to note
  • Blends pretty sheer

You might've heard of Glow Recipe's Watermelon Glow Drops, but the brand recently released a tinted version of their fan-favorite product. Our team even tried them, calling the serum-makeup hybrid a "trip to the beach" in a bottle. Although the subtle tint is enough to love about the product, the mixture of niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and watermelon enhances the glow and is worth talking about, too.

Courtesy Olivia Magill

Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Bronzing Drops

What we like
  • Includes skin care ingredients
  • Has a flattering hue
Something to note
  • Works better alone

On her light makeup days, associate editor Sierra Hoeger implements Drunk Elephant's D-Bronzi Drops in her routine. "I’ve been using it solo after using moisturizer and hyaluronic acid, and it blends well into my skin and I have a noticeable glow," she adds. According to other reviews, the pigment is the perfect medium for multiple skin tones and doesn't appear orange.

Fenty Beauty Eaze Drop'lit All-Over Glow Enhancer in Bronze Jasper

What we like
  • Easy to travel with
  • Very glowy
Something to note
  • Certain shades are sheer

Fenty Beauty knows a thing or two about a seamless base. We've loved everything from their Pro Filt’r Foundation to their Eaze Drop Stick. But what deserves just the same amount of love is their Ease Drop Glow Enhancer.

What this product does is give the skin a soft-focus glow, no matter how you decide to use it (mixed in or alone). The brand claims that if used as a base, it might extend your makeup's wear — and even blur the look of pores, too. "I’ve gotten so many compliments on my skin since purchasing, so I recommend it to all of my friends," mentions partnerships editorial assistant Erica Morrison.

Saie Glowy Super Gel Lightweight Dewy Multipurpose Illuminator in Sun Glow

What we like
  • Feels cool on the skin
  • Leaves a dew-y finish
  • Versatile application
Something to note
  • Transfers, so let it dry

Use underneath your makeup as a primer, apply on top of your base as a highlighter or mix in with your foundation or skin care to enhance their glow — the options are endless! The brand even recommends applying it to your arms and legs for a full-body shimmer.

Courtesy Lynn Hanau

Perricone MD No Makeup Bronzer

What we like
  • Buildable coverage
  • Great for all skin types
  • A little goes a long way
Something to note
  • Small packaging

Perricone MD's No Makeup Bronzer puts skin care first with its impressive ingredient list, including vitamin C ester and Chinese ginger plant extract to visibly brighten and smooth as you bronze. Since the formula is buildable, you can play with the application as you please — apply as you would powder bronzer or mix with a liquid base for a warm veil.

Versed Mood Lighting Glow Drops in Sheer Bronzed

What we like
  • Safe for sensitive skin
  • Travel-friendly
Something to note
  • Packaging can be challenging

“I’ve used a few different glow drops over the years and recently added Versed’s version to my routine," says partnerships senior editor Francesca Cocchi Zabloudil. "A very small amount of product goes a long way, giving my skin a natural-looking glow that shimmers in the light." Plus, the product is just at 1 fl oz, so you can easily throw it in your purse or your travel carry-on.

Courtesy Rachel Malin

More bronzing drops to shop

Clinique Gelee Complexion Multitasker

What we like
  • Oil-free formula
  • Suitable for all skin types
Something to note
  • You have to blend quickly

To instantly boost your skin’s radiance, Clinique recommends using their Gellee Complexion Multitasker as a quick hack. Not much is needed to achieve a sun-kissed glow (no matter your skin tone or type, according to the brand) — just be sure to blend and apply quickly to enjoy the results.

InnBeauty Face Glaze Bronze

What we like
  • Easy to blend
  • Offers a natural glow
Something to note
  • Gradually fades

The three key ingredients inside InnBeauty’s Face Glaze Bronze — vegan squalane, ceramides and hyaluronic acid — are a dream for dry skin. Meaning that it can easily be worn on its own and be sufficient enough for taming dry areas and protecting the moisture barrier.

Vaseline Illuminate Me Shimmering Body Oil

What we like
  • Very affordable
  • Ideal for dark and deep skin
Something to note
  • Too shimmery for some

You don't always need to splurge to find a quality product. Vaseline's Illuminate Me body oil is one to talk about, especially when it comes to affordability. At just under $10, you receive an intensely moisturizing body oil that gives the skin radiance all day. And according to the brand, its warm copper hue is especially great for dark and deep skin tones, too.

Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Glow Liquid Bronzer Drops

What we like
  • Formulated with sunscreen
  • Versatile
  • Long-lasting wear
Something to note
  • Expensive

We continue to see skin care-makeup hybrids in 2024. But the reason behind the trend is because more users are looking for makeup that treats the skin — not just to wear. Case in point: Armani's Luminous Silk Bronzer Drops.

While it is a luxury find, those familiar with the Luminous Silk Foundation know that the finish is well worth the price tag. The bronzing drops are no different. For instance, it is serum-based, so the texture feels light and skin-like on, giving the appearance of a naturally soft bronzed tan. But, you can even wear it as a bronzer by applying it to the highest points of the face.

Charlotte Tilbury Beautiful Skin Island Glow Easy Tanning Drops

What we like
  • Buildable formula
  • Not streaky
Something to note
  • A longer commitment

If there is one thing about Charlotte Tilbury, it is that she will always bring on the glow. This newest launch is supercharged with skin care that, according to the brand, has been clinically proven to boost skin radiance, plump and hydrate the skin over time. But unlike most bronzing products, these add a gradual and long-tasting tan as you wear them (up to four days), no matter if it is mixed in with your favorite moisturizer or worn on its own.

Live Tinted Hueglow Liquid Highlighter in Dusk

What we like
  • Attractive packaging
  • Very moisturizing
Something to note
  • Too shimmery for some

Live Tinted describes this product as a "serum-meets-moisturizer highlighter" because uses squalane and micro-shimmers to equally moisture and highlight the skin for a subtly dewy and supple complexion.

Isle of Paradise Sunny Serum Instant Face Bronzer

What we like
  • A little goes a long way
  • Blends easily
Something to note
  • Packaging can be a bit bulky

Isle of Paradise's recent launch is a true serum, containing a powerhouse of ingredients like niacinamide, squalane and jojoba oil to quickly hydrate the skin and leave it a gorgeous glow. But that finish is only enhanced with the liquid bronzer, which claims to instantly illuminate and bronze the complexion once applied.

What do bronzing drops do?

Compared to self-tanners, bronzing drops do not require sun or UV exposure to see their results. But unlike self-tanners, you see the effect of bronzing drops immediately, since they don’t require the product to settle into the skin for hours and eventually be washed off, explains Dr. Lauren Penzi, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York. “They also allow for more controlled application, as users can control the number of drops they’re applying/mixing with their makeup or skincare products.” Another perk to bronzing drops is that they can be washed off at the end of the day. This makes the product ideal for those who don’t want to commit to a long-term change, or are new to tanning products.

Not all bronzing drops are alike, though. “Some are gel-based and others are oil-based,” says celebrity makeup artist Valeria Ferreira. “You can have a serum type that could be infused with hyaluronic acid. We can also find bronzing drops within the fake tan category, but these are used for a permanent bronzed look.” The formula you pick can even determine the finish, with serum-based bronzing drops providing more natural coverage compared to gel- and oil-based that might have a more dewy effect. “Personally, I love a liquid/serum type of bronzing drop formula as it disappears into the skin giving a flawless finish,” Ferreira recommends. But, “If you have an oily skin type, choose a gel formula versus an oily one as the latter will probably give you extra shine.”

Plus, some options pack tons of skin care benefits, too. You’ll often find ingredients like hyaluronic acid and niacinamide in these products, so it is best to search according to your skin type. “SPF is definitely the best added ingredient to look out for,” advises Penzi. “... Hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, ceramides and squalene are also great ingredients to look out for.”

How often should I use bronzing drops?

Like other makeup-skin care hybrids, bronzing drops can be used frequently. They’re meant to enhance your complexion or even match your foundation according to your summer shade, thus, they’re a part of your makeup or skin care just like the rest of the products in your routine.

However, you shouldn’t rely on bronzing drops to actively treat common skin concerns — just because they’re infused with skin care. “I would think of the ‘skin care’ component essentially as just a bonus when using the product, and wouldn’t bank on that as its primary purpose,” suggests Penzi. “For example, you still need to wash off your foundation with salicylic acid every night, and not rely on the [ingredient] as an overnight acne treatment.” Skin care-infused doesn’t make them sleep-proof!

How do you use bronzing drops?

Mixing a drop with your favorite moisturizer, facial oil or other skin care can help you spread the product evenly, and decrease its intensity. Additionally, “bronzing drops can be used alone for a natural glow, but you can also add a few drops into your foundation if you’re looking for more coverage,” suggests celebrity makeup artist Clarissa Luna.

Ferreira breaks this process down: “Start with your concealer or foundation and even out your skin tone,” she begins. “Use a fluffy brush and go over the areas where the sun hits your face, blending the drops gently. If there are any patchy areas, go over with the foundation or concealer brush to remove any demarcation.”


How we chose

We interviewed expert sources to share the efficacy and how-to include bronzing drops in your beauty routine. We spoke to a dermatologist, and celebrity makeup artists, as well as tried the most viral bronzing drops ourselves to compile our list of best options.

As an editorial team, we independently create content and determine coverage based on research, reporting and what we think readers would like to read about. The goal of our content is to provide a service and inform readers who are on the hunt for the latest products to help make their life better. Items are sold by retailer, not TODAY. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time. Learn more about Shop TODAY.

Meet our experts

  • Dr. Lauren Penzi is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York. She specializes in both medical and cosmetic dermatology.
  • Valeria Ferreira is a celebrity makeup artist who has styled looks for red carpets, photoshoots and other major events.
  • Clarissa Luna is a celebrity makeup artist based in New York City. Her looks have been seen on Jennifer Coolidge, Megan Fox and more.
  • Carolina Gonzalez is a celebrity makeup artist based in New York City, covering looks for red carpets, photoshoots and other major events.