Bronzing gel: the easiest route to a subtle, skin-boosting sunny glow

<span>Photograph: Dan Matthews/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Dan Matthews/The Guardian

If you have no interest in makeup but occasionally feel you might need it, try a gel bronzer. I barely consider bronzing gel to be makeup at all. Makeup requires thoughtful colour selection, brushes and some aptitude for application. Bronzing gel needs none of that, so it’s the fastest, easiest way for someone of any gender to bring sunny, natural-looking colour to a dull, indoorsy or peaky complexion.

The gel can be applied with fingers like face cream (although if you’d prefer to buff it on with a fat, fluffy brush, be my guest) and instantly adds a golden-brown tint. It’s almost clear, so won’t cake or go ashy, and at the end of the day it washes off, so has none of the commitment of self-tan. Men love it.

The Isle of Paradise range from veteran Strictly Come Dancing tanner Jules Von Hep is all about making tanning easy, and a bronzing gel was overdue. The new Sunny Liquid Sunny Serum (£15.95) is more sophisticated than it needs to be. Skincare wonder ingredient niacinamide is there to soothe. The combination of squalane and glycerin moisturises without greasiness and makes it suitable for all skin types. The light, silky serum glides over a moisturised face, or – if even that feels like too much hassle – it can be pumped into your usual face cream and mixed together in one step.

The same is true of elf’s Bronzing Drops (£12), which can be squeezed into any other product – serum, moisturiser, skin tint – to add warmth and glow. Possibly too much glow for some men – the pearlescent finish is subtle, but there.

Related: The new crop of transparent facial sunscreens leave no trace

Among the first products created by Bobbi Brown for her first (eponymous) brand was a bronzing gel named after her father, Joe, who loved to wear it. Now, as founder-owner of Jones Road, Brown has reimagined it. Her Gel Bronzer (£32) comes in three almost transparent shades, each of which spans many skin tones (the right choice will be instantly obvious). This is a creamier gel, which makes it a good option for those who, like me, find gel products too drying. After smooshing on, it stays bouncy, comfortable and dewy-looking all day.

If your skin is oily, you may find the inclusion of shea butter problematic. If you’d like the tint confined only to where the sun would naturally hit, Beauty Pie’s Quick Contour Supergel (£12.50 for members, pictured above) comes in a small tube with a bingo-dabber style applicator, allowing for localised bronzing that’s hard to overdo.

Hair and makeup: Neusa Neves at Arlington Artists. Model: Meera at Hired Hands Models