We all know baking in the sun is a big beauty no-no, but it’s still hard to shake the belief that a suntan is synonymous with youthfulness. If one glance at Donatella Versace’s mahogany-leather skin isn’t enough to put you off that argument, consider that the link between youth and the sun just might be psychological. It’s easy to equate looking younger with that relaxed, fresh-from-vacation feeling.

The good news is, you can get a sun-kissed look in seconds simply by using bronzers—a great addition to your summer cosmetic kit because they’re low on commitment (they wash off quickly at the end of the day) and flattering on all complexions. Bronzers give paler skin a warm glow, while darker skin becomes beautifully radiant.

When choosing a colour, the aim is to appear fresh from a cruise along the French Riviera, not like an oompa loompa. Pick a product one or two shades darker than your skin—similar to the colour you would tan under the sun.

Apply bronzer to emphasize the areas of your face the sun hits naturally: the forehead, nose, chin and cheeks. “Keep the colour higher along the cheekbone,” says Ellen Pratt, a makeup artist in Vancouver. “As we age, the contours of our face soften, and bronzer can end up hollowing out the cheeks if it’s placed too low on the face.”

Pratt recommends moisturizing first, then using powder bronzers for oily or combination skin and liquid or cream bronzers for dry skin.

Don’t shy away from shimmer; it can look lovely on a night out. Just be sure to keep shine off areas with wrinkles or fine lines. Dust it lightly on the temples and across the shoulders and décolletage.

Most importantly, always try before you buy. Colours may seem different in the packaging. A sweep across the back of your hand is usually enough to see if you’ll get the soft, golden gleam you’re after.

Here are some of my favourite bronzers:

Hourglass Supernatural Waterproof Bronzer ($50) delivers silky, oil-free colour that won’t budge on steamy summer days—even if you take a dip.

Lise Watier Havana Shimmer Golden Bronze Veil ($29) gives legs a beautiful, iridescent lustre that lasts all day.

Cargo Cosmetics Multi-mix Bronzer ($30) is a liquid that can be used alone or blended with your favourite foundation or moisturizer for a natural glow.

Put your shoulders and décolletage in the spotlight at sundown with a pearly shimmer from Chanel Soleil Tan de Chanel Precious Bronzing Loose Powder ($68).

Highlight skin with a light golden sheen using Guerlain Terracotta Mineral Huile Du Voyageur ($62), a nourishing oil that leaves no residue.

Lancaster Infinite Bronze Easy Face Bronzer Brush ($32) is a lightweight SPF 12 liquid bronzer with a built-in brush for easy application on the face and neck.

Yves Saint Laurent Trésor D’Afrique Collector Sun Powder ($92) comes in a supersize wooden palette and offers a big boost of illuminating colour along with SPF 10 protection.