Need some temporary color for the beach? I recently discovered that you can make homemade bronzer lotion with kitchen ingredients—how brilliant is that?! We gave it a try, and not only does it look like the real thing, but it also feels incredible on your skin.
What I love the most about this bronzer is that it’s not going to turn me into an Oompa Loompa—the natural pigments in it are pretty neutral and add an almost real-looking tan instead of a super obvious fake and bake orange shade.
These basic ingredients make a super customizable bronzer, and adding lotion just makes it easier to apply all over—just like we did with eye shadow and highlighter in these shimmer lotion and bronzing body oil recipes.
Face or body lotion — To keep things simple, I use an all-natural face lotion as my base. It’s moisturizing and nourishing without clogging pores. Body lotion works well, too.
Cocoa powder — The main colorant in this recipe is cocoa powder, which adds a natural bronze color. Cocoa is rich in antioxidants [source], so I also love that it adds a skin-nourishing beauty boost.
Cinnamon — Cinnamon is on the orange-y side, so add this a little bit at a time. If done right, it brightens your bronzing lotion, creates natural-looking highlights, and gives the skin a warm, tingly feeling (like it does with your lips!).
Cornstarch — Cornstarch helps to thicken your DIY bronzer lotion so it sticks to the skin and lasts for hours.
See the recipe card below for quantities.
Combine small amounts of cinnamon, cocoa powder, and cornstarch until you have a color that looks good on your skin. Sift the powders together so that they’re evenly mixed and give you an accurate idea of how the color will look.
Before mixing the powder with lotion, test the color by swiping a bit of the powder mixture on the back of your hand. Add more cornstarch to lighten or cocoa powder to darken.
When you have a shade you like, add the plain lotion and mix well. The texture should be easily spreadable on your skin, with no obvious lumps of powder.
Let the mixture sit for a bit so that everything has a chance to dissolve and blend together. Then stir again and put it into an empty bottle or jar.
Hint: It goes without saying, but you should tweak this recipe to suit your natural coloring. Use less cocoa powder and cinnamon for fair skin and more for medium to dark skin tones. If the color is too concentrated, dilute it with more body lotion.
Nutmeg or mica powder — Try this if you have sensitive skin that doesn’t tolerate cinnamon. A pinch of shimmery mica powder allows the bronzer to really pop when applied to the skin.
- It also allows your lotion to do double duty as both a bronzer and highlighter, so you don’t need to carry around as many products in your beauty bag. Use a cosmetic-grade mica powder that’s safe to apply to the face.
Here are some things you can add to your homemade bronzer to boost its skin-soothing properties and make your skin really shine.
Essential oils — Essential oils are notoriously skin-soothing and make a great addition to facial bronzer. Geranium oil is said to regulate oil production, tighten the skin, and promote an even complexion. Meanwhile, tea tree oil helps tame acne [source], and rosehip oil reduces the appearance of scars [source] and fine lines.
For more essential oil ideas, check out our Complete Guide to Using Essential Oils for Gorgeous Skin.
Hyaluronic acid — If you have dry skin, a little hyaluronic acid can go a long way toward boosting hydration and locking in moisture. Simply combine ⅛ teaspoon hyaluronic acid powder with 2 ounces of face or body lotion and give it a good stir.
Zinc oxide — If you want your bronzing lotion to also protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, zinc oxide is a great place to start. To make an SPF lotion, combine 1 tablespoon of zinc oxide with 2 ounces of body lotion. Just note that zinc oxide is harmful to the lungs and eyes, so make sure to wear protective safety gear (N95 mask, goggles, gloves) when measuring it out and combining it with the lotion.
Aloe vera — Aloe vera gel has excellent moisturizing properties, helping to hydrate the skin and prevent dryness. Not to mention, it can provide relief to irritated or inflamed skin, making it beneficial for those with sensitive skin or conditions like eczema or sunburn [source].
To create a natural-looking sun-kissed glow, concentrate the bronzing lotion on the high points of your face where the sun would naturally hit. These areas typically include the forehead, bridge of the nose, cheekbones, and chin.
And don’t forget the other sun-kissed areas, like the shoulders, décolletage, forearms, or wherever you need a hint of color.
Store the lotion in a small jar or squeezable tube. To get the lotion into a tube, pour the lotion mixture into a ziplock, then snip off a corner. Then, basically using it as a piping bag, you can squeeze it into any type of container you want to take with you on the go!
Before you add the lotion, keep some of the powder to use as a customized bronzer/contour powder, too. A small spice tin works perfectly to store it.
Instant coffee or finely ground black tea (let it infuse in the lotion for several days) can give your skin a natural glow.
This tinted moisturizer just sits on top of the skin—it doesn’t sink in. And because it’s not permanent, I don’t recommend applying it to skin that comes in contact with your clothes, especially if you’re wearing white or light-colored clothing.
This lotion is pretty temporary and might last you a few hours at most. If you’d like to extend its wearing time, try making more of a bronzing balm by replacing the lotion with a beeswax-shea butter mixture.
Arrowroot powder would work great!
Because it only contains shelf-stable ingredients, it should last about 3 months without the need for refrigeration.
More Makeup Recipes
Looking for other makeup recipes like this? Try these:
DIY Bronzer Lotion
- Small bowl
- Airtight glass jar with lid
- Combine small amounts of cinnamon, cocoa powder, and corn starch until you have a color that looks good on your skin. To start, it’s a good idea to sift the powders together so that they’re evenly mixed and give you an accurate idea of how the color will look.
- Test the color as you go by swiping a bit on your hand. Add more corn starch to lighten or cocoa powder to darken.
- After mixing up the powders to your preferred shade, add the plain lotion and mix well. If it’s too concentrated and obvious-looking, you can always dilute it with more body lotion. You want the texture to be easily spreadable on your skin, with no obvious lumps of powder.
- Let the mixture sit for a bit so that everything has a chance to dissolve and blend together. Then stir again and put it into an empty bottle or jar. (My tip for getting it into a tube is by using a ziplock bag—pour the mixture into a ziplock, and snip off a corner. Then, basically using it as a piping bag, you can squeeze it into any type of container you want to take with you on the go!)
- Keen KL, et al. Cocoa antioxidants and cardiovascular health. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005.
- Fox L, et al. Treatment modalities for acne. Molecules. 2016.
- Valerón-Almazán P, et al. Evolution of post-surgical scars treated with pure rosehip seed oil. J Cosmet Dermatol Sci Appl. 2015.
- Sánchez M, et al. Pharmacological update properties of Aloe vera and its major active constituents. Molecules. 2020.