A Bronzer for Novices: Glossier Solar Paint in Flare

Note: I purchased this product with store credit from my Glossier referral link. Thank you to everyone who has clicked on my link and helped me buy more products to review!

Let’s talk about bronzer!

Photo by Jean Pagliuso, 1977. From Beauty Photography in Vogue (ed. Martin Harrison).

For many years, I didn’t understand the point of bronzer, at least for me. My reasoning went like this: “From September to May, my skin is pale and cool-toned enough that bronzer will surely clash with it. In the summer, my face gets a little darker and warmer-toned, so why do I need bronzer on top of that?” There was also the problem of placement: was bronzer a contouring product that went under the cheekbones, or a blush-like product that went higher up on the cheeks? It was the classic “is cheesecake pie or cake?” conundrum. And, of course, we were all scarred by four years of history’s greatest fake-tan abuser in the Oval Office.

But tastes and presidents change, and this year I started wondering whether bronzer might suit me, after all. I had a mini NARS Laguna from last year’s Sephora birthday present, but I was more interested in the liquid and cream formulas that had proliferated in the past few years. And the first place I looked for a novice-friendly bronzer was Glossier, despite Solar Paint’s mixed reviews.

Since posting my meditations on the current state of Glossier, I’ve given more thought to the brand’s strengths and weaknesses. One strength I didn’t mention in my previous post is that Glossier excels at creating approachable makeup and skincare. Whether or not Glossier’s products truly are easy for everyone to use, they at least appear less intimidating than other products in the same categories. If you’re overawed by a matte lipstick like MAC Lady Danger or NARS Red Square, Generation G in Zip might help you get used to the idea of red lips (if your lips survive the moisture-sucking formula, that is). If the stripped-down, humorless skincare nerdery of Paula’s Choice rubs you the wrong way, you might take refuge in Solution or the Supers. And, for the most part, Glossier’s products are easy to use. It’s hard to overapply Cloud Paint or give yourself 2016-style Sharpie brows with Boy Brow.

But, like so many of Glossier’s strengths, this approachability can also be a weakness. First, it limits the range of products that Glossier can produce before its longtime customers start to object. Glossier Play did badly in part because its products—bold, bright, opaque, and tricky to apply—seemed antithetical to traditional Glossier products. Glossier’s determination not to intimidate can also lead customers to view Glossier as a “starter” or “gateway” brand, to be abandoned when they develop more skills, knowledge, and confidence.

So, to survive, Glossier has to do two contradictory things simultaneously. On one hand, it has to appease the fans who want nothing but sheer, subtle products. On the other hand, it has to retain the customers who are tempted by more pigmented makeup and more professional-seeming skincare. Good luck, guys!

Luckily, Glossier’s marketing issues aren’t my problem. What is my problem is writing a coherent review of Glossier Solar Paint in Flare, so here goes (I wish I could put the previous three paragraphs under a LiveJournal-style cut):

Since Solar Paint comes in only four shades, I didn’t have to deliberate for long before choosing Flare, described as “a light, neutral bronze with gold pearl for fair-light skin tones.” I knew that the shimmer in Solar Paint was controversial, but I welcomed the prospect of a pearlescent bronzer, which would eliminate the cake-or-pie ambiguity. I figured that if a bronzer contained any element of shimmer, it fell into the blush-highlight category and couldn’t possibly be used to contour.

Solar Paint comes in a squeezy tube similar to that of Cloud Paint, but not as adorably reminiscent of a real tube of paint. The difference in design is due to the fact that Solar Paint, unlike Cloud Paint, has a doefoot applicator for more control in application. While the applicator is certainly more practical, eliminating the problem of squeezing out too much product, I think it complicates the overall experience (and makes the tube less cute).

Compared to Cloud Paint, Solar Paint has a lighter, more whipped texture. Flare does contain some sparkle, but it’s very subtle and, at least on my skin, reads as a healthy sheen. I do have dry skin, so if your skin is more oily, you might not appreciate the shimmer as much as I do. I’d describe the color as a light, wheaten beige. Here it is swatched directly from the doefoot and then blended out on my inner forearm, in direct and indirect sunlight:

And here’s Flare swatched next to the bronzer we all own, NARS Laguna. It was hard to get a color-accurate photo, so you might just have to trust me that Flare (left) is a little lighter and peachier than Laguna, which is more yellow-based. They are quite similar, though.

I find that the best way to apply Solar Paint is to dot it on my skin, blend it out with my fingers, then add a second layer if needed. Blending with a swiping motion can make the color look patchy, so a tapping motion is the way to go. Since I don’t wear foundation, I can’t tell you how Solar Paint performs over a base product, but it blends very nicely on bare skin. It won’t survive a sweaty workout, but it has decent lasting power otherwise.

I think I like Flare better as a liquid eyeshadow than as a bronzer! (I don’t know if it’s officially eye-safe, but it hasn’t irritated or stained my eyelids at all.) Below, I’m wearing Flare on my left lid (your right) and nothing on the other lid. As you can see, the sparkle reads as nothing more than a slight sheen on my skin.

Flare on both lids—I think it brings out the green in my eyes:

Flare is much harder to detect on my cheekbones than it is on my eyes. Below, I’m wearing only blush (ColourPop Flirt Alert) on my cheeks in the left-hand image, and blush and bronzer on the right. (My eyeshadow is Glossier Lidstar in Cub, and my lipstick is Revlon Super Lustrous in Smoky Rose.)

From the side:

Do you see a fucking difference? I mean, I think I do, but more in the finish of my skin (a little glowier) than in its color. To be fair, a subtle bronzer was what I wanted, and that’s exactly what I got. But maybe this is a case of “protect me from what I want.”

In my next post (which I hope to write before another month passes), I’ll review a Glossier product with which I’m more impressed: the new No. 1 Pencil in Muse. Happy summer!

2 thoughts on “A Bronzer for Novices: Glossier Solar Paint in Flare

    1. I was surprised at how well it worked on my eyes! I’m always a little skeptical when people say that face products perform well as eyeshadows, but I guess bronzer-as-eyeshadow is a thing for a reason.


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