Thanks for nothing to everyone who failed to mention that I should stop using bronzer. Although I get it: I’m the kind of person who will tell you you’ve got something in your teeth, yet I have a hard time bringing up visible boogers. I’m sure everyone’s intentions were good; my friends, kindly accustomed to letting me be my most me, probably didn’t have the heart to talk to me about my use of bronzer because they figured, so long as it wasn’t harming anyone, who cares?

I’ve used bronzer since high school. My gateway drug was Hoola, by Benefit. I still use it, though my touch and the resulting bronze effect has gotten considerably lighter. “Tan” used to be my year-round goal; I now prefer a seasonless “awake.” When doing a full formal face, I aim for “indulgently well-rested,” but no matter what, the goal is always to be perceived as under the influence of at least some Vitamin D.

About a year ago, I started realizing that bronzer was falling (or had fallen) out of fashion through little hints, subtle cues I began to pick up by way of public immersion. Instead, alongside the contour craze and lipliner mania, those in the beauty know on Instagram seemed to be making their lids glossy, adding faux freckles, and dialing up the highlighter so high that there are pages of memes dedicated to it.

Last week, after finally deciding I could no longer remain in my bronzer stasis, I decided to try all three of said IG beauty trends. Results below.

1. Glossy Eyelids

I’m pretty sure glossy lids just got replaced by sparkly eyeshadow in the hierarchy of beauty trends as of a few days ago thanks to the launch of Glossier’s Lidstar, but that in no way lessened the scary appeal of 2017’s glazed doughnut eyelid effect. I was committed to trying to ice my eyes.

Method: I stuck my finger in a bit of highlighter, swiped it over my lids, then layered Vaseline on top, from lash line to eyebrow.

Results: In person, I looked simultaneously sick and also kind of “striking,” not to brag. There is something both creepy and editorial about lids with a viscous sheen. In photos, however, I couldn’t get the same effect to come through. I tried all sorts of lighting and the best is what you see here, which is weird. There were gobs of crap on my lids. It was not subtle IRL.

Since all of this is for the ‘gram anyway (isn’t it, ultimately?) I decided this one was a big fat letdown. That said: I felt more moisturized than I have in a while. Good for bedtime glamour instead, maybe.

2. Faux Freckles

I have real freckles — a lot of them, but they live mostly dormant on my forehead and nose through winter. I miss them during this time and wish they’d make more of an appearance. When I found out that people were drawing on their spots, I wanted in.

Method: I tapped a brown eyeliner pencil over my natural, faded freckles, then added a few extra on my cheeks.

Results: In person, I felt extremely self-conscious. I looked like I had freckled myself for a Halloween costume. Haley saw me try them and said I looked “cute,” which I took as a euphemism for “devil clown.” My boyfriend said he didn’t notice at first, but once I was like, “I drew freckles on my face,” then stuck my face in his face, he could tell.

Turns out faux freckles wipe off easily, which is both good and bad? Imagine being on a date and blowing your nose, then imagine your date wondering what happened to the freckles you had literally five seconds ago. Kind of a fun party trick, I guess. Depends on what you’re into.

The bonus is that they looked pretty passable in photos, which means they’re perfect for Instagram. But as a reasonable bronzer replacement? Er, no.

3. SUPER High Highlighter

When the Akhal Teke, named one of “the most beautiful horse breeds in the world,” became an icon of the Super High Highlighter Community, I knew that my standard highlighter application wasn’t cutting it by Instagram standards.

Method: You know the drill with highlighter: You apply it where light naturally hits your face. Per Instagram’s recommendations, you should also apply it to the tips of your nose, the inner corners of your eyes and under your eyebrows.

I did all of this, which wasn’t too foreign from my usual highlighter routine, only I added WAY more than usual and I used MAC’s Extra Diminish Skinfinish in ‘Soft Frost,’ which is not for the highlighter-averse.

Results: I felt like a shiny alien. But a few different people, including my therapist, swore that while they could tell definitely tell I was wearing highlighter (there’s no way to pretend this is natural), I didn’t look like I had a layer of icing on my cheekbones.

Clearly I didn’t use enough to get the highlighter effect to pop in a photo. I think, for that true look of a rainbow-y oil slick, you have to start with a far more neutralized canvas than I did, a.k.a. you have to mattify your skin with foundation first, then add the highlighter.

However, this was the one thing I tried that gave me the “refreshed” look I’ve been trying to squeeze out of my bronzer. The boring key is moderation. Since there’s no fun in that, my recommendation: try all three at once. Then let me know how you feel in the comments section.

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