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For years and years the only bronzer anyone talked about was Benefit's Hoola Bronzer | £26! But it was barely darker than my skin tone, so I never got to try it. It was with excitement and a tinge of bitterness that I added one of the new shades (Caramel) to my basket and checked out. Is it as amazing as I'd hoped? Should we forgive Benefit's past lack of inclusivity? We'll dive into all of that...
Ok, let's address that elephant right at the top. Benefit don't exactly have the best track record when it comes to inclusivity - particularly when it comes to foundations and concealers. For a really long time, they had just one shade in this and then a couple of years ago brought out Hoola Lite. There was nothing wrong with this, however it seems a bit tone deaf to listen to the small number of people for whom Hoola is far too dark for over the entire ethnic groups they were excluding. If they were going to do shade extensions, I think they should've done it all at once instead of prioritising some people over others. It's like they caught wind of inclusivity being the 'in thing' and decided to hop on this train now it's nearly 2 years PF (post-Fenty) and it just leaves a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. There are two new shades - Caramel (which is what I wear) and Toasted. This brings the shade range to 4, which is fine given that it's a bronzer, however I saw a YouTuber (Nyma Tang - she's great so go forth and subscribe!) do a video searching for a bronzer that shows up on her skin tone. Not a single one worked for her of the dozens she tried - Toasted was the closest but still fell short and this highlighted that this launch still excludes some people. You can check out that video here.
All that aside; the part of me that so wanted to be in on the hype around this product was really excited by this shade extension. I knew as soon as the initial photos were released that Caramel would be the one for me! It's a warm bronzer shade suitable for medium or medium-to-deep skin tones that - true to its name - has a caramel undertone to it. I don't think I have a bronzing shade quite like it in my collection and I think it's really beautiful. It adds dimension but it's definitely not one of those 'brontour' shades that can sculpt as well as bronze. For me, this is a lovely warming bronzer that makes it look like I've caught the sun.
In terms of the formula; I really like it. It blends out fairly smoothly - there's no clinging to dry patches of skin and it's not too much work to blend out the pigment evenly. I like the level of pigmentation in this product - it definitely makes a difference to the skin but it's very hard to go overboard. It's a natural, build-able formula and it stays there all day without going patchy. I apply this in the classic '3' shape on the outer parameters of my face - along the hairline, the jawline and just beneath the cheekbone. I've also got into putting a tiny bit of bronzer across my nose! It's a tip I saw online and it definitely does make it look like you've caught the sun - I don't do anything crazy here though; I don't even dip my brush back into the product, I just lightly swipe across with a little bit of the excess on there.
I'll quickly touch on the packaging, which I normally do at the start of a review but I wanted to tackle the shade range first for this post. It comes in the standard Benefit cardboard box. I personally think this is getting a bit cheap for the price of their products these days and it's pretty bulky given that only half the depth of this box is filled with product! You get a little flat brush in here - not that I ever use these things but this is particularly useless given how flat and square it is and how fiddly it would be to use with that tiny plastic bit to hold. The packaging is the one thing I just don't like about this product.
I do really love this bronzer, however I still think there's room for improvement - this extension has only brought Benefit in line with their competitors and we've already established that this isn't exactly praise-worthy! This product is great for me personally but I'm hoping that Fenty's new bronzers will move the bar upwards again for brands.
Have you tried Hoola bronzer?