How to Fix—and Prevent—a Face Mask Tan Line

A face mask tan is the new sunglasses tan.

Weird tan lines have always been a pesky occurrence to watch out for, but the pandemic and its aftermath brought us face mask tan lines. As if bikini tan lines weren't bad enough, a 2020 study from Medicare Advantage showed that a lot of Americans have been facing (pun intended) this issue, especially beachgoers. Even Reddit blew up about the topic, with subcategories filled with photos of bad face-mask tan lines.

So how can you avoid "face mask face"? We consulted a dermatologist, tanning expert, and senior researcher at Medicare to find out how to handle uneven lines without compromising your safety.

How to Avoid Face Mask Tan Lines

Like a lot of skin issues, face mask tan lines can be prevented with good SPF practices, so don't skimp on the sunscreen. Apply facial SPF before putting on your mask, and reapply religiously throughout the day. According to board-certified dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, MD, you want something with high SPF—but also light, oil-free, and fast-absorbing—to prevent maskne (another common issue with face masks).

After that, it's all about reapplication. Since SPF is only fully effective for two hours after application, take a bottle with you whenever you go out. Briefly remove your face mask each time you reapply, and (ideally) wait at least 15 minutes before exposing yourself to the sun. Pairing your face mask with a wide-brimmed sun hat also helps.

How to Fix a Face Mask Tan Line

Now, if you already have a wonky line manifesting on your face; no worries. Even if your go-to tanning salon isn't open, there are ways to minimize the appearance of your tan line at home. For starters, do not use UV rays to tan the rest of your face. Giving your already tanned face more unprotected exposure to the sun is never a good idea.

However, you can apply a tinted sunscreen or bronzing makeup to help even your skin tone. You can also use self-tanner on the lower half of your face to even things out, but it's important to exfoliate first, as your skins cells have likely dried out from your mask and soon will turn over.

If using face drops, mix two to four drops into your serum or moisturizer and massage it into the skin. You can tan the upper half of your face with one layer and double the amount for the untanned area where your mask sits. If your line is very light, you might get away with spritzing a layer of bronzing face mist to even out your complexion.

Sophie Evans, skin-finishing expert at St. Tropez, recommends using a self-tanner with a built-in guide color (like instant bronzer) so you see exactly where you're applying. "Start by applying to the pale area and stop at the line. Next, take a non-oil-based moisturizer (oils interfere with self-tans) and blend the moisturizer over the tan line with a kabuki brush to prevent the line from deepening. Allow the self-tan to develop overnight and cleanse your face with lukewarm water in the morning to prevent any from transferring onto your mask. If the lower pale area is still a little lighter, you may need to repeat. If it looks even, lightly exfoliate your face every few days and reapply when necessary."

Shop the expert-recommended products below.

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CeraVe Ultra-Light Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30

sunscreen cerave

This quick-absorbing sunscreen contains broad-spectrum SPF 30 to help protect skin from UVA and UVB rays, along with a blend of ceramides to help restore and maintain the skin's natural barrier. Since it's non-comedogenic, oil-free, and fragrance-free, it's suitable for sensitive skin and won't break out acne-prone faces.

To buy: $19;

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Elta MD UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40

sunscreen elta md

There's some serious UV protection and hydration in this little bottle, Made with SPF 40 and hyaluronic acid, it also comes in a tinted version in case you need to hide existing tan lines.

To buy: $32.50;

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ALLEVEN Colour Shield - Face

sun alleven

With innovative skin tone-adapting pigments, this quick-dry, water-resistant formula leaves a velvet finish. The cosmetic airbrush creates a fine corrective film that leaves a light, silky feeling on the skin, and wipes away tan lines for an all-even complexion.

To buy: $66;

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Tan-Luxe THE FACE Illuminating Self-Tan Drops

sun tan luxe tanning drops

Super simple to use, this concentrated blend transforms your favorite moisturizer, serum, or face oil into a custom self-tanner. The mix of organic tanning ingredients works with your skin tone for a natural-looking tan, while plant oils and aloe vera deliver an extra boost of hydration.

To buy: $50;

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St. Tropez Self Tan Purity Bronzing Water Face Mist

sun st tropez spray

If the tan line on your face is really subtle, a face mist might finish the job. This ultra-lightweight transparent mist is infused with 100 percent natural tanning agents, as well as antioxidant-rich hibiscus extract to nourish your skin. Spritz under or over makeup (no need to rinse) for a wearable golden tan. The pigment should subtly develop over four to eight hours and lasts several days.

Tip: Don't forget your neck and décolletage to avoid obvious demarcation lines.

To buy: $30;

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St. Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted Daily Firming Body Lotion

St. Tropez Gradual Tan Tinted Daily Firming Body Lotion

Don't be scared of the color when you first apply—although it goes on dark and streaky, the product absorbs into the skin evenly once you wash it off. The brown pigment serves as an instant bronzer (guide color) so you know exactly where you're applying. Wait about eight hours for it to fully develop, and rinse off to reveal a natural tan.

To buy: $29;

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