Because it happens to the best of us.
Just in time for the unofficial kick off of summer, you decided to do something about your pasty, post-winter skin tone. So you busted out the self-tanner and hoped you’d end up looking like a golden goddess. Despite giving it your best shot, you wound up resembling an oompa loompa (#WomenIRL). We asked Sophie Evans, a skin-finishing expert, how to fix the most common self-tanning mishaps, so you can glow on with your life and have coworkers asking where you spent the weekend.
You’re too dark.
Believe it or not, a quick dip in the pool will do the trick, since the chlorine in the water will help lighten your dramatic hue. No time (or pool)? Jump in the shower and gently exfoliate with a body scrub. Try St. Tropez Tan Optimiser Remover ($18, beauty.com). Boost results by slathering on body oil—baby, coconut, or almond will do—10 minutes before showering. Oil plumps the skin, making it more pliable for exfoliation.
You look orange.
Similar to nailing a recipe, perfecting the art of self-tanning takes a little practice. For a quick fix (as in, you have to be somewhere, like, now), dust on bronzer to help tone down the orange. Next time, apply self-tanner to a small patch of skin to determine if you like the results before moving to the rest of your body. If you look orange, you are using the wrong formula. Each one contains a different amount of DHA (dihydroxyacetone), a colorless sugar that interacts with the dead skin cells in the outer layer of the epidermis and changes your skin tone. With all of the offerings on the market, there’s one best suited for your skin tone—it’ll just take some trial and error to find it.
Get in the shower and exfoliate with a body polish, which contains finer beads than a traditional body scrub. The tiny beads won’t tear or strip the skin, but they’ll help even out your color. Look for formulas with oatmeal opposed to a sugar scrub. We like Tree Hut Oatmeal Scrub for Sensitive Skin in Vanilla & Honey ($8, ulta.com). Once skin is dry, apply a liquid bronzer (dilute it with your regular body lotion if it’s too dark) to help conceal and blend streaks.
Your hands don’t match your body.
If your hands came out darker than the rest of your body, try this DIY lightener: Mix one teaspoon of baking powder with half a teaspoon of water and two teaspoons of lemon juice until a paste forms. Rub it onto your hands for about three minutes, then remove it with a warm washcloth. Repeat if needed. If your hands are too light, reapply self-tanner and rub regular body lotion on your wrists to help fade your darker skin into your lighter skin.
You can’t reach your back.
Look for a self-tanning spray with a 360-degree nozzle applicator, so you can turn it upside down. Try L’Oréal Paris Sublime ProPerfect Salon Airbrush Self-Tanning Mist ($10, drugstore.com). Can’t run out? Enlist a friend or your partner. Another option: Invest in a back applicator, like Xen-Tan Hard to Reach Applicator ($18, nordstrom.com). Or make this at-home version. Attach a self-tanner applicator mitt to a body brush with a rubber band or hair elastic, so you can target hard-to-reach areas.
Your knees, elbows, and ankles look discolored.
Exfoliate or dab on a depilatory (hair removal cream) and leave it on your skin for half the amount of time as recommended on the instructions. Do a patch test first to make sure your skin isn’t sensitive.
Your color isn’t fading evenly.
When using self-tanner, lightly exfoliate every two to three days, concentrating on the neck, arms, and any other tricky spots that don’t tend to fade nicely. Doing so will help the tan fade evenly.